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Insights The five WHYs of the New Frontiers programme - Colm Ó Maolmhuire

As an entrepreneur, deciding to apply for programmes such as New Frontiers will have a significant effect on the development of your business, but it’s important to thoroughly asses both your motivations and chances of success. In this blog, New Frontiers Programme Manager at IT Blanchardstown, Colm Ó Maolmhuire, looks at five key questions you should ask yourself.

One of the techniques all entrepreneurs and managers need to use, in drilling down into and analysing their business proposition, is the ‘5 Whys’ format. In my experience, any founder needs to take stock and do some serious analysis after Phase 1, for their critical ‘Go/No Go’ decision, and that included deciding whether or not to apply for Phase 2. The alternative is following another path to start up. Based on my experience with founders applying to New Frontiers, I thought it might be useful for potential participants to explore how the 5 Whys might be used in such a situation, and what supplementary questions might be relevant. These are not necessarily in any particular order.

WHY am I doing this?

Why am I starting a new venture? Am I an entrepreneur? Am I willing and able to make the hard decisions, initially on my own? Am I ready to leave my employment/give up my regular earnings to enter the uncertain world of startups?

  • Remember that there is very little you can do self-employed that cannot be done employed. A startup is not for everyone.

WHY am I doing the New Frontiers programme?

Given the great variety of paths to startup, how is this programme the best or most appropriate method of supporting my plan of action for the business? There are many other supports and agencies out there, so how does this match my needs and strategy?

  • Remember that New Frontiers is not suitable for every startup.

WHY will the customers buy what I’m planning to offer?

Do I have a strong initial understanding of my customers, their pain and my solution, my Customer Value Proposition? Can I articulate it clearly? If not, then how am I going to trial and validate anything?

  • Remember, this may change, or pivot, during Phase 2, but you need to start with a clear focus and understanding.

WHY do I think there is a business in it?

Is this going to be a ‘need to have’, rather than a ‘nice to have’? What do I know of my market/domain, from a commercialisation point of view? How will I define and progress the market opportunity in terms of scale, niche, accessibility, addressability, route to market, go to market, and most importantly initial sales? How do I think I will make money at this?

  • Remember, if you can’t figure out how to sell profitably, you could end up with an expensive experiment.

WHY will investors back it?

Will I be able to address the main question investors ask: What’s in it for me? Will I end up with a proposition that’s sufficiently compelling for future investors?

  • Remember, during Phase 2, we address and progress all of the above (and more) elements of your business. You can use the programme to gather evidence, document and deliver strongly. You will also be able to prepare and practice for pitching to professional investors.

Phase 2 of the New Frontiers programme is a strong blend of time, space and support mechanisms for startups, and their founders, to prepare and progress to an advanced stage. It is an opportunity for you to build a business proposition and skillset on a strong foundation. But it only works if you can and do ask yourself the ‘hard questions’ – like WHY!

Thinking of applying to Phase 2 of New Frontiers? Read Colm’s post: Tips for making a successful Phase 2 application.

About the author

Colm Ó MaolmhuireColm Ó Maolmhuire

Colm is the New Frontiers Programme Manager at TU Dublin – Blanchardstown Campus. He has nearly 30 years’ experience operating as an independent, professional management trainer, mentor and consultant. His main areas of expertise are in finance, business planning/analysis and management skills.