Sunday 19 January 2020

Identify the key moment when an idea turns into a business


Peter Smyth

How often do you see a thriving new business or company, and slap yourself for not thinking of the idea first? Or, even worse, slap yourself because you did think of it, but didn't do anything about it?

Many of us have great ideas, cumulatively millions of them every day, but the difference between having an idea and commercialising it into a marketable product is significant. It's the difference between something happening and not.

One of the greatest entrepreneurs of all time, Michael Dell, started his computer company with a few dollars in his University of Texas dorm room, and it has grown into the massive company that it is today. He had the idea and he made it happen, that's the important bit.

This week is Microelectronics Week and MIDAS Ireland, the representative body for the microelectronic sector, is forecasting that one third of the new jobs in the semiconductor sector are expected to come from indigenous companies -- this is a minimum of 650 R&D jobs over the next five years with further positions created indirectly.

The sector is thriving and it's important that we nurture our graduates and entrepreneurs so that the hub of activity in the start-up community can continue to grow in this country.

When I started RedMere I was joining a growing list of Irish technology and semiconductor companies that produce world-beating technology for global markets in everything from networking equipment to high definition TVs, tablets and smartphones.

RedMere pioneered a new technology called Active Cables (video cables with embedded devices to improve their performance) and is now the leader in the field. So how do you go from an idea to a business?

With technology, the obvious requirement is that the idea is new or unique in some way. Distil the business idea down to the key transaction -- what is your customer buying, and why?

This may sound very obvious, but it is important to be very specific about that transaction -- this is the point when a technology idea becomes a business. The other key questions will flow from that -- what is your market, what is the optimal price point, what are your input costs, what is a sustainable margin?

With a clear statement of the product proposition you can engage with customers to validate the market and help refine the product offering. Early engagement with customers will save on time and costs later down the line.

Know your product inside and out. If you can't explain with clarity what exactly your business does, and why it will be successful, then no one will be able to.

Building on that point, it is important to have a team on board to handle the various aspects of the business from early research to design, sales, marketing and finance. You need to invest in talent upfront to ensure success.

It is also important to know your own strengths, and your limits. Recognise what you can't do, and seek advice early on. Then when the time is right, get the best person on board to take care of it. Strong companies are built on great teams. If you've never done this before, thankfully there are a lot of supports out there. Enterprise Ireland excels at guiding and supporting indigenous businesses.

And industry organisations such as MIDAS are made up of experienced professionals across the range of disciplines required to build a successful business. MIDAS, and others, has specific initiatives to support start-up activity. So get connected to the networks that operate in your chosen sector.

Finally, be patient. Going in, have a plan for the amount of time, energy and money required. Then give it your all. Adapt as required, but stay committed, reach for each milestone and keep pushing the boundaries.

Peter Smyth is founder & chairman, RedMere and member of MIDAS Ireland.,

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