Guest Angela Duffy
I am joind by Angela Duffy a Venture Investment Leader (VIL) of the NDRC
Dave: Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I’m your host Dave Albert. In this show, I talk about technology, building a company as a CTO and co founder and have guests to discuss their roles in technology and entrepreneurship.
Today I’m joined by Angela Duffy, MBA, PhD and venture investment leader at NDRC. Thanks for joining me, Angela.
Angela: Oh, you’re welcome, Dave. It’s nice to be here.
Dave: Great. Thanks so much. Um, would you give us a little bit of a intro to yourself and some of your background?
Angela: Oh, where do I start? I think, well, I’m a country girl from the middle of nowhere in in Ireland and I somehow manage to to wander my way towards Dublin and was here for for a while in college and then working. So I started on the path as a scientist and then ended up as a crazy scientist in labs and doing research on cancer and also on heart disease, particularly cardio vascular disease, where you have myocardial infarction, heart attack known otherwise to the public. And then I migrated from Dublin to go away, live there for quite a long while. And I think that’s why my accent doesn’t resonate with people now because it’s been flattened by the golden regions. So I was in research there again in the university for a while and then collaborated with a large corporate company. They were an American multinational at the time and then I was adopted by them. So I went to work in the corporate world. And that was big change. And I really enjoyed it because it was challenging and fast. And and I did begin an attack role on innovation, patenting, research r&d, prototyping new products and what they call a phase zero type role. But I then started to really work with a lot of the physicians who are our customers, and they understood my language and I there is because of the scientific background, and so I started to do a lot of customer facing work and transitions a lot into market and customer research. And then went off and as you mentioned, did some business studies I ran up and down the road, actually from Galloway to Dublin to do those and that was a busy time, but I then focused on strategy particularly marketing strategy in terms of bringing customer voice into the organization to map where we would go in terms of product, and overall strategy. So a bit of a, an evolution, I think from the hills of Monaghan to what I’m up to these days.
Dave: So what kind of companies do you work with here at the NDRC?
Angela: Yeah, so here from a corporate world is no working with small companies, startup companies, they’re all focused on very many and very different industries. But at their core, they have a digital components, particularly product, usually software, but also software and hardware. And and what I and my colleagues and the group here do is really to help them with their strategy and focusing them on a sort of a global target markets and really looking at where they should aim for to be successful. Sort of an area that will help them to prove themselves in the market had them to build out. And not only their strategy, but also the processes and, and then to really think about how they can broaden and expand beyond that.
Dave: Yeah, I mean, that’s, you know, similar to, you know, other VIL’s you know, spoken to Alan and Dermont you know, it’s a similar type of role, of course, from all of you being VIL’s, how many companies do you have in your portfolio?
Angela: In my portfolio, so I suppose the way we operate, there is a team of us, as you mentioned, so my colleagues there, and we really work, I suppose one is to one as a mentor with particular companies. That’s not to say that we don’t interact with all the companies we pretty much do. We have all different backgrounds and skill sets that are brought to bear. So thinking about it, probably in the region of 12 companies we’ve got companies that are spread across Ireland and we’ve ran the program out of Waterford Galloway and Dublin, so companies spanning all of those areas and it’s really interesting to see how we know and especially with search technologies and video conferencing that we can communicate and have one is to one sort of mentoring anywhere from anywhere and really get the job done so people out there are mobile often their teams are mobile and we are too, I mean we move around quite a lot and but we do a lot of face to face and whiteboarding which is useful but we do work on the fly and as we go and i think that suits the startup world as well.
Dave: Yeah we use you know video chat so maybe we have some people in India so, They’d be awfully hard to have them over for every weekly meetingor stand up would be even harder so you know, all of our team meetings are always in video conferencing. So I don’t know how people operate before that. That’s why it was harder to
Angela: Yeah, we’ve had. So I worked in the corporate world. So the organization was global. As I mentioned, it had been an American multinational. In fact, it’s merged with another large company. And they became an Irish register company, which is really interesting. I was a shareholder in there as most employees were but so were some people that were from Minnesota, the company had grown up out of there, and it was unusual for them to see I guess, their company that had sprouted from a shared effectively, locally there, grow so, so large and become such a such a big entity, but we communicated and I ran a lot of projects and that were acquired across all sorts of geographies. You know, one in particular was China is to Ireland is to San Francisco or the Bay Area, which meant that at any one time to have a team meeting, someone had to do the midnight call. But we did do that. We did have it. We had not video conference, but we did have conferencing, phone conferencing. And there’s always a delay. There’s always making sure, you know, and you repeat probably four or five times what’s been said at the beginning of the conference. I know there are some funny videos and podcasts around that as well. But it works. It worked, okay. But things are getting better. And we had, you know, Puerto Rico is to Minneapolis is to Ireland as well. And you know, that was difference in terms of language. Again, when you’re speaking with people, and I suppose that’s another reason why I have a neutralized accent and people need to understand you and it takes a while, particularly when you’re not looking at someone because we don’t pick up the you know, the 80% signals that come at us and, and when you’re on a conference call, it’s harder. And it’s much better if you can talk slowly and try to be understood.
Dave: What’s actually I remember hearing in the US there are a few large call centers that are basically strategically placed somewhat in the middle of the country. Because the accent was not as abrasive. So someone in the deep south would maybe be offended by, you know, a far northern East Coast style.
Angela: Turn phrase, yeah.
Dave: So it was so it was so interesting to hear that you echo that same kind of sentiment.
Angela: Absolutely. And you know, same in Ireland. I mean, how small is Ireland by comparison to the US and how different are the accents Dave you must see it somehow from cork to Donegal and interesting Dublin often is it is another strong accent so you must have come across even in a small country like ours a variety of different accents there.
Dave: Well actually the island of Ireland is the same size as the state of West Virginia where I’m from
Angela: I’ve been to West Virginia, Yes one of the first places i visited yeah when i went to the US, yeah many years ago for a bluegrass festival.
Dave: Oh my goodness.
Angela: Yes, yeah. Rob Stanley’s hometown, watching him and his friends and some of his band play on the back of a trailer in a field in the in the middle of nowhere in you know in West Virginia so there you go.
Dave: Are you serious?
Dave: I don’t know that we’ve ever
Angela: Though that’s we’ve ever..
Dave: Maybe we did, I don’t know I can’t remember it.
Angela: There you go.
Dave: What sort of things do you wish that the people that come in to the program would know beforehand so the the companies that you mentor would it have been nice if they’ve known before they got here?
Angela: Oh, that’s an interesting question. You know one thing that always springs to mind is, for me the lack of research they’ve done on their market. So that’s, it’s interpreting it in one way. I would like people who are starting out in their startup businesses to really consider if it’s worth their while, and, and not to look at it from an ability to execute, but more from an opportunity perspective. And so I think more people should think about that, for any business and starting out, specifically coming in here. What I do find is people are looking at, I suppose the package that’s offered, which is a mix of value add program mentoring, which is quite customized because it’s a one to one and they’re looking also at the funding that comes with it. So absolutely the majority of people are focused on the funding and that’s on entry. On exits, we find and you could allude to it and others maybe from the different cohorts that that disappears in terms of a focus and that the program the value, add the mentoring and having somebody around to bounce things off. And it really becomes important. So I would like people to understand a bit more about what it means to have the support around you. And to have those voices that maybe have been through it before and have other people that are peers that you can go to and people that have been entrepreneurs for quite a while. And that can give you a lessons learned what to do or not do and all those things call as as part of being here. And a lot of it can be fluid when people are together and I remember probably about a year and a half ago, going out to 12:00, they were hosting people, I think, from MIT, Stanford themselves, maybe Trinity and other places and it was about knowledge transfer. And I think pulling people and co locating people and brings about knowledge transfer that you just, you can’t anticipate, but we have seen it. And, and I would love for people. And there are people who recognize that before they come in, but a lot of people focus more on the cash than they do on the value add.
Dave: Sure yeah, I’m and you know, when you’re a startup with no money coming in, it’s hard not to focus on that at least a bit. But what you said there about focusing more on the market and the opportunity, as opposed to the product. I know, as an engineer, I have that problem. It’s there’s a problem. I need to go solve it. As opposed to starting with the is this the right thing to solve? And that’s what we found through the program was even though Julie, our CEO has such a deep knowledge of the space, we knew what we needed. But some of our priorities could have been a little bit different. Had we done some of the things that we learned for the program of the user interviews earlier? So the whole, you know, get out of the building and go talk to your users or customers first, this is such a valuable thing to know and so many people that I’ve known in my past careers, who would ask how I build this thing, and I would have helped them build it in the past. Now, let’s stop let’s go find the people who will give you money for this who use this. Let’s make sure that there’s a reason to do this. Maybe we can do a small trial test of something. But let’s not basically re engineer something that may already exist in a market that isn’t valuable for you, and you’re not interested in staying.
Angela: I call this Penny drop moment for me. And it’s part of the exposure I had working in a large company and, you know, working in an r&d perspective again on the tech on the product, and what you build, what you test. And I sat little bit outside of the the main product development groups who were literally coming up with specifications and testing because we would have in the med tech environment had deep testing for quality and metrics and they were very focused on getting the product functional. And I had the advantage then of being exposed more to the customers than often some of them were. And I remember us running some sessions with customers were prototypes were being used and tested and, you know, we were getting impressions from some of the people that might use them and this is a very early phase and prototypes and you know, what the column engineers and technical people came back with was very different to their perspective I had just watching how they mean. So the customer saw the product or interacted with it. And I thought, Wow, we need to document this because you have a bias perception. And I went in because I didn’t own the prototype and had an advantage that was slightly unbiased and thought that’s not what they said. And that’s not what three or four people said, the majority actually had a little bit of a different view. And so penny dropped for me there a little bit and I then started to bring a lot of the engineers that I worked with out to the field. So I got to be in the environment where the products were used quite a lot. And I saw that if you ask people, like the nurses, the support staff, the doctors themselves how things were they tell you fairly good answer. But if you sat there and watched you realized even what they’ve vocalized unbeknownst to them wasn’t exactly the way it was. So I started to bring engineers out. And you could see their really faces as well, I got great satisfaction either that I am because it wasn’t just me. And I started to bring that mindset in to the organization I worked with and had pleasure work with large companies in design thinking and in design in general idea of being being one of them, and work with them across the globe and China and India and different places. And then brought that sort of mindset into the technical community. And, and actually, I emailed a friend from the US over the weekend, because I had a bit more time on Long Island bank holiday. But last year, he had seen an award that have been given to a product that basically I had affected whereby they had redesigned things from a user perspective, and not just from a functional perspective, and he said I just saw this award that was given to the product. And I think that’s probably because of you. That’s years after I’ve left the company, and it was lovely to see that somehow I had a positive effect.
Dave: You have a positive effect everywhere you go.
Angela: You know, I don’t know if it’s me at all. Good cop, bad cop.
Dave: What ah um.. What is the biggest thing that you see in the companies that makes it so appealing to select them? of the companies you’ve dealt with?
Angela: Yeah. And I’ve learned this over time, interacting with more and more. Definitely, number one would be people. I think there’s and it’s kind of a hard thing to put your finger on people say what is it that defines an entrepreneur or an I don’t know that that’s something we can answer categorically, I think that there’s an essence, there’s a presence, there’s perseverance. But also, I’m one of the most important things is that ability to be flexible and to learn. And it’s really important that somebody is able to do that, what we would say, as coachable because we’re coaching or we’re guiding, we’re not helping people to make their decisions, but we’re giving them information. And if they can take that on board, and select things that are relevant to them are, you know, that are not and take the things away, that are clickable and put it into action. I think that’s really important. So I think identifying that ability because markets change, products change, competitive competitors come in and out of the market. And and what you start out with is often not what you end up with, and even in a small space of time, so you need a team and people that are capable of flexing. And with that, and I do think that, you know, the other side of it is we are, you know, thinking about this from the perspective of a next round investors. So, when we’re thinking of teams coming in, we do have to think in the mindset of the people that may be looking at them in the next round. And so what is attractive and what is investable is very important and we mentioned opportunity earlier. So I think that, you know, if there’s opportunity out there, it must be big enough for it to be worth your while as a as a company, as founders, but also, if you feel that you have an ambition to grow, you need support along the way that you’re able to take that on board in the mentoring sense but also that you’re willing to give up some of the equity piece to bring on money that allow you grow and that you have that vision, vision and ambition, and that there is space that you have identified a market that’s big enough and that there are verticals for you to expand in into as you grow.
Dave: Yeah, that’s Julie and I have gone back and forth on how much has more funding, you know, we want whether it’s a little bit or a lot. And you know, it’s all about the speed of scaling, which is all money does really is it’s a function to help with that.
Angela: I agree with that. Yeah. Yeah. Dave: And I don’t know speed is one of the hardest things for us. What do you see, have you seen anything that is help the speed of your companies or
Angela: So it’s interesting because we don’t necessarily and I don’t necessarily want companies to, you know, go straight in and thinking, I need to raise a around that’s my goal here. Your goal is to build a business in whatever shape or form that takes and take on board all the changes around you. So I think what it looks like is that if you can satisfy the market, you can be revenue generating, and people and there are teams and companies with us that are revenue generating and want and feel comfortable in solidifying their position. And then they will look into it and we’ve seen this more and more than they will look into that, you know, speed or growth. I’m not sure which the speed thing I think, from your perspective, that you’re kind of saying that if I an injection of cash would it speed things up. I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. I’ve seen people that have taken on funding and maybe haven’t lived up to the expectation they set themselves or maybe that the investors had. And I think you need to be careful. You know, people being offered money and just taking it because it’s on the table is not appropriate. I think that you need to have an understanding of what you’re going to achieve with that. You know, I had one company just before Christmas, and they were offered or had on the table quite a large amount of money for the position that they were in. And they’re a young company, they actually came on board and the gentleman who leads the company left his role. He was full time employed this time last year, so April, May last year. And so they’ve grown and they’ve done really well. People that he had, who joined him, Have him with speed, and I think that it wasn’t money at all. He’s now at a point where he has been, you know, showing progress so people are interested in investing and he had substantial interest but when we discuss things he said i don’t know yet what i would spend that money on so I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to take that amount and so let’s look at it in stages and what do i need to achieve this and that and with as well as the capacity that he had what that would look like in whatever 6,12,18 months time and to break it down so i thought that was very wise of him and also i think in general it’s very wise of anybody to think about what they want to achieve and break it down we talked about milestones in here all the time and we 23:36 your investments and we put milestones down but we think about those quite a lot when they set a goal or people, people need goals you know and even if it’s just a notional goal that you set for yourself personally it does help you it’s laid down there somewhere in the mind and it’s in its kind of subconsciously something that you grow towards and aim towards. The same thing with milestones, but you do have to have a sense of where you’re going to be and then package up what that looks like in terms of funding effort, personnel, and, and strategy. And that’s the way I see it.
Dave: Yeah, I guess, you know, I said speed. And that’s really kind of a bit too broad of a term, because is that the speed of, of product development or offering the growth of the offering or the acquisition of users or customers or, you know, sales figures so. As it all It all depends on your specific situation. And what you know, one of the ones we have, at least in my opinion, the problem is, we have that two sided business where we have to acquire users. And then we can acquire customers. And users don’t bring money for us, they cost money to acquire and they’re conservative users. So we have to develop quite a well developed product. to be able to deliver for doctors, quite conservative. So that’s one of the reasons that it’s so hard for us to have speed of product development. Because it has to be solid, secure, well thought out.
Angela: yeah, it hit the nail on the head, because every company is different. What speed means to you is to bring on some of those users, such that you can build the other side and where speed to somebody else is getting, you know, a technology built, we have a company that I’m going to hopefully work with in the next number of months. And for them as they really want to get the technology mapped out and be able to test it. And so it’s very different, very different company to company with, you know, a company here that wanted to, you know, really look at the market and see could they gain, as you say users, and they did that and that was their first port of call but they were building a technology in parallel. And but speed had to be users first here to test the overall concept before they start to build the technology. So it is interesting, I think, if I took any and all of the company’s speed would mean a little bit, something a little bit different to all of them.
Dave: Yeah, what.. so you’re one of the only way you’re the only female venture investment leader. Do you see any differences in the way that that affects the way that you interact with companies or with other people within the community?
Angela: It probably does. And so I’m very much an advocate of equal and different spot where we are partnered, and I do think that there’s different approaches and and I think, you know, if I if I thought about my team there, it’s more personality based approach, I would say rather than a male female thing, and I know certainly if you take Alan is unbelievable of execution he would also bring me into discussions and I may come up with something which is a different and maybe personal on a more personalized sort of take and he said that is something I didn’t notice because i’m busy trying to get to a goal and I maybe would monitor the behavior of the person or pick up a signal on how they were feeling or something like that because they were under pressure so it is useful to a not just a male female way but to have two of us or more together with ventures and we do that quite a lot and I think I probably have an it’s not it’s a collaborative approach i do think i am working with teams on teams in these companies and so I think sitting beside them and figuring it out is a nice approach. Now, sometimes that takes longer. And so often there isn’t enough time for miles of collaboration. And it is interesting when I say, you know, it really needs to be, you know, done right now, that it gets done, because it’s a not crying wolf situation, you know, I’ve seen where, you know, people were working on doing their market research, but they were comfortable in his own of testing it among peers, and going out to their network, and maybe one step beyond their network. And that’s somehow, you know, self validation, if you like, and they were getting the answer that it wasn’t, you know, what they’re proposing wasn’t attractive, and where I was asking them quite a lot to go beyond that to look as you know, various other people within the industries that were thinking about, ask them across different functional groups. So time passed, and they did get around to doing this extra research until one day, I said, I stood up and I said, I can’t work alongside you because me and everybody else has been telling you, when you keep getting no that you have to go beyond that group. And there are many other areas you need to discover, and I really can’t, I can’t forward this because the action has been taken are the same, and the outcome is the same. And I think when I get up and you know, sort of stood up and said it, they’re like, okay, she she’s right, and it’s time to just draw a line here, you know, so it varies. Companies are very different in themselves and the people that you work with a very different so you do have to pick up on those cues. And I think that’s my take on it. Each person needs somewhat of a personal touch as well. You know, you need to understand them. I like to know a little bit about their family and their overall situation, to put it in context because the day that they are feeling bad or they’re angry or something may not be related to the business or what’s in front of you and them right there and then. So I do think that’s important. I worked as a consultant, my own effort. And you know, it’s a lonely on your own, and there are pressures of money. And you do tend to have to watch everything. So there’s a certain something hanging over you, and that maybe others who are in there, you know, fully paid jobs doesn’t have so I always am conscious of that, you know, yeah, yeah.
Dave: Yeah. It’s I was a great deal more confident. Before I left my full time job to start, you know, I knew we were going to succeed. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Yeah. But I had no idea how hard it would be. And it’s so many of the things that you don’t expect the pressure of worrying about, you know, the rest of your team and payroll and realizing that, you know, if you want insurance, you have to buy it yourself. You know, there’s no, that safety net that you’ve had, you know, if you’ve come from full time employment, your whole career, that all the sudden you look down and it’s a long way down and you’re falling quite quickly.
Angela: And I think there’s, that element of stress again back to the subconscious is there. So people are feeling is without knowing that that’s what’s causing some of the things that they are feeling or doing. So it’s it’s very important that we emphasize, you know, that we sit in the in the shoes on the other side, and realize, you know, all of the challenges and not just some of the stuff that we mentor and coach and talk about, but other things that are going on and give people the space and I have to say it’s a pleasure to work with people in the in the startup community, it’s pleasure to work with the people. Because here, they’re passionate, they’re driven, they’re strong, they’re smart, I’d have to say they’re very smart, because, you know, they figured out something different, and they’re very brave. And so it’s always, overall, always positive. Because people aren’t trying to do something to hold things back. They’re always trying to do something to move things forward. And it might not be the right way. But intentions, intentions are always good and always, you know, in the right direction.
Dave: Yeah, that’s one thing that, you know, I’d always heard that founders co founders need to have a good relationship because of the stresses that will come and boy, is that a fact? I mean, even when you’ve got to two people like Julie and I love you know, really good relationship and immense respect for each other. You’re both under a lot of pressure. So if you don’t have that empathy, to think, Okay, let me realize the stress that the other person is under, as well, before thinking how I might react to this, this what may seem like a quirk question, because you have no idea how many meetings she’s in between trying to find out something. So if you were to take things the wrong way, that relationship could fall apart quite easily. So it’s it’s another element that I had no idea you know.
Angela: It can’t be selfish. You know, you do I think start out today you know, you meet people because they want to do this. And then maybe you’re in a co founding situation with the other person wants to do it. And the way you want to do it is slightly different. But underlying that you both wanting to do it. And I think it’s the same in life. You can analyze a situation and I’m I know, I would always step back from it maybe not there and then I like any other person I may react because that’s human nature. And but I’m always able to go back and say look, that wasn’t a good time or that wasn’t appropriate what I did or said and and you know what that goes a long way you see it in people and mature people not not everybody but I think most people and I work with mature people as well a lot of people. And I have to say the we haven’t touched on this. The average age of the founders that are coming on our radar now is increasing. And these are people that have taught about this they have decided with information to hand that they want to do it and maybe there’s some, I think inherent desire and passion and in saying I need to do this for myself and give this a go and that’s lovely because they take on board a lot of advice and they can as we talked about filter, kind of true that and, and they listen, and they’re coming to you because they’re asking you for that sort of different perspective for you to challenge them. And that’s why they’re here. So that’s, that’s really nice. It’s they’re not challenging you back and they’re listening to you and it’s lovely. Yeah.
Dave: Yeah, it’s I know, it’s just so to say and they’re the it’s so much harder than you could ever imagine. But also extremely rewarding. You know, I mean, we haven’t even air quote, made it yet. You know, we’re still grinding through. But just the, what I’ve learned and what I’ve started to understand about so many more things that aren’t even the technical bits, that’s what I thought would be the hardest part was the technical bits, but it seems that those are actually the easy part. That’s the easier, easier part. I mean, there’s still times where I’m banging my head against my desk saying, well this worked, well this worked, but it’s so much of the, the processes to enable the team to work at a rate that can deliver product that so much harder. What what what kind of red flags other than the you know you were saying about the difference between understanding the market and trying to work on the product. But what what sort of red flags do you see that when you see within a team that is quite obvious that you probably don’t want to work with them.
Angela: One of the and you talked about process and I think people that end up being successful adopt process quickly. They don’t necessarily set out doing that but they see where they can gain efficiencies are putting a process in place and actually, yourselves, Medit yourselves maybe Julian, yourself are a great example of that. And that’s one thing I notice. On the other side, people that don’t measure, and people that don’t have metrics that they look at regularly. So talking about good founders, they don’t have to go to their laptop and find some document that they wrote up a financial something on for a session two months ago, they roughly know why they’re at. Because they keep it keep an eye on this, you know, they don’t know. Like, they go to well, our sales targets with this, and we’re roughly on 90%. They know that almost off the top of their head because those things are important. So if I see people that when you talk to them and ask how are you getting on? What have you mapped for this month in terms of whatever metric metrics and measures matter to them or should matter to them and they haven’t done it and they aren’t working towards it. I get a bit worried. And you guarantee that when I revisit them in two weeks or a month or two months or three, they still haven’t done it. I’d have to say from experience those companies, they just don’t do well. And it’s back to knowing what you know means to achieve, you’re going to something you’re working towards a goal. And also that’s showing progress for self satisfaction internally, which I think you know, you get, but also that you’re showing progress externally. And it’s making a difference to the bottom line, to quickly you will get to maybe revenue or get to investment or something else, which you need to get to to make it a successful business. So, definitely watch out where people don’t know where they stand. And in terms of things they should be measuring whatever they they, those things should be, you know.
Dave: Now is that for people who are already in the program or is that for people who are trying to trying to be selected?
Angela: More so for people, I would say in program, but in saying that, I see it, because the way that we kind of bring people in to the program is that we also will touch base with them over a number of months. So we, in a way filter by having a number of touch points with the meeting them face to face, having phone calls with them, and I always come off a phone call and set up another time with the person in the time frame that makes sense for them and agreeing that it’s four weeks or two months or whatever, and revisiting them then, and seeing how they progress along the same train of thought. Is it a product that’s progressing, have they also done some of that market research and are they measuring something to show that they’re progressing? people that aren’t generally hop around a lot or generally have the same or very similar story for you as they’d have had six weeks or six months prior. And you know that in any sense they won’t be able to move towards success or achieve milestones that they need to for the business. Yeah.
Dave: Okay. Well, what types of of stage of people should reach out to you to, you know, see if they would be a good fit.
Angela: And we have, I guess, probably two different sets of businesses that we support. And the Dublin program, or Dublin based program is looking to people, I guess, that have some validation in the market. And what that means is that they are working with customers. And they have a market poll. So there are customers quite interested and maybe a ways along to ping them or contracting and having a trial or paid trial in place. So people at that stage are a team that has collected and are committed that they are committed to, you know, somewhat the MVP, which can be technical and non technical, but that the solution that they have is getting a job done and it’s better than what a customer already has, and that they are now seeing customers adopted in some shape or form. And those customers are on a route to being a paying customer and you’re into customer until you’re paying and you aren’t a business until you have paying customers is the way I see it. But that’s the type of thing we’re seeking in Dublin. For a regional accelerators, we don’t expect people to be maybe quite so far along. And people in Waterford and Galloway in those programs would certainly have their team As I mentioned, one gentleman left his day job and then came into the program. And that was his first step into full time entrepreneurship. So they are a little bit maybe earlier, they also maybe not as far along in having customers towards payments, but more that they do have evidence of interest from customers that they have done a body of market research to what we talked about that there is enough people with this problem that they also perceive, and that there is a need out there in the market that’s going to be big enough for them to feel and that there’s an opportunity out of that. So we do see people from all over the country, coming to all of those various locations, and there’s really no bias geographically. We’ve had people on the program last year traveled from Donegal to Dublin first, with people from Kildare that were based on the goal program people from Dublin on the program at Waterford. So the fact that they’re in those particular regions is is not to do with the fact that they need to be from that area. But it is nice to have people who are outside of Dublin able to go freely to and for a program that may be doesn’t entail them coming into the city or living at a high cost in Dublin. So I love to see that I’m from the country. I lived in Galloway for many years. So I love to see that there’s more and more opportunities for people starting a business that they can look up and look out and see. Okay, there’s a number of options for me in terms of support. And so I hope to see more and more of that.
Dave: What so what, where do you see the balance there of or I don’t know the balance is the right word, but understanding the problem versus the solution. So if someone was really really understands the problem and knows that they have enough information to solve the problem or knowledge not necessarily information but enough knowledge to solve the problem enough experience in the market or in the in the field but don’t quite have that that solution that would as you said solve the problem better for the customers but they know that the solution that exists is terrible so is that still someone that..
Angela: Yes, yeah absolutely so and after often people come with the solution first but it is born out of initially seeing the problem and then they do get wrapped up in in the solution and it is very important to validate that there is a problem and as you mentioned that they’ve come from that industry or an environment where they’ve you know encountered the problem but to go outside of their environments and go beyond that, and geographically as well as across an industry or industries, and make sure that the problem is not solved somewhere else, I think it’d be a great example from a prior life where, you know, we were looking at problems in hospital, we’re watching, you know, cardiac procedures, and we could see all of the different issues. And, and some of them, we were going to come back and try and solve, but we also were in public sector and private hospitals. And interestingly, a lot of the problems that were in the public sector hospitals were solved in the private sector. And so I think, you know, there’s two ways to think about that you can take to the private or to the public, the private solutions, and that’s an opportunity and all you need to make sure that there isn’t an easy fix for your problem, and that you can add greater value to a deeper problem. So there’s a lot of I think, analysis and validation of the problem as well, before you start, I love to see people coming with that evidence. And I think you can have, and those agrees it’s the job’s done sort of approach to things where you can get the job done. And the example is listening to music, you know, you can turn on a radio years back and listen to somebody wasn’t great quality, but that was a big, you know, leap and jump, as opposed to having to wait for you know, three months for a band to come to the local area. Or you can fly to Virginia and go see them in the mountain. But then there was vinyl, there was records so you could actually listen to the song not just hope that you’ll hear it on the radio, but you can listen to the one that you like, or the actual musician you like and that was in house and you had control over it Isn’t that fantastic? And, you know, it was a large implement with large solution, but it worked in solve the problem better than a radio. And then there was, you know, in my time I got one my first kind of grown up presence from Santa Claus was a tape cassette player or Walkman. Wow. And show my age now. And I got a tape and tapes that they wanted. So that was better. It was mobile, it was smaller. And you see where I’m going with this, the same outcome was that I could listen to music, and but each time it got more effective. So you have to think of it like that. And the job is getting done. People say there’s no competition. Yeah, there is there’s a bad way that people are doing it in their manual, roundabout way but they’re getting the job done are there are better ways and you know, you need to think about that on the spectrum of where you’re placing your solution. And where the markets out there has other solutions. And so sometimes you do need to be 10 x better because people are hard to change. You know, you need to be portable versus the record player because it’s so much more expensive. And so you need to, you know, think about your solution in terms of will it be adopted and the barriers to adoption be a pricing, or actually just habits and change and and all sorts of things like that?
Dave: Yeah. And if there’s no competition solving the problem at its basis form, then is it a problem? Are you trying to create a problem?
Angela: Okay, interesting.
Dave: Problems not beings have some way. So as you’re saying with the music if there was no music, and I guess, someone had to invent music, right, but that was a pretty long topic.
Angela: Well, that was from Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale. That was a sting ray that flew around the earth and made some beautiful song. I remember reading that many years ago, and I thought, wow, what a beautiful element of music was there you go.
Dave: What’s like I heard someone say, try to say that or try to use the analogy that, you know, Twitter existed a long, long time ago, even when it was scroll of paper tied to a homing pigeons leg. So, you know, you’re not really there aren’t many new problems. There are just new iterations of old problems.
Angela: Yeah. And I like so iteration, and I learned this as well throughout my career. And be careful in giving everything you know, you do have to iterate your product, because you have to and you know, the iPhone is a great example. Everybody knows, but there are many other products that we don’t really realize they’re getting iterated, but everything around us is iterative, things are held back. So don’t over feature your product one. Believe me, the features will not all be used and certainly not by the majority. But you do want to hold back so that you can Make sure that you can keep on satisfying the target group, or that you can bring in new customers as well, with the next iteration and so on. So those are tactics in terms of a product strategy you need to think about.
Dave: Yeah, with our software product. One of the things that I’m constantly bringing up is, is there something we should remove? In fact, some of the things that I did this week, we’re actually pulling some elements out. Because if you keep adding, then you end up with like the old Microsoft Word from, you know, the, yeah, the late 90s, where there were a million buttons and you couldn’t find anything. So the more you add, the more cognitive overload there is for the user, the harder it is to use, the less enjoyable it is. Yeah, the less users.
Angela: Yeah, and it’s a balance between function and we do hear a lot about usability, ease of use, and experience and it is a customer experience. And, you know, I was, you know, kind of exposed to a service over the last year or so that someone I bought from me as a gift, but the experience every single time I went to go there to beauticians was horrendous. And I dreaded going and it was paid for. And I thought I better use this. But I, I really dreaded it and that and I’ve absolutely never going back now that I’ve used it up. And I’m going to go to somewhere else that may be more expensive, or you know, maybe they’re a different level of experience, but the user experience and I’ve been to one session with them since Oh, my goodness, it was just so much more delightful. And you have to think about what the emotional drivers are the feelings of the consumer and the user are as well. And it’s not all about functionality. And you know, and I think, too, I’ve moved from technical, probably more towards the marketing side, and again, that was a penny dropped for me. That perception is nine tenths of the law. And you know, I’ve got from medical products were really their evidence based. So you do have to have the evidence. But how that’s also package can be very interesting. So from having the basic facts, and as a scientist don’t be very interested in in all those details and as our physicians and other users, and but how that’s actually packaged and people with very little time, sometimes they just build on perception. And we all have a gut feeling. And, and so don’t ever underestimate that. And don’t underestimate the power of marketing. And don’t take it as something you’ll add in afterwards. Either. You have to create a story around what you’re putting forward.
Dave: Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you think the people in the startup world or just entering the startup world should know?
Angela: I think you know you’ve said Is it is it is difficult, you know what we do tend to see all the successes and I think from an you’re, you know, from the US Originally, I worked and lived over there as well and even lived in the Bay Area here still on the side of the world and and maybe it’s more Irish than others failure still seems to be or no that didn’t work out or and and i think people in other parts celebrate the fact that you tried something and you learned. So never be afraid to try it and to learn, but do step back and so don’t keep on putting your head down do do take your head up and say that’s okay, that’s absolutely fine that I tried that. And I remember being at a session where somebody asked a recruiter about, you know, what if I do my startup and it doesn’t work out, will that be sort of viewed negatively? And absolutely not was the answer from the recruiter. And I’ve even seen somebody who you know, didn’t progress their business and decided to go out into the working world again, and they were snapped up because someone who can sort of, you know, work to their own timelines who can engineer those who can think differently, you can be brave, who could bring things forward? Absolutely. someone that you know, would be really valued in any setting. So don’t be afraid, but do not enter underestimate how hard it is. And if it doesn’t work out, that’s, that’s fine, too. It’s actually a really good thing and a really good lesson to learn.
Dave: Excellent, thank you very much. Anything that you’d like people to do call to action?
Angela: Call to action? You know, I guess and you’re seeing myself, my colleagues a particular very friendly and I think my approach is to give and maybe get back then or you know, the other way around, because I don’t mind people engaging with me. If it’s on LinkedIn, a lot of messages note to that or you know, true calls coming into us, don’t be afraid to come and chat to us. And we’re here. And you know, most of the time we are meeting people every single day and every single week and talk to us will offer advice even if it’s not, you know, you were potentially aiming towards coming into us. The fact that we are a group of people with lots of experience in the startup world and working with lots of startup companies, maybe we can give you something that could help and I like, I like to have people on the phone. So thanks very much for that call. And it just really helped me to think about things in a different way. That’s very satisfying.
Dave: Excellent. So on LinkedIn, I’ll put these in the show notes, but where else can people reach you?
Angela: So you’re more than welcome to email me at [email protected] and I don’t use Instagram for this I use Instagram for my photography are there but also on Twitter. So I’m Angela_Duffy or I think it’s @_AngelaDuffy, I should check your answer.
Dave: But I’ll put it in the show notes. So they’ll be ready.
Angela: Yeah. Twitter, LinkedIn and email. [email protected]
Dave: Excellent. Thank you so much for joining us. And thank you all for listening.
Angela: Thank you.
Until next time, remember any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.