ITNorthWest Voice

This is a blog for all the technology entrepreneurs based in the North West of Ireland - musings about our business, companies, interests, trends and any other random thing that hits us.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Intellectual Property Services Centre (IPSC) for Ireland

The Chairman of the Irish Software Association, Cathal Friel in an interview with Silicon Republic "The idea is to make Dublin an international centre for patent registration in the same way that the Irish Financial Services Centre became a financial services hub. “The carrot is that patents would be filed for free. That would hoover in people from all over Europe: if they want to file patents they would come to Dublin,” says Friel, who adds that centre would in time become a magnet for patent lawyers, standards bodies and other IP-related activities. Although the detail has yet to be worked out and a lot more research needs to be done in the coming months, Friel is convinced that the IPSC “could be one of the most successful things we do in the software sector.”"

Use of CRM in startups

One of the biggest mistakes (we all make mistakes !!) was not to invest in a CRM solution earlier in our startup phase. The reasons i say this are as follows - a CRM system forces you to manage your contacts - a CRM system makes meeting note capture easier when getting customer interviews - you can extract market intelligence from customer meetings easier (esp when VC's start asking questions around the business plan - "so who exactly have you spoken to") - when you start sales prospecting, it can measure your performance in developing targets - if you get sales meetings, it can help plan + report on the volume of calls/meetings - it helps you forecast sales better..... "excel is ok, but you can be too kind to youself" - anon, 2004 - it makes it easier to communicate your sales process to employees - it also protects you against staff leaving - knowledge is retained in the CRM - finally - a CRM keeps you honest with yourself.. Recommendations - Salesforce - we use it - pricey, but it works really well, esp for teams in numerous locations - Entellium - looks like a good alternative to above - Sage - Microsoft CRM - Sugar - open source

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Dour VCs lack enthusiasm for anything

The title is a bit unkind to VC's Tom Foremski from Silicon Valley Watcher has this piece from one of IBD Networks "Under the radar" events Some interesting points raised...... They (VC's) didn’t like the startups that pitched their technology rather than their solution too many startups offering technologies that were more akin to “features” rather than point products hated startups with consumer business models because of the large amount of money it takes to build a consumer brand. Food for thought when engaing with VC's..... especially the ones listed for this event !!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

SEO and Your Web Site

Now that the web is a vital marketing tool, generating traffic is a must. Search Engine Optimization plays an important role and the following artical outlines SEO best practices

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Your business - the 5 secret ingredients

Okay - its not secret Dave Feinleib, who i spoke about before has this great piece based @ 5 key things that venture investors look for 1) Big market 2) Great team 3) Sustainable competitive advantage 4) Customers 5) Good technology / idea He also recommends this book - High Tech Startup by John Nesheim

Time management tip

The 2 things that are most valuable to entreprenuers are time + money This note on Fortune has some tips from Franklin Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Monday, November 22, 2004

Building your management team - through an advisory board

The use of an advisory board has not been exploited by many technology companies outside of the US. With the likes of the Enron scandal and the tightening up on the requirements on directorship of companies, entrepreneurs need to think outside the box to attract in people with experience and networks on a part time basis. The benefits of having an advisory board are many - experience - compensates the founders experience (or lack of) - great networks - sales, partners, service providers (legal, accounting, etc) - assists VCs in making investment decisions... they probably dealt with them before - getting people involved who have done it before.... We've engaged an advisory board from an early stage - we usually meet once a quarter - over lunch, dinner, etc - where we bounce issues and problems around - its been very beneficial to us for the insights we get, and in return we have tapped into great knowledge. The cost is not prohibitive - it all depends on the type of people you want on your advisory board - it can be cash, stock options, gifts, etc - the return on investment is good. Here is a good piece on Always-On - titled Overcoming the Start-up Catch-22: Use Your Advisory Board VCs only trust entrepreneurs who have made them money in the past. If you don't fall into this category, the best way to raise money is to recruit advisors who do. also see this piece from Always-ON

Saturday, November 20, 2004

How to establish brand awareness: Marketing in the Flesh

An interesting insight to building offline and online marketing methods. It looks at identifying effective marketing mediums, advertisements and ways to establish a profitability marketing campaign. See here

Friday, November 19, 2004

Hiring - making the right choice

Hiring people into a technology business is hard - very hard. Its also made more difficult when your outside of the main city hubs of Dublin and Cork Some interesting insights into hiring + startups Hiring - No false positives and for all those clever geeks amongst us check this

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Need help with International marketing

check out this innovative programme - EOP - from IBEC "The Export Orientation Programme is a grant aided graduate placement programme which allows Irish exporting Companies to develop their international marketing capacity and allows recent graduates to gain experience abroad using their qualifications. "

Bootstrappers United

check out this free offer - The Bootstrapper's Bible Real common sense stuff - no doubt we can relate to a lot of what Seth has to say

Monday, November 15, 2004

VC recommends stealth mode

Silicon Beat interview John Doerr, Brook Byers and Ray Lane - partners at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, one of Silicon Valley's most prestigious venture capital firms. They gave this insight Q: The venture capital survey shows a decline in VC investing (in the third quarter), but some suggest one reason may be artificial: Start-ups are trying to stay under the radar longer and not announcing their VC funding. Doerr: The entrepreneurs want it that way. Ten years ago, as soon as a venture was funded by a reputable venture capitalist, within six months, two or three clone ventures would be launched like heat-seeking missiles right up their tailpipe. People got wise to that. Why should we say anything about what we're doing until we have happy customers, and we're ready to try to expand and grow our market? You see many more entrepreneurs wanting to remain in stealth mode for a long, long time. The smart ones, anyway. Lane: It's worse than that. By talking too early, they produce weak competitors. The worst thing you can have is weak competitors. A strong competitor is actually good for you in an early market, because it helps build the market. A weak competitor, it turns off a client. The client says, ""I don't get it,'' because they're not able to put it across. It's not good for that original idea.

Next group meeting - Dec 1st @4pm

The next group get together wil be on Dec 1st at 4pm at the EI offices in Sligo Our invited speakers are from OFM Soulutions The presentation will deal with issues such as BES schemes + fund raising CSC schemes Financial planning for VC funding General financial housekeeping Management accounts, R+D expenditure, corporate governance, interaction with auditors OFMSolutions Overview Outsourced Financial Management (OFM) Solutions provides a comprehensive range of outsourced financial services to high potential start-ups in the technology & software industries. OFM Solutions provide all the services of an in-house finance team, but on a more cost effective basis. OFM Solutions provides and supports solutions, designed to improve the financial management of your business. Our in-depth knowledge of the financial environment in the technology marketplace allows us to quickly add value to your short-term decision making process and save you money. We provide scalable solutions to finance issues that adapt as your business requirements change. OFM Solutions provides financial services to a number of well-known clients in the IT sector.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Bad customers can kill your business

this is a great piece on how bad customers can kill your business The same can be said that a good 1st customer can "make your business"

Book review: Marketing playbook

Book : Marketing Playbook by John Zagula and Richard Tong Background John Zagula and Richard Tong are both ex-VP's with Microsoft (probably the 1st book written by people who were at this level - apart from Mr.Gates + his road ahead book) They are partners in a Seattle based VC - Ignitionpartners Details This books is an easy read, with plenty of practical insights into how the slickest marketing machine in the world - Microsoft - has executed in the past. It also has plenty of examples, based on their VC lives - how startup's have to identify market opportunities, position themselves, execute on a marketing campaign, etc. They outline 5 marketing plays - with the stealth play been the most applicable to startup companies. The campaign worksheet template is really useful - it helps you think through what your business is all about. All in all, i found it well worth the money - and its on the ITNorthWest recommended list of reading Disclosure: I'm a former MSFT employee (94-00)

Monday, November 08, 2004

The five habits of highly effective startups

From a Red Herring article by Eric Hahn (former CTO of Netscape) The 5 are.... 1. Identify a market with an underserved need and attractive economics which could potentially be pursued by a new company. 2. Build the best possible team, including an appropriate balance of domain experience and unbridled, youthful passion. 3. Get into the market with the absolute minimum viable product in the absolute minimum amount of time – while maintaining quality (it’s a hard balance to achieve – this is where experience really counts). 4. Do whatever it takes to delight your early customers (or users in a consumer business). Spare no expense to make every single one reference-able. 5. Listen and learn from your customers, technical experiences, competitors – develop metrics with which to measure yourself and use these to incrementally expand as fast as the market and capital will allow.

Can you pass the VC Elevator Test ?

The 1st test that a VC presents to any budding entrepreneur is usually the "Elevator test" - describe your business in less than 1 minute. Given that most people in the technology investment community have read "Crossing the Chasm" by Geoffrey Moore, you should take a look at his model for this : For (target customers - beachhead segment only) Who are dissatisfied with (the current market alternatives?) Our product is a (new product category) That provides (key problem-solving capability) Unlike (the product alternative) We have assembled (key whole product features for your specific application) Try it out - it can focus what your business is all about quite quickly !!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Early stage funding

Enterprise Ireland have an excellent list of early stage funding sources See list here

Friday, November 05, 2004

Software as a service

A lot has been written in relation to software as a service, and the shift away from the traditional "product box" approach. Here Ed Sim of Dawntreader Ventures has a good piece on that whole debate, and the benefits of an ASP business model

Pitching to VC's

If you have to, then here is some insights from a VC himself, John Zagula of Ignition Partners onto how to pitch a VC with your business proposition

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Entrepreneur stories - from the heart of Silicon Valley

Dave Feinleib - entrepreneur, VC, ex-MSFT, Stanford MBA student, etc has an interesting entry on his blog, which points to a great source of presentations titled - "Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar" hosted at the Stanford GSB.

Group gets coverage in

Our Group - ITNortWest gets some press coverage in See here for story - bottom of page

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

How to get ahead in the postbubble world: Build a company cheap. Flip It fast. Repeat.

Om Malik had an excellent article in the business2.0 magazine Titled "The New Road to Riches" Om gives some great examples of entrepreneurs who have started up, kept cost base low, and then got bought out by a bigger fish - all within a relatively short period of time. The example he focussed on was Oddpost - a 6 person company, which was acquired by Yahoo. See this Wired article for more insights on Oddpost Encouraging story !!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Sales - The biggest challenge for technology entrepreneurs ?

Is getting sales the biggest challenge ? Most technology entrepreneurs have little or no sales experience before they start a venture - and they definitely don't have the money to hire one, so what do they do ? 2 choices - get lucky with your 1st customer - get a channel where you don't have to pitch a customer (by the web) Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Software Association run this programme Sales Star - the website is also quite interesting enjoy !!

WebWorks - Sligo

After our last event, people commented that a centre for developing IT business in the NorthWest would be great - good office space, great connectivity, good services, plenty of communal meeting rooms/open spaces to network, etc. Given that the proposed Webworks development, which aspired to meet some of the points above, is somewhere buried in paperwork + politics (see here and here), we can only welcome this news: A NEW €4.38 million Business Incubation and Research Centre planned for IT Sligo (see here for details) A suggestion would be for the promoters (we need to engage with these people) to look at similar models that have worked really well + look like great environments to work in Derry - see here England - see here Scotland - see here - this one is cool Cambridge - see here

Getting funding - some useful information

For those who have or are about to embark on obtaining funding to grow your business, you should check out these useful sources of information Northwest Entrepreneur forum in the US source Irish Software Association Investors who are active in the North West Western Investment Fund Enterprise Equity