On Tuesday, September 30th I had the pleasure of attending the latest installment from www.startupgalway.org in McSwiggans, Galway. Startupgalway.org was set up by Barry O’Sullivan the former VP of Cisco and John Breslin of NUIG. Their goal is to make Galway a hub for ICT start-ups in the same way it has become a medical device hotspot. This was a well-attended event with everyone excited to hear the keynote speaker. Our speaker was Christopher Byrne, a tech entrepreneur, transatlantic sailor and runner who lives in Dingle, County Kerry. He is currently the CEO and co-founder of SensorPro, a messaging and feedback platform that has served many brands including Pampers, Brown Thomas and Family Dollar. In 1992, he co-founded Cashbook.com which pioneered electronic payment and reconciliation solutions on the IBM AS/400 and Microsoft platforms. The products were distributed worldwide by SSA, now Infor. Cashbook.com was acquired by e-procurement firm Clarus Corporation in 2000 for $60 million.
The event took the form of a Q&A session with Christopher being asked a wide range of very interesting questions on his experience with starting a venture and the struggles along the way. The event was later opened up to the audience, mostly consisting of developers and techie professionals. It also included many considering starting a business or those who have recently started a small venture.
Some of my key take points included:
- While a great product is crucial you must also focus on the sales and marketing side. Many start-up technical companies spend too much time producing the “perfect app.” If you don’t focus on sales and marketing the product, your business will never be successful.
- People are the biggest challenge for start-ups. Many CEO’s have never trained people before, had to have hard conversations with struggling new hires or understand payroll. Try to hire people who complement your skills. Start small and grow at a comfortable pace.
- Product management and scaling are crucial in any new venture.
- Christopher takes a holistic approach to hiring new staff – look at the whole person and weigh up all skills before a making decision. For technical staff, this includes more than just their technical prowess.
- He mentioned 3 areas where he feels Ireland can grow. Forensics, Med Tech and Hardware/Software combination companies.
- Identifying gaps in existing companies’ product offerings can be a great opportunity for a new company. “Take something very boring and make it exciting”.
- Finally when it comes to sales, make sure you “talk to the MAN”. This person is the one that has the Money, Authority and Need for your product. If you are not talking to this person, get up and go find them.
Christopher is also actively involved in www.coderdojo.com CoderDojo is a volunteer-led, global community of free programming clubs for young people. Clubs called Dojos run all over the world on a regular basis, giving young people between the ages of 7 and 17 the opportunity to learn how to develop computer code, websites, apps, programs, games, digital media and to explore technology. He spoke passionately about developing these skills for our youth to develop this talent pool in Ireland.
This was an exciting and informative evening with strong audience participation. After the talk, many of the participants stayed on to network and meet like-minded individuals. It is encouraging to note that the start-up scene is very much alive and well in Galway. I believe this is a fantastic imitative and will go from strength to strength.
IT Recruitment Consultant – Galway