Monthly Archives: July 2018

More interactive and lists media

Claire didn’t follow a traditional path into Silicon Valley, having attended Ballyfermot Art College’s Rock School and studied communications at DIT, before eventually co-founding Axonista in 2010 with former colleague Daragh Ward.

“If you look back to when the iPhone came out, that was a pivotal moment for me, it was probably the founding vision of our company. I think Daragh showed me an episode of Family Guy on my mobile phone and I remember thinking this is the future – you can actually watch video on your mobile phone, what does this mean for the future of video? So, that’s what Axonista do. We help brands navigate that whole new era of television that is online and has leaped off the TV set in the living room and is now on all these different smart devices.”

“Previously, I worked in sports TV – in Setanta, which was also a really cool start-up. I knew back then that the market was shifting and going through phenomenal change. TV definitely isn’t dead but it’s evolving into a two-way interactive system with audiences. Our company name Axonista means ‘revolutionary thinking’ which comes from the word ‘axon’ which is the cell that processes and transmits information travelling through your brain.”

“Starting out, we got a Horizon 2020 grant for 2 million Euro. We also raised seed capital from Enterprise Ireland and from some angel investors, but we always reinvest back into the business and into research and development. We have about 20 people in the company now but there’s no school that teaches you how to be the CEO of company – you just have to do it. Being a female CEO in a tech industry I try to be approachable and visible so that young women can see me and say ‘ok she doesn’t have a strictly tech background but she’s making it and maybe that’s something I could do’, I try to put myself out there.”

This and much, much more on The Capital B below. Download and subscribe here.

The Capital B is available every Monday morning from 7am; listeners can tune in on Soundcloud and can also download and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and other podcast providers.

Effort and commitment that goes into achieving success

We caught up with John at the recent AIB Start-up Academy Dublin Summit and asked him about the importance of self-belief and mentorship.

How important is it to have belief in yourself when starting off in business?

It’s a bit scary and a bit daunting to do something from scratch on your own. There will be days where you doubt yourself, so you definitely need to have that self-belief. I also think that you need to surround yourself with people who are similar to you and who can pick you up when you’re having a down day. You’ll be able to do it vice-versa with them. I’m pretty selective about the people I hang out with. I want to be around high-energy people who can boost me along when I’m not quite there.

As a coach, you act as a mentor to your fighters. How do you approach this role?

When a fighter is starting off, they’re able to lean on me a little bit because they’ve seen the experience I’ve had and the success I’ve had with different fighters. One of my main roles with them is to make them accountable. If they tell me they want to be a champion, I measure the hours they’ve been training. If they’re not training like a champion, they’re not going to be a champion!

Is there any advice you’d give to someone who was considering starting their own business?

Number one for me, in whatever you’re doing, is to make sure you really really enjoy it, because you’ve got to be ready for long, long hours. An average week for me is 60-70 hours and anybody I know who works for themselves would have a similar story. Unless you really enjoy something, you won’t stick with it!

Are you competencies on your business

  • Some years ago when executives and managers talked about the type of employees they wanted to contract for their businesses they spoke of skills and qualifications. These words are still used but have been overshadowed by the term competencies. Competencies are a concept taken on board by Human Resource departments to measure a person’s appropriateness for a particular job.
  • In simple terms a competency is a tool that an individual can use in order to demonstrate a high standard of performance. Competencies are characteristics that we use to achieve success. These characteristics or traits can include things like knowledge, aspects of leadership, self-esteem, skills or relationship building. There are a lot of competencies but they are usually divided into groups. Most organisations recognise two main groups and then have numerous sub groups which competencies can be further divided into.There has been a lot written about competencies. It is easy to see how people can become easily confused by what a competency actually is. It is also essential that people in the world of business have a clear understanding of what different competencies are and, in particular, which competencies are of interest to them – either as an individual interested in self-development – or as an employer looking for the best candidate for a job.
  • Competencies can be divided into two distinct types; technical competencies (sometimes referred to as functional) and personal competencies. As the name suggests, technical competencies are those which are related to the skills and knowledge that are essential in order for a person to do a particular job appropriately. An example of a technical competency for a secretary might be: “Word processing: able to word process a text at the rate of 80 words per minute with no mistakes.”  Personal competencies are not linked to any particular function. They include characteristics that we use together with our technical competencies in order to do our work well. An example of a personal competency is: “Interpersonal Sensitivity: Demonstrates respect for the opinions of others, even when not in agreement.”
  • As you can see from the examples above there is a particular way of expressing a competency. First the competency is given a title; for example “word processing”. Then a brief indicator or explanation is given as an example of the person’s aptitude in that competency; for example “able to word process a text at the rate of 80 words per minute with no mistakes.”
  • Competencies are probably here to stay so it is worth thinking about your own competencies and trying to categorise them; first into the two sub-categories mentioned above and then into a more detailed list.

Do you know the techniques

  1. Companies carry out Market Research to gather and analyse data to understand and explain what people think about products or adverts, to find out about customer satisfaction and to predict how customers might respond to a new product on the market.
  2. Market Research can be categorised under two subheadings – Quantitative Research and Qualitative Research. The questions asked with Quantitative Research are structured whereas Qualitative Research questions are much more open and can often reveal consumption habits which the researchers hadn’t previously considered. You carry out Quantitative Research when you need to know how many people have certain habits and the Qualitative Research when you need to know why and how people do what they do.
  3. Companies involved in Market Research include the Research Buyer and the Research Agency. The research agency carries out the market research in ways previously discussed with their clients – the research buyer. Sometimes companies only need their own data analysed, or are simply looking for advice on how to carry out their own research. Points that are discussed between the two parties can include:
  • The time duration of the research
  • The budget available
  • Who the target groups are
  • Predictions of results
  • How the results will be helpful

4. Street Surveys – stopping people in the street

  • Phone or postal – people fill in questionnaires and send them back
  • Internet surveys – a relatively new technique which functions in a similar way to other surveys except that a large number of people are interviewed at the same time

5. Am I asking the right groups of people?

  • How many people should I speak to in order to get representative answers to my questions?
  • Are my questions easy to understand?
  • How am I going to analyse the data?

How PorterShed Backs Startups

It’s a balmy day in mid-May and PorterShed, a co-working space in Galway backed by AIB, is a hive of activity. John Clancy who is CEO of ChatSpace, one of the companies based in the thriving business hub, explains:

“Every week there’s something on here that helps connect start-ups to the wider support ecosystem and beyond. For example, last week, we had an exhibition for local artists here after hours. It’s that kind of social connection that really makes the difference.” And PorterShed is well equipped for socialising, with monthly meet ups complete with free beer from a Connemara-based brewing company.

Working Together

Oh, and the coffee is good too. This place is buzzing with passionate innovators. “People talk all the time about synergies, and since we’ve been here, we’ve been networking and reaching out to other companies that are in complementary spaces,” John says. “We’ve put business their way and they’ve put business our way. Everyone is in the same boat really. The companies here are by and large either at start-up stage or moving to scale stage. There’s a common goal and excitement amongst everyone and I have to say the dynamics work.”

Cutting Edge of Innovation

ChatSpace are certainly innovating, and their team of six have created an analytics tool which combines AI with natural language processing and deep learning to create a truly cutting edge piece of technology. “Unlike traditional analytics tools or chat analytics offerings, ChatSpace is built purely for chat from the bottom up,” John explains. “We deliver conversational analytics that enables brand owners to see how every customer is engaged, what the customer feels, and detect if their needs are being met. They can also seamlessly bring a human into the conversation when needed to listen to the true voice of their customers on chat channels.”

Game-Changing Analytics

ChatSpace’s groundbreaking analytics enables their clients to analyse the content, context and sentiment of conversations their customers are having with their brands at scale and as they are happening. “In this new transitioning world of social media, the goal is engagement through private, meaningful, conversational moments,” John explains. “Content will still be important, but the individual will be the focus of the experience. Brand communications will have to be more immediate, expressive, and intimate.” Where ChatSpace distinguishes itself is in its ability to understand the context and organic flow of a conversation, allowing brands to foster a meaningful connection based on an individual customer’s personality.

A Space to Grow

For John, moving to PorterShed made perfect sense for the business. “We decided to move to PorterShed because it’s a connected space and it’s much more involved in the startup community in Galway,” he says. “From a tech point of view, there’s another 20-30 tech startups here. They bring in support structures through AIB, KPMG and Enterprise Ireland. Noreen from AIB comes in here once every week. She sits here for a couple of hours and it’s great for us as I don’t always have time to go to the bank. So, for example, if we have any questions regarding international transfers, she can deal with the query here and I don’t have to leave the facility.”

Pitch Perfect

And why would you leave, with facilities like hot desks and top class meeting rooms at your disposal? But John’s favourite facility is the mini auditorium. “What I love to do is to go there late in the evening. I can stand up on the stage and practice my pitch just to the guys,” he says.

And it’s a pitch that’s clearly been resonating – as Chatspace’s disruptive tech has caught the attention of several top brands. As John puts it: “I would say if you’re a technology startup, PorterShed is the place to go.”

Pointy Helps You Find it Locally

Mark Cummins, the man behind Pointy, spoke on The Capital B this week. Not his first foray into the world of tech (he previously sold a company to Google), Pointy aims to help get local stores online as well as help consumers find the products they need fast.

So what exactly does it do? Pointy is a device that attaches to the barcode scanner in each shop and automatically lists the products to a website, Mark explained where the concept came from;

“It really simplifies making a website for a local shop, quite a lot of local retailers have websites but they’re not getting anything out of it. Consumers are looking for products and that product information is not available online so all the local shops are invisible. When people are doing these searches on Google they’re getting redirected, so local stores are not picking up the business that by rights they should be”

“It’s like a location service, most of the time people just want to go in and pick up the product in person, you’d be absolutely amazed by what people search for.”

Pointy also has some big name investors behind it, international rugby star Jamie Heaslip is involved, who Mark says has a huge interest in tech.

“He’s actually very tech savvy, it’s an interest of his, he likes that we have a local Irish angle”.

Also on The Capital B this week, we’re chatting to the Commercial Director of Lidl Ireland, the founder of Popertee delivers a lesson on how to find the perfect retail space for your store and Freshii’s Dave O’Donoghue on why talk is big but execution is everything.

USP for your Start up Business with Lisa Hughes

As a business coach with over two decades of experience and a mentor with the AIB Start-up Academy, Lisa Hughes knows what it takes to make a successful start-up.

We spoke to her to find out how finding your Unique Selling Proposition or USP can make a serious difference to your business.

Get an Outside Perspective

As an entrepreneur herself, Lisa cautions that it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of running your business and lose sight of what truly makes your product unique. “You can’t see a building in its entirety when you’re inside the building,” she explains. “And when you’re an entrepreneur, who’s living and breathing your business every day, you can easily lose perspective on it. What ends up happening is that the business owner is not looking at the product from their customers’ perspective. They’re looking at it from the inside out.”

“We are all here to serve our customers, to take people’s pain away or add value,” she continues. “Until we get that message baked into our thinking, then sometimes it’s going to feel like we’re pushing a rock up a hill because we’re selling something that perhaps we don’t necessarily want or need. Ultimately, your USP is what your customers value. Not what you value.”

Learn From Customer Behaviour

Know your customer is a familiar business mantra, but finding your USP can require a more wide-ranging approach than traditional market research. “Sometimes if you ask a customer what they like about your product, they will tell you things that they think you want to hear,” Lisa says. “But ultimately, it’s their buying behaviour that tells you what they really do value. Lynne Twist always says, “Look at your chequebook”. Where you send your money is what you really value.”

“If we take the example of Kiki Moon from this year’s Start-up Academy,” she explains. “Keelin had developed this beautiful baby blanket, but what happened is that people started asking if she had it in a bigger size. It completely changed her view from ‘this is a baby product’ into ‘this is a product that everyone can enjoy’. And all of a sudden she had all kinds of market segments opening up.”

While Lisa doesn’t discount the value of market research, she cautions that a holistic approach to examining customer behaviour can pay greater dividends. “Listening to your customers for unprompted things is probably going to give you greater insights,” she says. “If you’re asking your customers specific questions you already have an agenda. Whereas listening to the online conversation around your product can really help you to understand what people really want from it because they will discuss it more naturally.”

Dress to Impress in the Workplace

“If you’re too casual in your dress sense, you’re going to be casual in your job.” That’s the advice of tailor Louis Copeland, and there’s no shortage of places to get fitted in Dublin these days either.

Copeland has described how Conor McGregor single-handedly breathed new life into his business, and that the UFC superstar’s influence has altered men’s fashion in Ireland.

The 28-year-old from Crumlin has built up an association with the Louis Copeland tailoring business since his earliest days in mixed martial arts, and the man behind the Dublin business told Nick Webb on The Capital B about working with one of the biggest names on the planet.

It all started with an appearance on The Late Late Show.

“The first suit we gave him, he went on The Late Late Show and Ryan Tubridy told him he was looking great. Conor said, “Louis Copelando!” revealed Copeland.

“He’s been great for us because he’s given us a younger image, and people now realise we cater for everybody. The everyman on the street is our regular customer.”

McGregor continues to visit Copeland in his flagship Capel Street store, one of six owned by the Copeland family as well as its online business.

“The Conor McGregor look has been the best thing that’s happened to us. It’s been brilliant because he’s brought style to younger people. When did you ever see 16 or 17-year-olds dressing up in suits, bow ties, pocket squares and nice shoes? It really has made a big difference in the fashion industry.

“You’ve got to go out there and hit them between the two eyes, but now he’s beginning to tone it down a bit but he still wears nice clothes. He’s made people aware of how to dress up.”

Copeland also spoke about the constant evolution in men’s fashion in this country, and the reason why Irish men prefer darker suits to those worn by people on the continent.

“Everyone’s wearing blue suits, light brown shoes, etc. Things are changing all the time. The light brown shoes are going darker, they look a bit more subtle,” he told Webb.

“The thing about Irish people is their complexion. Irish people haven’t got the complexion that Italian or French counterparts have. They look better in darker colours – if you put light colours on a fella who’s a bit pale, he looks like a milk bottle. It’s important you match the colours to the complexion.”

He’s also keen to see Irish men start to ‘dress up’ for work, as he believes a casual look in the workplace leads to a casual attitude.

“If you’re too casual in your dress sense, you’re going to be casual in your job. You don’t see a guard or an army officer wearing a t-shirt. If you put a good suit on you, it’s like a suit of armour. You feel good, your head goes back, your shoulders go back and you just feel better.”

Big business in Ireland

In this edition of The Capital B, Seamus O’Hara of The Carlow Brewery Company lifts the lid on the busy craft beer business and sheds a light on whether any brewery can truly stand the test of time.

The O’Hara brewery was set up over 20 years ago and it all started with a grá for beer. After experiencing the vast array of small breweries in the UK, Seamus saw a gap in the market, in other words, he wanted the good stuff and Irish beer just wasn’t cutting it.

At the time, craft beer was a mere glint in the eyes of out of work actors across the nation, but the O’Hara crew had stumbled upon something with substance and sustainability, and they wanted to see it through.

Using the old style of BES Investment the O’Hara team drummed up support from family and friends, and starting slow they began the long process of cracking into the competitive market of distilling.

One of the major forces affecting any start-up brewery is cash flow,  it’s highly capital intensive and according to Seamus; it can cost up to a quarter of a million euro to just get things going.

Starting on a customer by customer basis they gradually developed a loyal following and began looking to export. With some bumps along the road the brewery has gone from strength to strength, and the future is looking bright in this busy sector.

Also on this week’s episode, pub aficionado Noel Anderson discusses the surge in late bars and decline of nightclubs, plus a deep dive into newly modernised Jameson Whiskey.