Paul Healy is Centre Manager of the Rubicon Centre @, Ireland’s largest enterprise incubator centre since its foundation in 2006. He leads a team of specialists supporting the next generation of start-ups in Ireland, with over 20 years’ experience in developing start-ups across all technology sectors.
What does the Rubicon do, why the name?
To provide all the supports to Entrepreneurs who want to take their ideas from concept to first orders.
The Rubicon name comes from Julius Caesar who crossed the Rubicon River, telling his men not too look back. In the Rubicon, we tell Entrepreneurs who cross the Rubicon threshold that they shouldn’t look back. They have made the jump.
From the website it seems to have been a successful 2014. What are your KPI’s?
KPI’s for 2014 are:
|Number of Inquiries 2014||414|
|Alumni since 2006||400|
|Survival Rate(after 5 years) Graduation||70%|
|Total Number of Jobs (2008-2013)||781|
|Total Number of Training Events 2014||118|
|% of Links Back into CIT||50%|
|Client Fundraising 2014||€7.8m|
How was 2014, what were the big wins?
2014 was a busy year for Rubicon clients, with companies such as Radisen Diagnostics securing Horizon 20/20 Funding, MpStor secured Horizon 20/20 funding, PMD secured first order.
Anything you will do differently in 2015?
The challenges for Start-up business’s is as always Finance and Sales. In 2015 we will expand our activities in the International Space, providing new linkages for clients to gain market access. We have also piloted a Rubicon Angel Investment Group, and provide clients with access to finance as they need it.
2015, what are you plans, goals?
To continue to grow and provide supports to the growing number of people making entrepreneurship a career choice.
Irish start up scene? Cork is doing well?
The Irish Start-up scene is doing very well, with many people either starting or thinking of starting a business in 2015. However the volume of people engaged in this space is great, but it is important we get people to scale up their business’s to the next level. Many existing operations could go to the next level, and make a big difference to their region, and Ireland INC.
Cork is doing very well, driven on by the Eco-System which has been developed to Support Start-ups. Cork is an attractive location for both Irish and FDI investment. In addition, there are lots of specialist groups like Cork Creative Digital Network (www.cdnc.ie), and Mobile Monday who are working to increase the opportunities to do business.
Tips for new Irish start-ups?
When starting a new business, talk to one of the many support agencies. The Institutes of Technology have incubation centres like the Rubicon. The Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) is also a good place to go. The key is to find people who can open the doors to the different supports available early on. I often meet people who have worked in isolation on their idea, and could have been helped earlier in their journey. The idea may not be commercially viable, but no one has told them.
How can Rubicon help them?
Rubicon provides a wide range of tailor made supports. An example of one of these is the New Frontiers Programme which provides people with ideas which may in time scale with mentoring, training, a place in the Rubicon and €15,000 scholarship. Recruitment is underway for 2014/2015.
Rubicon specialises in developing projects from idea to first customers and beyond. One of the key elements is to provide access to all the resources of CIT’s campus including its research centres.
Your definition of success?
Seeing a project such as Technically Write IT grow from 1 job to 50 jobs, and seeing the Founder, Patrice Fanning become a CEO of her own company. This week, Patrice Fanning was awarded Cork Chamber of Commerce Emerging Company of the Year Award 2014
It’s particularly encouraging to see Young Entrepreneurs begin to grow their ideas, employing others and at the same time enjoying the journey to success. CIT and Rubicon pioneered STUDENT INC a product for this space. A number of projects such as Bia Beauty, Dog Day Media and Benchwarmers have developed from this.
Many companies, like Saleforce and others, have hard baked philanthropy into their ethos, what’s your take on this idea of ‘philanthrocapitism’? Is it something inculcated into the startups ethos?
Yes, I have met start-up founders who simply are using the Start-up route so that they can build and sell their company, so they can pursue their own philanthropy goal.
However most people at the start of the journey are focused on survival, particularly the first three years that they don’t have time to think of this goal.
Social media, a lot of interesting content is tweeted, what is your strategy for social media?
On Start-up of the Rubicon we did no social media, not even a web-site. Once we expanded our operation, we have chosen the social media route. In the last 12 months we have devoted more time to telling our story and in particular our clients news. LinkedIn and Twitter would be my preferred options for the Rubicon.
Unless you dedicate time and resources to this area, you won’t get the results from it. I would admit not to being experts in this area, so that’s why we have appointed a company to look after all our PR needs, not just social media.
How do you balance the demands of Social Media with wider job duties?
It’s difficult to do, but you only get back what you put into it
Strategies on managing work life balance?
Running an Incubator is both interesting and challenging. It’s not a 9 to 5 role, with activities and networking taking place outside these hours. I try to keep my week-ends free, and when the summer comes to take time out, and head for West Cork. The Incubator only closes at Christmas, otherwise the clients can use the facilities 24/7.
Favourite tech tools, to help at work and or play?
I’m a big Microsoft Office user, in the last 12 months the Rubicon has implemented Sage CRM, and it’s just starting to payoff. I also like the Zero Accounting Product which has helped many tech start-ups to get to grips with their finances.
Outside of the office, I think the iPAD has to be one of the best items invented in the 21 Century, and failing that the Kindle.
Anything you wish was already invented that would make your life easier?
Yes, I do a lot of PowerPoint presentations, and always hate the hit and miss set-up of projectors with laptops.
I’d love to see an easy gadget in this space which is fool-proof.
Anything else to add / or I should have asked?
Yes, I think entrepreneurs are brave people; I always admire their drive, passion and guts that they display on a daily basis.