Ireland has long been known for its highly-educated workforce, entrepreneurial spirit and vibrant business community. Within this environment, successful business can develop and flourish, but what does it take to create a truly stand-out start-up?
It all starts with an idea. A unique idea that addresses a need or solves a problem in a new or different way than existing products or services. The idea also needs to target a market that is significant and well understood.
Behind that idea there needs to be a team that can take the raw material of a good idea and a great market and bring it to fruition. Sprinkle that team with enthusiasm and energy and add the right kind of advice and support and you have the core ingredients needed for a start-up to realise its potential.
The business plan as foundation stone
You have your idea, your team and you’ve identified the market. The next step is to develop a business plan. Your business plan will be the platform on which you build everything else. It allows you to test the basis of your concept and will help you refine it, teach you how to express your idea, and crystallise what you’re trying to achieve.
Writing your business plan also forces you to think about the fundamental questions like: how big is the target market, how long will it take us to make an impact, who are the competitors, why are they vulnerable and what makes our idea compelling to a buyer or investor. If you’re serious about your idea these are questions or threshold points you need to answer.
Your business plan also acts as a vehicle for what comes next – when you begin to seek out expertise, advice and investment, all the things that are necessary to sit underneath the idea and support it. A plan outlining your idea, its potential and why it’s unique, is a vital tool you can use to engage potential partners and will help you gather the ecosystem you need to get you over the line.
For all those early-stage businesses out there who worry about creating the perfect business plan, bear in mind that version one of your plan doesn’t need to be perfect. Even the act of documenting your concept and answering the fundamental questions will be a good place to start. You have time, and there are people out there who can help you refine your plan and flesh it out.
Tapping into the ecosystem for success
There’s a vibrant entrepreneurial and start-up community here in Ireland that’s exemplified by the many incubators and start-up programs dotted around the country. These spaces and programs are so important to supporting successful start-ups. They help early-stage businesses to blossom and build a foundation underneath themselves before they take on the world.
Wherever you see prolific innovation occurring, there are inevitably incubators, hubs or programs around that encourage this development. I was fortunate to see this effect first-hand last year when I helped mentor entrepreneurs and teams during the NDRC’s HealthTech programme
During the process I was struck by the progression these entrepreneurs and teams made in a short space of time. From developing a crispness of expression around their idea, and the thought process that goes into marketing the solution, right through to the discipline they began to develop about sizing the target market and identifying the potential successes their company could achieve; it was remarkable. And they were able to do that as a result of the experience and support they received from people who’ve been there and were happy to lend them their knowledge and expertise. It’s difficult to characterise exactly how invaluable that kind of experience is for early-stage companies.
Attitude, above all
Starting up a new company is a daunting challenge and there is a common quality you will find with entrepreneurs and start-up teams who take it on. That quality is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm to be doing something unique and breakthrough. There’s also a certain energy, persistence and resolve that you have to have to invent something new and form an enterprise around it.
There will be times when you might be told that the idea isn’t right, or elements of your plan won’t work. You will need to have the energy and courage to go back to the drawing board and re-form your idea and turn it into something that can work.
I’ve spoken with many early-stage businesses and entrepreneurs and I’m always struck by their fearlessness and determination. It’s this attitude, above all else, that will drive them forward and get them to where they want to be.
There are many ingredients to creating a successful start-up, but there will always be that secret sauce that makes some start-ups stand out. We’re fortunate in Ireland to have seen our fair share of stand-out start-ups who have taken on the world, and I believe we’ve only scratched the surface of what we can achieve here
Bill Archer is Managing Director of eir Business.