By @SimonCocking

Interview with Marvin Liao @marvinliao  investor and partner with 500 Startups @500Startups. Ever curious: Reader, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything!  Marvin is coming to Ireland to speak at ICONS and to oversee the pitch competition of the ICONS Festival @iconsfestival. The ICONS Festival runs from September 24 – 27.

Why did you / 500 Startups chose Belfast for this event?

When ICONS approached us, we could see that this was in great platform to reach new startups and talent. That’s a perfect fit for 500 Startups as it ties in with our mission of helping grow startup ecosystems around the world. You may also see that 500 Startups is upping its presence in Europe so ICONS is a neat opportunity for us to see what’s going on in Ireland.

What are you looking forward to about it?

I’m thinking of it as SXSW with Irish flavor, which is a really interesting proposition. The ICONS Festival is all about the convergence of tech, music and screen, and bringing together standout talent from across Ireland and Europe. When you collect great talent, global leaders and new concepts and place them in a room, exciting things happen. I also know that there’s a very strong startup scene in the region and I’m really looking forward to exploring that more closely.

Have you worked with Irish startups before / do they have unique characteristics in term of culture & ethos?

Sure, I’ve worked with startups in Ireland and UK before. The traits of a great startup are very similar across all geographies. You’re always looking for founders with a deep understanding of the problem they’re solving, the force of personality to get through the tough times and the presence of mind to know when to ask for help. The best Entrepreneurs I’ve come across have been those who have had the most resilience and who keep moving forward, no matter what’s in front of them.

Expectations for the day, what would make it a great success?

I’m looking forward to meeting cool and interesting folks working on real problems. For me, one measure of success for any event is how you inspire and energize delegates. It’s a really strong lineup and a blending of creative sectors that feels pretty unique so I’ve no doubt that ICONS will certainly inspire and energize. I’d also like to see a strong legacy from ICONS that outlasts the four days of activities. It would be great to think of ICONS as the place where folks were inspired to make new things and create new ventures; and where they gained knowledge and investment to get their IP to market much more quickly.

Tips to startups to succeed on the day?

First of all, practice! It is vital that you learn to tell your story in a crisp and clean way. Remember that this is your story to tell so make it personal, make sure you show your passion and excitement for your brand. Never omit critical information from your pitch or exaggerate your numbers, investors will dig deep to uncover the truth so if you misrepresent yourself or your product you run the risk of damaging your own credibility, after all pitching is all about building trust. Anticipate potential questions and prepare for them. For pitching companies, I’d also suggest watching previous pitch competitions and get to know the most common questions. But the best tip I have is simple: enjoy it!

Tips for an ongoing company?

The best tip I can suggest for an ongoing company is to have a sense of urgency. Make it quickly and get to new markets first. Fundamentally, an ongoing company has to be continuously assured that its core premise is viable. That means making sure you are validating that customers really do value what you are producing; and, most importantly, that they are willing to pay for it. I guess alot of this gets captured under the term ‘market intelligence’. How companies generate and utilise data is central to their success as an organisation. I’m sure you’ve heard it said that every company is a big data company now – the way in which companies harness and exploit data will make a huge impact in their profitability and viability as an ongoing company.

What future trends are you excited about?

This is bit of general question. I am excited about the growing ecosystem of startups all over the world, there are so many innovative companies at the moment and it is great being able to work alongside them and seeing them evolve. I am really interested in the various sectors currently being touched by technology such as; the digital health space, biotech and Fintech. There is so much happening within these sectors at the minute.

Work life, online / offline balance, what are your strategies for managing it?

Got to say, I’m probably the wrong person to ask about this! I confess that I don’t think I have a very good work/life balance, but I love what I do so everything balances out okay in my mind..

What’s next for 500 Startups in Europe?

You’ll be seeing alot of the 500 Startups team in Europe over the months ahead. We’ve just opened a Distrofund in London and we’ll be doing a lot more investments in the region. So watch this space!

Startups interested in hearing more from Marvin Liao and entering the ICONS pitch competition should log on to http://festivaloficons.com/pitch/ Up for grabs is an opportunity to go forward for final interview to join the January 2016 intake of 500 Startups in San Francisco. Deadline is Friday August 21st 2015

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