Making Ireland better for startups

Making Ireland better for startups

Guest Andy O'Connor Programme Manager for Startup Ireland and CEO and Founder of Zappaz


Tue, 13 Aug 2019 04:20:54 GMT


Andy talks to us about his work with Startup Ireland as well as the journey to product market fit with Zappaz.


Guest Andy O'Connor Programme Manager for Startup Ireland and CEO and Founder of Zappaz


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Dave: Hey folks! In this episode, we are talking to Andy O’Connor. He is the program manager for startup Ireland, an organization trying to make Ireland more attractive and habitable for startups. They are creating a manifesto and for the government to take some actions to help assist the startup community. He’s also the CEO and founder of Zappaz a company that are but, I don’t want to butcher this but basically trying to improve the engagement with company or service or organization. That’s the best word with an organization’s clients or customers. I hope you enjoy and learn something.

Intro Music

Dave: Hello, and welcome to the podcast. I’m your host, Dave Albert. In the 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, we’re joined by Andy OConnor, Program Manager at Startup Ireland and CEO and founder of Zappaz, Did I pronounce that right, Andy?

Andy: And more or less.

Dave: More or less.

Andy: We’re still struggling with that one.

Dave: Well, thank you so much for joining us.

Andy: Cheers. Dave

Dave: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Startup Ireland and Zappaz?

Andy: Zappaz

Dave: Maybe start with how you pronounce that properly?

Andy: Yeah, well, I can give a bit of background actually why we probably chose that name. It’s an interesting story behind that. But the Zappaz, it’s an online platform. And division is quite issued on it. It’s we want to help drive human progress, online and through representation and engagement. So it’s like an online engagement platform where people get to answer six questions and give feedback to influence like products or communities. That’s what we’re, that’s what we’re driving towards anyway. But we’re still working on that at least have product-market fit?

Dave: No sounds, it sounds very good. I’d love to get the answer to six questions from my users.

Andy: And then Startup Ireland then is like a nonprofit organization in Ireland. And what we do there is we, division there is to, to make, like Ireland, the best place globally to start state scale and succeed.

Dave: Excellent.

Andy: So that’s quite an audacious vision as well. And I only joined Startup Ireland in January. And it was really, because of the Zappaz platform that I ended up engaging with our partner, but I can explain that.

Dave: Yeah. So how did that happen? What was it?

Andy: So essentially, the Zappaz platform because it’s like an engagement platform, and to try and I mean, it’s a platform where people get to give feedback to like, influence a goal or a project. So that would that aim in mind? Then I started approaching in January, I finished the frontiers program, which I did over NDI TechCrunch Gorman, which is a great program and

Dave: That’s a pre-accelerator program.

Andy: Yeah, correct. Yeah, it’s an enterprise Ireland lead, like incubation platform that runs for six months. So exit at that like, I had done some initial beta testing, and then released sort of like a soft release in January, and I was like, oh, release, now, I have to go find people to use it. So. So I approached Startup Ireland, Andrew Parish, there is brilliant. He’s been there from the outset. And so in January, I’d seen that they have released this, like Startup manifesto before in 2017, my newest Startup item was about I’d rather interesting organization, and it did well for the startup community in Ireland. And I saw an opportunity to, like use an online platform to, to build, like, engagement for this Manifesto. So instead of like, trying to put together like a select number of people from the community together to try and build a manifesto to kind of crowdsource it. And so what we did was we asked to start a community six questions to inform the agenda of the startup Manifesto. So this year, we didn’t have an agenda for the Startup Manifesto. So the agenda wasn’t specifically taxed or wasn’t specifically any particular agenda, we said, what we’ll do is ask six questions that a community try and get as much feedback as possible, and give people the opportunity to get to sort of inform our agenda? And so that’s what we ended up doing over the last four months.

Dave: Okay. So I’m not sure where we should start whether, so the Zappaz name where did that come from?

Andy: So it was actually during at the start of the new frontiers program, it was actually not as same page and had I had acquired So I mean, this is it’s been it’s been a powerful, like, journey of experience over the last year or so. Because I was like, if I have .com, I am set. Yeah, it was another name on Originally, I didn’t have .com, I said, No, I need to have .com. You know, like, it’s a political, it’s a public engagement platform. So if it’s a B2C, you know, it seems like the advice especially from like, the YC side, which I follow quite a lot, they advice, you know, you might as well have to .com and, and so there’s no benefit, no benefit to not having it. So I was like, I push for the .com of a good name.

My partner, she came up with a really good name. And I was like, this should be called samepage. And I was like, that is really good name. And so I saw and then I checked the domain, it’s gone. And of course, instead of putting effort into my Startup, which I should have done, I put effort into trying to get .com. So it was a guy turned out it was a guy in New York that owned it and over the space of about three or four months of engagement. And I checked with him. You know, I use a put on the Irish charm as much as I could. On the eventually, he agreed to sell it. He didn’t have any particular use for it. And he bought it in .com, boom, would have been worth more. And he realized that, you know, they don’t go for as much anymore. And we agreed in a price. I bought it and I was like that is it. I am sold. You know, is it and then realized that there’s this thing called trademark or an IP? And realize that there’s there’s another company out there that have an online platform called samepage. And I’m not sure I mean, the products would not be the same. But I think I’ve learned a bit about trademarks as well. And it seems like from a trademark perspective, they got quite an antiquated view on like IP, or trademarks. And if, essentially, if you’re an online platform, it seems like it’s a bit of it doesn’t matter whether you’re an online platform for, you know, selling cars or selling carpets, it seems like you kind of have a conflict of interest there, maybe maybe not, but I thought it was too much of a gray area, I would just change the name. I stressed over for about six weeks. And then I read another of one of programs, posts, and it was basically, if a name is not sufficiently bad, it is sufficiently good. And I was like I have to take that to heart. And so we’ve whittled it down and I just I went we just picked that one

Dave: That doesn’t stand for anything or just

Andy: No.

Dave: It’s just a word

Andy: You know its a bit catchy. I mean, it might not be the end name. But I mean, it’s good enough. It’s recognizable anyway if we can build a brand around it which is supposed to be.

Dave: Yeah, exactly.

So what is it that you’re doing within Startup Ireland? And what is it that you personally are trying to achieve?

Andy: Yeah, so. So when I joined, I approached Startup Ireland first off from a platform perspective, was to be it was a tool to be used to help them achieve, you know, defining the agenda, building a Startup Manifesto, and keeping people engaged, trudged the journey of that Manifesto. So, you know, if you do a survey, monkey survey disappears. So this kind of like a simpler survey it doesn’t disappear. You kept updating, you answer the six questions, you’ll get updated on the progress of the manifesto. So we have that on the system at the moment.

So as soon as the manifesto is drafted, and as we released that for public consultation, will do that on the site. So you’ll see that it was, you know, we’re getting one step closer to having that manifesto submitted as a pre-budget submission in September. So that was that’s the tool. And so when I approached with the tool, I realized I was, I was like, you know, so is there, is there a marketing team that you know, that that could use this, and it was basically, it was like, Well, you know, if you get involved, you’re going to have to thrive this a bit. I think Andrew Parish that he was, he was quite cute. He realized very quickly like that, here’s a guy that is willing to get involved.

And so it became quite apparent pretty quickly, that there was an opportunity to get involved and drive forward as well. So not only did so then we kind of come to an agreement, I said that what if I want to get involved? We will do a six month plan, and we’ll get the manifesto of it. And, and I have enough passion, I guess about the Startup community. And I’ve followed Startup Ireland for a while. So I was kind of, and I like it and involved in like nonprofits. So I saw an opportunity to do like eight hours, you know, couple of hours, volunteer in a week. And to sort of drive it, but then use the tool as one channel. And that’s, that’s what we’ve done.

Dave: That’s one thing with volunteer organizations, if you suggest something, suddenly you become the champion chairperson for that.

Andy: Absolutely

Dave: So I remember that from the Junior Chamber of Commerce back in the United States, but I was a member of how if you brought something, it’s just it’s, it was a place for people, young people, young adults to hang out and drink beer, trying to make business contacts. And then if you suggested something, you would

Andy: That’s great. We’re just good power in that, right? Yeah.

Dave: If I understood that better, when I was younger, the way to get unbelievable amounts of experience in positions, you should never have the right to have experience in volunteer organizations. Absolutely. Yeah, you can get organizational and, and nearly managerial experience just by volunteering for things that

Andy: I can definitely take a takeaway actually from from volunteer nonprofits. And that’s been my experience as well, you know, for two years, I would have volunteered in different you know, even even small community and clubs and things. And the experience you get is absolutely brilliant. And but I liked the of the freedom that if you if you come up with an innovative or a new suggestion, or creative way of doing something, you can own it and that you can drive it down in the organization.

Dave: That’s true. You don’t have layers of management that will wash.

Andy: Absolutely, yeah. Yeah, you have more flexibility.

Dave: But you also have less budget. Usually.

Andy: Absolutely.

Dave: So what what is it that that like? The actual specifics of what startup Ireland give to Startups?

What, what, what would, as a startup founder, directly get out of that? Or is it more tangential, based on trying to cultivate the ecosystem?

Andy: Yeah, so we don’t, we don’t directly offer any support as to like Startups directly, what we do is we are like, visible as, like, a bit more visible advocate for the startup community, and try and like represent our community, and to like, accelerate a change in culture. So it’s to help, you know, benefit the Startup community, but also to benefit the ecosystem, and the economy as well.

Dave: So so like, in the manifesto, you have a copy of here,

Andy: dog eared?

Dave: I was looking at it on the website. And there were there four main sections. Is that right?

Andy: So that that’s how the 2017, 2018 manifesto was organized. So we’ve organized it a bit differently this year. So we didn’t, we decided not to have they were there were pillars, sort of four pillars like talent, and under the three. And this year, we decided because we were crowdsourcing it a bit more, that we leave it a bit more Freeform. And I suppose like when you see with these people, just submissions and manifestos, you know, it can be difficult to get the year of people in power. You know, and it’s, you know, if you look at it from their perspective, I suppose, you know, they’ve got conflicting agendas, conflicting communities that are coming at them, which, you know, different sort of opportunities. And so we didn’t want to take the same approach that was used for the reports where there’s like, lots of recommendations, and no clear set path to how to implement them.

Instead, this year, we, based on the six questions, we wanted to, to figure out exactly what was the if we were to make one change, what would it be? And so to start with that, and so and then to be able to deliver, you know, a bit of a backdrop to explaining exactly what benefits start a better startup ecosystem could have for Ireland. Because I think, again, it’s all too often where we’re working at every day, we’re all Startups here. And we all understand that you know, how, you know how Startup would cause benefit of on the ecosystem and beyond. But I mean, not other people outside of that might not necessarily understand. So what we wanted to do was to sort of build a story, and be able to give a bit of lay the groundwork into recommendations stuff, which would start from if we were to make one career change, what would it be? And then to try and set a plan forward from that.

Dave: Do you have that one clear?

Andy: Absolutely, yeah. Yeah, well, I think, if we were Yeah, I mean, there’s like we’ve one clear sort of vision in the manifesto one clear message and that is that an innovation economy, as opposed to like an economy based around foreign direct investment has, is better for the economy, because it has a sustainable growth model. And that’s, that’s, that’s the clear message that we’re trying to trying to give that sort of that paradigm shift and understanding too because, you know, foreign direct investment is doing so well, foreign at the moment, and we’re not suggesting that any of that we try and disincentivize foreign direct investment, we want to continue, yeah, but, and we want to build on it build upon us.

And, I mean, again, like, when you’re working in a Startup, you understand very clearly, you know, the benefits of innovation, you know, they it’s, it’s even innovation in entrepreneurship in a company, you know, like the benefits of innovation lead to fundamentally is that, that benefits, you know, an organization or if it’s a Startup, it’s their customers. And it’s trying to, to innovate to add more value that was there before. And so and innovate, if you were to take that from an ecosystem perspective, it’s trying to demonstrate just innovation on a systemic level, or if we can provide an ecosystem that is embraced culturally within Ireland. So we can embrace the creative nature of Ireland and say, here is a model where we can take that that create the raw creativity, turn it into innovation, and then to add value back sort of into the country internationally, and also to add value back into the economy as well.

Dave: Okay, looking forward to seeing more. I understand what you’re saying. And I, you know, I took the survey. So I remember some of the different points. And what you mentioned, there actually sort of encapsulates a number of those elements. One of the biggest ones, in my opinion, is the cost of living is impossible,

Andy: Absolutely. yeah.

Dave: And that is quite likely tied to direct foreign investments. And the history of the way business has been done here. So I can see how changing that area

Andy: Yeah, and the cost of living is actually is, is under report, only because we ask asked six questions to the community and realized that that cost of living and housing is a huge barrier. And it’s almost, it’s almost up there, which financial support and so financial support commit on top for the entrepreneur, and then close second was the cost of living and housing. So it’s crazy to think that, you know, I mean, it’s clear that housing is a crisis in Dublin in particular, yeah. And it just goes to show you that in alike, we’re not in the property sector, we’re in like a Startup or an innovation sector. And it has such a fundamental impact is clearly a crisis situation and Ireland.

Dave: What’s does that mean? You know, I don’t know, if anyone is under the impression that you make a lot of money in the Startup, in the beginning, you do not. If you’re smart, you’re paying yourself as absolutely little as you can to survive.

Andy: Absolutely.

Dave: Here in Dublin, that’s a lot more than it would be in some other places, but maybe not more than it would be in the Silicon Valley but also here in Ireland. Dublin is kind of the place where you’re going to have your new connection to a lot of technologies actual usable, internet, you know, a lot of places outside the city, the internet’s not the best.

Andy: Absolutely, yeah.

Dave: It’s harder to live without a car in places other than in the city. So I don’t know how to say. It’s a hard problem. That’s, that’s for sure.

Andy: Yeah, and I think that’s where that’s where I think we would benefit from having a very, very mature Innovation Model, where people who feel strongly enough about these particular, like, certain issues, like, you know, would it be innovation in rural areas, or what are the connectivity issues, you know, that we have, we have an innovation sort of model there that people can plug into and say, Hey, I actually, I feel strongly enough about this, that I actually want to try and do something about it, and maybe try and generate, like, a Startup or try and leverage the sort of innovation knowledge that will be in such an ecosystem to try and come up with a good solution for that. Because at the moment, it’s without innovation, it’s just, let’s just throw grant funding at it and try and try to use best efforts to come up with a better solution. Whereas if we can, if we can have systemic, a culture of systemic innovation in Ireland, then we certainly, have all these extra tools to solve all of these social social problems that we have.

Dave: So when do you think the report will be ready for?

Andy: So Does the report have to be ready by the end of August? Because we have because the pre-budget submissions are details like early September, okay. So we will we will be suggesting it’s a pre-budget submission technically for the budget 2020. But our Manifesto, we’ll have recommendations a stretch well beyond that budget. And really, what we want to do is elect a cultural change. So instead of, I mean, if you think back to 15, 20 years ago, in Ireland, the boom, the Celtic Tiger, you know, the incentive or the, the encouragement for for everybody who, for like kids, or school leavers at that point was to go to college, get it, go to college, get it get skilled, and then to get it to get it like a regular nine to five job and like, that’s lasted, that’s the culture of Ireland’s been pushed very strongly into our jobs. And it’s about, you know, trying to try to buy one of these prestigious jobs in a tech multinational. And that is, that’s, that’s got us to where we are now, you know, like, and it’s really, you know, promoted Ireland on the international scene. And it’s great to have these tech companies in Ireland, but now we can, we can use that as a is like a springboard to set up and a better economy, a more fundamental innovation economy, and to have to sell a culture where people are joining Startups and are sort of chasing, maybe things that are a bit more difficult. You know, I’m chasing their dreams or chasing visions. And live in their experiences that’s in the ecosystem to try and achieve, you know, like setting up their own Startup and achieve innovation. But at the moment, the culture, the culture isn’t about, you know, sort of self-fulfillment, through a vision, it’s more about get yourself a stable job. And and I

Dave: Which is an illusion.

Andy: Right? Yeah.

Dave: I mean, you look at, okay, so the large multinationals big ones right now, they’re pretty stable. But beyond the top two or three, most long term stable jobs are not. I mean, how many do you hear about having, you know, layoffs or, or other cuts that end up affecting people? So I mean, I don’t know. When I was getting into, actually finally, starting full time. It seemed not that much riskier. Although the pay is worse. And the hours are longer.

Andy: It’s a lot more satisfying though

Dave: I try to give the right picture to listeners, but it is definitely ridiculously hard, but also ridiculously rewarding.

Andy: Absolutely. Yeah. yeah.

Dave: But so I wonder if some of these ecosystem changes are both beneficial for the startup community, but also for innovation within larger organizations. And if having some of them as partners in this might not help? Like, especially like, so I just one of the first things came to mind was like the Google Ventures. Yeah, right. So they’ve got things going on, where an ecosystem here that is more beneficial for things like that just does that make sense? Is there some?

Andy: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, Google is quite good at I mean, did you have Google for entrepreneurs to do? Startup Grind is sponsored by Google, I’m pretty sure. And but they do sponsor a lot of initiatives in the ecosystem. And they do actually want, it seems like, today, they want to promote entrepreneurship, you know, sort of around globally, because they do target many different hubs. And it’s, it’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because the more that they can build, like you say, a scene of innovation, then that will, ultimately Google can tap into that then and bring some of that in houses as well. So it’s certainly it’s a good point you make

Dave: Do you know, who will be the specific person or? Yeah, I guess just the specific person that will be reviewing what you’ve gotten for that budget.

Andy: Set a person who will be responsible for reviewing the manifesto.

Dave: Yeah. When it comes to this. He said it’s part of the pre-budget. Yeah. Targeted or target? That sounds a little heinous. But

Andy: Yeah, well, then pre-budget submission goes to department finance. And but we would we would be aiming to have a political backer for the manifesto as well.

Dave: I guess that’s, that’s really what the question is.

Andy: I mean, whoever we can find, wherever we can tag on the backward is.

Dave: So you hear that listeners if you know, anyone who’s part of pre-budget,

Andy: submission, councils maybe

Dave: submission council here in Ireland, reach out?

Andy: Absolutely. Yeah.

Dave: Is there anything else about startup Ireland, or the manifesto? That went on that I? Because I guess the area is a little bit too wide that I’m not sure. What are the ventures to ask?

Andy: Yeah, I mean, I would just finish up I’d like to, I suppose from our perspective, it’s about culture. And it’s about if we don’t like making recommendations for percentage points on capital gains, or on any particular incentive, is, is ultimately marginal. And it’s not going to bring elite the cultural change that is needed to really, to really double down and having innovation and economy based on innovation, which is, which is very lofty, it’s a very lofty vision internationally. But if Ireland, Ireland already has a good name and tech, internationally, right, and if they could just double down, and just if, you know, present themselves, but having that strong vision for the future to say, look, we’re putting up our hand here, we think Ireland can base or any economy on innovation, and we commit to making that happen. With all the pitfalls, and, and all of the uncertainty that will come with that. I think that is a very, very powerful message to send out to the international community. And even before you achieve and achieve success with that vision, I think that vision alone withdraw an awful lot of interest internationally, in sort of, in Startups in tech and innovation.

Dave: So what can we do to help that way being myself and listeners and people, listeners now?

Andy: Yeah, so I guess? I mean, you can you could, there. I mean, we’re inside of Ireland, we were on social media, right. So I mean, I any sort of engagement or involvement there is ultimately helpful. But, I mean, ultimately, I see the cultural change, is it at the moment, it’s kind of like, you know, you know, the way the the civil rights movement happened in Ireland lately, and there was an appeal for, for gay marriage, you know, and, and that was a really big turning point in Ireland, because, you know, up until then, it was kind of it was, it was a quiet situation, you know, like, a lot of parents wouldn’t necessarily have accepted or what wouldn’t want to hear that they’re, the kids are gay. And now, that that become so public, that parents are now and are now not afraid to admit and to acknowledge, you know, that their kids are gay. And, and it’s brilliant, you know, and it’s not that they understand props about what being a gay is but they do understand that, that it makes their, their, you know, sons and daughters happier. And that it is, it is a thing to be, and that they are happy being that and that the parents can say, but I don’t understand it, but I’m happy for you.

And I think that’s what kinda needs to happen with entrepreneurship as well. Because at the moment, it’s kind of like, you should go for a stable job. And if you’re, if you’re, I’m not sure if you’ve experienced that they’ve what I think a lot of people, they find one day they go out on their own at first and they have a vision, you kind of want you kind of feel like you to need to keep it to yourself, because people are too easy to say, Oh, you know, I’m not sure that’s going to work for you, you know, I think you you know, why would you leave a stable job, you know, you’re, you’re, you’re in a nine to five job, it’s permanent, it’s pensionable. It’s making a lot, you know, you’re making good money there, and you need, you’re going to be making a quarter of that. So we need to change that culture. And, and I think it’s about being a bit more proud to be like to be chasing something difficult, but bigger, so too proud to be like, to be lucky in Startup.

Dave: Failure is also a bit of a bit too much of a stigma here. Because chances are, there’s going to be a failure.

Andy: Absolutely. Yeah. I’m taking risks.

Dave: Yeah. I mean, even for Startups that succeed, they are failure after failure after failure after failure.

Andy: Sure, absolutely. Yeah.

Dave: Changing until you get the right mix. And then that’s when success

Andy: or failure can be synonymous with learning half of the time.

Dave: Yeah. Should be that’s the only failure is not learning from your failures.

Andy: Yeah, but it’s very much it’s it’s a risky thing. I think here like people, people don’t like to see other people taking risks. It’s not, it’s not that it’s just not encouraged. Because it’s not necessarily a culture thing. It’s because culturally, for the last 20 years, you’ve been pushed towards stability. Because that’s what to be companies coming in the offer, which is great. So now we have to take stability, sort of learn on a lean on us. And I will say, right, now let’s start taking a bit more risks. And now let’s start encouraging other people to do the same as well. And I think there’s a there’s a kind of a movement needed among your listeners and among the Startup community. And it’s, it’s like, proud to be a Startup. And it’s to own it a bit more to be a bit more proud about us and to and to ultimately engage in like the startup Ireland and try and get a bit more backing for this manifesto as well.

Dave: Are there any events, any startup Ireland events?

Andy: there will be? We haven’t locked down the dates for that yet. So will going to have a public release of the manifesto sometime soon. So I can give you the details, Dave and they’ll be released publicly as well as on socials.

Dave: Yeah, I mean, you know, even excuse me, beyond the actual release, but as an ongoing, I don’t know if status would be the right word. But, you know, networking events, within trying to bring other people from within the Startup community into talking with people from Startup Ireland, just to understand what’s happening help drive the agenda, make the connections?

Andy: Yeah, yeah, that’s a good point. Yeah. I mean,

Dave: Careful I’ll upload it.

Andy: Yeah, yeah. I’m not owning such a thing at the moment.

But yeah, I mean, it’s, we’ve had other like ad hoc networking events, like we had one there about seven weeks, six weeks ago, a bit of fireside chat with Mary Thompson came in, it was brilliant. And she’s a former CNBC reporter. And that kind of coincided with sort of the final public, public consultation that we were doing. So that was a really good event. But we haven’t You’re right, we haven’t had sort of a regular networking event. And I think once we released the manifesto, and we see what the reception is, we’re going to have to build upon the manifesto to build visibility. And I think a good way to do it would be with, you know, with regular networking events. I mean, we do, yeah, we do sort of ad hoc or informal ones, which worked out quite well.

Dave: It’d be, it’d be good to maybe get some government representatives into having like the panel discussion between existing Startups or, you know, successful Startups or maybe unsuccessful Startups and a government person to kind of make sure that those things are in front of them.

Andy: That’s a good point. It’s kind of like his panelists question out of a tangent. They have a tangent of like, Startup our successful Startup and policy.

Dave: Yeah, yeah. Nearly a debate, but not really a debate. But just so both sides can understand where each other coming from?

Andy: Yeah, it’s an interesting suggestion. Yeah. I mean, we’re seeing over in the states that, you know, like the heads of tech are getting more and more involved in policy, right.

Dave: Yeah, exactly.

Andy: Yeah. And I think Ireland is so small, that’s for Startups to truly on. Remaining headquartered in Ireland the just probably more of an opportunity and probably more of a need to get involved a bit more, you can sort of stay away and but like, you can’t in Silicon Valley as much, and even there they are starting to get more involved.

Dave: Okay, so onto, I guess, Zappaz

Andy: Zappaz

Dave: Sorry, I’ll get it eventually.

Andy: I think you’re making me want to change the name there.

Dave: Because I am familiar with companies Zappos

Andy: Yes. Yeah, yeah.

Dave: And that is in my head a little bit. And I’m trying not to say that and I’m trying so hard not to say that in butchering the name Zappas.

Dave: Zappas. No, it was wrong?

Andy: You got it.

Dave: Oh! I got it so we starting that up, other than the name change that you were not necessarily interested in doing until you had to, what’s been some of the biggest challenges?

Andy: Yeah, so I mean, so the way I’ve seen it from the start is that I mean, it’s, it’s the first Startup that I’ve been involved in. So it’s been very much a learning curve. And it’s been, it’s been a tool to help me learn about, you know, all of the aspects of a Startup. So, I mean, I did everything backward. Everything. So I’ve made, I’ve made all the mistakes of, you know, to the point where I can start googling about the mistakes that I don’t make next. So, you know, like building day will come? Yeah. I did that and I’m getting to the point, now, I’m starting to realize how important vision, like having having a vision having a mission, and having a clear message is because I guess when I started off first, it was, it was something slightly different, you know, I pivoted a few times.

And so, what it is now. And what the idea of what it should be, is kind of there still a bit of a mismatch. And I realize, you know, that I need to sort of take more or more innovative principles, and try and try and do more initial testing and more measuring to aim for product-market fit. And so before I would have just, okay, I’ll build it and they will come, I built, they didn’t come. And then I realized, you know, that I need to be measuring a lot more around, you know, sort of user option. Well, I’m trying to get feedback all the time from the from users. So it’s about like trying to have one key takeaway for me was trying to have continuous user conversations. And just anybody did you think, as a user, to try and gain some insight from them every week. And, of course, there’s plenty of blog posts and principles around what to do and what not to do when you’re talking to you to potential users. So, you know, like to try and not lead them into the product and talk about features, but to talk about the problem. And, yeah, so that’s been helpful,

Dave: Good. Who are you currently focused on as customers?

Andy: So it’s kind of like a B2B to C, right? Because we want to help like companies or organizations to form an audience, and to basically remarket them after, after people answers these questions and give feedback, then you have an opportunity to remarket them and say, hey, look, we’re going to keep you giving you updates on this feedback that you’ve given us and show you the impact you can have with us over time, because companies want to engage with their customers, right? And, and customers want to be heard, but when you think about like likes, shares and followers and current social media like it’s not, it’s very shallow engagement. And I think people are becoming quite frustrated with the level of, of influence they have, you know, by taking lots of likes, and by, by share reshare. And so we were striving to offer a deeper, more meaningful interaction. And you asked me a question, I kind of forgot what it was?

Dave: Whos your customer?

Andy: Yes. So yeah, so because there’s two because will be B2B to C, we have an audience, which are the potential users or customers of our customers. And then we also have customers, which are the companies that want to engage with their audience. So I would so really retargeting like, B2C, SAS customers that are internationalized, have disparate audiences around, maybe in different markets. And not necessarily only in Ireland, where they’re, they’re used to having one on one conversations with their users, and or customers. And now they’re finding that they have like a surplus or over like, they’re having thousands of, of now users on their platform, and they’re finding it difficult to engage. So now, there’s an opportunity to use electronic solution to give all of their customers a slice of influence on there, like goals or their projects.

Dave: Okay.

Andy: If that makes sense?

Dave: Yeah.

Andy: So that’s what we’re aiming for, but again, we’re still kind of we’re, we’re still iterating. I mean, I guess one of the learnings that, that I found was very important was, again, build it, and they will come they didn’t. And then I thought, well, if I approach customers, then they could put their audience in our platform. And I mean, if presenting Startup’s are prized about more than adding is there are the users that they have hired, earned, you know, on, if you think about like, cost per customer, like did they don’t, they’re not going to give that away for free. So what we need to do is we need to build an audience now. And then to have an audience in our platform that is that is, so the users need to be bought into the idea as well, that they can take and have influenced by, by having deeper interactions with a company.

So we need to find users first engage with those, and then then, and then have more and more companies for them to engage with. So the intention is for a user is that like you Dave you would have you know, you have strong opinions, you have strong, you know, like opinions on maybe on a product level, you might have certain products that you feel very strongly about. And only they would have feature x or, and if only they were listening a bit more to customers, they might understand, you know, that we don’t like this. And then on a community perspective, you know, like, you might live in a local area, or you might have, you know, feel like that you want to sort of things, you want things to change in the local area, you know, engage with the community. And then there’s like on a country level as well. So, so we’re trying to give one platform where user can have all have their say, in no matter what aspect of their life they want, and to have their say and have influence.

Dave: Okay.

Andy: And we do that by asking them six questions that that’s the don’t disappear.

Dave: I’m trying to connect it directly to the survey filled out for the Startup Manifesto. Yeah, I’m thinking through how, how that works. And your golden customer? I mean, you’ve said, SAS is one of them, but it sounds like it’s a little bit later than early Startup. So startups started to mature, or existing, long-standing.

Andy: Yeah. Well, early customer, like early Startups like myself, like we should be talking to our customers directly. Right. Yeah. So we should not be putting an electronic to, to kind of remove the uncomfortable conversations that we need to have with our customers. So so that’s where I wouldn’t encourage. I’m, originally I thought that it might be useful for earlier stage companies, but then I realized that you know, I wouldn’t, I can’t use myself because I need to have the direct one on one conversations with customers. And I would encourage early-stage companies to do the same because it’s, it’s completely fundamental to, to everything you do, the more of those uncomfortable conversations, you’re going to have the more comfortable insights you will learn. And you might end up pivoting to success.

Dave: So what’s next for Zappaz?

Andy: So what we’re doing is we’re realizing that companies won’t go on without an audience, but we also be what we want to do is add value to users. So we’re adding some features, and to, to have a bit of gamification around to measure people’s influence in a company, our community. So that’s such you can, you can be recognized as an influencer, if you participate, and like answer and like get involved in, like, doing surveys and goals or objectives you’re interested in, you know, getting involved in discussions and just happen that company to develop like a new a new project or a new feature, or to have a specific goal in mind as well.

So to do that, too, that’s what sort of fleshing out those features first. But also, what we’re going to do is we’re going to expand the net of contents that we have, and we’re going to start targeting more political content. Because I see that there’s a, there’s more value to be provided to the user, if they can answer six questions on like in a campaign, like a public campaign, and then be kept updated in that campaign, and it gives them like a different perspective on the content, right? Because if you want to see where a particular campaign is, at the moment, if you Google it, you look up news articles, and you kind of have to do a bit of trolling to try and understand, you know, when is this damn thing going to be ready? Or what, you know, what? What kind of direction is it going in here as if you could just hit one page and just see sort of, well, here, here, it has progressed, here it is beyond the discovery stage, it’s like it’s 20%, or 30%, or 40%? Complete. So 47:23 I think that says over a campaign for you, like we saw for my differ and, you know, like gay rights. And so that campaign could have been on the system, and then we could have kept sort of a track of its progress, as it was nearing completion, and what exactly what was going to be delivered from the campaign. So we tracked sort of the goals of the campaign and keep people updated as to its as it’s progressed.

Dave: Okay. So I guess, you know, especially with Manifesto, you’ve already flushed out the tool itself. I’m sure there, there are not features that you want to add, but I guess you really just need more customers.

Andy: Absolutely. Yeah. So it’s, yeah, I mean, it’s very much it’s getting on more content on the system to try to entice users to add more value for them, to have more campaigns that they’re interested in, give them the opportunity to, to get involved have to influence, and then to follow the impact that they’re having over time. So we need so that’s, that’s one objective to try and get more user adoption on the system.

I read a very good article lately. And it was in the first round. And I can’t remember who wrote the article, but it was basically around product-market fit. And it was, it was timely, you know, I realized, I learned how to read, you know about something that I’m chasing, in real-time, rather than learn, to do the wrong thing first, and then, you know, learn how not to do it. So this article on the product-market fit was it was, it was like a model that you could use to try and measure your product-market fit. And it was basically, it was four questions to ask your customers every week, or on a repeated basis.

And the first question was something like, how disappointed would you be if you couldn’t use product X anymore? And so it’s like, not disappointed, somewhat disappointed, or very disappointed. And they recommend that you would get product-market fit? Or you’ve achieved product-market fit? If 40% if at least 40% of people who answer the survey answer, very disappointed. So thatway, you know that you know that you’re delivering a good value to at least 40% of people who are using the system. And that’s that was the first, that was a very good article on exactly, you know, I have to or the way to measure product-market fit.

Dave: Very nice.

Andy: I’ll get you the link for that.

Dave: Yeah, please. So, anything else, anything we haven’t covered.

Andy: So, I guess, like, the one or big learning for me over the last few months was around, around a vision. And unlike, unlike actually defining, like a vision or mission statement for the company, because you know, a lot, a lot of a product changes, right. So like, it’s like, you have an idea for your product, you don’t write it down but you started developing like a product or you start developing an idea. And suddenly you realize people don’t like that idea. And you have to pivot and change it. And if you and you are the only people that can develop a vision for your company, right, because you have a vision there somewhere. It’s extremely helpful to write that vision down. Because you, then you’re the person to create it, you’re the right person to do it, if you’re a CTO or founder, and in the executive level, write down the vision.

And at least then, no matter what uncertainty you’re dealing with, you know, you can just look back at that vision and go, I know there’s a greater vision, there does, and it helps sort of it does help with decision making. When you’re realizing that the product is not is you know, it’s not. It’s not having enough traction. So you see, if you, if your product does not have enough traction, you have to decide, okay, well, I have to change something. But you could have multiple different paths that you could choose, which path do I choose? And it’s by having a very, very strongly defined vision. Do you understand? Well, I will I exclude these paths, because these aren’t alignment, my vision. And so now that reduces my options. And we do best, you know, we do best when we’re operating a constraint anyway. So

Dave: That makes a lot of sense.

Andy: Yeah. So I found that was very, very helpful for Startup Ireland, for us to clearly write down the vision and just get alignment for everybody who’s involved. And at least then it allows us to come on, like here today very clearly and say what the vision is. And so it’s to make Ireland, the best place in the world to have, you know, ambitious young companies to start scale and succeed.

Dave: That sounds great.

Andy: Yeah. And so that’s that, that allows us to, like not put a focus on things that don’t help us achieve that mission. And it’s the same I mean, if, if organizations are slow and backing the manifesto, for example, then we can turn around and say, Well, if you’re not helping us achieve our mission, then you know, we just, we just have to keep going ahead with our vision and our mission. And, and if people want to contribute and feel, you know, feel strongly about the same vision, then then we collaborate with them or we partner with them to success.

Dave: Okay.

Andy: And the vision is Startup Ireland doesn’t own the vision, right? So like, it’s not as it’s not like, Oh, we are the owners of this vision that you can have it? So if somebody else wants to join and efficient, then then we will certainly, it certainly makes sense for us to partner with an organization that will but if another organization comes along goes and was like no, I don’t quite, our vision isn’t quite aligned with yours. So we, you know, our company mission, our company vision is certainly something different. That we understand very quickly, you know, that’s, that’s, it doesn’t make sense for us to change our vision to meet your vision, just so we can have a partnership together. And so I’ve learned that from Startup Ireland apply that to Zappaz and it’s really helped them with making the message a lot easier. So now and you know, especially when, you know, because in a Startup, I have some you know, sometimes you wake up in the morning, you’re like, Oh, my God, what am I doing? Where am I going? By having that vision written down? I can just look at the vision. And I can say is this vision, still the vision? Is it still the vision of this company or of this idea that I have. And if it doesn’t, the vision can change. But at least I’m committing to it by writing it down on paper. And if I’m committing to a change, then it allows, it allows all other decisions to sort of fall off that.

Dave: I like it.

Andy: So and I have another article actually there was a read another brilliant article on vision. And it was from a guy called James Clear. And it was that most like, most failures happen because of the failure of vision. So there’s like a tear of failures, right? And its failure of vision, a failure, a strategy, or a failure of tactics. And if you if you fail to set a vision at the very start, that that’s that failure is attributable to to like the overall failure of a lot of lot more organizations, rather than if you have a very strong vision, then it’s you know, it’s it is a failure of strategy or failure of tactics is easier to overcome, right? Because tactics, tactics is only execution. So if you’re not, if you’re not executing, right, it’s easier to do pivot on tactic and say, Okay, this is not working, let’s try something different. But if you’ve got an overall vision, and if your vision, if you’re failing on your vision, then all then it’s gonna be very difficult to build a strategy and to execute on that. And so you find that all I realize now that my I’m fundamentally failing on my vision.

Dave: Hmm. Okay. No, I like, I like that, let me know that. I think that is one of the reasons that people often get their strategy and tactics confused. Because of the lack of including vision within that, so they got a mixed together, I get a strategy.

Andy: yeah, that’s I I struggled with, like product direction, because it wasn’t working. You know, it’s easy when you have if your product is working, it’s easy, it’s easy to say, okay, we should continue going in this direction. But if your product is failing, then it’s to its to understand why one sense push to understand why you’re going to keep going is the more difficult. You know, the more difficult thing to overcome. But if you can have a strong vision, then you can overcome failure time and time again because you know, you have a strong vision, did you still believe in once you hit failure, products not working? Okay. But I still have a strong vision here. Why is this failure is it, is it fail is my vision does that change? And if the failure No, it’s just a failure of you didn’t, you know, the vision is still the same, then I can pick myself up, dust off and go, right, let’s, let’s try again. And it allows us to overcome the all of this, you know, sort of deal the repeat of failure is that we know we’re going to encounter during like Startups.

Dave: All right. Nice.

Any call to action? For the listeners that we haven’t mentioned already?

Andy: Absolutely. It defines your vision.

Dave: That’s a fantastic one.

Andy: Yeah. And I mean, like I, like I said, like, I volunteer with a Startup Community, I love to hear from Startups and to get involved. So if people are struggling with vision, or they want the links of some of the things that that I’ve encountered during my quest to define a stronger vision, and they can reach out. My email is [email protected]

Dave: I’ll definitely include links to the website of your email, Startup Ireland, the Zappaz and any social media platform that you’re you frequent

Andy: Startup Ireland has a good following. So that’s @StartupIreland. And for Zappaz, it’s on our own platform. It’s So we did have, we did do a certain amount on social media. But it didn’t, it didn’t contribute to my product, Market fit. So I stopped for a moment.

Dave: All right. Oh, that’s all. Thanks so much for joining us.

Andy: Yeah. And thanks for having me on the show. Dave, it’s brilliant

Dave: It’s fantastic. And I look forward to having you back once the manifesto is ready and being reviewed.

Andy: And we could do one at an at a networking event.

Dave: Yeah. Absolutely. That would be great! I love that. So thanks very much.

Andy: All right. Cheers, Dave.

Dave: And thank you all for listening. Until next time, remember any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.