When setting up a business ‘know your market’ – Dr Brian Donovan

5 Jul 2011

Dr Brian Donovan, CEO of historical records company Eneclann, spoke about the necessary steps a researcher has to take before turning their subject into a business.

Speaking at the IRCHSS & IRCSET Postdoctoral Symposium, Donovan advised researchers on how they can go about turning their ideas into a business.

Donovan started up Eneclann in 1998, growing it out of the department of history in Trinity College. The company researches, publishes and analyses historic records and has seen particular interest in its involvement with family history records.

Donovan told researchers to keep a market in mind when considering turning their products into businesses.

“When you’re an academic, you don’t really have a market beyond the people who might give you a job,” said Donovan.

“It’s an entirely different world out here – you might have the most incredible gizmo or idea in mind, but if there’s no market need for it or if there are clients who have no knowledge that they need it, then you’re going to have great difficulty commercialising that.”

Donovan also pointed out that in order to procure funding, they will need a business plan which is up to date with the business’ current goals.

“Business plans aren’t just something that you write once or twice and forget about, it’s something which you live with all the time and constantly are updating,” he said.

“You need to be redrafting business plans more than once every year – a couple of times a year, at least.”

Donovan explained the difference between an investor’s business plan and a “real” business plan.

“You write an investment business plan for an investor to address the questions they would have – rather like a CV for the person you want to employ you,” he said.

“Your real business plan is what you are really trying to achieve, but they can’t be too far apart, because they’ll be blown apart very quickly.

“Don’t kid yourself that you can have your own agenda which is separate from the agenda of the people who are investing in you if you’re lucky enough to get investment,” he said.

He also said the plan shouldn’t be done by someone outside the business.

“Anybody who labours under the idea that they can get one from the internet or that they can find someone who can write their own business plan for them is not just utterly mistaken but is really just wasting their time,” he said.

“A business plan has to be written by you if you want to set up a business. You must know in your heart of hearts exactly what it is you’re actually doing because if you don’t know that, I can tell you an investor will find out very quickly.”

Photo: Dr Brian Donovan, CEO, Eneclann

View a highlight of Dr Brian Donovan’s talk here:

Brian Donovan, Eneclann CEO, on commoditising history and the humanities 

For further coverage, visit our IRCHSS & IRCSET Postdoctoral Symposium microsite.