By Eileesh Buckley. 2015 smedias nominee for radio & sports photography, Freelance newbie journalist, PMI PMP, photographer, sports fan, gadget geek.

Start-up evangelist Shane McCarthy and his team at Blue Chief Social resurrected their WASUP (Wild Atlantic StartUP) conference this year as the start of their build up to an entrepreneurship festival planned for May 2017.

A packed schedule running in just one day covered topics from marketing, investor tips, innovation, the startup ecosystem, female founders and the experience of being a start up.

Ian Lucey of the Lucey fund said: “Ireland is like a methadone clinic for start-ups, everyone is always looking for the next €20,000.”

Lucey participated in the investor panel as well as giving the end of day keynote, during both sessions he was at pains to tell the audience that despite the rumours he doesn’t hate Enterprise Ireland.

Lucey and fellow investor panellist Tony Treacy, of Irrus Investments emphasised that some start-ups do need to go to USA to get the really big venture capital money, but they also said that not every startup needs that type of funding.

The panellists and a startup founder in the audience advised those in the room that trying to get the EI HPSU (high potential start-up) funding will fully occupy one of the company founders for six months.

However, Treacy also said: “If your business can’t survive without the grant, then it’s not a business.”

Both the start-up panel and the female founders panel touched on the topic of entering your business in competitions.

Jill Holtz of said: “Competitions are free PR, which is hard to get, and during the course of the competition you will learn from the questions posed by the judges.”

The free PR was a positive of entering competitions, but there were pitfalls too, Kevin Normoyle of Ocean Survivor mentioned that entering the James Dyson award meant his product design was out in the public domain and unprotected.

Normoyle’s design made it to the top 20 in the world which he said made up for the negative aspect. He also said: “ If I see a competition with no money, I won’t go near it.”

The changing approaches to marketing a brand or product was raised on a number of the panels.

O’Toole said: ” I don’t think we’d have had the confidence to do video content back then even if it had been feasible.”

Event founder and CEO of Blue Chief Social, Shane McCarthy said writers need to approach a blog post like a movie script, “Captivate at the start.”

Emily Ross, of, said: “Tactics before strategy is like the noise before defeat.”

She was talking about the approach many start-ups take in relation to marketing, too often diving into the sea of social media before defining a strategy or understanding where their target market can be reached.

Donal Cahalane, formerly of trustdev and, reinforced Ross’s advice as he said: “There’s plenty of businesses out there for which social is irrelevant.”

Ross corroborated his view by saying less than 0.5% of traffic to her website is driven through social; instead, the vast majority comes through search engines.


The event was sponsored by Bank of Ireland, CPL, Sensorpro, Innovate Limerick, IE domain registry, Nexus Innovation Centre, Riskeye and Blue Chief Social.

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