The Get Started Conference 2016

Philippe Brodeur of Overcast HQ – an entrepreneur changing the way in which video content is traditionally managed

“In differentiation, not uniformity lies the path of progress” – Louis D. Brandeis
The first speaker of the day was Philippe Brodeur who gave an extremely interesting and informative insight into what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. He discussed the importance of differentiating ourselves as college students. He made the point that although we are studying reputable business-related programmes in a well renowned university like DCU – we are still one of many.

I found his mentioning of the conversation he had with his son regarding his plans for the future extremely engaging as he referred to someone in a similar position to myself. He makes the point that obtaining good grades and even developing proficiency in a foreign language may not be enough to truly set myself apart from the people sitting around me. Philippe really made me reflect on my progression at DCU thus far and ask myself how and what I plan on doing over the next four years that will help me stand out from the crowd and ultimately be unique.

 

I really liked when Philippe talked about how he realised years ago that video was going to be the next big thing and as a result, took immediate action by setting up OverCast HQ, a business that manages video content for business professionals. Philippe pre-empted the exponential growth of the video market and the importance it would have for marketing products, spotted a niche within that market and took action by setting up a business that would fill that niche.

 

As a result he developed an enterprise that would help businesses manage their video files in a more quick and efficient manner. That for me, is what entrepreneurship is all about – spotting a gap in the market and using your initiative to set up a business that will fill that gap. Philippe didn’t doubt the idea he had nor did he doubt his own ability to pursue it and make it a reality.

I also found Philippe’s discussion of the meteoric rise of YouTube, from its set up in February 2005 to its acquisition by Google for $1.65 billion in October 2006 (Michael Arrington 2006), extremely interesting and insightful. He described such growth as something that “never happens” in business. I feel Philippe carefully selected the example of YouTube to keep us grounded and realistic in our view of what being an entrepreneur is going to be like. It shows us the unlimited success and exultation that pursuing an idea can have, but without bursting our bubble, stresses the hard work and commitment that it takes to reach that level of triumph. Therefore, I feel Philippe’s talk provided both a realistic and balanced insight into what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.

Philippe also explained the importance of developing traction for an entrepreneur. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word traction as “the action of drawing or pulling something over a surface” (Oxford Dictionaries 2016). In the case of entrepreneurs, the idea of traction is the action of drawing or pulling in people that will come of benefit to the business i.e: investors. Naval Ravikant, angel investor and CEO of AngelList describes traction as “quantitative evidence of market demand” (Howard Greenstein 2011). Traction is proof that someone wants your product (Brendan Baker 2011). Philippe informed me that it is one of the most important yet hardest things to gain for start-up businesses. However, he illustrated its importance by telling us that once you get it, your business will start to develop consistent growth – why? Because it has financial backing. This is something I will keep in mind and prioritise when undertaking future entrepreneurial ventures.

 

 

Alan Farrelly and Brian O’Rourke of CitySwifter – college graduates who saw another path and decided to pursue it
Brian O’Rourke discussed how he was once in our positions, a business student here at DCU, planning to head into a career in financial services. He described how he felt like he had his whole life mapped out for him and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes feel the same. However he told us of how his plan drastically changed as a result of an enterprise module he took here at DCU. This epiphany moment or feeling of realisation is similar to the one I had listening to the variety of entrepreneur’s at the conference. Brian made me realise how we often get caught up in the life that society sets out for us – go to school, progress to college, obtain a degree and work a 9 – 5 office job for the majority of your life. It all seems a little boring and banal to me, as it did to Alan at the time. It inspired him to break the mold and do something different – setting up CitySwifter, a business that provides rapid shared transport from cities to suburbs.

 

“You have to do it wrong to do it right afterwards”
What I found most interesting about Alan and Brian’s talk was their dissection of the failures and challenges they faced while attempting to establish themselves as successful entrepreneurs. They didn’t just discuss the success they have enjoyed as entrepreneurs but rather the hard work and dedication that it took to get to that stage. They described how they had two previous attempts at developing a transport business – Busman.ie and ConcertBus.ie – both of which failed miserably. They talked about how they had no tracking in place for customers and how this proved to be a vital error. Their anecdote on how they had to walk around in the pouring rain after concerts holding up cardboard signs in an attempt to locate their customers was humorous but emphasised the gravity of such mistake. However, what I found most inspiring was their attitude to such mistakes and failures. Were they discouraged by their setbacks? Did they become frustrated and succumb to the temptation of giving up like many others would have? No. They realised they had a good business idea and were determined to make it work – and that they did. Alan’s quote “You have to do it wrong, to do it right afterwards” brilliantly encapsulates the ambition and motivation required to make a business a success.

 

One of the most vital pieces of information I took from both Brian and Alan’s talk was to just go for it. They made me realise that a business idea is not something worth sitting on and planning to pursue further down the line. They told us to “do the bare minimum first, just get it going even though you’ll make mistakes”. Alan and Brian made me acknowledge the need to rid all hesitation from my mindset and rather adopt a more optimistic and pro-active attitude in order to produce something truly worthwhile. At the end of the day we really do only regret the chances we don’t take. Their quote; “Do things that don’t scale, then build things that do” showcases their “can-do” attitude as entrepreneurs and is one of the main reasons why I feel they are now successful business owners.

 

 

Elva Carri of Girlcrew – an entrepreneur who swore she’d never be one
Elva Carri opened her talk in quite an unusual and striking way. She said of how she never planned to be an entrepreneur, in fact she thought it was something she was never going to be. This is something I found really surprising. Prior to the Get Started Conference, I always thought entrepreneurs knew what they were going to be from early on in life, that it was something engraved within them, a so called “entrepreneurial gene” if you will.

However this wasn’t the case with Elva. Instead she stumbled upon quite an impressive idea for a business, admitting how she founded GirlCrew “by accident”. This really made me reflect on my thoughts of entrepreneurhip and my vision of the future as a whole. It showed me that we never truly know what the future may hold and how sometimes life can take you down a path you never envisaged following. Elva’s talk prompted me to adopt a more open view of not only why but how people become entrepreneurs.

One of the most interesting aspects of Elva’s talk was how she actually founded GirlCrew. Her anecdote of how boredom along with a burning desire to go dancing led her to set up a male Tinder account in order to get in contact with other girls who felt the same was funny yet extremely intelligent. Elva wanted to go dancing and instead of sitting at home frustrated at the fact that none of her friends would, she used her imagination to find others that did. She didn’t just accept defeat when the initial rejection texts from her original friends came flying in, instead she went a step further and with that got the dance she was longing for, this time with a whole new group of open-minded people similar to herself.

As a result Elva’s refusal to take no for an answer, she not only cured the unwelcomed loneliness she felt that night but with that landed herself with a scalable idea for a business that looks set to be a massive success.

Elva made me realise that you have to keep trying in order to make something happen. She thought me a valuable lesson about entrepreneurship – the importance of Persistence. Elva’s story shows how you have to be relentless in order to make something a success and how, often, the extra-effort you put in may take it further than you ever could have imagined.

 

Gavan Walsh of iCabbi – a “serial entrepreneur” helping traditional taxi companies to fight back
Gavan’s presentation about his business iCabbi was extremely informative and insightful. Gavan showed us almost immediately his inner entrepreneur in his story of how he would sell Christmas trees each winter with his brother in order to make extra money. He described how he would drive up to Northern Ireland in the lead up Christmas each year to buy the trees cheap and bring them back to Dublin, selling them on to make a profit.

 

“Be prepared to do what other’s won’t”
What I found most interesting about this story was the way in which Gavan eclipsed his competitor who would sell his trees at the same spot each year. Gavan, like Elva, was prepared to go the extra-mile and deliver the trees to people’s doors, therefore providing a much more convenient service to consumers. As a result, he blew his competitor out of the water, taking on a larger number of customers year upon year. Although it may have been hard work, Gavan was prepared to do whatever it took to ensure he sold the most Christmas trees in his town. He echoes the quote of Brian and Alan of CitySwifter;”Be prepared to do what others won’t” and common of all speakers at the conference, showed me the hard work and dedication it takes to make it as an entrepreneur.

In addition to this, I really liked how Gavan said to “go straight for the big guys”. He talked about how he went into the U.K market with iCabbi even though the business may not have been big enough at the time. He described the complications the business had such as downtime, network issues and problems relating to driver reliability. As a result, iCabbi’s attempt at cracking the U.K market was ultimately a failure.

However, what I found most admirable was the way in which Gavan and his business partners responded to such failure. Instead of accepting this defeat and resigning themselves to the fact that iCabbi will only ever be a national rather than an international business, they tried again. They took the system out of the U.K temporarily and learning from the mistakes they made the first time round, modified it to ensure they would be able to accommodate a larger volume of drivers and customers on an international scale.

What I really liked was how Gavan didn’t become disheartened by the setback the business encountered and rather used it as motivation to make sure it was successful the second time around. Through Gavan’s determination and tenacity as an entrepreneur, iCabbi re-launched in the U.K market with a more quick, convenient and ultimately efficient dispatch system and as a result, they now work with over 50% of the companies in Britain with over 500 cars. Not only that, but they are now providing iCabbi dispatch systems to over 16 companies with approximately 3000 cars all over the U.S. We are now seeing the fruits of Gavan’s labour, fruits that have come as a result of the confidence he had in his business idea and its ability to help traditional taxi companies fight against disrupters like Hailo and Uber.

 

 

 

Iseult Ward of FoodCloud – a social entrepreneur making a difference internationally
The fifth and final talk of the day was quite unusual compared to the rest mainly because it was to do with social entrepreneurship. Iseult opened her talk by discussing the global epidemic of starvation and food poverty and discussed how it was the statistics that drove her to set up her business – FoodCloud. Upon listening to Iseult’s talk, I went home and researched the problem for myself, having known little about the topic prior to the conference. I was shocked to find that globally we waste 1.3 billion tonnes of food each year with 1 million tonnes of that total being thrown out by Irish consumers and businesses (FoodCloud 2016), year upon year. Shocked at what was going on in the world around her, Iseult was inspired to do something about it and so set up FoodCloud, a social enterprise that connects businesses that have too much food with charities that have too little.

 

 

One of the most interesting and captivating stories Iseult told about her life as a social entrepreneur and owner of FoodCloud was the time she rang Dunnes Stores posing as a food waste surveyor, simply to just get her foot in the door. This is a clear example of an entrepreneur using her initiative in order to make an opportunity for herself. Iseult didn’t just set up FoodCloud and hope that word-of-mouth would spread causing businesses and supermarkets to come to her. She went straight out into the marketplace and explained her idea to businesses and how it could benefit not only the 600,000 Irish people suffering with food poverty (Patrick Freyne 2015), but also their business as well by actually saving them money on waste disposal and transportation. Iseult showed real guts, something I now realise is common of all successful entrepreneurs, when she told that white lie in order to get a meeting with management and although she is still chasing that illusive contract with Dunnes, her action made it a possibility and ultimately gave FoodCloud a greater chance of success. That, for me, is what entrepreneurship is all about – giving yourself opportunities to succeed.

 

Reference List:
Michael Arrington 2006. Google has acquired Youtube (Online). Available from: https://techcrunch.com/2006/10/09/google-has-acquired-youtube/ (Accessed 26 November 2016).

Brendan Baker 2011. How to define “traction” for a start-up? (Online). Available from: https://www.quora.com/How-do-you-define-traction-for-a-start-up (Accessed 26 November 2016).

FoodCloud 2016. FoodCloud – The Problem (Online). Available from: http://food.cloud/the-problem/ (Accessed 26 November 2016).

Patrick Freyne 2015. Hunger pains: The realities of food poverty (Online). Available from: http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/food-and-drink/hunger-pains-the-realities-of-food-poverty-1.2444907 (Accessed 26 November 2016).

Howard Greenstein 2011. How to Show Market Traction (Online). Available from: http://www.inc.com/howard-greenstein/how-to-show-market-traction.html (Accessed 26 November 2016).

Oxford Dictionaries 2016. Traction (Online). Available from: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/traction (Accessed 26 November 2016).

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