The importance of support in early-stage startup
Creating a successful business is a complex process, which involves lot of hard work and determination. Continuous support from all the stakeholders is required throughout the life-cycle of the business; however the initial phase is perhaps the most critical.
Events in the initial stages usually shape and drive the short and medium-term strategy of a company. In the following paragraphs I will try to highlight the importance of early support in general and the help we received from Enterprise Ireland at the very early stages of our business; and how that helped us to define a roadmap and determine our future direction.
Ask for help from the beginning
When I initially thought about setting up Tuition Desk, I was looking for someone who could help me determine if my idea was viable and had commercial value, but also to provide me with some initial direction. I started looking at various options, including banks, angel investors, VCs, as well as government agencies.
I did some research on the Enterprise Ireland website and came across a program called New Frontiers that I felt might suit me at this stage. I looked at the programme content and found that it provided exposure to most of the components involved in the initial stages of setting up a business, including directions on how to validate an idea in the market.
Business validation and business models
Anyone looking to set up a business should validate their idea before spending any further resources on it. Validation provides initial direction and the opportunity to refine the business model at the very early stages, which is less easily done once the business is underway.
My company is a web-based market place that operates within a complex tutoring market. We have refined our business model a number of times using the tools and techniques we came across through the New Frontiers program. For example, we came across a tool, called the Business Model Canvas, which helped us to break down our business model into difference components and visualize it to establish which components were missing or under-developed. The financial models taught were also very helpful for understanding our financial needs. Having no previous financial experience, I thought these tools really allowed us to shape our finances and analyse our investment needs.
New Frontiers combines support and training
We also had opportunities to speak and discuss our business idea with a large number of experts; they provided valuable advice which helped us formulate a short and medium-term strategy for our business. One such valuable contact was Ian Cleary, who delivered the digital marketing sessions. Having come from a technical background, I had very little exposure to sales and marketing training, which are the fundamentals of any business. New Frontiers provided me with opportunities to attend well-structured training sessions that gave me much-needed exposure to digital and inbound marketing techniques.
[Getting support] has given me the encouragement and direction to take my business forward with self-belief and confidence.
My mentor, Alistair Kidd, was also very knowledgeable and always had ideas to improve the business. Getting basic training related to setting up business, meeting experienced mentors and advisers and having an unlimited number of discussions with peers related to my business has given me the encouragement and direction to take my business forward with self-belief and confidence.
I believe that, without this exposure, the progress of my business would have been much slower and I would have gone in numerous directions that proved less effective – learning things the hard way instead of hitting the ground running.