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

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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:

Meet Kevin McCaffrey founder of Tr3dent, helping you visualise your business in a whole new way

Pictured (18-01-16) is Kevin McCaffrey founder of TR3Dent. Pic. Michael Dillon

Pictured (18-01-16) is Kevin McCaffrey founder of TR3Dent. Pic. Michael Dillon

So tell me a little about Tr3dent, when was it founded?, do you have any co-founders? how did you get the idea?
I founded Tr3dent back in October of 2014, so It’s been on the go for about 18 months or so now. No co-founders, just myself. Its an interesting story how the idea actually came about, I was managing a large Enterprise Software Programme, and attended a critical meeting between Senior Business Execs and technical managers where the new technical architecture was presented for approval to Business and once the technical slide was shown the entire business audience lost interest and became unfocused – this ultimately caused delays, confusion and miscommunication. When I went home my son was playing on his Xbox and I thought “why does business data have to be so boring and gaming environments so engaging and cool?”.

Users are immersed in a natural 3D environment to unlock unique insights and make better business decisions based on a deeper and clearer understanding of the complex processes, relationships and data within IoT Ecosystems such as Smart Cities, Smart Homes, eHealth etc.

Where are you located and how many people work at Tr3dent?
At the moment we are located in the GMIT Innovation Hub and we are currently a team of 5, two of whom are still studying; one completing his Masters at NUIG and the other completing Computer Science at GMIT . The Innovation Hub is a great place for any Startup to be based. It’s always nice to be surrounded with like-minded people who are essentially going through the thing as you are, and the support provided by the iHUB is outstanding.

How were you originally funded and how are you funded now?Originally, the business was self-funded by myself. More recently, the company has been back by Enterprise Ireland and we are now CSF funded. Currently, we are also talking to some private angel investors which is pretty exciting.

Were you ever close to failure? How close? How did you recover?
I can’t honestly say I was ever very close to failure, I set very specific goals and milestones and when any of these are not achieved we adjust the plan to make sure that the next set of goals are met. We’ve been on the go now for about 15 to 16 months and it’s been an incremental process thus far. I think as a startup you face challenges on a daily basis and you certainly have your good and bad days, but I guess challenges and overcoming obstacles are all part of the buzz of being a startup.  I don’t like surprises so I am constantly thinking ahead about issues or challenges that we be faced with whether they are financial or technical.  I then work through the various ways of mitigating or avoiding these challenges before they actually occur.

What’s are biggest challenges you faces today?
I think challenges are part and parcel of starting a company in the first place and everybody could probably give you a different answer. For myself, I would have to say the biggest challenge is getting your first customer, this is key validation for your product.  It is also is a crucial milestone to achieve when you start discussions with investors. The next large challenge we are faced with is scaling and growing the business, this will require a very different mindset, new team members and external financing.

What is your background? How did you get your start and what brought you to a life in business/startups?
Where to start, I went to GMIT and did Business there and I then emigrated to Canada.I have over 20+ years in the ICT sector delivering enterprise solutions globally working in the US, Europe and Africa as well as Canada.  I returned to Ireland in late 2014 from Cape Town, South Africa where I lived for nine years and had built a successful consulting and software development company.  Prior to that I had been in Canada for 13 years where I worked for Reuters and then was a co-owner of a Software Development and Training company in Toronto. For Tr3Dent, as I said previously, I spotted a gap when I noticed that the quantity of data that we deal with was growing vastly and people’s ability to interpret it wasn’t, so visualising your data in a more consumable way was something that people needed, and looking at it in 3D was the answer to that.

What gets you up in the morning and what keeps you up at night?Interesting question. What gets me up in the morning is to eventually be the Enterprise and SME market leader in 3D data visualisation.

What is your best character and worst character trait?
My leadership and communications skills are very strong but on the negative side I am also a perfectionist which does mean that I set very high standards for everyone who works with me.

Are you striking a work / life balance? If so, what’s your secret?
It’s not easy to get the balance right all of the time, and how you achieve this will change as your kids grow older.  Today I start work early, am usually in the office by 6.30am and leave at 5pm so that I can spend 2 or 3 quality hours with the family over dinner.  I usually then spend another couple of hours on emails before bed.  My family also has the priority on the weekend so I fit my work around their schedule.

When things are going crazy, how do you unwind?
I’m a big Rugby fan, I like to go so see Connacht and Ireland whenever I can. I’m also one of a few West Brom supporters so I keep up to date with how they are doing. Other than that, I do a bit of cycling and like like a good book at the weekends. And of course a good pint always helps.

What’s your favourite gadget and why?
Without doubt, the Microsoft Hololens. I think augmented reality is just so cool and will play a big part in the way we live our lives in a few years time. It was announced just a few days ago that the Hololens is now available for pre-order so we’ll see if we can get our hands on one at some stage. We definitely see it have potential uses to visualise data. Could you imagine being fully immersed within your data? Think of how different your data would look and all the vital information that it would highlight.

What’s the most played song in your iTunes / Spotify playlist?
Brewing up a Storm by The Stunning.

What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you created your Tr3dent?
I think it would be not to wait for the product or idea to be perfect in your head before you act on it. It’s very important to get a just an MVP out there and test the water. Waiting for the idea or product to be perfect in your head doesn’t really get the ball rolling. You can always get an MVP out there and pivot as you go along and that usually lends itself to more creativity and being more tailored to what the customer wants and needs.

So what’s next for Tr3dent?
We have big plans made for 2016. In the early part of next year we will hire more developers, with the expansion of the team I think it is inevitable that bigger premises will definitely be in the pipeline as well. Without giving away too much, we are currently in talks with several recognisable global brands that want to make visualising their data much more efficient and user-friendly, it’s exciting times around the office at the moment.

#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:

Meet Daniel Evans & Ed Kniep of GarbShare

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Daniel Evans & Ed Kniep co-founders of GarbShare

When was Garbshare founded? Do you have any co-founders?
GarbShare was founded in 2015 by myself Daniel Evans with my co-founder Ed Kniep.

What does Garbshare do and who is your typical customer?
Few things allow you to express yourself, give you the freedom to define and redefine who you are more than what hangs in your closet. Yet few things are more frustrating that staring at a closet that has everything except something to wear. GarbShare aims to remove that frustration. We’re applying the lessons of inventory management, data and analytics on a micro level to help consumers take control of their personal style.

Our primary markets are (1) the “”emerging fashionista”” – skews female, 18-34, in-college or college graduate, household income likely to be more than 100k (now or in future), suburban to urban; (2) the “”stylish organizer”” – skews female, 25-44, some college or college graduate, household income likely less than 100k, suburban.

Where are you located and how many people work there?
DP: St. Louis, Missouri, USA. We currently have 6 employees

How are you funded and how does Garbshare make money?
We raised a seed round of $400,000 in March or 2015. We are currently raising an angel round to fund growth and R&D. We make money by aggregating user data and providing a variety of trend and market research to retailers and manufacturers. We will be turning on e-commerce within the app in the fall of 2016 – allowing users to “”shop their friends closets”” and a personalized “”wish list”” based on our proprietary scoring system (GarbFit).

Have you ever been close to failure?
In any startup, failure is close. The odds are not exactly in your favor, but thankfully, we haven’t had to stare down the end of the runway just yet.
We have yet to cross a truly difficult bridge.  We have been lucky.

What’s the biggest challenge Garbshare faces today?
We can deliver an amazing amount of functionality and insights that really empower consumers – if they take the time to build their closet and interact within the app. It’s a learning tool that delivers better insights with every data point, but users have to put in the effort to get the reward. We make it as easy as possible, but it’s a change to how people currently behave. That’s our biggest challenge. Like any startup, we also need to put a huge amount of effort behind funding.

What is your background? how did you get your start and what brought you to a life in business/startups?
DP: “I’m a creative problem-solver by nature.  I started my career in UI/UX design, learned to code to ensure my designs were implemented – and users had a great experience. My career evolved into product development and eventually product management where I really found my passion for building products. When I ran into a problem with my daughter never having anything in her closet, it exposed this need in the market. I’ve been working on Garbshare since.

Sidenote: I’ve always been fascinated with the startup world. I’ve funded a few and consulted with several. It was always on my radar – if the right product or opportunity came along. This was it. ”

EK: “I went into sales out of college, realized that was not for me, went back to school for my MBA then went to work for our “”family”” business.  I started a waste hauling company on the side, loved the start up space and proceeded to leave my position as CEO of Shaughnessy to work with startups”

What gets you up in the morning? and what keeps you up at night?DP: “I love creating things from scratch – seeing an idea come to life. Every morning is another chance to see it grow, to build on that idea, to create a business.

What keeps me up at night is the trust my employees and our investors have placed in me and the responsibility to make sure they have jobs and we keep getting better – every day. I also tend to spend a lot of late nights reviewing new functionality, making sure designs and the user experience is right. ”

EK: I see most businesses as fairly similar.  Top line, bottom line and a lot of effort to make those a big deal.  I like the people/culture/alignment side of business.  A few good people with alignment and vision can do amazing things.  I like being a part of that.

What is your best character trait? what is your worst character trait?DP: Creativity or Optimism. I generally see things in terms of solutions and possibilities. Perfectionism is likely my worst. I constantly remind myself that “done is better than perfect”, but it’s a struggle sometimes.

 EK: Integrity would be my best.  Patience would be my worst.

Are you striking a work / life balance? If so, what’s your secret?
DP: I could probably be better about it, but I love what I do. If I’m not spending time with my children or have specific plans, I generally spend my time on work or researching/planning for the business.

EK: I chose to leave the family business and redefine what work meant to me.  I want to live through the process more and check boxes less.  It’s not always easy but it’s profound when it’s happening.

When things are going crazy, how do you unwind?
DP: Golf or sand volleyball. Both allow me to completely unplug and just breathe.

EK: Not well.  Stress can get me tied up but choosing to walk away, knowing it will be there tomorrow, is usually my best route.  I’m a big proponent of people using their vacations and staying away from getting frayed. I have to work on that a little for myself.

What’s the last book or movie you’ve read/seen?
DP: “I just finished Ben Horowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” and I’m reading “Traction” by Justin Mares, Gabriel Weinberg. My son and I see most of the super hero / scifi movies as they come out. “”Star Wars”” was our last over the holidays. ”

EK: Book – The Twenty Seventh City, movie – The Revenant


What’s your favourite gadget and why?
DP: I do love my iPhone. I love being able to stay in the loop no matter where I am. We just recently went to Poland and Dublin and without it, I would have been lost.

EK: Definitely my smartphone, it’s just so easy when on the road to get so much done and stay connected with everyone back at the office

What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you created your business/startup?
DP: How difficult it would be to find good creative talent. There are a lot of designers in the world, but there are very few who can take complex requirements and deliver something simple and elegant. If you have good UX/UI people – train them, inspire them, help them improve – they are rare.

 EK: It’s funny to me….it’s all out the to learn.  Someone else has gone through all the struggles at some point but we still have to learn some things on our own.  I guess if someone could have made me believe that, that would be my answer

So what’s next for GarbShare?
We’re currently in beta with a few hundred users. We have been collecting feedback and iterating for the last month. We should wrap that process up and be ready to come out of beta toward the end of March.

We are currently working on raising an angel round to support our growth and further R&D. We hope to close that round by mid-March and spend the Spring and early Summer focused on growth.

We plan to release our personalized shopping functionality in September in time for the 2016 holiday season.

#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:

Meet Mark Cummins, Co-Founder at Pointy

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The Pointy POS barcode scanning device in action

 #FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders 

Co-Founders Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby of Pointy.com

I recently caught up again with Mark Cummins, Co-Founder at Pointy, an Irish hardware startup that he co-founded with Charles Bibby in 2014, which is helping retailers to win back the high street. 

Previously I’d visited the team back in August 2015 at their Dublin office find out more about what they were up to and discuss an innovation project I was working on at the time.

Founded in 2014 and already over 500 retailers around Ireland like Donnybrook Bikes below are using the Pointy device to auto generate search engine friendly web pages for over 500,000 unique products with a view to ultimately driving more in store sales for them. In effect Pointy is helping to take back the high street for retail.

NOG: What is the name of your startup, what year was it founded? do you have any co-founders? how did you get the idea?
MC: Pointy, founded 2014. Co-founder Charles Bibby. The idea came from a very ordinary experience – I was drinking some craft beer at a party. I really liked it, but after the party I had trouble finding it in shops. It was definitely available somewhere locally, but I never found it. It seemed so strange that I could search the entire internet in half a second, but it was a struggle to find something in my local shops. The process hadn’t really changed that much from fifty or a hundred years ago.

NOG: This isn’t your first foray into entrepreneurship, what was your previous startup and what happened to it?
MC: That’s correct Niall, the previous startup that I was involved in was Plink. Plink became Google’s first UK acquisition in April 2010. Our visual search engine technology allowed users to simply take a picture of something in order to find out more about it. Our first product, PlinkArt, recognized famous paintings and was a winner of the ADC2 and a featured app on the Android market.

Video: Oxford Entrepreneurs Google Success – Plink Art Interview

NOG: Where is your startup located and how many people work there?MC: We’re based in Dublin, Ireland. We’re 7 people full-time, plus a few additional part time.

NOG: How was your startup originally funded, how are you funded now and how does your startup make money?
MC: We initially worked on the idea unpaid until we had a working demo. We then raised a seed round of $1.2M from some well know angel investors and VC funds. Our revenue comes from a small monthly fee we charge to shops on the system. There are some additional things in pipeline.

NOG: Were you ever close to failure? how close? how did you recover?
MC: I failed my driving test quite a few times :-). But in professional life there’s never been anything really close to failure so far. Perhaps after Pointy I’ll have some stories of hair-raising moments to tell.

NOG: What’s the biggest challenge your startup/business faces today?
MC: Reaching small retailers. Our product has proven very popular with retailers once they learn about it, but reaching small retailers at scale is a hard thing to do. There’s no real shortcuts, just a lot of different channels and lots of hard work.

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Looking for Cocoa Brown 1 Hour Tanning Mouse in Kill? No problem Allcare Pharmacy has you covered. (Allegedly the lads at Pointy buy it by the case)

NOG: What is your background? how did you get your start and what brought you to a life in business/startups?
MC: I studied Engineering and Computer Science at Oxford, and then went on to do a PhD in robotics and computer vision (as did my co-founder Charles). After Oxford I started a previous company (Plink) which Google acquired in 2010. I then spent three years at Google before leaving to start Pointy. I’m actually a little surprised to find myself founding start-ups, it’s not something I ever thought about growing up.

NOG: What gets you up in the morning? and what keeps you up at night?
MC: Honestly, the thing that actually gets me up in the morning is curiosity about what’s happened in the world overnight – normally in the form of checking our dashboards, emails, etc. At night, I often lie awake for an hour or more thinking about what to do next – it’s something I’ve done all my life. So, I guess the answer is: everything.

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NOG: What is your best character trait? what is your worst character trait?
MC: I like playing with ideas and questioning things – if you question enough things sometimes you have an idea for something new and interesting. On the other side, I sometimes over-research and read a lot of background material on things, when a bit of direct trial-and-error or even just focused thought might get me there quicker.

NOG: Are you striking a work / life balance? If so, what’s your secret?
MC: It can be long hours during the week, but I always take the weekends off. That works for me.

NOG: When things are going crazy, how do you unwind?
MC: Cycling in the Wicklow mountains.

Picture taken by Mark while out cycling in Co. Wicklow, Ireland

NOG: You reference Donnybrook bikes on your site, have you ever used Pointy yourself to find and buy parts there yourself?
MC:
Yes, have got plenty of small bits and pieces off Donnybrook Bikes, the guys are great and have a great selection – last thing I think was a new Bontrager bottle cage.
NOG: Ok I just checked on Pointy and they are showing in stock, thats cool!

Bontrager RL Cage (Black) available at Donnybrook Bikes

NOG: 
What’s the last book or movie that you’ve read or seen?
MC: Last movie was Star Wars, in common with half the world! Last book was The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi.

NOG: What’s the most played song in your itunes or spotify playlist?
MC: Bonxie by Stornoway

NOG: What’s your favourite gadget and why?
MC: 
I use a projector at home instead of a screen. I love it.

NOG: What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you created your business/startup?
MC: One of the trickiest things was where to draw the line between business and non-business life. e.g. Friends and family who wanted to invest and/or work in the business, etc. I think we mostly got it right, but more by luck than judgement.

Pointy being interviewed by the folks over at IrishStartup.TV back in July 2015

NOG: So what’s next for Pointy?
MC: We’re just about to launch in a new country, which is very exciting!

NOG: What question would you like me to ask the next founder?
MC: I’d be interested to know how much of their time people spend the different aspects of the job – e.g. working on product, hiring, raising money, sales, media, etc.

NOG: How would you answer your own question? 🙂
MC: Nicely done! The majority of my time is on product – quite a lot of actual coding. There’s also a lot of time on high level decision making – which features should we prioritise, which city should we launch in next, etc. The other major part of it is establishing and maintaining relationships with investors, keys partners, etc. There are periods of a month or more when fund raising is 100% of my time. Hiring is also a big one which happens in short bursts.

NOG: Well Mark, that’s it. Congratulations on the recent funding announcement, continued success in helping retail to take back the high street. by helping them gain traction online in order to drive sales offline in store.
MC: Thanks Niall, really enjoyed the chat.

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Are you an Irish retailer wanting to learn more about Pointy and the opportunity to join them on their mission to help win back the high street for retail? then click here

#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:

Meet Rory O’Connor Founder & CEO of Scurri

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Rory O’Connor Founder of Scurri

 #FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders

I recently caught up with Rory O’Connor, Founder and CEO of Scurri, an Irish startup founded in 2010 which specialises in delivery management for  online merchants. 

HQ’d in Wexford town in Ireland they have 23 people employed. Their platform is used by multi-channel merchants, such as Zara, ASOS, MissGuided to improve their customer delivery propositions via delivery partners like Royal Mail, UPS, Hermes, TNT, DHL, Yodel, DPD and more.

Rory is an entrepreneur who likes to create and build things that make a difference. With @Scurri he’s using technology to make eCommerce delivery awesome for everyone! Loves the outdoors, surfing, triathlon and hillwalking. Lives in Wexford, Ireland.

NOG: What is the name of your business/startup, what year was it founded? do you have any co-founders? how did you get the idea?
ROC: The business name is Scurri, it was founded at the end of 2010, I am a lone founder and the business idea emerged from a slightly different business model that wast the original idea for the company.

NOG: What does your business/startup do? who is your typical customer?
ROC: Scurri removes the friction from managing deliveries for eCommerce Merchants, our typical customers are eCommerce merchants selling physical goods online who want to give their customers the best delivery experience possible.

NOG: Where is your startup located and how many people work there?
ROC: We are HQ’d in Wexford town in Ireland where we have 23 people employed today but entering an expansion phase now which is great.

Better together: start-ups and sponsorship by Adam Pescod @elitebizmag

NOG: How was your startup/business originally funded, how are you funded now and how does your startup/business make money?
ROC: I put up the initial capital to get us going, an ex-colleague soon joined me on the adventure and then we raised investment from a number of angels and a small amount of funding from enterprise Ireland. We then raised funds from VC’s as we got more traction.

NOG: Were you ever close to failure? how close? how did you recover?
ROC: Yes many times, on a couple of occasions we had a few days cash in the bank. Persistence and flexibility with a bit of luck thrown in is key.

NOG: What’s the biggest challenge your startup/business faces today?
ROC: One of the key challenges is finding talent, particularly engineering talent.

Image: Ireland’s entrepreneurial counties and the key challenges for Irish entrepreneurs

NOG: What is your background? how did you get your start and what brought you to a life in business/startups?
ROC: I originally worked in Waterford Crystal when I got a great grounding in business, marketing and sales. I also broadened my education there. I didn’t realise it for a while but I think I always destined to run my own business. I worked as a freelance consultant for a while but I really wanted to create something too.

NOG: What gets you up in the morning? and what keeps you up at night?
ROC: The excitement of what the day will bring gets me up and by the time the day is done (late at night) I sleep soundly.

Image: For the last sixteen years, Rory has been inshore helm for the local RNLI lifeboat (Fethard-on-Sea), ready to save lives at sea at any time in any weather condition.

NOG: What is your best character trait? what is your worst character trait?ROC: My best trait is I am persistent and willing to put the miles in, my worst trait is I can be impatient and unreasonable (don’t take no for an answer)

NOG: 
Are you striking a work / life balance? If so, what’s your secret?
ROC: I don’t see the difference between work and life, I don’t see what I do as a job and I think that is the secret.

NOG: The latest Scurri marketing features Lego, so what’s your figure look like?
ROC: 
Why simple it’s ‘President Business’ of course!

NOG: When things are going crazy, how do you unwind?
ROC: Do a bit more, nothing like the feeling of completing something.

Image: Rory competing in challenge Barcelona 2010

NOG: What’s the last book or movie you’ve read/seen?
ROC: The last book was Venture Deals and the last movie was the new Star wars.

Image: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

NOG: What’s the most played song in your itunes / spotify playlist?
ROC: AC/DC Thunderstruck – my kids love it too!
NOG: We must be of a similar vintage, that’s one of my favourites also!

NOG: What’s your favourite gadget and why?
ROC: My iPhone, what can it not do?

NOG: What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you created your business/startup?
ROC: A lot more about finance, it’s so important.

NOG: So what’s next for Scurri?
ROC: International expansion

NOG: Thank you for taking the time today Rory, congratulations on the progress and best of luck with the expansion plans in 2016 and beyond
ROC: Thank you Niall, it’s been my pleasure.

#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!

Originally published at www.linkedin.com.

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