An interview with Pat Carroll, Startup Community Manager for Limerick @BOIstartups

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAacAAAAJDg3M2IzNDBlLWEwM2EtNDhlNS05MWUyLWFlNDNkZTZlOTBjNQ

Meet Pat Carroll, a native of Limerick, prolific connector, advocate and tireless promoter of Irish businesses both at home and abroad.

David Scanlon (Venture Investment Leader at NDRC) & Pat Caroll at a recent Startup Weekend event in Limerick

Pat worked for many years in sales, then built a Global Irish Social/Business Network, and later ran his own digital marketing company. He now works with Bank of Ireland as Startup Community Manager for Limerick. He works as part of their Innovation team, who are focused on the companies of the future and how they can support entrepreneurs and startups to succeed and grow.

What is your background? how did you get your start and what brought you to a life in and supporting startups?
I grew up in Limerick, the 4th generation of Limerick Pat Carrolls (the eldest boys were all called Pat), my Mom is a Dubliner. I worked in sales and marketing positions for many years, including 10 years in London.

Street art on the streets of Limerick

What brought you to a life supporting other startups?
6 years ago, like many others,due to the economic situation, I found myself needing to reinvent myself career wise. I became actively involved in networking with groups of entrepreneurs, techies and startups in Limerick.

What does your role as Startup Community Manager at Bank of Ireland entail, how are you supporting startups?
As BOI have already done in Dublin and Galway, I am working on setting up city-center hot-desking spaces or ‘Workbenches,’ in Limerick and Cork. I run regular startup events in Limerick, including Startup Grind, Startup Weekend and Founder Fridays.

How is Ireland doing at fostering startups and supporting the community?
We are experiencing an exciting time when people are realising that startups offer an alternative route to career success. Irish society has been slow to recognise this but this is changing as people realise that we can’t continue to rely solely on the FDI model for economic success. Supporting startups in Ireland can for many offer an alternative to emigration.

What kind of supports are the government offering startups in Ireland and are they working?
Enterprise Ireland offers good financial support to early-stage startups, through New Frontiers, CSF and HPSU initiatives. Many startups, however are somewhat frustrated that the qualification criteria places too much emphasis on numbers employed, which doesn’t align with the lean startup model. While government support for initiatives like the Startup Gathering last year are positive, many believe that the government could be going further towards offering tax incentives similar to those in the UK, to create a supportive funding environment for scaling companies.

You’re known as a prolific connector both online and off, both within and outside of Ireland. Why do you do it, what do you get out of it?
I like ‘joining the dots’ by spotting potential synergies between people and connecting them. I don’t do this to get anything in return, as I’ve been helped by others in this way and appreciate the value of unselfish networking. Sometimes, I’ve found we Irish are more helpful to each other outside of Ireland than we are here on the island.

One of Pat’s Netflix favourites of House of Cards fame Kevin Spacey, says it well

Where have you seen this working at its best outside of Ireland?
I’ve seen how the Irish in London and New York help each other out. One example of this is the Irish International Business Network, which I have had the good fortune to have been involved in for the past five years. They are a superb organisation for supporting Irish business people and I would highly recommend them for any Irish startups or business folk wishing to connect with UK or US markets to utilise this network.

What about the government’s role in supporting and promoting Irish interests abroad?
While organisations like the IIBN often work closely with our Embassies and Consulates globally, in my own experience, the Dept of Foreign Affairs are in many ways Ireland’s ‘unsung heroe’ around the world. I have found them to be extremely practical, accessible and most helpful. Enterprise Ireland’s global network, which covers over 60 countries is also a super resource for Irish companies seeking to enter foreign markets.

What are your tips for anyone starting out to doing it effectively?
I believe the most effective way of making positive connections is when we combine the online with the face-to-face networking ( Some more tips in my blog, ‘10 Habits of Highly Effective Networking’ )

Have you ever tasted failure? How? And what did you learn from it?Sure, I’ve experienced redundancy and while it certainly rocks one’s foundations, it ultimately makes us stronger. It makes us dig deep and draw on our resourcefulness.

What gets you up in the morning and what keeps you up at night?
I guess, it’s ‘lust for life’, that feeling that there’s ‘so much to do and so little time’. The injustice we see in the world affects us all to different degrees, but it also drives us to use our talents to help others less fortunate.

What are your best and worst character traits?
I’m often described as a good connector so I’ll say this role as a catalyst for bringing people together to achieve positive results is probably my best trait. The worst part of my character is that I have a busy mind and I sometimes falter in my attention to detail.

“I’ve come to know Pat through his prolific social media presence. Pat has a remarkable capacity to identify opportunities for his associates to connect with each other for business. He has introduced me to several relevant contacts. His enthusiasm to help others is matched only by his understanding of the potential for social media” – Margaret Molloy, Global CMO + Head of Business Development Siegel+Gale

Are you striking a work / life balance? If so, what’s your secret?
I believe the secret may be enjoying ourwork, so that work and life become intertwined. I believe I’m striking this balance, as I feel passionate about the work I do in my role as Startup Community Manager with Bank of Ireland in Limerick. The Innovation team that I’m part of have a great work ethic not unlike the working culture expounded by Netflix’s founder Reed Hastings.

When things are going crazy, how do you unwind?
What works for me is watching Munster Rugby, bingeing on Netflix series and recently singing with Killaloe’s Male Choir.

If you could talk to yourself at the age of 25 what would you say?
Enjoy the next 25 years – it will fly!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and from whom?
‘You can never be overdressed or overeducated’ – Oscar Wilde

What’s the last book or movie you’ve read/seen?
Transatlantic’ by Colum McCann
Once Upon A Time In America’ – Dir, Sergio Leone

What’s your favourite gadget and why?
My new MacBook Air, because it links in so well with all the other apple gadgets I use. Sorry Microsoft but Macs really are the business !

What’s the most played song in your iTunes / Spotify playlist?
‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ by The National

So what’s next for Pat Carroll?
Startup Workbenches are the main focus now, working on getting our spaces in up and running in Limerick and Cork city centres. Also continuing to work with the community running events for startups in Limerick, including Startup Grind, Startup Weekend and Founder Fridays.


#FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders that I meet on my travels, have worked with in the past or simply find what they do interesting. These posts do not represent the views of any employer or any business that I am affiliated with.

I hope you enjoy them! Want to be featured?

Other interviews in the series:

Blogging, well it’s sure cheaper than therapy!

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAQrAAAAJDRkZWNmYTQ1LTI2OGQtNDY2Ni05NTU1LTM0ZmVhOGRiNTNkMw

Image: Music Therapy by Emanuela Franchini

Not entirely sure if my blog posts are getting better or worse as I go. I’m certainly enjoy writing them and it’s sure cheaper than therapy!

1. Lego, what is it good for? absolutely everything!

2. When you tell me “it” can’t be done

3. Congratulations you’ve failed, now what?

4. Gorillas & unicorns, let’s get ready to fumble on the road to disruption

5. Now is the winter of our discontent (or is it…)

6. No product, no company, no problem!

7. Lowering the shields and exposing your flaws

Header Image: Music Therapy by Emanuela Franchini

Originally posted over on Linkedin

Lowering the shields and exposing your flaws

Earlier today, I came across the following post by Tim Ferris which talks about the ongoing challenge and sometimes outright fear that most of us have when it comes to thinking about giving a speech, writing an article, series of articles, publishing a book or when giving a major presentation, Ted talk, etc.

I first discovered Tim Ferris from reading his book The 4 – Hour Work Week a number of years ago which started me down the path of playing around with both life and work productivity hacks. Packed with useful content, some obvious and some not so obvious tips on how to turn things around. It’s an enjoyable read, filled with a number of great personal/professional productivity tips, useful insights and humorous stories from Tim’s own journey.

It’s fair to say that reading his book one Christmas a number of years ago and along with a number of other books from the same genre, triggered my slow and sometimes painful awakening into the world of hacking my way towards improving the way I approach things in life, from both a personal and work perspective. While I’ve only scratched the surface to date and have failed more times than I’ve succeeded, there have also been some notable wins along the way which keep me keen to explore further.

People likely look at him with all his exploits, publications, successful tech investments, global speaking etc and likely think he has his life sorted. As a result, some people hate the guy and everything about him, while others love him, swear by his advice and follow his exploits.

Personally, I just liked what his writings and various experiments triggered within me to start evaluating my own situation. The way he explained why and how he attacked productivity problems while giving practical steps on how you or I could do the same.

Refreshingly in his blog post below he opens up, saying that he’s as messed up as the rest of us when it comes to the fears, paranoia, self-doubt, etc when trying to deal with both work and life situations, then goes into detail how he personally approaches dealing with those challenges.

In his post: “Productivity” Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me) there’s the quote below which for me sums up nicely what I feel when I’m trying to get something more substantial than a tweet out the door.

“The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”– Neil Gaiman University of the Arts Commencement Speech

I must have been in a similar frame of mind to Tim when I penned this blog post “Congratulations you’ve failed, now what?”. It was the first blog post where I lowered my Teflon shield, unbuckled the body armour, exposed some frailties along with how I personally try (and regularly fail) to address them.

Short excerpt from that post:
I fail every day, I fail with family, friends, work, projects and in hundreds of other ways. Over time, I’m learning that failure while sometimes very painful at the time and might take a long time to get over is something that I have some level of control over and can learn from.

  • If I blindly do what I did before, I will likely fail again.
  • If I modify what I did before I may still fail or I may succeed.
  • If I reflect on why I might have failed I’m more likely to succeed.
  • Failure is an opportunity to learn, failure is not always a bad thing.
  • Typically I can recover from failure, it may hurt, it may take time.
  • There is no shame in admitting that you were wrong and asking for help.

But hey, what do I know, I probably failed to adequately proofread this post before posting it!”

It’s been one of my most popular posts to date but was one of the most excruciating posts for me to write, because I was laying bare for all to see my flaws rather than hiding behind the usual Teflon shield.

To be continued…

Also by Niall O’Gorman

No product, no company, no problem!

“A ‘startup’ is a company that is confused about – 1. What its product is, 2. Who its customers are. 3. How to make money.” – Dave McClure of 500 startups

The 12th April 2012 19:29 GMT+1 is an important time-stamp in the history of an Irish startup that would ultimately become known as “ChannelSight“, it’s the day I sent an email to John Beckett and Kieran Dundon (my two co-founders) which started as follows:

In short I want to build a “where to buy” platform which can go head to head with the incumbents but which also has further innovation which would change the game and be disruptive to the existing players.

The plan was simple, convince a customer to buy our solution, then keep repeating that action until we were millionaires, simple! Only one fatal flaw in that plan. We had no company, no staff, no solution and not one line of code written.

“Every problem has a solution. You just have to be creative enough to find it” – Travis Kalanick Uber

Normally this would pose a fairly significant obstacle to starting a company, however, we had a number of things going for us:

  1. Irish people are inherently optimistic, all three founders Irish.
  2. We had no idea how hard it would be before we started.
  3. We were confident in our abilities to build anything.
  4. We had access to good development resources.
  5. We had no money so were lean by default.
  6. We had all failed before and failed big

Let’s start a company!

Before you start your startup, by that I mean formally create a company, you should get outside and try to actually sell your solution. That involves knocking on a lot of physical or virtual doors, leveraging your network, speaking with (assuming you can get a hold of them) prospective customers.

This is critical as you need to find out as fast as humanly possible if anyone is remotely interested in the product or solution that you intend trying to sell. Sounds very obvious in the cold light of day, however, the amount of people who delude themselves and often their friends, family and financial backers until its far too late to turn around is absolutely astounding.

Give me an F ..ailure

First time out, you will likely fail to generate any interest in your product or service but don’t worry that’s completely normal. In fact your solution is likely to be rejected time and time again, that’s right get ready to embrace failure on a regular basis. Having said that, this period is a massive opportunity to gather information, very valuable information, a first read from the very people that you want to buy your product and if you listen to what they have to say you can go away, refine your solution then get back in front of people.

“Don’t worry about failure, you only have to be right once.”- Drew Houston of Dropbox

We all know that Dyson is multi-billion dollar company which constantly churns out innovation after innovation within the vacuum cleaner space. However what few people know, is that Sir James Dyson spent 15 years creating 5,126 prototypes that all failed before he made the one that ultimately worked. Think about that for a moment, he failed  5,126 times, picked himself up, dusted himself off, then tried again and again until test number 5,127 worked!

“I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.” – Jeff Bezos

 

Which way’s North?

You only need to be right once! Set realistic expectations and track everything from day one otherwise, you’ll never be able to measure progress and course correct when things go wrong, which they invariably will time and time again until you find the product, solution or business model that people will repeatedly hand over money for.

Equally, if you’re not tracking progress then it’s harder to expose opportunities, your wholly dependent on what people tell you directly versus indirectly in the way that they actually interact with, consume, purchase and re-purchase your product or service versus picking up the singles that are all around  you every day.

Show me the money

You need money to make all of this happen and there are a number of ways to get it. Either your project is pulling in revenue from day one, you bootstrap it with your co-founders or hit up your friends and family for some help.

Taking on money is a very big deal, do not take it lightly Before you do, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you actually need the money, can you bootstrap?
  • Do you need it now or at some point in the future?
  • What specifically will you do with the money?
  • What happens if you do get the money?
  • What happens if you don’t get the money?

If you do end up taking on money, then make sure it’s smart money!

Smart money brings value above and beyond the money itself. If you only want money then start with the bank. Find people understand and are passionate about your product or solution. Find people who have experience in your sector and are proving entrepreneurs themselves.

Smart money can help you network, find customers, introduce potential partners, help navigate the various growth stages of a startup and help you avoid the many pitfalls related to getting a startup off the ground. Smart money will likely follow their money into other rounds, assuming your performing and they agree with the reasons behind that raise.

The moment you take on someone else’s money you typically hand over a portion of your company,  immediately answer to someone else or multiple parties and typically have to drastically up your game before you end up on the outside of your own company. Make sure it’s smart money!

So what happened with our startup?

“Being an entrepreneur is sexy… for those who haven’t done it.  In reality it’s gritty, tough work where you will be filled with self doubt.  Entrepreneurs are survivors.” – Mark Suster

Careful what you wish for!

A lot of the time being an entrepreneur is a thankless job, dealing with a million problems while trying to herd a hundred cats in the same direction for long enough until you either create a repeatable lifestyle business, get acquired by a partner/competitor, go the IPO route or go down in a big ball of flames.

The struggle continues daily, the challenges never go away, the fear never goes away they simply evolve over time.

So what are you waiting for?

Also by Niall O’Gorman

Gorillas & unicorns, let’s get ready to fumble on the road to disruption

Originally posted on Linkedin

movie

 

“Every single industry is going through a major business model and technology oriented disruption.” – Aaron Levie Box.com

The current level and pace of business model disruption that we’re experiencing is unprecedented, everything from online subscription (Dollar Shave Club) to the way we get around (Uber), where we stay when we travel (AirBnB) and how we receive packages ordered online (Click & Collect, Parcel Motels, Drones, etc)

“I don’t think 80% of those public tech companies are going to survive the disruption that’s going to happen.” – Dave McClure of 500 startups

That’s a bold statement, however just look at what Dollar Shave Club has managed to achieve since launch, with its slogan “Our Blades Are F—ing Great,” it just got valued at over $615 million and is less than five years old.

Launching in 2012, with laser focus on disrupting the shaving market, stealing market share from the dominant players like Gillette, CEO Michael Dublin went with a quality product at a better price point only available online and created a tongue in cheek viral video to support the launch which has amassed over 20 million views on youtube so far.

Historically Men typically got exposed to their first shaving system by “borrowing” their fathers razor during their early teenage years then over time how your stubble grows, what your friends are using, whether you prefer a wet versus a dry shave or which advert you thought was cooler at the time. Once within a shaving system you were typically locked in and a sitting duck for the relentless efforts by brands constantly trying and upsell you to the next big thing in shaving like the Quintippio razor below with 15 blades!! 🙂

Source: http://www.frederikhermann.com/

The online shaving subscription business is now getting very busy with a ready stream of new contenders like Harry’sKing of Shaves entering the subscription business and established players like Gillette and Wilkinson Sword not standing still also launching their own subscription businesses. Large established companies like P&G have deep pockets so time will tell how much market share they shall lose, retain or gain over time. One thing for sure, the nice and predictable lifetime value of a shaving customer is no longer assured.

“Mondelez International is an 800-pound gorilla living in a unicorn world.” – Dana Anderson, Senior VP Chief Marketing Officer at Mondelez International

Large CPG companies like Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Nestle and Mondelez are no strangers to innovation, they release a steady stream of innovations every year from new product formulations, manufacturing methods, packaging materials, routes to market, sustainability programs, media formats, financial models.

Up until very recently they all tended to follow a rigid, repeatable and scalable corporate structure that had served them well for nearly a hundred years. Big companies typically leaned on M&A as their growth engine, following a very consistent pattern (Aquire > Restructure > Scale & Repeat) backing the brands or platforms that hit the magic $1 billion in revenues and either selling, merging or winding down those that don’t make the grade.

Image source: fortune.com Are we in a tech bubble? Unicorn CEOs respond

Wait a minute! I thought that tech startups had a monopoly on creating $1 billion dollar (and beyond) unicorns?! not surprisingly it turns out that companies have been churning out unicorns for years this is not a new phenomenon, what’s different is that today’s unicorns are being created in a fraction of the time that it traditionally took big business to create them in the past. With that comes a whole new playing field and playbook on how to create, and profitably sustain a $1 billion dollar businesses in today’s world beyond over hyped typically short-lived valuations.

The problem is that big businesses are well ‘Big’ and while this worked well for a very long time, now it leaves them exposed to threats from new nimble startups who are not burdened by rigid structures, sluggish bureaucracy, slow decision-making, risk aversion or short-term financial performance; in fact a number of these new unicorns are not even expected to turn a profit at all and potentially for many years. They are simply tearing up the business rule book, challenging everything that has gone before and irreverent to expected norms on how to do business.

Image Credit: Yiying Lu

“Founders go wrong when they start to believe their business plan will materialize as written. I advise entrepreneurs to burn their business plan – it’s simply too dangerous to the health of your business.” – Alexander Osterwalder of Strategyzer

In big business everything is about the plan, it takes a long time to think about the plan, discuss the plan, dissect the plan, agree on the plan, get approval from above on the plan and ultimately execute the plan. In a number of cases this is completely normal, expected and necessary when talking about certain types of projects, however, more and more its being effectively challenged by a new breed of entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs or simply anyone who thinks there is a better way forward than what has gone before.

The hallmarks of these companies are they typically have a ‘can do’ mentality, are solution oriented, are not afraid to fail and don’t consider anything precious and challenge everything. They challenge themselves, established business models, routes to market, customer perceptions and expectations.

“Large companies who ignore disruptive business models will continue to lose large chuncks of revenue to companies that didn’t exist ten five years ago.” – Niall O’Gorman of [insert disruptive project here]

Clearly big business is not sitting still and there are many great examples of companies realising its time to change their approach in order to face head on the associated challenges from top to toe within their organisations. Everything from the corporate structure, business models, decision making, internal talent, external agencies, ways of working and right to win are under review.

One thing that’s often frustrating when operating within large organisations is the apparent dependency on external agencies to “tell you what to do” versus “help inform and validate” your own internal decision-making capabilities. Don’t get me wrong there is massive benefit in taking ‘the outside in’ and leveraging knowledge from all manner of sources whether they be competitors, industry bodies, universities, external R&D hubs, innovation labs, etc, but sometimes it feels like companies use external parties as an insurance policy or excuse for when things go wrong.

This is exceedingly frustrating for young talent within any organisation (clearly I’m excluding myself from that group given my greying locks and cranky nature) and this is evidenced by a quick trip to Glassdoor.com or any similar company review site.

The talent coming up through the ranks today expects to contribute from day one, for that contribution to be taken seriously and have a real measurable impact on your business. They challenge every norm, break every nonsensical rule, bypass your outdated tech with their own, won’t take no lightly for an answer, are incredibly resourceful, pay attention to true leadership, not a hierarchy, thriving in an environment of open and transparent communication.

The next generation is simply fearless, give them the right conditions to work under, unfettered lines of communication to the top of your organisation and they will help transform your business.

Header image: “Kingsman: The Secret Service

By Niall O’Gorman Impulse Innovation & Startups at @MDLZ. Co-Founder @ChannelSight between Zurich and Dublin
#Disruptive #Digital #Innovation #Enterprise #Startups #Lego

Also by Niall O’Gorman

When you tell me “it” can’t be done

Mission Impossible Possible

cantbedone

There are several reason why someone may say these immortal words

it can’t be done*

We’ve all been there, your having a discussion in a room full of people where a potential change, fix or innovation is raised and someone will inevitably abruptly jump to the conclusion without any investigation that “it can’t be done”

No I’m sorry but…

  • You disagree with doing it
  • You may not want to do it
  • You may not be able to do it
  • You may not know that you’re able to do it
  •  You may have failed in the past while trying to do it
  • You may be afraid to do it
  • You may not be allowed to do it
  • You may think that you will not get the support to do it
  • You may think its worthless to do it
  • You may have political reasons why you don’t want to do it
  • You may not have the money to do it
  • You may not want to spend the money to do it
  • You may not want to invest the time to do it
  • You may think the organisation or team can’t do it
  • It may be stupid to do it

But rest assured, given enough time, energy, resources and motivation

“It can be done!”

On behalf of all the people who come from a place of “can” and “do” please step aside and let us get on with the business of making it happen.

*There are many legitimate reasons that we should not do something, but that is very different to saying that “it can’t be done”

Header image: “Mission Impossible” cc by Niels Linneberg

Originally posted on Linkedin here

By Niall O’Gorman Impulse Innovation & Startups at @MDLZ. Co-Founder @ChannelSight between Zurich and Dublin
#Disruptive #Digital #Innovation #Enterprise #Startups #Lego

Also by Niall O’Gorman