‘The right timing and the right team are the key factors to start-up success’

28 Jan 2020

Fintan McGovern. Image: Metrifit

Fintan McGovern, chair of Metrifit, gives his advice for entrepreneurs – from trusting your gut to setting your sights on a global market.

Fintan McGovern is the chair of athlete monitoring software firm Metrifit, and was the co-founder and former CEO of Firmwave, an Irish technology company that was acquired by Taoglas in July 2019.

His previous roles include working as an Irish Defence Forces army officer, working in emerging markets in natural resources in Africa, and in telecoms in the Caribbean. He studied business at GMIT, received an MBA from the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, and most recently graduated from the Advanced Management and Leadership Programme at Said Business School, University of Oxford.

‘There is no one path to becoming an entrepreneur and what defines one does not define another‘

Describe your role and what you do.

I am currently the chairman of Metrifit, an Irish technology company that operates in the sports tech, health and wellbeing spaces. I invested into Metrifit because I believe those sectors are well positioned for growth. I am helping Metrifit to prepare for Series A fundraising in Q1 2020.

As chairman, I manage the board of Metrifit and coordinate all matters of the board in order to adhere to good corporate governance. I also advise and mentor the founding team – Peter Larkin (CEO) and Ann Bruen (CTO).

In your opinion, which areas of science and technology hold the greatest scope for opportunities?

I believe the health and wellbeing sector and the sports sector will continue to grow. The ability of technology to help people through their lives and be more aware of their own performance, with platforms such as Metrifit, is a reason why I believe that this sector has so much potential.

There are great companies out there such as Headspace, Noom, Calm, to name but a few in the health and wellbeing space.

Are good entrepreneurs born or can they be made?

There is a little bit of entrepreneur in everyone, however I do believe that our life experiences shape us, and some people decide to become entrepreneurs as a result of a personal experience. Therefore, entrepreneurs are often created by these experiences, combined with an ability to problem-solve.

Entrepreneurs have a risk-taking ability that is higher than most. If there is no risk, there is no reward. Entrepreneurs can deal with and live in this area, always working towards the end goal.

What are the qualities of a good founder?

Having a good vision is a key aspect to being a good founder, as is the flexibility to achieve the goal and to be able to chart out the path to that end objective. Responsiveness and adaptability are a must but most important of all is humility and the absence of ego. The ability to deal with setbacks and the resilience to continue moving forward are the most important qualities.

What does a successful entrepreneur need to do every day?

A successful entrepreneur needs to keep reaffirming that despite the naysayers and setbacks, they are on the right course. They need to believe in themselves and the team around them.

The entrepreneur must provide leadership and hope to people in their company, customers and investors. A good entrepreneur must be the inspiration to achieve so that others will follow suit.

What resources and tools are an absolute must for your arsenal?

Without a shadow of a doubt, having the right people around you – in both your team and in those that mentor and advise you. With regards to resources, accurate and reliable market information on how your macro environment is ever changing is very important.

How do you assemble a good team?

I always select people based on what makes them motivated and what makes them tick. The incomplete leader – I wrote about this in the Metrifit blog – needs to surround themselves with people that are smarter than themselves, that complement the skillsets that are needed to achieve the objective.

What is the critical ingredient to start-up success?

The right timing and the right team are the key factors. Numerous great ideas have floundered because the timing was wrong. I also believe there is never 100pc completely perfect timing with the correct information – a person’s gut and judgement must also be factored in.

What are the biggest mistakes that founders make?

Not dreaming and not planning big enough. Irish companies sometimes fall into a trap because they feel constrained and get comfortable within the Irish market. Irish-founded businesses will always play to a global market as we are considered small in the greater scheme of things.

We also have a global reach that is reflective of much larger economies, and founders must always plan to be global. Some founders become comfortable when they reach a certain size and level. The world is changing at such a fast pace, that some founders fail to break into global markets quick enough.

What are your views on mentorship and the qualities one should look for in a mentor?

I firmly believe we all must have a good system of mentors. In 2004, for my undergraduate degree, my thesis was on the topic ‘Mentorship and career guidance for officers in the Defence Forces’, so it has always been a part of my make-up.

I have several people I call my mentors and close advisors, who I can approach for guidance on big decisions in life and business. I am also a mentor myself to MBA candidates at the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business.

The qualities a mentor should have, above all else, is a listening capacity and an understanding that every mentor-mentee situation is different. One must not impose your view as a mentor. You must help the mentee discover the path that is best suited to them.

What’s the number-one piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs?

There is no one path to becoming an entrepreneur and what defines one does not define another. I would say always trust and believe in yourself. There will be knock backs and some things won’t go to plan. However, stay on track.

Keep you and your team focused on the road to the objective. Lead from the front, set the right example and be resilient. Lastly, inspire hope and always communicate what is happening.

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