Digital Dún Laoghaire’s Inaugural Monthly Morning MeetUp was held in Starbucks coffee shop, Marine Road on Wednesday 14th December @ 7.30am. Even though it was a wet, dark and foggy morning the event was well attended, with standing room only.
The two guest speakers were John Whelan, Executive Director of Blackstone LaunchPad and LaunchBox at Trinity College Dublin and Ian O’Sullivan, Product Leader StartPath Accelerator at MasterCard. The meetup was introduced and facilitated by Digital Dún Laoghaire’s project leader Eoin Costello. Chairman Anthony Quigley also kept the discussion and the question and answer session on track throughout the morning.
The main topic was:
How to scale a tech company
The discussion began by identifying that there are approximately 1,200 startups in Ireland. The question to be answered was what challenges were tech companies facing so that they could scale successfully.
Ian O’Sullivan pointed out that there is a gap in funding and investment after the early stage of setting up a business.
John Whelan identified 3 key stages:
1. Raising money
2. Having two founders
3. Scaling up
He believed that Stage 3 can be a dangerous place as it involves bringing in a middle layer of management which can be problematic. John added that culture and having the right ‘people fit’ is important for success.
To gain trust is to extend trust
Ian O’Sullivan agreed and added:
Who you hire and how you hire is important
Ian gave an example of Revolut a company that is disrupting the currency exchange markets by creating a multi-currency app. It is scaling successfully and he explained why.
• offering customers a better deal on currency exchange rates than the banks
• providing an app for free in the UK
• building up a strong community e.g. 400,000 signups since July 2015
• attention to detail, providing their customers with a high-end, well designed physical cards after signing up online
• outstanding customer service
Eoin Costello asked how companies in digital services could scale successfully.
John Whelan replied that this could be done by creating good enterprise software. He gave the example of Sysnet Global Solutions Ltd which is a credit card compliance company, based in Carrickmines, Dublin. He added that investors love these types of companies and they are generally eager to invest. He mentioned that the key points in software development and scaling are:
• Not to forget key core customers as they might start to feel rejected.
• Good software is written by one or two people and it’s important to keep them incentivised and on-board.
Ian O’Sullivan said that scaling can be done through partnership with others. He advised attendees to discover different angles to work with customers and to find partners.
Alan Finnerman IE Domain Registry IEDR shared some interesting statistics and insights about Irish SME’s and consumer behaviour online published in dot i.e. Digital Health Index Report, November 2016:
Just 1 in 5 Irish SME’s has web sales ability, despite Irish consumers spending €9 billion online
4 in 5 Irish consumers intend to shop online this Christmas
Eoin Costello asked how Irish tech companies can gain an IP advantage.
John Whelan encouraged them to come to universities to get it. He added that Deep Tech universities are waiting to be taken up by entrepreneurs. He said to look there first as they are generally at the start of the hype tech curve.
Ian suggested to take a look at the Artificial Intelligence space, and advised that companies don’t have to be first, they can be fast followers.
You don’t have to be the leader – you can be a fast follower
Anthony Quigley then asked the speakers what needed to be done in Dún Laoghaire to attract digital companies who are trying to find partners.
The reply was that large companies are very busy. Startups need to find out who is out there, what services they can provide quickly and to build a community.
The suggestion of building a community brought reaction and questions from the attendees about how this could be done and where to start. One attendee spoke of how difficult it was for her to source or to hire a local software developer for her business. Another had difficulties finding a local graphic designer. The idea of creating a brokerage to share local expertise and knowledge was put forward.
An example of how this is being done in London by TechCity UK was given. Their mission is:
To accelerate the growth of London and the UK’s digital economy
They achieve this in 3 ways:
1. Targeted programmes for digital businesses
2. Engaging policing convening by providing a feedback loop to government
3. Effective promotions and thought leadership
Tech City UK and Stripe recently partnered to create Startup Stack. This is a cloud-based resource that provides multiple tools which can be accessed by software developers, entrepreneurs, and startups to build their businesses.
By automating some of the most resource-intensive parts of building a business… startup tools are emerging as the secret sauce of Britain’s entrepreneurs
In their recent survey:
89% of users said these tools made starting and scaling a business easier
Digital Dún Laoghaire’s Inaugural Monthly Morning MeetUp was a great success. Some of the main insights and takeaways on how to scale a tech company were:
• Identify and fill the funding and investor gaps that prevent startups from scaling
• Seek out and develop partnerships with other businesses and universities
• Link with other stakeholders e.g. Tech Ireland
• Create an online/cloud-based community to provide access to local digital and technical resources e.g. Tech City UK and StartUp Stack
Date for your diary:
Kicking off the 2017 series of Digital Dún Laoghaire Monthly Morning MeetUps:
New Year – New Start – New Business
Everything you need to know about starting a business
Venue, Date and Time:
Starbucks coffee shop, Marine Road on Wednesday 11 January at 7.30am