All it takes is one, great idea. Then a business plan, initial funding, a marketing strategy, motivated staff and a lot of hard work.
Eimear O’Carroll and Tony Corrigan are involved in two Irish startups, working in very different areas but dealing with the same issues.
Joe O’Shea talks to Eimear and Tony as they prepare to move their Startups onto the next level.
Eimear O’Carroll and Rhona Togher have turned their Young Scientist project into an international business, Restored Hearing.
Their initial project looked at the use of low-frequency sound therapy to combat the effects of the hearing disorder tinnitus.
Today, Dublin-based Restored Hearing offers streamed online therapy (all you need is a device and headphones) for people who suffer from tinnitus. The company is also about to launch a new range of ‘ear defenders’, based on the latest memory-foam type material.
“We have developed the product, taken out the patents and we are fine-tuning now to bring it to the market next year,” says O’Carroll.
“We initially ran the company alongside our studies in university. But it has only really ramped up in the last 18-months. I’ve been full-time as chief technology officer for the last six months”.
At 24, O’Carroll is already doing “a lot” of travelling, recently showcasing her startup at the two-week Black Box Accelerator event in Silicon Valley, California.
Initial support and capital came via the Sligo County Enterprise Board and some relatively small bank-loans.
“We didn’t look for a lot of money,” she says. “We set up the company in a very lean style. But we did have to have a very detailed business plan. I think if we were looking for a lot more, in the lending environment of the time, we would have had problems.
“It’s very important to look at the capital that you have and be as smart as possible as to how you are going to use it, how you can get the company up and running on as lean a basis as possible.
O’Carroll says she did benefit from talking to people involved in other Irish startups, either at networking or summit events or on a more informal basis.
“There’s a good culture in Ireland of people willing to give you support and advice. For us, it doesn’t cost a lot to sit down with people over a coffee and share your experiences. If you are a startup, I think it’s very important to ask for help, to get as much support as you can. “You will not have all of the answers and you can definitely benefit from the experience of those who might be a little further down the road.”
Clareman Tony Corrigan’s Startup story is the classic one. Through his work, he identified what he saw as a gap in the market. He did his research, drew up a business plan and jumped in.
Corrigan’s company, TenderScout, aims to give suppliers an edge in competing for public sector contracts, by analysing their strengths and capabilities and giving them a smarter, more targeted way to win new business.
“We help companies to win more of the contracts they compete for,” he says. “And we get them to do that by reducing the number the opportunities they compete for by around 25pc.”
“It costs anything from four or five thousand euros to hundreds of thousands to tender for a contract. And if you are not a likely winner, you should not be investing resources and time in competing. It’s about being smarter and more targeted.”
TenderScout has been working with larger companies, in Ireland and internationally. But the company is now also looking to work with SMEs that may be looking to public sector contracts as the economy begins to recover.
The company has been in business since October 2013. Corrigan, who studied computing in University of Limerick and worked for IBM for eight years, was working in the area of procurement through his own IT consultancy company when he noticed an opportunity for innovation in tendering.
“I worked as an evaluator of tenders for public sector bodies. There, you would find that 60pc of all submissions that come in are just sub-standard, a waste of time and money for everybody involved.”.
Corrigan thought he could design a model that would work better and that is how TenderScout was born.
“We have probably grown business by 100pc, month-on-month over the last year. But it’s gone pretty mad over the last three months. We are moving into the UK now, which will be our main market. It’s a very encouraging environment at the moment.”