Start-up Advice: Experts debate start-up fundamentals and opportunities for Irish founders

1 Jan 2016

Prof Constantin Gurdgiev, Kim Pham and Michael O’Connor answer questions for Irish founders and founders-to-be. Photo by Connor McKenna

In this special edition of Start-up Advice, we offer answers from investors and thought leaders to some fundamental questions.

What is an accelerator? What are the secrets to growing a company in Ireland? And what does it mean to be an Irish company? These are just some of the questions discussed by a panel of experts gathered in The Digital Hub.

SOSV Slingshot: Dublin launched in October 2015 at the headquarters of the NDRC, one of the world’s top-ranking accelerators.

That word in itself – ‘accelerator’ – prompted discussion on the day, as the question of what defines an accelerator was put to SOSV investment partner Bill Liao, Silicon Republic CEO and editor-at-large Ann O’Dea, and NDRC venture leader Carl Power.

What is an accelerator?

The trio of panelists hashed out a working definition of the term, outlining the three key elements required, and the opportunities and outcomes entrepreneurs can expect from them.

What will accelerators be like in the future?

Following on from that, the panel discussed the future of the accelerator model and whether it will still be around five or 10 years from now.

Focusing on the true accelerator programmes, the three speakers agreed that the model has staying power, though it may undergo some transformation as the number of accelerators increases.

What are the biggest challenges in building a company in Ireland?

Later, MC Conor Walsh, community manager with SOSV, assembled a fresh panel of experts to discuss the challenges in building a company in Ireland.

Trinity College Dublin professor Constantin Gurdgiev, Frontline Ventures head of platform Kim Pham and CorkBIC CEO Michael O’Connor were united in saying that Irish companies need global ambition.

Each of the panelists had their own thoughts on the big challenges of starting up in Ireland, but the key advice was always the same: be ambitious and have international goals from the start.

What are the secrets to growing a company in Ireland?

Pham and Gurdgiev continued the debate with their thoughts on how businesses coming out of Ireland have found international success through strategic locations and talent acquisition.

Pham used the example of Logentries, a Dublin-founded company that quickly established itself in the US market by branching out to Boston.

Seeing this as an extraordinary example, Gurdgiev advised companies based in Ireland to watch out for the intense competition for talent in an environment where they are up against internationally-known household names.

What does it mean to be an Irish company?

Discussion then turned to ‘brand Ireland’ and what that means on an international level, with the panel advising that founders should neither underestimate nor overuse the Irish brand.

Both O’Connor and Gurdgiev perceived the Irish brand to be incredibly strong but often underused by Irish companies. However, Pham provided a counterpoint and reminded internationally-minded entrepreneurs that they need to be perceived as boundless.

Disclosure: SOSV is an investor in Silicon Republic

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.