Conference 1: Get Started
On Tuesday the 8th of November I attended a conference in The Helix called Get Started. I had to attend the conference as part of one of my modules, DICE ( Digital Innovation,Creativity and Enterprise.) At 2pm, close to 500 hundred DCU business students were waiting apprehensively for the event to begin. Prior to the event, I didn’t know what to expect, but I begrudgingly went along because, well, quite frankly I didn’t have a choice. Once the event began my opinion changed drastically. Before the event I never really thought I could be an entrepreneur but seeing all of the seemingly normal entrepreneurs speaking, I started to think, why not?
The conference was based on Entrepreneurship. To me, entrepreneurship means bringing an idea to reality, in the form of a successful business. Dictionary.com defines entrepreneurship as : “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/entrepreneurship?s=t)
Here are some inspirational quotes to get started:(https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_inspirational.htm l)
Our MC for the afternoon was Andrew Keogh, a member of The Ryan Academy. The Ryan Academy help entrepreneurs in early stages of their businesses through various workshops, and mentoring programs. They help people to transform ideas into sustainable businesses. Andrew Keogh told us the purpose of the conference was for us to gain understanding from award winning entrepreneurs and encourage enterprise. Andrew is an international speaker and speaker coach. He has almost twenty years experience in business coaching.He wanted to show us, as business students that being an entrepreneur can be a viable career choice.By the end of the conference I was completely convinced! He emphasized that the most important thing for entrepreneurs is to keep trying. He failed with his first business but he didn’t let that get in the way of his success and proceeded to set up various other companies. One thing in particular that really stuck with me is that he has been self employed since 1988 but he hasn’t “worked a day in (his) life” because he enjoys his job. I aspire to be able to say this about my job in the future.
“Business is science not art”
Paddy Quinlan, the UStart Manager for the DCU Ryan Academy also spoke to us. He claimed that “Business is science, not art” This really made me think because I had always associated entrepreneurship with creativity, not strategy. He told us how most business start out with a minimum viable product, and later on go on to develop the mature product. He used the example a basic donut versus an iced donut. Paddy Quinlan stressed how hard work will get you so much further than a great idea.
The first guest speaker was Philippe Brodeur, CEO & Founder at Overcast HQ. Before he came on stage, Andrew Keogh stated, “Overcast will be one of 40 companies in Ireland to change the world” This really sparked my interest and I was excited to hear what Overcast HQ was all about. Overcast is a company which allows video files to be managed with ease via the cloud. This company has been described as the Google Docs for video.
He spoke about the importance of differentiation, making yourself stand out. Employers want people who are special and have something unique to offer, and it is the same principal with business start ups. He told us that 10,000 International business students graduate every year. This made me think, how can I make myself stand out? I’m eager to start working on myself now so that I will have more to offer in the future.
(Source: http://www.picturequotes.com/business-success-quotes )
Philippe Brodeur began telling us a successful start up story of a site we all know and use daily, Youtube. He stressed that their success was similar to winning a lotto. Within 3 months they had around 120,000 daily visits to their site. This traction encouraged investment which allowed them to expand and build more servers. While YouTube was extremely lucky, the reality of successful start up business is hours on end of hard work and dedication .Philippe Brodeur used the example of YouTube to explain traction. Traction is evidence that there is a market for your product / business and that people have shown interest in it. Philip told us how he went out into the market and found a niche and tried to get funding, but without traction, getting investments proves to be extremely challenging.Traction is extremely important to attract investors. I learned that in order to get investment, you must already have the minimum viable product designed and set up in order to gain traction.
Although traction is extremely important, Brodeur went on to talk about the five elements of successful start up businesses:
I was extremely surprised when he told us the most important reason! Surely it’s the idea right? Actually, it’s the timing! He described how start up success is all about finding the gap in the market at the right time. Having the right idea ahead or behind the right time may result in failure.
In talking about the elements of a successful start up business I began to wonder, what makes a successful entrepreneur? According to entrepreneur.com the 7 traits of a successful entrepreneur are:
3.Tolerance of ambiguity
Philippe Brodeur stated “93%of marketers and publishers now work with video” This statistic really shocked me and made me realize how much business has changed in recent years, becoming more digital. The world is continuously changing, creating more space for entrepreneurship.
“Do things that others won’t”
The second speakers were Brian O’Rourke and Alan Farrelly, co-founders of CitySwifter. I found them to be extremely relatable as their business was so new and they became entrepreneurs straight out of college. It is crazy to think that Brian was in our shoes, as a business student only two years ago and now a successful entrepreneur! If he can do it, can’t we all? Both Brian and Alan encouraged us to believe in ourselves throughout their talk. They had the biggest impact on me personally since they were so young and had come so far in such a short time. It made me realize that if you really want something, hard work will get you there sooner or later.
Cityswifter is a new bus company that gets commuters from one place to another directly, using customizable routes. They saw an opportunity when there were bus strikes in September and October. I find it unbelievable that they had 15000 journey requests in just 6 days!
They confronted the issue of failure. It’s the fear of failure that discourages most people from becoming entrepreneurs. They taught us that failure is not something to be scared of, but instead should be thought of as a lesson. “Work harder after the no’s” “Use it as motivation” they exclaimed, which really made me think about the importance of optimism and persistence. They were rejected from the Ryan Academy before and they said it was “the best thing to ever happen to us” because they wouldn’t be where they are today without that motivation to prove them wrong and become successful.
They encouraged us as young students to stop talking about our ideas, however unrealistic we think they may be and “just do it”, “make it your life” and not fear failure. They made me come to terms with failure and come to a point where I know it is okay to fail, it happens to everyone and it is how we bring ourselves back up from this failure which is important, not the failure itself. I really liked how honest they were, they didn’t sugar coat entrepreneurship, they admitted it is hours on end of extremely hard work but they said the rewards are all worth it in the end.
They gave three pieces of helpful advice to us at the end of their talk:
- Build your network: Go out, meet people, mix with people in other courses, it will come in handy in the future.
- Know your competitors: Make sure you are aware of your competitors and always try to be one step ahead of them.
- Just do it: This one is fairly self explanatory, just get out there out of your comfort zone and get on with it.
“How I built a tech business for free, without being a techie”
(Source: http://www.girlcrew.com/ )
(Source: https://twitter.com/elvacarri )
A quirky woman called Elva Carri was the third speaker. Her talk was extremely engaging and uplifting, with her bubbly personality catching my attention. She never even intended to become an entrepreneur, it was “by accident”! Her talk was somewhat refreshing and light hearted after the previous speakers who were rather monotonous(yet interesting all the same) She is the founder of Girlcrew, an online female community that organises events all around the world.It is aimed at 25 to 40 year old women in urban areas. She came up with her idea while reading an article on the epidemic of loneliness in the New York Times. Although the article focused on elderly people, loneliness is a problem for everyone. In fact, it is scientifically proven to be a bigger problem for women than men. She described social networks as “not very social” which when you think about it is very true. How many of your Facebook friends are really your friends? She wanted to create something truly social. “Don’t just share experiences, create them” I think her idea is really interesting because it encourages interaction with new people.She mentions that you can’t convince people that they need your product if they don’t truly have a use for it. This app is a perfect example that all successful businesses stem from a problem, the bigger the problem the better the business as Brian and Alan from CitySwifter previously mentioned. She said the success of Girlcrew is thanks to four magic ingredients:
1.There was a need for it.
2.It appeared to be scalable.
3.It didn’t need her, the community ran it for her.
4.She could scale it for free.
What motivates you?
Isuelt Ward, founder of FoodCloud reminded us that not all businesses are about making profits. The amount of hard work she puts in for no money is truly inspiring. I admire her as she is truly empowering. Her business stemmed from her aspiration to see change in the world. The slogan of the company is “connecting those with too much food with those with too little.”
The amount of food wasted every day is horrifying. She told us that on average supermarkets waste the equivalent of 300 meals every week! This really sparked my interest and concerned me so I researched the issue of food wastage after the conference.Here is an interesting website I found which presents some horrendous facts about food wastage: http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/ Something needs to be done to improve this issue, and that is just what FoodCloud are doing! FoodCloud redistribute leftover food from supermarkets to charities in the UK and Ireland. According to their website( www./food.cloud ) , they have donated 5,106,000 meals! Did you know in the UK households throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drinks every year? (http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/node/2472)
The first thing that was said to us when we took our seats in the helix was “ would you consider becoming an entrepreneur?” My initial reaction was no! My thinking was why would I take such a big risk on the off chance that something might go right? I can safely say that after this conference, I think of entrepreneurship with a completely open mind. From hearing the speakers I have learned that it is a truly rewarding career and I would definitely consider it in the future. I can now admit it was definitely the fear of failure that put me off the idea of entrepreneurship before this conference. Here is an interesting article i came across while researching the topic of failure and the fear associated with it : http://www.pmcgregor.com/why-you-shouldnt-fear-failure/ The most important message i took from this article is that “fear is damaging”. I really feel that this mirrors the advice of many of the speakers. The main message I took away from the conference was not to fear failure and pursue your ideas no matter how much of a risk it is.
I found this video about overcoming the fear of failure to be extremely motivating: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_8FmXQHa94
Overall, the Get Started 2016 conference was extremely empowering and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend and hear so many inspirational stories of start up businesses. I gained so much insight and knowledge into the entrepreneurial world. Every single speaker was captivating and inspiring.Most of all, I learned that to be a successful entrepreneur you must have courage and the ability to persevere.