It's Tina Turner Time

We don’t need another hero. We don’t need to know the way home. All we want is life beyond the (Echo)dome.
Jet lag and Tina Turner had me awake early this morning thinking about resolutions and the year ahead.

2015 is going to be the best year ever for startups and tech in Dublin and we’ll finally have the Data and the content to prove it too. Now all we need is to get beyond the Echodome.

And that’s where New Year’s Resolutions come in: As a member of the Dublin startup community, I want to inspire people who don’t know me or Dublin or Ireland to connect with our startups, tell our stories, think of us as leaders and want to come to Dublin and learn from us.

We have many “heros” already in Dublin and 2015 will bring many more. Lets resolve to make them international ones.

We're all Guilty

I attended the NDRC’s Launchpad Demo Day last week and was impressed by what I saw and heard.

The event unfolded in the classic way with founders taking the stage and walking through their use cases and business models. There were women founders, international founders, some older, some younger. A diverse bunch, at least on the surface of it.

It was only after a couple of pitches that I started to feel uncomfortable. Women were almost invisible in these companies - as employees, as board advisors or as customer stories. Even the female founders who took the stage told male oriented stories and I’m guessing they didn’t think twice about it.

I had a similar experience at a student pitch event at the Smurfit School recently. The business solutions being proposed were for men, the home solutions for women. I’m not known for being a feminist but this stuff makes me want to scream.

And, we’re all guilty. When I first put my advisory board together, it included six men and only one woman. It took me at least a week or two to realize I was off track.

So startup founders, here’s the rub: even if you’re not an advocate for women’s rights your business will not thrive without women in key positions, women as key customers and women as key advisors. And according to the mountains of startup research out there, it’s as simple as that.

Fear is Good

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I’ve just been reading some great blog posts by Connor Murphy about getting funded and the importance of testing your sales hypothesis. He’s encouraging founders to have the chutzpah to just go out there and try to sell your solution, even if you have to deeply discount it as an early beta.

I’m all about revenue and bootstrapping and staying lean in the early days so I subscribe 100% to Connor’s POV. More than that, actually, I think these are “do or die” decisions for a startup in the early days.

I worry when I hear startups in Dublin talk about not showing their product till “it’s ready” and not validating their value proposition internationally until it’s passed muster at home first. The time you spend silent can be a real competitive advantage for your competitors.

But more than that, your silence says a lot about the level of risk you’re actually willing to take and how big your vision for success really and truly is.

Founding a company was hard and lonely and almost broke me financially, but I really got scared when it started to turn a corner and be successful. I told a potential investor how I was feeling and when he replied “Fear is good!” I realized what I’d been missing and how right he was.

That was the real beginning of my startup journey and maybe it will be yours. If so, embrace the fear, grab on with both hands and let yourself fly!

 

 

 

 

Seanachai 2.0

UCD Last night a team of students at the UCD Innovation Academy presented a response to my “Challenge” (one of 5).  When I met my team a couple of weeks earlier I told them that Irish entrepreneurs are uncomfortable talking about success and challenged them to figure out how we could make it easier.

The team researched tech media coverage in Ireland and found that most of it was financial related, about revenues or fundraising successes. Coverage “that sold than rather told” stories about our great companies. In a culture bursting with storytellers, language and creativity is that all we have to talk about?

And why do most Irish tech companies only talk about their successes after the fact?

I’m always telling companies to think big and talk loudly but what I’m really trying to say is, Project, Imagine, and Engage people now with your vision of the future. People love to be part of the journey, so let them in, learn from them and share your successes, big and small, en route.

The best startups in the world do an amazing job of showing people the future in the now. They manage to turn what might be the most banal piece of technology into a phenomenal “my product, your future” story. Now, who wouldn’t listen to that?

As the team at UCD put it, lets break the mould and find our way back from story selling to story telling. Afterall, we’re probably better at that than anyone else.

 

 

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