There has never been a better time to found or join a startup in Ireland. Today we have an ecosystem that has been years in the making. It’s not perfect, but it’s so much better than it was, even five years ago.
For example, all startup ecosystems need a number of things to not only survive by to be really great, such as:
- Founders. Risk takers, failures and winners. People who see an opportunity and do something about it
- A rich, diverse community of researchers, developers, designers, product managers; people who can build stuff.
- An experienced pool of sales, marketing and support expertise; people who can sell stuff.
- Mentors – serial entrepreneurs, experienced C-level executives, talented people who give their time and advice; people who can guide stuff.
- Investors – angel to institutional to government; people who can fund stuff.
- A diverse range of multinational tech companies; people who have done all of the above.
- Strong links to other ecosystems; people who are doing the same thing elsewhere.
In the case of Ireland, it wasn’t that long ago that we only had a handful of founders, and hardly a startup community to speak of. Investors were few and (even more) conservative (than today). And the range of tech multinationals were limited to the likes of Google, Microsoft, IBM. In the past 2 to 3 years, in particular, Dublin has really been put on the map as a tech hub. When I think about that, in the context of where we’ve come from, I feel like it’s been a three pronged approach of Grassroots, Government and Platform.
The rise of a very strong, connected and deep tech community is our Grassroots. There are meetups on most nights of the week on a variety of topics, ranging from developer tools and languages, to database, designer, founder events. In 2007 getting a handful of founders out for a pint once a month would have been considered a success!
The good work of Government bodies such as IDA to attract a new generation of tech companies, and the work of EI in helping attract founders to Ireland. Over 50 companies in the past 2 years have been brought in by the IDA, and they are hiring and contributing to the economy and the grassroots community. In 2012, €54 million was invested in 84 Irish based companies by Irish venture capital firms supported by Enterprise Ireland.
And finally, Platform. I see the Web Summit, and indeed f.ounders, as a platform, not just for Irish startups, or the Irish tech industry, but for Ireland. It is a unique opportunity for the country, the tech sector, and anyone who wants to succeed. Anyone who doesn’t view the Web Summit and f.ounders as a platform for Ireland, has never been, or has never made the most of it.
THE DEVELOPER STAGE
A conference the size of the Web Summit offers us a unique opportunity to appeal to a very wide audience, and allow us to bring in some of the best innovators, and leaders from Web, Mobile, and Database technologies.
Today, the world of the developer is becoming increasingly multi-skilled and multi-disciplined. The developer stage at the Web Sumimt offers developers the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone and level-up their career prospects by exposing themselves to technologies that they don’t normally interact with.
This year, the developer stage will be host to over 20 speakers from around the world. As curators, we have broken up the talks into manageable, digestible chunks. We will be covering topics such as:
- Software development methods including DevOps, Agile, etc.
- Frameworks, tools & languages
- Open source & community
- Developer culture & technical team dynamics
- Harnessing data, whether its big, open, or semantic
- Using cutting edge data analysis and database technologies
- Applying cloud computing to make the impossible, possible
- Overcoming scalability and operations challenges
STARTUPS AT THE WEB SUMMIT: ADVICE IN GENERAL
For startups, the Web Summit is an intense experience. You’re giving up your time from working on product or customer development, so be sure to make the most of the two days. Be there early, stay late. Do otherwise and you really wont have made the most of your time there. Talk to as many people as you can, and be able to explain what you do in one sentence. I know it’s obvious, but you’d be amazed at how often founders stumble on this. This is a high volume, high density crowd. Everyone will want to make the most of out every conversation. If you get to talk to investors or other founders, be respectful of both your times and get to the point about what you do, how you do it, and why you’re talking to them.
Pay attention to the list of people attending, try to find out if there is anyone in particular you want to talk to, and have a list of them. Then go out of your way to connect. Plough through the list. When making that connection, always have an outcome in mind. What do you want to achieve by talking to this person. Don’t be afraid to ask.
STARTUPS AT THE WEB SUMMIT: MEETING DEVELOPERS
Developers are solution oriented people. They like to be presented with a problem, and challenged to find a solution to it. The very best developers are only interested in solving the most technically interesting or challenging problems.
The very best developers are also opportunistic. If there is a nice overlap between a technical challenge and a big market opportunity, that is likely to tempt them to join your team.
As a founder, if you cannot sell your vision to the people who build your product, how will you be able to sell it to customers. So, it’s often a good test of the strength of your business model, product-market fit and vision.
STARTUPS AT THE WEB SUMMIT: AQUISITON ADVICE
Don’t focus on being acquired. Focus on acquiring customers.
If you build a product in the hope of being snapped up, you’ll probably end up building features that you think an acquirer might be interested, and not what you think customers will pay you for.
If you get acquired, then that’s a bonus. But if you don’t and you focus on customers, then you might just end up with a great business.
STARTUPS AT THE WEB SUMMIT: MEETING INVESTORS
Research. Find out who is attending. Look up their backgrounds. Read up on what they have backed in the past. Try to match your product with investors who are interested in that area, market or technology.
Also consider those who bring more to the table than just cash. In the case of Angels, seek out those who have previously been founders. They are more likely to empathise with the stage you are at. They should ideally have market or domain experience in your area.
Finally, remember that securing investment is as much about building a relationship over time with potential investors… it doesn’t happen over night. Don’t wait until your product is perfect, or your business is ready for investment to start building those relationships.
Eamon Leonard is an advisor to start-ups, an angel investor, a tech community organiser and has an interest in cloud platforms and developer tools. Based in Ireland, he is VP Developers³ at Engine Yard, having joined the company through their acquisition of Orchestra, a PHP Platform-as-a-Service he co-founded in 2011. This year, Eamon will be moderating the Web Summit Developer Stage. If you’d like to see Eamon speak at the Web Summit, you can register here.