Tuesday 27 September 2016

Take your business beyond the start-up stage

Published 16/03/2016 | 14:43

“There is nothing glamorous in failure,” John Beckett, one of the Ready Business podcast guests reminded us this week.  “I learned more from my one big failure than any of my other successes.  Getting a job was never on the agenda for me, it was about licking my wounds and moving on.”

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This week’s Ready Business show wanted to find out what it takes to grow your business beyond the start-up stage and Brian Purcell was joined by two entrepreneurs, John Beckett, CEO of Channel Sight, and Anthony Byrne, CEO of Product2Market, who have had their share of trying to making it down through the years.

“When the tide goes out you see who’s not wearing any shorts,” said Beckett.  “When I set up Eirtight Technology in 2008 it taught us to run an extremely lean business.  When things picked up in the economy then we were in a much better position.

“My current company, Channel Sight, which is an e-commerce enablement company, was actually a spin-off from Eirtight which again was bootstrapped from the outset and built from there.  Last October we raised €3.3m in a Series A funding round to further invest in the company.”

For Anthony Byrne, he has been in situations where the cash was running out.

“But we always believed.  The test is do you have the grit and resolve to find the solution when you’re right down there?”

Brian Purcell Ready Business Host
Brian Purcell Ready Business Host

Product2Market, which helps Technology Companies find and win new customers all across Europe, has come through all that and has doubled its workforce to 43 in just the last twelve months.

How do you know though when you’ve gone past the start-up stage?

“It was when we installed a board and appointed a chairman that we felt we had grown up and moved past proving the model to market and developing the company instead,” says Byrne.

“The start-up is a mindset,” says Beckett.  “The start up mentality is that of the lean model, testing to invest, being agile in product development – these are the great things about start-ups that scale-ups should try to retain as much as possible. 

“Key though is understanding and defining success from the outset.  You might be saying next week is the week when things turn around or think the big contract is just around the corner, but it can be week after week and it drags on. You must be firm and inflexible on your cut off point and deadline for moving on.”

Beckett also believes that while there is plenty of support for start-ups, the help for scale-ups to go to the next stage is noticeably lacking.

“My view is that when a business has found its product market fit and found decent revenues then the supports can tail away pretty quickly. 

“Contrast that to the UK where they’re very focused on scale-ups and where research has shown that the numbers of jobs created through scale-ups when supported, is much bigger relative than to start ups.”

“Nobody hangs around or cares if you fail,” says Byrne.  “There’s no support for you if you fail.  Enterprise Ireland is phenomenal in their support for start-ups but I also think former entrepreneurs are completely unemployable!  You have to go again, you have no choice.  That’s what you’re made for doing.”

In this week’s Twitter poll, we asked what the biggest factor stopping start-up growth in Ireland was and over half of you voted to say it was access to finance.

“To get over this,” explains Beckett.  “You must understand your business proposition, understand what you’re building and understand why people are going to pay for it.  That is fundamental to your business and if you unlock that then access to finance should follow.”

“All of our growth come from bank debt,” says Byrne.  “Make a good proposition to your bank manager and put a couple of scenarios together for him/her.  Also, make sure to keep the bank manager in the loop to let them know how you’re doing when things are going well.  Play the PR game with your bank.”

We’ll be running our Twitter poll every Friday on @independent_ie using the hashtag #readybusinessadvice so don’t forget to let us know the key business issues that you would like us to address.

The Ready Business show, in association with Vodafone, is available every Thursday via iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher and Independent.ie. Or subscribe to the RSS feed of the Ready Business Podcast using your favourite podcatcher.

You can check out the full Ready Business Podcast series here.

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