The Get Digital Conference 2017

The Get Digital Conference took place in the Helix theatre on the 11th of April 2017. I listened to talks given by three individuals who are at the helm of pioneering innovation within their respective fields. Each of the three speakers provided extremely interesting insights on how they have utilised technology to deliver a more effective service to consumers, some of which I will share in this blog post.

Dr. Johnny Walker

The 1st speaker of the day was DR. Johnny Walker, CEO & founder of Health Founders, an enterprise that develops exciting new solutions to positively disrupt the healthcare industry. (Health Founders 2017)

One aspect of Johnny’s talk I found particularly interesting was how he actually started his business while on a trip to Australia’s bush region, where would provide mobile ultrasound scans to pregnant women in order to check for any kind of foetal abnormalities. What was more impressive was that he actually did this through the power of a diesel generator off the back of a truck in 1995, a time when technology was still not fully there and the medical profession operated on almost a purely manual basis.

While this may have been suffice for others, it wasn’t for Johnny. He knew there was always going to be more efficient methods of dealing with peoples illnesses through a digital approach and this was something he was determined to pursue. He talked in detail about his humble beginnings in medicine – how he would transfer digital ultrasounds images to a hospital up to 200 miles away via a 3K copper wire for example. I couldn’t help but notice how he made use of every technological resource available to him, no matter how basic it may be in order to make his provision of healthcare more effective.

His application of simple yet effective technology enabled him to link small fragments of Australia together and thereby provide medical service to people who traditionally never would have received it.

Another interesting point that Johnny made was how he viewed Health Founders not so much as a business but as a medical practice. It really became clear to me that his motive to disrupt the healthcare industry was born not so much out of the goal to make a profit but actually out of his own moral obligation to provide help to the people that need it most.

Johnny’s outlook allows him to combine anatomy and physiology with the digital world but still be a doctor and work with patients on a daily basis, which is quite clearly his passion. (John Kennedy 2017)

Another interesting aspect of Johnny’s talk was when he mentioned how the medical industry as a whole shouldn’t just be centred around scheduled appointments. His view is that more of an emphasis should be put on actually keeping people well in the first place and thereby preventing them from needing to see the Image result for jinga lifedoctor.

Johnny has created such a simple yet effective digital solution to this problem through the establishment of Electronic Health Records (EHR) for each member of the family. These records are managed by the chief curator of care in the family, the “Jinga” as he calls them, and provide detailed overviews of a person’s health without the need for them to make a wasted trip to a GP. This ensures that people will only visit a doctor when necessary thereby decreasing the excess demand for Image result for jinga lifehospital appointments that has been seen in Ireland in recent years.

Not only that but it allows individuals to have direct online contact with medical professionals from various practices to ask questions or seek advice about their health.


“I never invented anything, all I did was take technology off the shelf and use it to build a better healthcare system.”
This is a point that really resonated with me throughout the duration of Johnny’s speech. Many young people like myself would always have a tendency to look at someone like Johnny as an innovator of the highest level, an individual that thinks it builds it and brings it on to the market all on their own. However this is not always the case and certainly wasn’t with Johnny.

As Johnny said himself he simply finds alternative uses for technology that already exists and applies it to deliver a more efficient service to patients and in turn fulfil his ambition of “disrupting the medical industry for the better”.


David Erixon

The second talk of the day was given by David Erixon, Head of Digital and Customer Innovation at Ulster Bank.

How Sweden is leading the race to become the world’s first cashless society
One of the most interesting points that David made during his talk was how his home nation, Sweden is actually considering introducing a completely digital currency.

Cecilia Skingsley, deputy governor of Sweden’s central bank, Riksbank told the Financial Times in an interview last year that the bank is in the early stage of exploring the idea and is launching a project to explore various possibilities. IsImage result for riksbanksues such as traceability, delivery method and interest on e-money will all be examined by the bank. (Oscar Williams-Grut 2016)

The currency would be known as “ekrona” and would sit alongside coins and notes rather than replacing them. (Oscar Williams-Grut 2016)

It could be said that the proposal itself is based on sound reasoning. According to a study carried out by the Sweden’s central bank Riksbank, cash transactions made up barely 2% of the value of all payments in Sweden in 2015 – a figure some see dropping to 0.5% by 2020. Furthermore, in shops, cash is now used for barely 20% of transactions, half the number five years ago, and waybelow the global average of 75%. (Jon Henley 2016)Image result for sweden card transactions

However, while Sweden may be the first to issue this digital currency, it is not the only country to make such a move. The UK Home Office told the Treasury earlier this year that there “might be a number of advantages of any digital currency for the UK being created and owned by central government.” (Emily Spaven 2015) Citi also told the government during the same consultation: “The greatest benefits of digital currencies can be realised through the government issuing a digital form of legal tender.” (Rob Price 2015)

This really made wonder if the days of physical coins and notes really are numbered, and if in years to come national and cross border payments will be made purely through digital transactions.

Overall, I found this to be an extremely interesting development, illustrating how as a generation we are adopting an increasingly digital-based approach to banking & finance, particularly as the world moves beyond bricks & mortar trade towards e-commerce.


“Banks can either look at innovation as a threat or an opportunity”

Another interesting point that David made was how banks have not always had a great reputation of progressing with the times. For many years, the industry as a whole showed lack of innovation and willingness to change.

However as the rapid digitization of different industries began to take place, this became a trend that banks simply couldn’t maintain. Consumers in this day and age expect banks to replicate the frictionless experiences they have in other industries. (Jim Marous 2016)

The ability to deliver personalised experiences based on data analytics has been paramount in determining a banks success (Jim Marous 2016) and this is something that Ulster Bank have mastered. Last year, 62% of Ulster Banks customer interactions were digital, compared with 10% in branches. (RTÉ 2017) These figures reflect the “digitization” of the Ulster Bank brand and its ongoing determination to deliver frictionless experiences to consumers.Image result for ulster bank

As David said “banks can either look at innovation as a threat or an opportunity” and it’s clear that Ulster Bank have seen it as an opportunity to change their brand for the better.


Alistair Croll

The final talk of the day was given by Alistair Croll, visiting executive at Harvard Business School and author of “Lean Analytics”.

A very interesting topic that Alistair discussed was the issue of “discontinuities”. For those of you who are unsure exactly as to what is a “discontinuity”, the Financial Times describes it as an innovation that causes a paradigm shift in science or technology and/or the market structure of an industry. (Financial Times – Lexicon)

How Netflix became a discontinuous innovation
Alistair provided the example of a discontinuity that occurred in the video rental market, a discontinuity that propelled streaming service Netflix to the top and drove the rental chain Blockbuster into bankruptcy.Related image

In the early 2000’s, Blockbuster was a market leader in the video rental market, with millions of customers, massive marketing budgets and efficient operations. (Greg Satell 2014)

However, it’s safe to say that their business model also had a lot of weaknesses. For example, a large proportion of its revenue was made by charging its customers late fees. In essence, the company’s profits were highly dependent on penalizing its patrons. (Greg Satell 2014)

At the same time, Netflix had a lot of things going for it. As the company didn’t operate any retail stores it could offer a greater variety of TV shows and movies to customers at a lower cost. In addition, the company operated, as they do today, a subscription service rather than a rental service, so late fees didn’t exist. (Greg Satell 2014)

However one of the main thinImage result for netflix disruptiongs Alistair made me realise about Netflix is that it had a lot of confidence in its model of providing an exclusively digital streaming service to customers. Netflix saw the growing impact that new technology was having in different markets and wanted to be part of it. They pre-empted the demands of the 21st century consumer and developed an innovation using existing technology, to meet these demands and disrupt the market.

As Alistair said it’s not interesting because of the technology , it’s interesting because it changes our ability to conceive the world in a different way.” I for one couldn’t imagine our world without Netflix, however I think our days of waiting in line to pay for our Friday night video at Blockbuster are well and truly over. (Megan O’Neill 2011)


Overall , The Get Social Conference 2017 was an extremely enjoyable event. We received talks operating in completely different industries, from healthcare all the way to data analytics. However, there was one theme that was common throughout the duration of the conference – Disruption, and how it is being manifested through innovation that is moving at an accelerating pace.


Reference List/Sources of Extra Readings:


Health Founders 2017. Disrupting Healthcare for the Better [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 26 April 2017].

John Kennedy 2017. The incredible medtech journey of Dr Johnny Walker [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 26 April 2017].

Jinga Life 2016. A Digital Health Enterprise Empowering The Key Carer in The Family… The Jinga! [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 26 April 2017].

Oscar Williams-Grut 2016. Sweden could become the first major country to issue a national digital currency [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 26 April 2017].

Jon Henley 2016. Sweden leads the race to become cashless society [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 26 April 2017].

Emily Spaven 2015. The UK government wants to create its own digital currency so it can track peoples transactions [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 26 April 2017].

Rob Price 2015. The UK government is being urged to create its own digital currency [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 26 April 2017].

Jim Marous 2016. Digital Innovation Transforming the Banking Industry [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 26 April 2017].

RTÉ 2017. Ulster Bank to close 22 branches in Ireland, more RBS branches to close in UK [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 26 April 2017].

Financial Times – Lexicon 2017. Definition of discontinuous innovation [Online]. Available from:

Greg Satell 2014. A Look Back At Why Blockbuster Really Failed And Why It Didn’t Have To [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 26 April 2017].

Megan O’Neill 2011. How Netflix Bankrupted And Destroyed Blockbuster [INFOGRAPHIC] [Online]. Available from: [Accessed 26 April 2017].




The Get Social 2017 Conference was held in the Helix on Tuesday the 14th of February 2017. During this event, I listened to talks from 7 business professionals centred around key topics such as technology in business and social media marketing. Each of the 7 speakers that took to the stage talked in depth about the immense pace at which innovation has accelerated in the past number of years and how this is shaping the way in which we consume and engage with content.

Matthew Weil (VoiceSage)

One of the most interesting talks of the conference was given by Matthew Weil of VoiceSage, a business that delivers interactive customer communications solutions to brands such as Argos and Thames Water (VoiceSage 2017).

Matthew opened his talk by illustrating the effect the internet has had in recent years on influencing consumer preference and behaviour. He discussed that before the age of the internet and the boom of e-commerce, he would walk to his local store to buy the goods he needed. The people at this store would know his tastes in products as well as how his season was going etc. They knew him on a personal level.

However ever since the idea of online shopping has come into full effect, Matthew has had a much wider choice of products to choose from. At the click of a button, he can purchase almost any good he desires without even having to leave the comfort of his own home.

This anecdote showed me how difficult it has become for small retailers to retain customers like Matthew and with that compete against those who not only have an online presence but those who actually advertise this presence through the social media platforms we use most frequently. Matthew emphasised the dramatic shift in the way in which we now buy goods or services and how we are influenced by companies that want to us to buy their products.

This change has been reflected by businesses worldwide, some of which are actually opting to sell goods through retail websites as well as their own online stores instead of actually opening up physical stores. As the number of people shopping online continues to rise and the growing platform that is social media continues to expand, it makes more and more sense for companies to allocate more money to social media marketing than anything else and this is something that been reflected by Multi-Nationals in recent years.

A famous example of this is Dell, who were one of the 1st companies to integrate e-commerce into their sales process in 1994, something which proved to be so successful that it is now their main method of selling ( 2013). 

The facts are clear to see – it is now a necessary requirement for business to have an online presence  if they truly want to be successful. Not only that but they have needed to find alternative, more effective ways of penetrating their target market and this has come in the form of social media marketing.

Another aspect of Matthews talk that I found extremely interesting was the story of how his wife tweeted a food company outlining her confusion at the product information provided on the packaging, which stated the product to be half-gluten/half non-gluten which frankly made no sense.

I found it amazing that within minutes, the food company had replied to Matthews wife saying that they would fix the mistake. Furthermore, they were so grateful to her for bringing the mistake to their attention that they actually asked her to become a brand ambassador.

Such an anecdote illustrates effectively the effect that social media can have in building consumer relationships for businesses and portraying an image of a brand that values consumer opinion and feedback, something that could be said to be a form of free marketing in itself.

Anne Marie-Boyhan (Bank of Ireland)

The third speaker of the day was Anne Marie-Boyhan, social media and content marketing evangelist at Bank of Ireland.

Firstly, one of the most interesting and engaging aspects of Anne-Marie’s talk was her outline of BOI’s marketing strategy. I was surprised by the vast amount of efforts they make as a brand to reach consumers, particularly a brand of such nature. From its sponsorship of sports clubs such as Leinster and Munster Rugby (Bank of Ireland 2017) to becoming the official Twitter partner for Irish Small Businesses (Bank of Ireland 2013), they seem to do a lot more than their competitors in order to get their name out there.

“74% of internet traffic this year is video”
I was interested to hear how the brand has pinpointed video as a crucial component of its marketing mix, with Anne Marie noting that 74% of internet traffic this year is going to be video based. This is something I found quite surprising at first, however when I really thought about it, it seemed to make a lot of sense.

It goes without saying that there is a vast amount of content out there within the digital world, so much so that people are being overloaded/bombarded with information that they can’t process. Video, on the other hand, is almost a breath of fresh air in a world of media that is dominated by text. It’s often easier for the brain to process visual content rather than just plain text and for that reason, it is more effective in influencing a target market (Swati Joshi 2017).

I also liked how Anne-Marie highlighted Bank of Irelands plan to tap into new innovations such as live video, in particular Facebook’s live promoted posts. She mentioned how “it’s not always about going out with fancy cameras” and producing professional, cutting edge content and this is something I would tend to agree with. As a consumer, I can confidently say that it is often more effective to produce content that is more raw and realistic such as a Snapchat vlog of an event or an Instagram story outlining a new promotion. This is the kind of content that consumers will find both unique and easier to relate to, which will therefore make it more engaging.

Anne-Marie also outlined how the brand has made Snapchat a vital part of its social media marketing strategy, not to actually push products/services or deliver customer service but to actually engage with its customer base. I found it interesting that the brand uses a variety of social media platforms, all for different purposes and how their social presence is not solely based around the goal of pushing their services upon consumers but to actually interact and engage with the customer base it already holds.

The Bank of Ireland brand also regularly assesses the data from each of its social media accounts in order to see its level of reach and whether or not the content has left a positive impression with its target market. I personally found this to be a vital component of any company’s marketing plan as it enables them to review the performance of their content and make changes to it accordingly. For example, Anne Marie mentioned that the brands Snapchat stories have an average completion rate of 84%, showing that the content has quite a good level of engagement with viewers.

The final aspect of Anne Marie’s talk that I found extremely interesting was the brands implementation of micro-influencers into its marketing strategy. Unlike brand advocates or ambassadors which may be regular consumers or more commonly celebrities, micro-influencers are minor celebrities such as Instagram or YouTube stars or those that have a large following on a significant social media platform. 

A recent study carried out by Wharton School of Marketing professor Johan Berger found that micro-influencers are in fact the ideal candidates for businesses wanting to advertise/promote a product. The study found that micro-influencers hold 22.2 times more conversations per week than the average consumer recommending a brand to other people. In addition to this, 82% of the 6000 consumers said they were “highly likely to follow a recommendation if it was made by a micro-influencer” (Jonah Berger 2016).

Many consumers, like myself would have much less hesitation in trusting a micro-influencer as oppose to a celebrity as they are often individuals that work in the specific category of the good that is being promoted and are therefore more knowledgeable about the product. Micro-influencers present themselves as much more reliable and trustworthy individuals and for that reason they are a powerful resource to add to any brands marketing arsenal.

Hugh Curran (Digital Transformation Consultant)

The 5th speaker of the day was digital transformation consultant Hugh Curran. I personally found Hugh’s talk to be quite different from the rest – as he was not speaking on behalf of his own company, he could assess the world of Social Media Marketing from an independent perspective and provide us with examples of companies that are executing effective online marketing as well as those whose methods are proving to be extremely inefficient.

“Too many companies are putting out content that isn’t fit for purpose”
Hugh mentioned that many companies nowadays are putting out content that “isn’t fit for purpose”. To illustrate this, he showed us pictures of two sandwiches posted by two different cafés, one of which is quite a large entity with many branches and the other being a much smaller establishment. However, what was interesting to see was that the low quality, unattractive looking photo was actually posted by the significantly larger business whereas the other appetising, well-shot picture was posted by the smaller café.

I personally found it extremely surprising that the larger entity, who would have a significant amount of funds to devote solely to social media marketing could get it so wrong while the smaller business could get it so right. This is something however that Hugh confirms is not uncommon in the world of marketing, where often the smaller businesses are putting out more focused and engaging content.

Some of the most beneficial information I took from Hugh’s talk were the various rules that online marketing experts abide by in order to gain success with their target market.

Hugh firstly emphasised the importance of planning ahead. He mentioned how many companies often just “spit-out” content without ever really meticulously planning it. His advice was to “Take a micro view; then take a macro-view”. I found this to be an extremely interesting point. My interpretation is that often, it may be much more beneficial to provide content to a smaller, more compact group of people i.e. a focus group and judge the reaction and engagement such content receives. This will enable the company to improve it and therefore put out more effective, refined content to its larger audience knowing that it has been tried and tested and is now more likely to receive a favourable reaction.

Another interesting aspect of social media marketing that Hugh discussed which had never really crossed my mind is the negative feedback companies receive online and how they can go about controlling it. As an avid user of various social media platforms, this is something I have seen numerous times before, often through Twitter, a popular network that companies use to engage with consumers and offer customer service. Hugh’s advice to get the individuals phone number and to get them offline as quickly as possible is very sensible as it completely limits any further damage that has or can be done to the brands image.

By making a point of contacting the customer personally, it will completely detract from any desire they may have to name and shame the company on social media and therefore the less of a hit the brands image will take. It is an effective way of ensuring general consumer sentiment towards the brand remains favourable or at least not negative.

“Spend some money”,“The bigger the business, the more it will cost”
Finally, one of the most important things I feel I learned at The Get Social Conference 2017 is to not scrimp when it comes to Social Media Marketing, as it is one of the most crucial components of any entities business plan. Any business, be it small or large will always want to get maximum exposure as it not only helps in selling products but also in establishing a brand that people will know and recognise whenever they see it. Whether it be Bank of Irelands 3 downward pointing arrow logo or the Jameson brands “Sine Metu” motto, all brands strive to be recognisable to consumers.

Paul Berney (mCordis)

The 6th speaker of the day was Paul Berney, Managing Director of mCordis, a mobile and connected marketing advisory firm.

Pauls talk, like Hugh’s was quite unique in a sense that it provided almost a timeline of the progression technology has made throughout history, from the invention of the printing press in 1439 all the way to Starbucks new mobile order and pay system.

Paul immediately grabbed my attention by discussing the invention of the printing press back in 1439 and how this was to be an invention that was to revolutionise mankind. He emphasised the significance of such event that, for the first time in history, two items could be completely identical.

“We are entering the age of the connected individual”
Following on from this example, Paul went on to discuss the change in technology that has occurred in the last 3 – 5 years, such a change in which he described to be “immense”. Paul made the point that “we are entering the age of the connected individual” and this is something that stuck in my head long after leaving the conference. It really made me contemplate the role that technology plays in our lives and how it has become, in a sense, a vital part of our existence. Whether it is being applied in our education, our working or even our personal lives, we are always connected, always online. As Paul said; “we have to be connected to our digital selves to feel whole” and this is something many would find difficult to argue with.

This really made me think about the array of opportunities available to businesses from a marketing point of view. As there are more and more people online than there has ever been before, Social Media Marketing is both an affordable and efficient option for businesses that want to advertise a product. It is the medium through which they will gain the engagement and exposure they desire. Paul reaffirms the necessity for businesses in this day and age to engage in some form of Social Media Marketing be it on a large or small scale, as otherwise they are just letting an endless amount of opportunities slip through their fingers.

One thing I really enjoyed about Pauls talk was how he stepped away the idea of marketing (content, engagement, exposure etc.) and talked about how businesses have used their online presence in order to reduce friction from customer experiences and the immense effect that this has had in increasing sales.

Paul firstly used the example of Disney and how it has managed to diminish the biggest source of friction for its customers – waiting lines. To combat this issue, Disney has introduced “MagicBands” which vistors can now scan on a ride of their choice and be notified when they can go have their turn, thus allowing them to go do something else in the meantime instead of having to stand in a waiting line. As a result of Disney’s efficient use of technology, visitors are now able to get the absolute most out of their Disney experience, thereby improving overall customer satisfaction.

Paul also discussed how Starbucks has recently introduced its new mobile order and pay app, which enables customers to place their orders and pay for it on their phones before they even get to the store. This has proven to be a massive success for the business, completely reducing the length of queue’s forming within stores during busy periods. Such innovation has been so successful that it already represents over 5% of the company’s total revenue. It is yet another great example of a business making effective use of technology in order to strip complexity out of their customers experience.

One final point that Paul made which I found extremely interesting was to not go into marketing with the hopes of avoiding the technology element of the industry. As Paul emphasised, we live in a world of constant connectivity and as a result, technology is and always will be a vital element of the marketing profession, even more so by the time we graduate and begin the process of finding employment. Paul made me realise the importance of having an open mind and being open to change, not only in terms of marketing but in life in general.

As Paul said, it all boils down to how you can “create value for the connected individual” and this is something I will keep in mind going forward.

Eric Weaver (Xerox)

The final talk of the day was given by Eric Weaver, Vice President of communication and marketing solutions at Xerox.

Eric’s talk was quite unique in a sense that it provided a timeline of his experiences throughout such a long career in business and more importantly, how technology has developed throughout this journey.

One aspect of Eric’s talk that I found quite surprising was his mentioning that often in business, people can be very resistant to change. Eric outlined a number of instances throughout his career were he found peoples unwillingness think outside the box to be a serious barrier to progression for companies. For example, when working in the motor industry he described how he would stress to members of senior management the need to offer consumers the opportunity to test drive vehicles. However I was baffled to hear that this proposal was actually rejected on a number of occasions, despite the fact that other competing car dealerships were providing this option to consumers. Nowadays, I personally couldn’t even imagine purchasing a car without having tested it, so the fact that businesses expected to sell units back then without even allowing the customer to try the vehicle demonstrates clearly a real unwillingness to try something new.

Another interesting aspect of Eric’s talk was the issue of disruption brought about by new technology and the effect that this has had on businesses that have been slow to react. Eric used the example of Airbnb and discussed the disruption the company has caused within the hotel/accommodation industry. This is quite clearly something that even the largest hotel chains like Hilton, Conrad and Marriot International could have never seen coming but now, they must react to it by finding alternative ways of promoting their services and creating value for the general consumer.

One thing I couldn’t help but notice about Eric was the open-mindedness and forward thinking he applied throughout his career in business. I found it extremely interesting when he talked about how in 1994, he thought himself how to code html and built the first website for what is now one of the world’s largest consumer goods company’s – Procter & Gamble. Eric, unlike many others at the time, looked beyond the short-term to see how the internet represented a massive opportunity for businesses that wanted to promote their products and truly establish themselves as a brand. Eric saw real value in something that many people ignored and this tendency to think outside the box is one of the many reasons why I feel he has achieved great success in the fields of communication and online marketing.

“Innovation is an irresistible force which does not slow down, it only gets faster”
So, if you were to ask me what I thought was the most important thing I took from Eric’s talk, it would be to always keep an open mind in business and to make a conscious effort to welcome change and innovation as oppose to resisting it. As Eric said; ”innovation is an irresistible force which does not slow down, it only gets faster”. In other words, innovation is something that cannot be ignored. In a world that is dominated by technology, the pace of progression is quite clearly accelerating and this is something I now realise we must capitalise on if we are to gain success not only in social media marketing but in business as a whole.

Change was a common theme of The Get Social Conference 2017. Whether it be a simple a basic idea that disrupts an otherwise stable industry or even something simple like a mobile app that completely reduces a businesses primary source of friction for its consumers – everything seems to be constantly evolving at a rapid rate. Each of the 7 speakers that took to the stage made me realise the necessity of being open to change in this era of modern technology, if we are to really reach and make a significant impact on the lives of our consumers.

Reference List:

Voicesage 2017. About Us (Online). Available from: (Accessed 28 February 2017) 2013. Top 5 Largest Online Retailers – Who Are These Companies And How Did They Make It To The Top (Online). Available from: (Accessed 28 February 2017)

Bank of Ireland 2017. Sponsorship (Online). Available from: (Accessed 28 February 2017)

Bank of Ireland 2013. Bank of Ireland to provide free support for small businesses using Twitter (Online). Available from: (Accessed 28 February 2017)

Swati Joshi 2017. Why Video Marketing is the New Darling of the Marketing World (Online). Available from: (Accessed 28 February 2017)

Jonah Berger 2016. Research shows micro-influencers gave more impact than average consumers [PDF] (Online). Available from: (Accessed 28 February 2017)

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 – and – 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: (Accessed 26 November 2016).

Brendan Baker 2011. How to define “traction” for a start-up? (Online). Available from: (Accessed 26 November 2016).

FoodCloud 2016. FoodCloud – The Problem (Online). Available from: (Accessed 26 November 2016).

Patrick Freyne 2015. Hunger pains: The realities of food poverty (Online). Available from: (Accessed 26 November 2016).

Howard Greenstein 2011. How to Show Market Traction (Online). Available from: (Accessed 26 November 2016).

Oxford Dictionaries 2016. Traction (Online). Available from: (Accessed 26 November 2016).