Course aims to put ICT start-ups on right track

11 May 2005

Giving technology entrepreneurs the opportunity to test the commercial potential of their ideas before taking them to market is the aim of a three-day executive skills course, which takes place at NovaUCD later this month.

The Executive Entrepreneur provides a framework for participants to assess and validate early-stage business ideas. It will be run by well-known consultants Donal Daly and Paul O’Dea who between them have built up several businesses. O’Dea is also a former head of the Irish Software Association.

The course will address such topics as how to: define and develop a winning value proposition; understand the market opportunity; create a presentation for selling a concept; understand the sponsor-investor perspective; and define next-critical milestones.

O’Dea explained the training programme aims to impart solid business skills to those who may until now have been focusing on the technical side. “It’s great if you have a nice piece of technology but if you can’t communicate with your selected market whatever you do with your business is doomed to failure.”

He added: “You have massive funding going into university research and development but ultimately if the investment is not combined with good strategic marketing positioning, there’s little chance of a venture being successful.”

The Achilles heel of technology start-ups, he noted, is that they don’t give enough, or indeed sometimes any, thought to the value proposition of their product.

“Value proposition means why should the end customer care? This company is going to spend a lot of money on your technology — what benefits does it bring; what return on investment will they get?”

O’Dea claimed participants would come away from the course with a detailed presentation summarising the value proposition of the technology they planned to commercialise.

O’Dea, a co-founder of Nineties banking software firm Credo that was later acquired by sectoral heavyweight Misys, argued that technology buyers are much more sceptical about buying IT than they were five years ago and are thus harder to impress. Not only that, the corporate buying process involves many more people, from the IT manager and financial head to senior business executives and procurement specialists. “So you’ve multiple buyers you need to impress. Unless you satisfy all of those, the sale isn’t going to happen,” he stated.

O’Dea said NovaUCD, the innovation and technology-transfer centre at University College Dublin, was an obvious location to run a course of this type. “Nova has this group of knowledge-based ventures but the challenge is that they are technology oriented rather than sales and marketing oriented.”

The three-day course, which costs €750, is limited to 12 participants and is already fully subscribed.

By Brian Skelly