by Roxana Pedan
The first conference of the DICE trio.
And so the beginning of our DICE Conference experiences commenced. The 8th of November 2016 marked the starting point of our four-hour DICE talks in the Helix, in collaboration with DCU Ryan Academy. ‘Get Started‘ was the first of three conferences that will be held throughout the academic year. It dealt with the topic of entrepreneurship and we had the pleasure of getting an insight into the world and experiences of a mixture of start-up and well-established entrepreneurs. Such entrepreneurs included:
- Philippe Brodeur (Overcast HQ),
- Brian O’Rourke and Alan Farrelly (CitySwifter),
- Elva Carri (Girlcrew),
- Gavan Walsh (iCabbi),
- Adrian Mihai (Opening.io),
- Iseult Ward (FoodCloud) and
- an inspiring and humorous talk from the host of the event, Andrew Keogh.
I found it an intriguing talk and as an aspiring entrepreneur myself, I enjoyed the feedback and stories shared with us by each entrepreneur.
The first of many speakers was Philippe Brodeur, CEO & Founder of Overcast – a cloud-based content management system. “Overcast is designed to manage video files as easily as you might manage word documents – without ever having to struggle with the technology.” (Overcasthq.com).
The presentation opened up with an anecdote, which I found engaging and enticed the audience. He shared the story of his seventeen-year-old son who was studying for his Leaving Certificate. He wished to study Business Studies International in University. His mentor asked him, however, what would differentiate him from the rest of his peers studying the same course? What would make him stand out in a job interview? This led to the topic of differentiation – the reality that being unique and possessing exclusive qualities differentiates you from the crowd, be it in a job interview or your entrepreneurial business idea. This perception is very accurate in this day and age. I liked that he opened up with this notion as it made us reflect on something as simple as what makes us unique, an idea that appealed to me and quite enjoyed.
A concept known as ‘traction’ was then discussed. To put it simply, it relates to how well a business is doing, how much money it’s generating, how many people are interacting with it, etc. This was a new theory for me and it was used multiple times by other entrepreneurs throughout the session. I was pleased to have acquired a new linguistic perception from the world of entrepreneurs and business.
Brodeur outlined that the team, idea, plan, timing and funding are the five reasons start-ups succeed. Timing, apparently, is the most
important. “When the market is right, push into it and the market starts to pull you.” I thoroughly enjoyed the first talk of the conference.
Brian O’Rourke and Alan Farrelly (CitySwifter)
The next duo went ‘from college graduates to entrepreneurs’ and are past winners of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneurs (IBYE). Brian O’Rourke (CEO), Alan Farrelly (COO) and Sean Byrne (CTO – not present at the talk) are all involved in Cityswifter, a company that provides a quick, efficient method of transport and connects the cities to the suburbs.
One valuable thing I gathered from their talk was that it’s okay to make mistakes and that we learn from them in the long run. “Every business faces an identity crisis during its evolution.” (Robert Reffkin, 2015)1 They started off with a defective company name and branding, yet they have eventually found their place in the market with the adequate company requirements.
A quote that stuck with me is, “You have to do it wrong to know what to do afterward.”
Another good tip that has been embedded in my mind is that once you create a business idea, make sure to consult with people who don’t know you personally for their personal honest opinion. “Friends and family will tell you it’s a great idea and will encourage you…reach outside…use networking to get honest advice from neutral sources.” As read in the Harvard Business Review, it can be hard to get people to be a hundred percent honest with you. One way to overcome this is by doing a whole-company review or making use of a coach to gather feedback anonymously. It is, however, important to then respond to the feedback. If you talk openly about what you’ve learned it illustrates that you’re open to hearing criticism. (Amy Gallo, 2012).
The bus strikes were a great opportunity for the company to test out the market for their service, despite them not being ready. They were fearless and took a risk, which is a vital characteristic of an entrepreneur, and, as a result, they generated five thousand euro over the few days that the bus strikes were proceeding. This illustrates the importance of identifying opportunities and exploiting them cleverly. After their successful breakthrough in the market, 406 people communicated with them in one day and gave them feedback online.
Elva Carri (GirlCrew)
One of my personal favourite speakers was Elva Carri, founder of an online socialising platform called ‘Girlcrew’. I was impressed that she admitted instantly that entrepreneurship, or the business domain in general, was never her intended career path. In fact – she didn’t like the idea of it at all! On top of also not being a ‘techie’, she has managed to create one of the world’s most successful friend-making app to date. What also struck, and amused me was the fact that it all started from the incredibly simple idea of finding friends ‘to go dancing’ with on Tinder by changing her gender to ‘male’ to attract women!
What ignited this entrepreneurial spark was the prominent feeling of loneliness. The New York Times published an article about loneliness in society and studies showed the serious impact of it on our physical and mental well-being. Apparently, it is worse for women and girls than men. These elements, on top of the fact that social networks these days are, in fact, not so social, led to the accidental creation of GirlCrew!
How it works: You join a group with people in your area, browse events or post one then go say hi! After receiving a hundred matches on her tinder post, she set up a facebook group in which they organised an event to go out. The success of this one even took over and so a spin-off success ensued which led to the creation of GirlCrew.
The mistakes that were made and the plans for the future were discussed but, all in all, events are taking place across the globe every day, there are constant requests for more cities and 50,000+ members share in this brilliant innovative idea daily. Amongst all of Elva Carri’s achievements, meeting Mark Zuckerberg was, undoubtedly, one of the coolest!
Gavan Walsh (iCabbi)
Gavan Walsh, the founder of iCabbi, set up his business six years back after getting lost while walking in a remote part of Portugal with his wife. An idea came to him in that moment: what if we were able to see the live location of taxis on our smartphone and book one without having to communicate with anyone? This sudden idea illustrates Walsh’s entrepreneurial nature; always trying to come up with an innovative solution in any given situation. This comes as no surprise given that he grew up in a family full of entrepreneurial spirit. His father is the founder of the Irish School of Motoring. As soon as he returned home from holidays, he started building his taxi dispatch and booking management platform.
From selling Christmas trees to selling women’s clothes on MyFashionFair.ie, Gavan Walsh is not new to failing and getting back up again. His persistent nature has got him to where he is today. With competition such as Hailo and Uber, nothing beats his plan to take over the world with his business. Interestingly enough, during the 20 minutes he spent talking on stage – 5000 iCabbi taxi journeys were made across the world. Well, if that’s not impressive, then I don’t know what is!
All the way from Transylvania, Romania, a beautiful location dear to my heart, Adrian Mihai presented us Openings.io – a service aiming to make ease the process of finding the right person for the right job. “We employ linguistic algorithms to identify patterns within the structure and phrasing of job posts and CVs, converting them into data points to match candidates to suitable jobs.” (Opening.io)
Adrian, co-founder of this service, talked about his past failures which, yet again, demonstrates that mistakes make a person wiser! The service itself I find quite technical and found it difficult to comprehend, but in essence – the service has a heap of potential as there is definitely a need for it in the world of business.
Iseult Ward (FoodCloud)
My favourite speaker from the conference goes by the name of Iseult Ward, co-founder, and CEO of FoodCloud, a social enterprise aimed at redistributing excess food to a number of charities with the aim of reducing food waste. I find this concept incredibly admirable and it proves to be a great success to date.
It all started with an Enactus initiative in Trinity College in which the students decided to feed the homeless. (The following story I found quite heart warming: Aldi happened to have a large amount of steak left over that year and a number of the homeless admitted to never having eaten a steak before. They all pooled in together to gather and spend the little pocket money they had on a packet of gravy sauce to savour alongside their first steak. This story, however simple, impacted on me greatly as I realised that we should not always take the things we are lucky enough to have for granted.) This organisation is exactly the type that we need more of in this day and age. Over 5 million meals have been delivered to date – an impressive amount of food saved from waste and mouths fed.
How it works: “The App works by teaming up charities in need of useful food donations with companies who have excess food produce on a daily basis. They have a number of volunteers who collect the food and bring it to the respective charities” (RTE, 2015).
Overall, I found this experience incredibly exciting and it has definitely furthered my desire to become an entrepreneur. “Entrepreneurship also allows individuals a shot at the even deeper pleasure of doing work that they cannot do while working for others. It provides a way to innovate, to challenge whatever currently prevails and to let your originality flourish.” (Broughton, Hoque, and Life, 2016). The ability to create anything that you put your mind to is an incredible thing. Being presented the numerous talented people on the stage today embedded a drive to succeed and achieve the heights that others have managed to also achieve. And so I’ll leave you with one of my favourite entrepreneurial-related quotes. Until next time!
“If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs.”
– Dhirubhai Ambani