During the recent Dublin Tech Summit one thing was very clear: Ireland’s start-up community is thriving. The Startup100 Pitch competition ran over the course of the two-day event and the ideas and talent on show was impressive. Rising from that eminent group of startups was Waterford company Flexiwage, which took home the overall prize. We caught up with Anthony Cronin from Flexiwage to ask him about the team’s experience to date and where to next for this exciting startup.
Where did the idea for Flexiwage come from?
The idea for Flexiwage came from a few sources: working in the payroll industry for 15 years I heard the same thing from clients about how they wish they could pay their staff weekly only for the cost, and inspiration also came from personal experience of being paid monthly and sitting in on the last week of the month because I had spent all my money!
You and your colleagues all have a payroll background. Was this instrumental in identifying the gap in the market?
Yes definitely. I think having implemented so many payrolls in so many different companies we saw the trend for the shift to monthly pay. Twenty years ago the majority of people were paid weekly but largely as result of the cost, the majority of companies have shifted to monthly processing. As a result the payday loan industry has grown, preying on the fact that people struggle to manage their income over this longer period.
So you had the idea for Flexiwage – what was your next step?
Building the team was the next step. I immediately contacted my good friend Paul Ryan who I have worked with for 10 years in various roles and told him about the idea. We then contacted John Phelan and Gerry Duffy who we knew through another project to see if they would come on board. The team is really the heart of Flexiwage; we all bring with us significant experience in the sector and we work well together.
What advice would you give to startups who are starting out like you were not that long ago?
I would say take the assistance that is out there, for example, the Local Enterprise Office in Waterford were a great assistance to us. The reality is you can’t be an expert at everything in a startup, so where possible, use the available supports.
Ireland has quite a supportive start-up environment, where did you turn for help and support?
We worked very closely with the LEO in Waterford and particularly with Paul and Richie there who have been great. I also went on the New Frontiers programme in WIT which supports early-stage entrepreneurship, and that was very beneficial. The people you meet in the start-up community are also a great help to new founders like us as they’ve been there before and have, in our case at least, been very willing to help out wherever they can.
Funding is an important part of any startup’s plans – but you need a pitch to attract investors. What’s your advice for pitching to potential investors?
Well, we have self-funded to this point but have recently started to talk to investors. My best advice is to be honest and tell it like it is, be clear about what your product or service is going to do to solve a particular problem. In our case, we focus on the good the product can do for people in difficult situations, as well as the employer benefits. This seems to resonate with people, as we have all at one time or another run out of money when we needed it.
You recently won the Startup100 Pitch competition at the Dublin Tech Summit . What approach did you take to your pitch?
I think the same thing applies in the competitions as with the investors; we are really telling a story that has effected most people at one time or another. I’m not a believer in a scripted pitch based on a set of slides; I tend to forget the script and end up thinking about the piece I forgot for the rest of the pitch. I simply tell the story of the company and what we do and how we try to solve a problem for both employers and employees. For me, the slides are a visual to go along with the story rather than something to read from. My other tactic was not to concentrate on the number of people in the crowd, as I was pretty nervous!
How beneficial is it for startups to enter competitions like this?
Unbelievable. The Dublin Tech Summit in general was amazing. It gave us a great platform and put us in front of a lot of people who we may not have gotten the opportunity to present to otherwise. The supports before, during and after were fantastic and Daniel and the guys organising the whole thing were brilliant. There was also great support from eir, The Digital Hub and the other sponsors, who made the whole thing possible.
You’ve had a successful few months – if you were to go back to the start again is there anything you would do differently?
I think we’ve been pretty good at achieving our targets to date, but if we could start again one thing we would all agree on is taking the supports and advice that are available through the LEO earlier. The support from LEO has really helped us along.
So what’s next for Flexiwage?
Haha. We want to become a global brand in the Employee Financial Wellness sector. That might sound ambitious but we are hopefully heading in the right direction with our launch in the US this month. We also want to bring some employment to our local region in Waterford; some of the best tech talent is coming out of WIT down here so what better place to be based.
Anthony Cronin is the Founder and CEO of Flexiwage