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How To Supercharge Your New Frontiers Experience 10 Top Tips

How To Supercharge Your New Frontiers Experience: 10 Top Tips

By New Frontiers blog

How To Supercharge Your New Frontiers Experience 10 Top Tips

Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme has been supporting early-stage startup founders for over a decade. Phase 1 is a part-time programme aimed at validating the business idea. On Phase 2 – which runs over six months full-time – founders develop a wide range of skills that will enable them to turn their idea into a revenue-generating business.

The benefits of New Frontiers are wide and varied. But what can you, as the founder, do to ensure you get the most benefit from the programme? We put this question to our Programme Managers in an attempt to distil the most relevant and important tips into a single blog that will supercharge your time on the programme and help you become the best founder you can be. This is by no means the only advice your Programme Managers will have for you, but it’s a good place to start!

In no particular order, here are tips from 10 of our Programme Managers.

Paula Carroll, National Programme Manager at Enterprise Ireland

“If I was to give only one piece of advice (which is very hard), I would say use the time whilst you are on the programme to network! It is really important to get known within the startup ecosystem, and the best way to do that is to use the connections you will have access to whilst on the New Frontiers programme. Network with your fellow participants, with other entrepreneurs within the incubation centres, with the facilitators and mentors, and also get out to events to meet potential customers and funders.”

Tony O’Kelly, Programme Manager at ATU – Galway City + Mayo Campuses

“Prioritising market intelligence is crucial, as it serves as a compass for navigating the complex terrain of business establishment and growth. This involves a thorough understanding of your target market, including customer needs, preferences, and behaviours, as well as staying abreast of competitors’ strategies and industry trends. Such insight not only informs product development and marketing strategies but also shapes investment decisions and operational adjustments. By placing a strong emphasis on market intelligence, founders can make well-informed decisions, anticipate market shifts, and adapt their business models accordingly, enhancing the likelihood of long-term success and sustainability in a competitive environment.”

Orla Reynolds, Programme Manager at Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dún Laoghaire

“My recommendation to founders is to really understand the problem you’re solving and know your customer. Develop milestones and timelines: slowly is the only way to get somewhere quickly. Take time to methodically think through your options; look at where you are today, think about what you want the company to become, and begin to plot the steps necessary to achieve your goal. Everything will take longer than you think, and people will take a very long time to reply. Don’t stop moving forward. Even if it feels like you are going around in circles, that’s OK as long as you are spiralling up! Take time for yourself, too.  Remove your self-worth from the success or failure of the business.”

Nick Allen, Programme Manager at TUS – Athlone Campus

“For founders, learning how to acquire and retain customers is paramount. Steve Blank’s insight, often encapsulated in the simple yet profound model of ‘Get, Keep, and Grow’ customers, is a cornerstone in this area. For the early-stage business, the initial goal is to secure the first customer. This ‘Concierge’ customer, so named for their significance in representing the entire business at this stage, requires an unparalleled level of personal attention and service, a level that is challenging to maintain at scale. As the business grows, strategies to acquire and retain multiple customers need to be more streamlined, incorporating tools like CRM systems, sales teams, and efficient communication channels. However, the key takeaway for start-ups is to avoid getting bogged down in elaborate marketing strategies prematurely. Instead, the focus should be on the essentials: acquiring that first crucial customer, providing exceptional service to keep them, and finding ways to grow their value over time. This approach ensures a solid foundation upon which a business can build its future marketing and operational strategies.”

get keep and grow model from Steve BlankGemma Purcell, Programme Manager at SETU – Carlow Campus

“A valuable aspect of New Frontiers is group learning and peer interaction. The group brings together a blend of different skills, experience, and backgrounds. The peer-to-peer support is invaluable, as is the unique contribution each participant brings to the workshops. Being open and sharing expertise in the workshops is encouraged and is then reciprocated by peers in other workshops.”

Mary Casey, Programme Manager at TUS – Limerick Campus

“I would advise participants to approach the programme with a curious mind. Be curious, ask questions, listen intently and probe further so that you – as the leader – can make knowledge-powered decisions. This is the opportunity to investigate the business idea further, ensure you are creating an offering that people want and that they will pay for, making it commercially viable. Don’t be opposed to challenging your early assumptions. New Frontiers gives you the time to step back, carry out in-depth customer discovery by talking to customers to understand their needs, how they are fulfilling this right now, their challenges, their budgets, how they will benefit and achieve value from your offering. Continue being curious as you develop the first version of your product offering and your first business model. Be adaptable to change as you listen to your users’ feedback. New Frontiers opens a wide network to participants from facilitators, mentors, past participants, as well as other entrepreneurs, research centres, and agencies… Ask questions of them, seek advice, and leverage the wonderful startup ecosystem that surrounds you!”

Geraldine Beirne, Programme Manager at ATU – Donegal Letterkenny and Sligo Campuses

“Maximising the peer-to-peer network is a highly under-estimated benefit of participating in Phase 2 of the New Frontiers programme. It is so important to get to know your fellow entrepreneurs – exchange insights, share your challenges and solutions. Over the six months of the programme, you will get to know each other very well as you navigate the journey together. The learnings that the programme provides through the workshops and mentoring are, of course, invaluable in helping to make your business a success. But your peer-to-peer network adds another layer and can open doors to new opportunities. Leverage the diverse perspectives and experiences within your group – they will have a wide range of areas of expertise from marketing to finance, sector specific knowledge and a wide network of contacts that you can tap in to.”

Dr Eugene Crehan, Programme Manager at SETU – Waterford Campus

“Continuously refining your business plan and pitch deck, with the guidance and expertise of workshop facilitators and the New Frontiers team, is a pivotal aspect of laying the groundwork for your entrepreneurial journey. The business plan acts as a critical roadmap, guiding you through the complexities of launching your startup and strategising for customer acquisition. Its importance cannot be overstated, as it not only serves as a blueprint for your company’s direction and goals, but also as a dynamic document that evolves with your venture. Regular updates to your business plan and pitch deck are essential, ensuring they remain relevant and reflect the changing market dynamics and internal growth of your business. This process of constant refinement and adaptation is not just about maintaining a document; it’s about nurturing a living strategy that keeps your business aligned with its objectives and responsive to opportunities and challenges.”

Colm O’Maolmhuire, Programme Manager at TU Dublin – Blanchardstown Campus

“My advice to founders is learn to manage yourself. Create a structure or system to make the best use of your time and to track your progress. It may sound like six months is a long time, but it flies! It’s easy to relax in Month 1 (“Great, I got on the programme!”); however, if you do, it suddenly becomes a five-month programme. There’s lots to do, and the last month will be taken up with worrying about how you’re going to fund yourself afterwards. The successful founders realise you’re not about being on a programme – you’re about building a business. The best way to raise funding to keep the business going is to show you can deliver. And that’s why you need to use your time (and the support we give you) on Phase 2 wisely – so you can raise funding to grow a business you’ve already shown you can start. If you manage yourself and your time well during Phase 2, you will then have a stronger case to make by the end of it.”

Aoife McInerney, Programme Manager at MTU – Cork Campus

“An open mind will help you get the most from New Frontiers. YDKWYDK or ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’ applies to all entrepreneurs, as does an immense pride in the business that you’re creating. New Frontiers is designed to support you to build your business by providing you with the time to really test your business model, access to experienced mentors, a supportive peer network AND by challenging assumptions you may have about your business. Realising that changes are needed can be tough, so to really benefit from the experience you’ve got to be ready to engage and participate with an open mind!”

New Frontiers is Enterprise Ireland’s national programme for startup founders. To learn more, read about the programme, check out the eligibility criteria, and find the application deadlines of your nearest programme.

About the author

scarlet-merrillScarlet Bierman

Scarlet is a content consultant, commissioned by Enterprise Ireland to fulfil the role of Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing ethical marketing strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence.

Enterprise Ireland’s PSSF Propels Your Startup From Promise To Powerhouse

Enterprise Ireland’s PSSF Propels Your Startup From Promise To Powerhouse

By New Frontiers blog

Enterprise Ireland’s PSSF Propels Your Startup From Promise To Powerhouse

The Enterprise Ireland Pre-Seed Start Fund (PSSF) provides investment of €50,000 or €100,000 (in two €50,000 tranches), plus access to a Development Advisor and supports from the agency such as 10 sessions with a mentor from the Enterprise Ireland panel, access to their Market Research Centre, and other appropriate supports to develop your business.

I spoke to Anna-Marie Turley, Department Manager for Entrepreneurship & HPSU Operations at Enterprise Ireland, to learn more about PSSF (which recently replaced Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund, or CSF) and why it is of particular interest to New Frontiers alumni.

PSSF is a springboard for ambitious startups

First things first. CSF has been retired, but PSSF is not simply CSF with a new name. There are four main differences worth highlighting:

  1. PSSF is not a competitive process. With CSF, you were scored across several areas and only the top scorers won funding. This is not the case with PSSF.
  2. PSSF is open all year round, unlike CSF which had a defined series of ‘calls’ which sometimes targeted specific groups or sectors. Applications to PSSF are accepted at any time and there are no deadlines. This is a really important difference because PSSF is all about timing, as we’ll discover below.
  3. You can apply for either €50,000 or €100,000 (which is split into two tranches of €50,000) in investment (CSF was €50,000).
  4. The funding is in the form of a convertible loan note (CSF was for a 10% equity stake in the business). Convertible notes, or CLNs, are a form of hybrid debt finance, where funders offer investment as an interest-bearing, repayable loan that converts into equity under certain circumstances (most commonly at a future qualifying funding round).

These are the differences, but the fundamental purpose of the fund is based on a similar premise to CSF, as Anna-Marie explains.

“PSSF is designed to accelerate the growth of early-stage startup companies with the capacity and ambition to succeed in global markets. The fund covers operational costs – development of market-ready products/solutions, market testing, building mission critical skillsets, etc. What we’re looking for is those fledgling innovative businesses that have the ability and drive to really scale.”

The money can be spent on salaries, travel, consultancy fees, and other expenditure, but not direct export aid costs such as sales and marketing and only a capped amount in legal fees. Startups can initiate the application process at any time, but Anna-Marie underlines that the timing must be right for the business.

This is not about getting the cash as quickly as possible and you’re not in a race to obtain this funding before someone else gets it. The absence of a ticking clock means that you can choose the optimal time to go for PSSF, at the moment it can do the most for the company and get you ready to raise significant seed funding.

The PSSF application process

The application process involves completing an application form on the Enterprise Ireland online application system and the submission of a video pitch.

The video pitch must be in PowerPoint format with a maximum duration of four minutes. That means slides plus a commentary, as though you were presenting in person. A really impactful pitch will take a while to prepare, so I recommend you start working on this in advance. Workshops are being organised to support you with this (see below). The PowerPoint should address:

  • Overview of the business and the opportunity (problem, solution, team, financials)
  • Management team (skills, gaps)
  • Use of the investment monies (specific technical milestones and commercial milestones)
  • Your future funding requirements and timelines for fundraising

It’s crucial that your application is clear on your technical and commercial milestones. The funding should get you to the point – ideally within 12 to 18 months – where you are able to attract further seed funding. Milestones will be how you know you are moving in that direction.

The online form will be fairly quick to submit, but remember you need to also upload the PowerPoint presentation within the 48 hours the system keeps your application open. Allow time to run into technical issues and fix them so that you don’t have to start all over again.

Formal assessment of the application is similar to the process used for CSF. Expect the panel to consider areas such as:

  • Company and promoter/team profile
  • Product/service and market opportunity
  • Business proposition
  • Product/service innovation
  • Ability to deliver on the key commercial and technical milestones

Although re-applications are possible, you are limited to three applications in any 12-month period.

Tips for the PSSF application process

You’re not alone on this journey. Business Innovation Centres (BICs) around the country and Furthr (formerly Dublin BIC) are running regular PSSF application support workshops and actively helping startups with the new application format. You can attend workshops in any region but will need to register. Upcoming workshops are listed on the Enterprise Ireland site.

What is Anna-Marie’s main advice for founders thinking of applying? “When preparing your application, pay a lot of attention to the technical and commercial milestones. These define how you’re going to get to the next stage, so they are really important in helping the panel assess your application. What are you going to spend the money on and over what timeframe?”

Companies with a minimum viable product (MVP) or Beta are going to have an advantage over those that are still at the idea stage. This is why PSSF is the ideal next step for companies coming out of the New Frontiers programme and where we expect many of our alumni will turn next. Since this fund was launched, 40% of successful applicants have been New Frontiers alumni. The programme is an excellent preparation for this stage of startup growth.

“Work with Local Enterprise Offices, apply to programmes like New Frontiers, and get your startup to the stage where you are ready to push forward towards a seed round within 18 months. That’s the sweet spot that PSSF is for. But be clear on what your steppingstones are and plan ahead so that this funding comes at the right time.”

Anna-Marie explains that the assessment is not weighted against first-time entrepreneurs.

“Track record is one thing, but knowledge of an area or sector is another. If you’ve come out of a multinational in that area or have applicable academic expertise, for example, that is considered as part of your track record. You don’t have to be a serial entrepreneur. But we are looking at the team as a whole and not just the promoter, so your collective accomplishments matter.”

What is an ideal PSSF company?

While this is not a competitive process, there is of course a very serious evaluation of each application to ensure that the startups getting funding have a strong likelihood of becoming Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-Up companies (HPSUs).

HPSUs have very strong export potential and are capable of generating revenues of over €1 million per year within three years and/or employing more than 10 people. Therefore, HPSUs typically have a strong element of innovation in their product/service, a team with strong domain knowledge, and the kind of business plan that means they will very soon need to raise significant investment as they accelerate their international growth.

The company must be classed as a manufacturing or internationally traded services business, within which criterion a wide range of sectors are included. As with any Enterprise Ireland support, there are some excluded sectors such as gambling, adult entertainment, tobacco, and military. To apply for PSSF, the company must be less than four years old and revenues should be under €150,000 that year or in any previous year.

What would preclude a startup from being able to apply to PSSF? There is also a ceiling of €150,000 in funding raised from external sources. If you have raised more than this, you may not be eligible to apply. A comprehensive list of all the qualifying and disqualifying factors can be found on the PSSF page on the Enterprise Ireland website. There is also an FAQ downloadable from the EI website.

Get ready for PSSF investment

PSSF is a welcome bridge for those startups that are still early stage but need investment to really start flourishing. At that point, raising private equity can be a huge challenge. If you have the ambition to take your startup global, it makes sense to build PSSF investment into your strategic roadmap. However, don’t be pre-emptive with your application! Make sure your MVP is strong, that you have a great team around you, and that you have identified your international expansion and employment potential.

If you’re interested in the PSSF, it’s a good idea to start by having a conversation with your New Frontiers, Local Enterprise Office, or Enterprise Ireland advisor. Interested in reading more? Check out this recent article by Anna-Marie Turley in the Independent and the full fund details on the Enterprise Ireland website.

About the author

scarlet-merrillScarlet Bierman

Scarlet Bierman is a content consultant, commissioned by Enterprise Ireland to fulfil the role of Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing ethical marketing strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence.

Customer discovery helps you build products services that people want

Customer Discovery Helps You Build Products/Services That People Want

By New Frontiers blog

Customer discovery helps you build products services that people want

Most startup founders are familiar with the concept of idea validation. In fact, Phase 1 of New Frontiers is all about helping entrepreneurs to validate their startup idea and get them to a go/no-go decision. Idea validation can be summed up as finding out if people want what you are planning to build – i.e., if it’s a viable product/service that’s worth further investment.

But there’s another area of early-stage research that is too often forgotten or neglected by startup founders, and that’s what we want to look at today. Customer discovery provides a more in-depth understanding of the needs and preferences of potential customers, which helps inform product or service development. By conducting customer discovery, founders can ensure that their product or service idea is aligned with the needs of their target market, increasing the chances of success. Let’s look at what’s involved.

What is customer discovery?

Customer discovery is a process for understanding potential customers and the problems they are trying to solve. This involves conducting research and interviews with potential customers to gather information about their needs, pain points, and preferences. The goal of customer discovery is to validate the assumptions you are making about the target market, and to identify potential areas for change and improvement.

Customer discovery has many benefits for a business. The top ones are that it helps you to understand the needs and preferences of potential customers, uncover possible challenges and obstacles that may present themselves, and cement early relationships with potential customers who can help kickstart sales and marketing.

If you’re looking to develop your own discovery process, here are some steps you might start with:

  1. Define the problem or need you are trying to solve: Before starting, be clear about the problem or need that the startup is trying to address. This will help you focus your research and interviews on gathering information about the specific needs of your potential customers.
  2. Identify potential customers to interview: Identify people who are likely to have that problem or need. This can be done through, for example, research and networking.
  3. Conduct interviews with potential customers: These interviews can be in-person, over the phone, or through online surveys. During the interviews, you should ask questions about the potential customer’s needs, pain points, preferences, and other relevant information.
  4. Collate and analyse the data collected: Look for patterns and trends in the data and identify common themes and insights.
  5. Use the insights to inform development: This can involve making changes to the product, adjusting the business model, or developing a new marketing strategy. By incorporating the insights from customer discovery, you can better meet the needs of potential customers and improve its chances of success.
  6. Iterate and continue the process: Customer discovery is not a one-time process. As the startup continues to develop and grow, you should continue to conduct customer discovery to gather new insights and make ongoing improvements to your product or service.

Getting customer discovery right

Daniel Kyne at the Product Management Festival 2021

Daniel Kyne at the Product Management Festival 2021

We spoke to Daniel Kyne, co-founder and CEO of OpinionX, a research tool that enables qualitative research at scale so that companies can find their product/market fit faster. Daniel is a New Frontiers alumnus and also trains New Frontiers cohorts to improve their own customer discovery processes. He is something of a nerd in the area of actionable user research strategies, so who better to bring the theory to life for us!

According to Daniel, one of the best places to start if you are new to this concept is The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick. This book addresses a lot of the misconceptions people have about customer conversations. Typically, people think customer interviewing boils down to creating a giant PowerPoint, making people watch it, and then asking, “Would you like this product/service?” Research proves that, if you do this, you will tend to just get people agreeing with you (beware of flattery during this process!). Partly this is because people don’t want to hurt your feelings by saying, “This doesn’t seem like a good idea,” or, “I wouldn’t want this.”

The Mom Test takes you though some basic principles to avoid ending up in that situation. The key takeaways are that you should never use customer discovery interviews to tell people what your idea is or pitch them your product. Instead, you should focus on their lives and their problems – diving into the stories that give you all the context and details needed to really understand real-world examples of the problem. It’s also important that you don’t look at hypothetical scenarios, but actual examples of when the situation you are discussing happened.

As Daniel points out, customer discovery is the wider context of idea validation. It’s about finding the right combination of ingredients that can go together to build a successful business. Done right, it should answer questions like:

  • Who the customer is
  • What problem you are trying to solve
  • How their life will be better once you solve that problem

As a concept, customer discovery really revolves around interviews. There are lots of great resources out there to help you get to grips with what good interviewing looks like, how to find people for interviewing, and most importantly what to ask/not ask. It’s a skill you can learn with just a little effort and practice.

Using customer discovery to prioritise problems

But uncovering problems isn’t the end of the process. It’s vital to understand how much of a priority the problem really is. This is an area of particular interest for Daniel, which he really started to investigate after seeing a tweet from Shreyas Doshi of Stripe, who was working directly with founders Patrick and John Collison.

Shreyas broke down the principles covered in The Mom Test, where founders or product managers try to use interviews to validate that the problem they are trying to solve exists. Described like this, it sounds like this is focusing on the right thing. But Shreyas showed that building a successful startup/product isn’t JUST about solving a problem for someone, you need to know that the problem is high up on their list too. If you are solving a problem that is only a mild inconvenience, people may not care enough about the solution!

Daniel says, “It’s not enough that you’re solving a problem. You want to be solving a ‘hair on fire’ kind of problem. This is the most missed element of idea validation. The way to do this is through what we call customer problem stack ranking, which is a survey technique to find out what really matters to people by getting them to prioritise problems. Once you know this, you are developing products/services with high impact that people will want.”

Getting started with customer discovery

How does Daniel suggest founders start discovering what people care about? It starts with asking yourself why this problem happens and what solutions people are using at the moment. For lots of founders on Phase 1 and even Phase 2 of New Frontiers, the challenge is to park their assumptions far off to one side, go back to the beginning, and re-validate everything they know. There’s a framework called the startup bow tie that you can use for doing this:

  • Stage 1: persona (who is the customer), problem (what is the need), purpose (why does the problem need solving), product (the proposed MVP), positioning (understanding the context), and proposition (value proposition)
  • Stage 2: pull
  • Stage 3: model, medium, and market

Stages 1 and 2 of the bow tie framework are what happen before you gain traction. This is what occurs before you get the combination of ingredients that resonates with people and that people react to in a way that shows there is real need. At the early stages of the bow tie, a lot depends on your ability to interview well, because this is external information that you need to access. You can’t influence results much at this point, as you are still collecting data and insights. It’s at Stage 3 of the bow tie that you have the chance to turn insights into action and results. Daniel recommends checking out the breakdown of how this works in his article, Deconstructing WeatherBill’s $930M Startup Pivot.

As you can see, customer discovery is an essential part of any successful product or business strategy. By conducting interviews and surveys with potential customers, you will gather valuable perspectives that can help you create more effective products that are in tune with your customers’ needs and preferences. In addition, you’ll have an advantage when it comes to positioning your solution in the market and selling it to prospective clients!

Daniel Kyne is the Co-Founder and CEO of OpinionX, a research tool for ranking people’s priorities that’s used by thousands of teams at companies like Google, Amazon, and Shopify. Prior to OpinionX, Daniel was a Digital & Innovation Lead at Unilever UK, a Global Facilitator for Techstars Europe, Head of Speakers and Startups at Dublin Tech Summit, and a Global Shaper at the World Economic Forum. He writes about actionable user research strategies for product teams and startup founders on his newsletter The Full-Stack Researcher.

About the author


Scarlet Bierman

Scarlet Bierman is a content consultant, commissioned by Enterprise Ireland to fulfil the role of Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing ethical marketing strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence.

Big business trends to watch out for in 2020 - New Frontiers Programme -Enterprise Ireland

The big business trends to watch out for in 2020

By New Frontiers blog

Big business trends to watch out for in 2020 - New Frontiers Programme -Enterprise Ireland

2020 is upon us and we STILL don’t have flying cars. It’s a disappointing realisation that we are entering yet another futuristic-sounding year without even one DeLorean to have taken to the skies. Alas, we’ll have to curb our expectations for now and be content with cars simply driving themselves. Joking aside, 2020 is looking to be a very interesting year for business with great advancements and transformations happening in technology, the workplace, customer relationships, and more.

If you’re craving some sharp insights into what kind of year 2020 is shaping up to be, then look no further! We’re going to share with you 4 business predictions we’re putting our bets on for 2020.

Our top 4 business predictions for 2020

Irish businesses will need to get 5G ready

True, we didn’t need to check a crystal ball for this one! The fifth generation of cellular networking is here, but how exactly will it impact your business? This wireless technology is estimated to be at least 10 times faster than 4G, which means faster communication, faster business processes, and faster results for your clients. Currently, the average time it takes data to upload from a device is 50ms with a 4G network, but with 5G it will take just 1ms.

However, we’re not claiming 5G will be in every single household by the end of 2020. After all, there are still houses in rural areas stuck on 3G. But according to Intel, the rollout will be in full swing in 2020 so they advise businesses to get ready:

“For 5G to become a reality, businesses need to replace fixed-function equipment with virtualised software-defined networks. Switching to the cloud will be vital as 5G relies so heavily on virtualisation.”

Customer Experience will benefit from automation

Customer Experience, or CX, has been a hot topic for a few years, but until now businesses have been struggling to know how to implement it as practical business processes. With increasing accessibility to high-quality automation tools, 2020 will be the year in which we see CX truly take off.

A great example of this is the strides being made with chatbots. The chatbots of 2020 won’t simply trot off a couple of generic messages and then hand the conversation over to a real customer service agent. Instead, chatbots will use intelligent voice messaging to tailor responses to the individual and automate payments in real time.

Customer expectations are increasing constantly as people get used to using more smart devices, such as virtual assistants, in their own home. With Qualtrics finding that 60% of businesses think the mobile experience they are providing is good but that only 22% of customers feel the same, it pays to bulldoze those blind spots, listen to customers’ needs, and invest in the technology you use to drive successful customer relationships in 2020.

Will your business take advantage of the growing remote working trend?

Remote working used to be something that employees who wanted more flexibility pushed for while management looked on sceptically, unsure of whether a divided labour force could really manage to be productive. How times have changed! According to FlexJobs, 75% of people work remotely because there are fewer distractions and 86% say it reduces stress, which all directly feeds into increased worker productivity. In 2020, the encouragement for remote working is coming from the top as employers reap the benefits of this cost-effective, timesaving, and fully customisable work structure.

There are many great reasons as to why remote working is gaining in popularity, but for Ireland specifically we would throw the combination of high rent prices in the capital and long commutes into the ring. On average, it takes commuters in Kildare and Meath one hour and nine minutes to get to work, which is equivalent to, if not quicker than, those taking public transport from Dublin’s suburbs. The Luas and Dart have become notorious for congestion, which not only increases travel time but makes getting to work a very stressful and exhausting experience. Therefore, if not just for productivity then for employee health and happiness, remote working could be a great trend to jump on in 2020.

Gen Z will enter the workforce

They’re coming and they’re going to make up 20% of the workforce in 2020, but what does that mean for your business? This generation is composed of digital natives in the truest sense. Born between 1995 and 2010, they do not know a world without the internet. This puts them in a strong position entering the workforce as we are very much in need of their technology skills! However, to leverage their skills you’ll need to attract them and being a tech-first company is essential.

According to a study by Dell, 91% of Gen Z considers the technology offered by an employer to be a critical factor when choosing a job. Generation Z, or Centennials as they are also known, expect to not only exercise their skills but to continuously improve them. Therefore, it is in the business’s interest to provide these opportunities. Despite being glued to their screens, Gen Z appreciates authentic face-to-face conversations and shows a strong interest in being tech mentors, which can only be a good thing for other members of your intergenerational team!

Running an Irish startup in 2020 is going to be both challenging and rewarding. If you’re about to take the plunge and would like some extra support, why not consider a programme like New Frontiers?! We have locations around the country and start dates throughout the year. Take a look at what’s involved and register your interest today.

About the author

scarlet-merrillScarlet Bierman

Scarlet Bierman is a content consultant, commissioned by Enterprise Ireland to fulfil the role of Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing ethical marketing strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence.

4 actions entrepreneurs need to take to scale up quickly New Frontiers Entrepreneur programme (1)

4 actions entrepreneurs need to take to scale up quickly

By New Frontiers blog

4 actions entrepreneurs need to take to scale up quickly New Frontiers Entrepreneur programme (1)

So, you think your startup is scalable. You’ve looked at your turnover, you’ve studied the market and you believe your business could handle a bigger piece of the pie. That’s great, but growing your business successfully requires not only a shift in operations but a change in mindset.

With all the research and speculation that goes on in the business industry, you can be sure there are known habits and practices that successful entrepreneurs adopt to grow their business. We’re going to share a few of them with you to get you started on your road to success.

Scale up your startup with these great business tips

1) Visualise success and set a deadline for it

The first step to getting where you need to be is to visualise success for your business in practical terms. Try asking yourself, what does my business look like at double or triple the value? “Scaling up” is a nice idea and a handy phrase to throw around when talking to investors, but it doesn’t come with a guidebook tailored to your business. The good news is that you know your business inside out and you know what resources are available to you. Use this knowledge to drive real action that contributes to business growth. Visualise what you want to achieve, give yourself a deadline to get there and then design a map. As with any goal, the deadline is crucial, so don’t be tempted to skip over that part!

2) Stop micromanaging and start delegating!

We’re sure you’ve heard this one before, but the question is, have you actually put it into practice yet?? There is no understating how important delegation is when it comes to growing your business. As an entrepreneur, you’re used to wearing many different hats and taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to everything you do. It’s this trait that makes the entrepreneur who they are, but you need to recognise when the time has come to take a step back and work on the business rather than in it.

To use the cliché, a healthy business is like a well-oiled machine, meaning it can run on its own. Your role needs to change from a management one to a leadership position so your business can have true value that exists beyond your name and your personal network. It’s time to create a strong senior management team that you trust to make important decisions on a day-to-day basis. When you have successfully done that, the next thing to do is to take a holiday. Yes! That elusive thing people with extra time do! If the business can run itself for a week or two, then pat yourself on the back because the value of your business has just increased.

3) Outsource the nonessentials

We recently wrote a blog covering this topic in more depth to help entrepreneurs decide if outsourcing is right for them or not. Have a read of it, and if you find it does make sense for your business, then we advise you to get going on it! Outsourcing is a fantastic way of getting access to high-quality skills at a cost-effective price. By outsourcing the nonessentials, you can focus on what you do best, streamline your processes and invest in the areas that really matter for business growth. As for those areas you can’t afford to outsource, automate them as much as possible.

4) Share wealth and opportunities amongst your team

We have already recommended that you should delegate by building a strong senior management team. However, if you’re going to invest in doing this, then you would want to make sure these key employees stick around for a while. For any business looking to grow, a high turn over of staff is a killer and a clear sign that something has gone wrong at the heart of your business. Hard working, loyal and talented people who want to help your business grow are vital to the lifeblood of a business looking to scale and you simply won’t compete on an international scale without them.

It’s a good idea to share wealth and opportunities amongst your key team members. This means not only paying your employees what they’re worth but incentivising them in other ways, such as offering them opportunities for self-development, investing in team bonding (whether that’s on-site or off-site), creating a pleasant workplace that has its own distinct character and perhaps even offering them shares in the company. Finding star employees is hard and so is keeping them, so it’s worth taking the time to make them feel valued because they are essential to the growth of your business.

If you’ve just finished the New Frontiers Programme, you might be wondering what comes next. If you’re looking to scale, you should definitely keep an eye out for the next Competitive Start Fund call. Providing access to fantastic one-on-one mentorship opportunities as well as funding, you’ll get all the support you need to take your business to the next level!

About the author

scarlet-merrillScarlet Bierman

Scarlet Bierman is a content consultant, commissioned by Enterprise Ireland to fulfil the role of Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing ethical marketing strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence.

Unleash your inner cyborg and start automating tedious work tasks! - New Frontiers - Enterprise Ireland

Grow smarter and faster by automating tedious work tasks

By New Frontiers blog

Unleash your inner cyborg and start automating tedious work tasks! - New Frontiers - Enterprise Ireland

The buzz around automation is only intensifying as companies continue to discover new ways technology can make businesses smarter and more efficient. The human element of work is evolving as we get better at using technology to our advantage, allowing us to give more time to the areas that need our attention the most. In fact, our relationship with technology has become so symbiotic that leading tech entrepreneur Elon Musk believes we are already cyborgs!

The definition of a cyborg accord to Oxford Dictionaries is:

“A fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body.”

Your smartphone may not be directly wired up to your brain just yet (watch this space, Musk is working on ‘neural lace’) but as he explains, “You can answer any question, you can video conference with anyone, anywhere. You can send messages to millions of people instantly. Just do incredible things.” The question is, are you ready to embrace your inner cyborg? If you are then you’ll find you can easily automate tedious work tasks with your not-so-secret superpower – technology.

5 ways to automate tasks in your company

1. Clean up your inbox!

We might as well start with the bane of your working life – your inbox! The emails never stop coming, and god forbid you should go on holiday because when you return you’re going to have to spend a whole day tunnelling through that backlog! The average worker receives 121 emails a day and sends 40, so how can automation help?

Most email platforms, such as Gmail and Outlook, have inbuilt automation tools so you can easily categorise emails by importance. Smart Labels in Gmail or Rules in Outlook allow you to automatically sort your incoming emails based on the sender’s details or keywords. Both email platforms allow you to schedule emails to be delivered at a specific time. You can do this in Outlook by clicking the more options arrow in the ‘Tags’ section of your email or use the plugin Boomerang for Gmail. You can also design email templates for messages you find yourself sending repetitively to save time and avoid errors.

2. Start using voice-to-text software

Sometimes it’s the simplest pieces of technology that can save the most time at work. No one marvels at the wonders of a calculator anymore, but it is one the handiest pieces of office equipment! This is the kind of automation we need in other areas of our working life, a solution that completes a task quickly and precisely every time. Voice-to-text software is just that. Dictation solutions have come on leaps and bounds in recent years and for anyone who finds themselves writing at length on a daily basis, this is a must! If you’re looking for a free version, GoogleDocs Voice Typing is a great choice.

3. Be an automation whizz with Zapier or IFTTT

If you’re serious about automating tasks at work, then you probably have heard about IFTTT and Zapier before. Both applications allow you to sync various solutions so that you can have your Gmail talking to your Dropbox account, or your Twitter triggering messages in your preferred Slack channel. These platforms perform by letting you design rules that in practice look like this: if X occurs then Y must happen.

X could be your company name being tagged on Twitter and Y could be the notification of this in a Slack channel. This one would be very handy for the marketing department, but there are useful rule combinations for everyone in the office. If you’re not sure what you need automated, that’s not a problem – take a look at their library of predesigned rules and find out what’s popular with other users.

4. Get real financial insights with Xero or Bullet

Human error is inevitable, but you don’t want it to happen in your financial accounts. Accounting solutions such as Xero and Bullet (an Irish company) can help you automate repetitive tasks while also providing business intelligence that would otherwise get lost! They enable you to automate payroll, invoicing, expense claims, approval processes, payments, and reports. If your bank allows live feeds, reconciliation becomes a breeze.

Knowing which of these is best for you will depend on your needs, but they both have time-saving features the overworked entrepreneur will appreciate. Bullet, for instance, does automatic mileage calculations and can post Revenue returns directly to ROS. Xero is powerful for growing startups because of the hundreds of other systems it can connect to – stock control, POS, project management, booking, time tracking, CRM, and other business tools. These are cloud accounting solutions, which means everything is safely backed up and encrypted in the cloud, allowing you to always have access to what you need, when you need it.

5. Automation for customer relationship management

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is the go-to for businesses that have a lot of customers to manage and want to design an effective sales pipeline personalised to each individual. With CRM tools you can automate many different aspects of your company’s communication with your customers, such as the initial “Welcome” email, follow up emails, automatic reminders that a subscription is coming to an end and automatic updates to customer profiles and calendars. With customer-centric automation such as this, you can nurture long-lasting customer relationships, boost your brand reputation and capture more leads.

Automation results in higher productivity, reduced operating costs, streamlined processes and the protection of your competitive edge. What’s not to like? Beep-bop-boop, cyborgs are go!

About the author


Scarlet Bierman

Scarlet Bierman is a content consultant, commissioned by Enterprise Ireland to fulfil the role of Editor of the New Frontiers website. She is an expert in designing and executing ethical marketing strategies and passionate about helping businesses to develop a quality online presence.

Economy think outside the box to stay inside the circle

Economy: think outside the box to stay inside the circle

By New Frontiers blog

Economy think outside the box to stay inside the circle

As the global economy continues to expand, the challenge of meeting the increasing demand for products and services means that most businesses have adopted growth strategies that are not sustainable long-term. But there is an alternative to the traditional open-ended economy, and many startups are adopting these business models to build profitable companies with a lower environmental impact.

The circular economy

Over the past number of years, the circular economy has grown in popularity. In some cases this is out of necessity, in others it stems from the realisation that as a society we have created unsustainable practices – and within this problem lie significant business opportunities for those who wish to provide sustainable solutions to ensure the stability of business in the future. In the natural world, there is no landfill. Plants and animals are born, they grow, eat each other, die and their nutrients return to the soil where the cycle begins again. Nature, being the most complex system known to man, operates using a seamless cycle, with each element integrating itself into a synergised system devoid of waste. It is a purely circular ecosystem.

The linear system

In contrast, for the past 250 years, humans have been favouring the alternative linear system – take, make, and dispose – fueled by the availability of plentiful and inexpensive natural resources. To date, this system has been attractive and successful for both business owners and consumers reaping the short-term rewards. When environmental and social impact is not a concern, businesses can take any necessary means to become more efficient, reach more customers, and sell more of their product. However, we are rapidly reaching the point of no return and the global economy is increasingly using finite resources at a rate which the planet is unable to replenish the raw materials.

Over the last century, we have watched prices decline as consumers demand cheaper and cheaper goods, yet we have never been in a situation where the price of resources has been so volatile. Renewable resources such as trees are being cut down faster than they can grow, clean water is being polluted and non-renewables, such as metals and fossil fuels, are fast depleting in an effort to keep up with global demand. The danger is that if we continue to operate using liner systems that the planet cannot sustain, our businesses, much like our finite resources, will cease to exist. After all – when all the trees have been cut down and all the rivers have dried up, we cannot eat money. Where will your business be then?

The future of business

Prof. William McDonough at Stanford remarked to the World Economic Forum:

“The ‘problem’ we find ourselves in is also the largest business opportunity ever seen by our species. The leaders of the economic future will be those that understand that by design we can create perpetual assets and optimise them to create businesses that thrive and are enjoyed by people everywhere, all the time, forever. Why would we want to miss that?”

Every traditional industry using a linear system has all the hallmarks of an industry ready to be disrupted. The long-term problem is unworkable, unavoidable, urgent, and underserved. This is an exciting time to be an entrepreneur, as here lies the opportunity to be part of global business solutions that fundamentally reinvent our economic model and build businesses that will shape the future of our planet.

So, what is the alternative? The circular economy! The circular economy is not reliant on the use of scarce resources to achieve economic growth, instead it uses disruptive technology and business models to profit from product longevity, renewability, reuse, repair, upgrade, refurbishment, capacity sharing, and dematerialization. Circular models do not focus on driving volume and squeezing lower costs through ‘efficiency’ measures in their supply chain. Instead, they design products to be ‘future-proof’, to fit within the limitations of our planet’s resources. There are five circular business models:

  • circular supplies
  • resource recovery
  • product life extension
  • sharing platforms
  • product as a service

Case study: The Nu Wardrobe

I will delve into a circular solution through the lens of my own company, Nu. Our startup has developed a platform that lets you bring your wardrobe online so you can share and swap your clothes with friends and other Nu. members. Our solution combines the thriving fashion industry and the rapidly growing sharing economy. The fashion industry is the world’s second most polluting industry, after oil. 25% of the world’s chemicals are used for textile production and the industry contributes 10% of the world’s global carbon emissions. The textile industry uses more water than any other industry, apart from agriculture. The rate at which apparel is created and consumed is unsustainable and the fashion industry is becoming ever more scrutinised for its lack of progress towards sustainable practices.

After conducting market validation, we found that although the fashion industry’s supply chain is highly efficient, this model is completely inefficient for the consumer. People invest in outfits that they may never wear or rarely wear. In cases like this, it would be far more efficient for people to borrow or rent clothes, rather than buy. This ties into the product life extension model, and sharing platforms which are part of the circular economy. In short, people have a lot of clothes and have made a huge investment in their wardrobe.

People want a constantly changing wardrobe, but the current model insists that consumers must make a purchase each time they want something different to wear. By providing a sharing platform, people can leverage the value already in their wardrobe to borrow clothes from other members. This cuts down on textile waste and extends the life-cycle of products already in circulation. Nu. profits by providing a service that connects users with people they can share or swap clothes with.

Changes like this can be seen disrupting industries the world over – prime examples being Airbnb, Lyft, and Guest to Guest. The sharing economy is set to boom over the next decade, estimated to be worth upwards of $335 billion by 2025. It is actually profitable, when setting out on a new business venture, to consider the future and how the business will thrive with it.

About the author

Aisling ByrneAisling Byrne Nu New Frontiers

Aisling is a New Frontiers participant and the co-founder founder of Nu. – a platform which lets individuals take their wardrobe online so they can share and swap clothes with friends and other Nu. members with a circular economy ethos… [Read Aisling’s profile]