Saturday 18 November 2017

Paul Kenny, chief executive of Cobone

Twenty-nine-year old Paul Kenny founded daily discount deals business Cobone in the Middle East, then sold it for €30m.

He's still chief executive there and is also powering ahead with several ambitious new ventures.

"The most important thing I wish I'd known is to take on advice and mentorship earlier.

"I don't know whether it's me or the Irish cultural mentality, but you're always afraid to ask someone for advice, you think you're bothering them or intruding -- much like being afraid to complain about a bad meal in a restaurant.

"That greatly affected me, being scared to ask for guidance. Now I live with the mentality: do not be afraid ~to ask.

"You should also aim high -- you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. This was a big learning curve for me.

"I have a mentor in Britain, one in the US and a couple of advisers in the Middle East. You should seek out top people in your field.

"I went back to Ireland this year and spoke at my university and secondary school and said that the Leaving Certificate is not the end of the world, in the broader scheme of things. It's crazy pressure and you simply learn things by heart and then regurgitate them.

"Likewise with university. I wish secondary school and university had incorporated more internships into their courses, I believe it's almost better to do internships than do a university degree.

"I met Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton on their Gulf trade mission and I enjoyed sharing some frank views with them.

"I studied commerce in university, and that included accounting -- but it didn't teach me how to build a business plan or about other tools needed to start a business, for entrepreneurship.

"Another important thing is, when you're in Ireland you think it's the centre of things.

However, in the general scheme of things Ireland is small -- you need to build products for outside Ireland, to think globally.

"If you aim for Ireland you might achieve one-tenth of the Irish market. If you aim outside of Ireland you can target one-tenth of the world.

"You should be developing your company to scale internationally -- not just for a market of 4m people."

Irish Independent

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