Guest Dermot Casey | NDRC, Startups, Accelerator Programmes
Dermot Casey and I discussing the NDRC, startups and accelerator programmes
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Dave: Hello and welcome to the podcast. I’m your host, Dave Albert. In this show, I talked about technology building a company as a CTO and co founder and have guests to discuss their roles in technology and entrepreneurship.
Dave: Today I’m joined by Dermot Casey, a venture lead at the NDRC accelerator program that I’m a part of, and he was the CTO and CEO of story full before they were acquired. Thanks for joining me Dermot. I really appreciate it.
Dermot: Very welcome Dave.
Dave: Is there anything in your bio that you think is very relevant?
Dermot: Why, I suppose just had a variety of roles before joining NDRC and I started as a developer and writing code and then started managing developers and then started running projects. And we know people would think it was sort of program management type roles and then went from very large organization which was g with 350,000 people into a start up with two and which historical which we built up over and number years up to 35 people when I left and subsequently that was sold to new score and it’s been three years doing consultancy with a mix of startups and SMEs and larger organizations before joining NDRC.
Dave: Cool. How long have you been here?
Dermot: Almost three years, so it’ll be three years in January.
Dave: Nice. How many cohorts of startups have you been through
Dermot: How many cohorts, so we did 3,4,5,6.. 7 I suppose seven. Yeah, so it’s about seven cohorts of companies that I’ve worked with directly and a couple of others that have interacted with. So we’ve added additional programs and going Watford and Oman, as well over the last few years.
Dave: Cool. So for a startup that was going to come in to the NDRC. What are some of the things that you wish that people approaching knew beforehand?
Dermot: What do I wish? So it’s probably less what they know, but more of where they are and what their plans and expectations are. I think it’s a startup is a very different type of company to to to a corporate or our traditional sort of business and I think for anybody who’s coming out of that environment is coming out of a corporate environment that they have reset their expectations. So it is it is a, you know, in, in a startup environment, particularly the start up with a couple of co founders, you’ll be doing everything and you’ll be involved in everything. And that’s everything from making the tea and wondering where the toilet paper is, to making strategic decisions about who you’re going to partner with, and fundamental decisions but the architectures of your product, your customers, and sometimes you’ll be going from one to the other so it’s a very, very different environment to sort traditional traditional environment as an employee. So i think it’s it’s a people are aware and and, you know, set their expectations around us and understand the challenges that are actually involved. And I think one of the key things for us when we’re looking at ventures looking at companies is that we have founders who are coachable, who can take feedback, it doesn’t mean that they’re not highly opinionated and very strong willed and that kind of goes without saying, but that they can listen to and take on advice and figure out what elements of that advice are most relevant and most important for their business. I think there’s some of the some of the key things is important and understand what we’re trying to do in terms in accelerator. It’s all focused on you know, how we can help them drive their business forward and it’s about essentially about learning faster I talked to people and say look what I try and do in NDRC is I try and compressed into sort of four or five months and what it took us you know 18 to 20 months to do in story full and it’s really it’s it’s, it’s just learning some of those lessons faster and adapt making some of those adaptations that you need to make faster and then ideally setting your trajectory forward so that if you you commanded the accelerator that your velocity has increased as an organization and you keep it up, up that directory. So it’s not that, you know, you come to the end of an acceleration program and you’re finished. It’s just that it’s just that you’re moving in the right direction at the right speed.
Dave: That’s our session with the NDRC’s actual mentoring part that was over 18 months ago. And really, it never feels like we’re beyond the starting line. Like we finished a load of work. And it’s like, all right now we’re finally ready to start this part. And I could definitely from my own experience, say that the the different roles that you have to fill as a founder or co founder in my case are definitely more diverse. Yeah, may have expected. Doing the actual payroll personally is odd for me. What do you think that people who have been accepted to accelerators could do to get even more out of their time.
Dermot: So it’s so you have a variety of people, and a very, very diverse variety people, and on any on any program, and, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s this view of startups as you know, 20 somethings with hoodies, and, you know, we’ve had people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s In accelerator programs, and people are across the whole piece that have that have all raised a significant sense of mundane and are all driving their their business forward. So I think it’s to, to maximize it is it really about being open. And it’s about being open to the experience of working across a cohort, it’s about being open to mentoring, it’s about being open to being wrong about some of the some of that some of these songs you’re making about your business, every business makes poor decisions, every business makes wrong assumptions, a, you know, they’re, they’re going to shift and change. And the faster you can figure those things out, the faster you can learn from, essentially, from your customers, your learning most from your customers. And the faster you can actually start to grow and actually scale that business and stop being a startup. I mean, the whole purpose of of what we do is not so that you continue to be a startup is that you actually turn this into a business, and you actually start to scale up that business into something that self sustaining, so you can actually hire somebody, and to look after the payroll, and the coffee and the toilet paper. And you can actually then focus on the other bits and pieces.
Dave: Yeah, but that will be good when we get to the stage where somebody else could deal with the payroll. Yeah, so we’ll on with the openness, one of the things that I don’t know that it’s a fact. But it’s seems, or it seemed like during the process, there’s a bit of trying to put on your best face all the time of the participants, not not of the mentors, but that I think a lot of people that were in startups that were being mentored might have felt a little bit like they couldn’t show too much weakness, which without the openness can make it harder, because you have to put the best foot forward to try to get the funding to process. So do you believe that’s true? Do you think there are things we could do to help others avoid that?
Dermot: Yes, I think people sometimes the relationship is a, so people tend to, again, are trying to show that, you know, everything’s, you know, things are going well, and, you know, we’re helping here when the things I say to companies I’m working with is, the sooner you tell me something’s wrong, the sooner I can help you fix us. And the longer it takes, the worse it just gets. So once subscribed, some some part of what we do sort of psychotherapy for startups. And it is that piece of let’s not weakness, it’s, you know, look, I don’t have all the answers to every problem I face, I’ve set a colleagues who have a really diverse set of experiences, who can bring their experiences to bear and whether that’s our leadership team, or are, you know, some other peers, sometimes it’d be some sort, you know, it’s, it’s being able to reach out and, and work with other people. So it’s not a sometimes people get the impression at school, it’s not school, this is life. And, you know, you’re running a business and everybody wants that businesses succeed, not all the businesses are going to succeed. So if you can find out quickly, that it’s not going to succeed, you better off figuring that age and moving on and doing something else,
Dave: Or even pivoting.
Dermot: Yeah, pivoting is pivoting quite often as a way of just saying that, you know, something just didn’t work rice. And there’s actually there’s an interesting post recently from a on the ABC blog about about that, you know, pivot or fail. And, you know, the vast while that was some really good examples of businesses that pivot for most businesses, either it’s business or something really close or are generating the same ballpark as businesses start set with will be the business that they built or won’t work out. It’s great in theory to say that well, will pivot in something else and if your slack and you’ve pivoted a little thing into something that’s radically different That’s sounds great. Sounds fantastic, but we tend to focus on these really huge very specific examples of works and wooden case. Rather than the more general case, look, you know, this I didn’t work that’s, you know, you need to go on and do something else, whether that’s with the same team or it’s what a different team and that, you know that that that that depends and and it can change.
Dave: Yeah I can understand that. And I do know that we actually were working on one product before we decided to focus on Medit. But that would mean that was very early stages. I mean, it was long before we ever applied to.
Dermot: I think there’s a difference between figuring out what your product is and how your customers are, and really understanding that piece and, you know, pivoting your business into something that’s Yeah, you know, will you know, we’re doing a video game and now we’re actually doing a photo sharing piece of software, which is essentially what happened with flicker which was you know that was that was a pivot. Yes?
Dermot: Bought for most companies it’s not it’s really about figuring out you know, where there’s some customer value and actually trying to pursue that value to a business.
Dave: Okay, yeah, that’s a good point because people do need to understand the difference that finding the right product fit for the company and team is not necessarily what everyone means when they say pivot. So.
Dermot: Yeah, yeah.
Dave: Cool. Um, let’s see. So what are some of the well, I mean, you’ve mentioned mistakes before, but what are the biggest mistakes that that are really surprising that you’ve seen?
Dermot: So the big the biggest mistakes and I think mistakes are sort of fairly common. It’s it’s not understanding what the customer values is one thing so it’s it’s not actually doing that early stage discovery process properly. It’s getting locked in and fixed into an idea in your head, which is a variation of the same piece and it is, you know, not, you know, not understanding what the value of your product is, you know, if it’s something, you’re creating something that’s quite valuable, go ahead and figure out how to charge significant significant minimal amounts of money for things. A lot of startups tend to think, well, if I can, you know, if it’s really cheap, it would be great but really cheap doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a you’re going to build a really big business out of the back of it and from an investment perspective Well, you know, if something’s going to be a fiber rather than 5000 euros and that’s great well I need to find 1000 more customers than to be able to sell to make same revenues I would make with you know, one customer I can sell sell to so there’s there’s there so there’s a whole series of sort of assumptions and an answer challenges that face startups in there and they seem to crop up over and over again and, you know, really understanding and understanding the customer mindsets getting locked into the own ideas about their sort of the preciousness of their ID or the preciousness of of their vision for something and not being able to deal with the reality and then really not understanding value and how to charge for that. That value. And a lot of startups can be strangely can be scared to ask for money and families a number of times where you know let’s go out and ask first, it seems like a simple thing but if people don’t come from a background where they used to, some of these coming in from you know come from a technical role or come from marketing role they haven’t had that proper sales experience before it can be challenging to understand, well, you know, what’s it worth and how to actually ask for that money as well.
Dave: What would be some advice you would give to someone who was preparing to pitch to the NDRC
Dermot: So and we asked them to structure something, we have some details up on our on our website’s NDRC.ie about you know if you’ve been offered a pitch, and that advice is useful when you’re just thinking about your business at all. So we talked about it grab, we talked about, you know, why should we pay attention to this? Right? So, and we didn’t want to grab people’s attention. We ask people to talk about the problem they’re solving, you know, why is this an important problem for the customer. We ask them to talk about their solution and the solution maybe at different stages of development. We’ve had people come in with a really, really detailed and amount of development work done, we’ve had people come in with life demands develop work done very little, but they have an approach some sort of some sort of way that they’re actually going to solve the problem and we look at the market the opportunity and, you know, understand, you know, is there a large market here? Is there a large opportunity So our focuses on creating sustainable supply of globally scalable startups coming out of Ireland. That’s, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re looking for companies that will we can help get to product market fit and which is starting to get that early track on with our customers and get those early sales on board in a very defined way. And companies that we will be able to get to, to seed investment to get that seed investment you need to be solving an important problem in a large enough market and for investors to be willing to put money on to you whether that’s angel investors or whether it is VCs and it has to be an opportunity to scale a business up so even if you don’t have all the detail, tell me why there’s an important problem in a large enough market and you have some way of actually attacking that market and then some you some idea of who this team is. So every stage of startup development of about the risking, so I’m trying to understand what the risks are at each at its at the stage. The company’s out right now.
Dave: Okay, interesting. So as a technical early employee yourself and leadership were in a leadership role, what were some of the early challenges that you were surprised by that you had to overcome?
Dermot: I thought I was gonna write code right?
Dave: I understand that review more code than I actually write anymore.
Dermot: So we got we ended up hiring people to write code and then we ended up bringing a team on board and starting with Paul Watson was now, later became CTO and then as an CTO in Kinzen again, with Mark and so I think it was the just a variety of things that needed to be done and the righty challenges but I suppose the whole thing is when I started at that point, you know what I didn’t know about starting a business would fill volumes and it’s you know there’s there’s an old joke about you know an American tourists pulls over in the middle of carrying as a local you know, you know how do I get to this location and and the tourist says that the caveman thinks better for it says 18:15 so you know I wouldn’t start from here. So what I know now you go back and you you know you think about it again you’d you know you’d approach certain things in very very different ways and you you do things you know you test you know I would you know we test of much more rigorously tested much more rapidly and be absolutely ruthless about how you spend money and be absolutely ruthless with things that are not working and if there’s not working you you know you kill it really quickly and so you know it’s not that we were looking we were wild about what have we how we did things there’s you know there’s there’s a lot of there’s a lot of skills. And there’s a lot of sort of framework and things you can use to help you build and grow your business and to figure out if it’s going to grow into a business. And so I think, I think that was, you know, that was a learning for me. Yes, you know, I did a did an MBA a number of years ago but what, what is what tell people’s I’ve actually don’t do MBAs right. But the one that gives me the piece of paper and then I don’t a starting a business from scratch MBA which gives you a very very different insights into you know, and it’s you know, when you’re when you’re trying to figure out how to make sure that every month he going to be able to pay 30-35 people and because you’re very very different insight into into how business works.
Dave: Well, when you started scaling up the team, the technical team specifically what what sort of advice would you give somebody else as they were entering that phase
Dermot: Hire good people and go their way and is an element of us it’s and it’s you know it would it would a small team at the start, you need people who are generalists because they’re going to be coming across multiple bits and pieces. And as a business scales up so you actually then start to look at need and and start to need more sort of specialist type skills and different roles and so on and and as the business itself grows you actually start to move so once you’ve gone past 10-12 people, the business itself actually starts to change once you hit 15 people you actually need to put different structures and frameworks in place to run the business, not just the technical part but the whole of the company. And similarly as you know, to get to 30 people again, you need to put more formal processes things in place, it’s not that you need to turn it into a into a machine bureaucracy. You actually need to put some more structure in place, let the let the business operate properly. So similarly with it with with, you know, when you’re hiring technical people at the start it’s really about right, Can I get really good people who are who believe in what we’re doing because that’s key in a startup and because there’s an element of this that you know, it’s not just a job, it has to be mission oriented. And that’s not a base make sure that everybody works 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s about making sure that their mindset about the decisions they’re making is the right mindset as much as anything else occasionally if he worked long hours and days and so on that happens do and put because one of the things that so one of the things I wasn’t thinking of at the very start is that you’re actually setting the culture of the organization, you’re actually you’re you’re as you as you hire people, you’re actually creating the culture for the organization and and you have to do that actually, my views you have to do that with intent from the start.
Dave: Yes, definitely.
Dermot: You know well what kind of organization do I want? What kind of people do I want so you know even if somebody is a really talented if they’re not so, you don’t hire them?
Dave: Yes, absolutely. That was one of the very first things Julie and I laid down. Yeah. Was three rules. No assholes. People have to leave everything and everyone better than they found them. And then people need to stay curious.
Dermot: Yeah, yeah. Look, and then they’re, they’re good rules and values to have, but I think it’s, you know, it’s, it’s to start thinking about making making some of that piece explicit as as, as from the start, and I think very early on, you’re under so much I mean under so much pressure and so much sharing that you’re not thinking about that as he moved to the next stage. And one of the challenges as a company takes on money is that you go almost from not spending, you know, not spending any money because you don’t have it to not spending any money because you’ve gotten to the mentality of not spending any money. So not that you wasted me to throw it, around once you have it and then those is the danger of people taking on funding that they that they do that as well and they spend it poorly. But one of the, one of the mental shifts of companies is, well, actually, no, you actually do need to hire somebody who’s an operations person to look after the payroll, and this and this and this because you now have a team of eight people over here and a team of seven people over here. You need to take care of all of those bits and pieces, you need to understand what’s going on across the organization.
Dave: Hmm, okay, awesome. Just processing what you say in there.Silence isn’t great for podcast, but that’s
Dermot: 23:45 It’s okay.
Dave: It’s really good information. Let’s see. So, if you were to create a start up yourself at this phase, what would be the very first thing you would do?
Dermot: The very first thing I would do?
Dermot: First thing I would do is, make sure I had a you know I had something that was going to create value for customer might be you know if and do it in large enough market and find customers ideally find customers who have large enough big pockets and can afford to pay for products and so you know I have a bias towards and people who are solving important problems in in you know i one of the things I’ve said and I need to write a blog post and is sometimes it’s send me your boring startups and by boring startups I mean people who are doing things that are you know infrastructure work in you know in sort of in in the back end of things that people don’t consider but they understand this business really, really well and they understand the value to large corporates, if I fix you know so one of our companies 25:00 is looking at and and looking at equipment failure plant rooms and looking at preventive maintenance and so on and you know it’s not it’s not as it’s not that sexy consumer facing out but it’s a really big problem and if you can if you can solve that problem there’s a lot of customers out there money who will actually pay to do that and so to me it’s it’s it’s finding problems like that and finding problems that are important and and have enough customers out there will actually pay for them and company I came across recently is doing, said it is working with warehouses and solving problems in warehouses for companies and you know, they’re going to charge probably in the region of half million per customer, one other customers is 36 warehouses and, you know, that’s 80 million turnover from one from one customer. That’s an interesting business right?
Dermot: It’s you know, and I think I think and it’s it’s trying to see through that and understand how that will actually scale up and understand whether it’s a whether it whether it’s defensible. And I think the defense ability of businesses, various, any business that is involved with technology, ultimately somebody will be able to copy that technology at some level. But can you move fast enough to create a relationship with your customers then to enable you to build and scale out on the back of it and I think that’s that that’s, that’s a key part for outside businesses that are IP based where they have a unique intellectual property. I think that’s, that’s that that’s the best that’s the best way to approach it.
Dave: Okay, so with everybody knows, startups are hard. I don’t think everybody knows that they’re even harder than you could ever possibly imagine. Is there any advice you’ve have for those going through it on how to how to deal with that, that difficulty?
Dermot: Yeah, I think mental and physical health is really important. I think we, we underrate these things. And I think it so you you, you need outlets away from what you’re doing and that means hiking up a hill in a weekend or going to the gym for an hour every morning, wherever it is you need people who whose advice you can trust whether that’s friends and families or peers or mentors or whoever else. So almost create a personal board of advisors in you know as a founder independent necessarily from the board of advisors for your for your startup or your are your board of directors for the company actually you know have people out there who are you know who you can you can go to and pick the brains of you know even Mark Zuckerberg is turning Bill Gates for advice. And, you know, if somebody at that level is turning to somebody still at this point and in their career after building a multi billion business, and then you know, I think I think it’s important for all of us to do that, and, you know, understand, understand your own limitations and understand your own and your own blind spots so that you can you know, somebody who’s, you know, really charismatic, brilliant founder may not have it, may not be detail oriented so you can bring in someone detail oriented to fill in all those bits and pieces with you. And so it’s understanding what the gaps are across and how you need to fill those but I think it’s hard to truly understand how hard it is until until you’ve until you’ve lived it.
Dave: I definitely think that I mean obviously physical and mental are connected so the better your physical health the easier it is to have mental health but I think there’s even less of a recognition recognition of how important mental health can be within the startup world because so much of it is very alpha and in a lot of instances and so it’s downplay just how how hard it can be on your mental health I think that’s changing a little bit but
Dermort: I just I just sort of blog post called killing John Wayne for for an event I’m going to that in con next weekend and it is it actually deals and touches on some of that right so it’s it is this piece about you know never show any weakness be the alpha male you know, you can get through anything and it’s you know, it’s whether it’s John Wayne whether it’s Superman or whether it’s batman, it’s you know just push through it and yes reality is that it just doesn’t work.
Dave: It does not work, you don’t get good work out of yourself or your team. You’re just delaying an inevitable crash whether that’s the business or not is one thing but a crash in yourself
Dermot: Yeah yeah and you know you can, it can be profoundly damaging the business as well when somebody is exhausted you know somebody gets exhausted and people who are really get burnt out and challenge look it’s it’s it’s going to be tough. One of the things I talked about is at the start it’s very hard to have any sort of work life balance in a startup environment, you’re sacrificing something for a period of time to build something but that can’t continue. It comes a point in time which you actually have to shift that environment if it goes on for too long and you will you know you’ll destroy yourself as a person. 30:59 talked about this about understanding that shift as well as Something he wrote, I think last year. And so, you know, you know, you see this coming out again and again, I think one of the things we need to do is we need to talk about that. And men are generally really awful about talking about the emotional side of things talk about emotionally constipated, but we don’t, you know, we don’t have the language and the tools are not taught that. As what I think, you know, it’s something it’s something it’s important for us to, to learn and to and to talk about.
Dave: Have there ever, so there are Speaker Series throughout the NDRC period. Has there been any speakers that were from a psychology background to maybe help founders understand
Dermot: Not specifically from a psychology background and that’s that I suppose that would be an interesting piece and I’m not even sure if if 32:05 and now I’m going to go off and look look this about as, has anybody has any have any psychologist actually studied psychology startups. Which which we’ve been missing piece itself I think what we’ve what we’ve tried to do is bring in founders who are kind of truthful about you know so and we’ve gone for ACABI who was in recently and he’s talking he’s citing again this evening startup right and and you know he talked about the challenges that they had as they were attempting to find essentially a partner strategic partner for the business which which is what happened with with Renault and through the essentially the parent company Renault Nissan bought at 75% of ACABI but he describes that the two years in that process was going on and they weren’t prepared but you know they weren’t the bitter until the right to the end they have a couple of other people on boards that essentially they neglected the business not ignored as anything else, but a lot of what they would want to do with product and everything else and not getting done because there were so busy trying to figure out the financial piece and figure out, you know, how, how are they going to bring a strategic partner or have an exit out of that business, which they’ve never done. And you know, they’re going to add another hundred people that business over the next couple years, the significant amount of money is going to be put into but the challenge and actually doing that, and we’ve had people come in and talk and we’ve, we’ve, we’ve run a series of posts and Gordon, who’s our communications officer has run and on a series of blog posts, for a couple of our companies who haven’t made us. And so you know, some of them who have failed before, raising some of them have failed even after raising seed investment because, you know, raising seed investment is not a guarantee of success, right? It’s it’s an oxygen tank. Oxygen tank has to get you to your next, it’s like climbing Everest has to get you to the next base camp and and then you need to figure out you either need oxygen there from finances or you need to bring in some more and it can be difficult to do. Fact actually I wouldn’t stage after. When I saw the movie I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Everest?
Dave: No, I haven’t.
Dermot: I thought every startup should sit down and actually take a look at it and think about it as a metaphor for startup journey. Not everybody makes it back alive and even those who do, don’t make it with all their fingers in their toes. So yeah it’s it’s tough and it’s not an it isn’t for everybody and that’s okay.
Dave: Yeah that’s with the the trend of everybody finding it cool. It’s definitely harder it’s harder than you could ever imagine. It’s also the amount of growth I’ve had regardless of what happens, I’m a million times more valuable as a developer as a team leader, feels like as a person from this experience it it’s not like anything else that I’ve ever seen. And yeah you know, I’m getting on in my career. I’m not one of those young hoodie wearing gents. But
Dermot: Yeah, but I think, you know, it’s the ability to learn, right? If you don’t have that you’re never you’re you’re not going to make it. And there’s a there’s a framework a I’ve used, I’ve taught an MBA programs and things as well and a few of this framework a number times sort of Simon Wardley, who’s a, he was a CEO at one point and strategic thinker and he talks about pioneers, settlers in town planners. Pioneers are people who are pushing out the boundaries and starting new things, settlers are the people who are sort of harvesting value from things and town planners are those who are for efficiency. Pioneer, early stage startup into settlers where you want to be scaling as a company. Time planner is your large corporate environment. Different people are suited to working in you know so all organization ultimately a larger organization should have different types of people in it. So as you as you and this is one of the challenges even for startups as they grow and scale is they lose that pioneering spirit right they lose that as the as they become more corporate so it’s just why so many companies go in the acquire startups in the first place because there are acquiring that pioneer piece and then the pioneers leave because the can’t stand the culture and so different people work better in those you know in the pioneering environment different people work better in a settled environment and different people work better in a in those efficiency sort of large corporate environments. I start to really understand you know, I spent a lot of my career over here and the in the large corporate environments and then went into the the the era that they the maturity environment realized that you know, with somewhere between there and the edge of that into the satellite piece that you know, a lot of my talents, a lot of things I don’t, we’re not just most useful, but was it was stuff I was, you know, most interested in. And where I could bring a huge amount of a impacted value.
Dave: Cool. So back on the you mentioned them the advisors, how after programs like this, how what tips can you give to people to help find other advisors and mentors that maybe aren’t within the network of people they already know
Dermot: As in finding a, as is in looking at a specific skills or is this looking at sort of general?
Dave: Just kind of in general, how you might go about finding or what sort of tips you might have on
Dermot: So i think it’s it’s it’s start with a network that you have you know, so you know, so in an accelerator, you’ve got a specific environment you got, you got a series of advisors, mentors, but you also got people here are connected into an awful lot of other large network. So you’re sort of your one degree two degree of separation from most people in in the country and a lot of people internationally so I think you can, you know, you can leverage that and the other side of it is look at places that the types of people you want to get advice from hang out, you know are you know, and it may not be in your so a lot of people like to go to startup events and there’s, you know, there there are value that can be so in value to those and but I think a lot for a lot of people, once you’ve started create your business, go to places that your customers are, go to places that your suppliers are maybe go to, you know, textile events and you know, if you find somebody that you want to talk to, you know reach out to them as a starting point and if you’re going to establish a relationship understand what that relationship is. Is it you know if you want somebody to advise you and you know what’s in it you know there has to be something in in for them so on the business show during the weekend on RTE they’re talking about a going for growth mentoring program established in the enterprise Ireland know he’s feeling who’s CEO of PayPal and was talking about with with with and there was a CEO of a company called WAC Sports on so 39:38 are actually taking on a mentoring role with that CEO and she done it through the program so they establish the relationship through that program. So what you know somebody you know so there’s a there’s a mechanism by which that engagement starts and then there’s something that somebody getting out of it so in some cases it may be somebody wants to give back so somebody wants to get back and they want to give some of your time to your company that’s great. If they don’t, you know, if they’re, you know, if there are only available for hire and find out, you know, is this somebody you want to hire to spend some time with you and you have the you do the funds actually to do that as well. So you figure out what the relationship is. Yeah, figure out you know, how that’s going to work and be I think, just be really, really clear as to how that will work and and go forward.
Dave: Clarity and honesty usually works out better than anything.
Dave: What gaps in our discussion here do you think that I’ve left.
Dermot: Gaps in our discussion, we haven’t taught anything about technology right,
Dave: That’s right.
Dermot: But that’s okay.
Dave: But okay, from a technology standpoint, what are some of the things that people don’t focus on early enough or focus on too early/
Dermot: So don’t focus on early enough is, so I’ve seen mistakes for founders think that can be, they can step away from the product. So I’m the, you know, I’m the, you know, I’m the commercial founder or I’m the CEO, I’m not the technical founder so I don’t need to worry or think about the product right? And that’s killer, in a small startup at the start, you absolutely need to know when you need to understand the product inside and out. You don’t need to write all the code. You need to understand the product, I’ve seen companies fail, I’ve seen so one company that raised one and a half million and not in NDRC and spend blow through most of that money without building a product and got called in to take a look at it as a number of years ago and you know, so you look at the immediate caused the problems on the technical side and being badly lead and all the challenges and so on that were going on but the ultimate underlying problem is the you know, CEO is over here is doing SEO strategic stuff and really not owning that piece and the CEO needs to own that piece the other side the flip side of it is is actually building too much too quickly right so you know and building building what else proper customer insight and customer validation what you’re actually trying to do and there there you know there are different types of businesses need to building the different stages. So, you know, we focused strictly to start on on a lot of the customer discovery work and really understand you know, even if somebody is coming with a product and has customers on board, go back and do it again. Really make sure you understand that value proposition. Understand why the customer values is what they value and how they’re acting, demonstrate that can be willing. Someone is going to be willing to pay for some of that value somewhere along the line, and after, as you as you, as you build out the iterations, your product, you get a different level of insights. And it’s to not stop that discovery piece as you actually as you build more and more your products, and I’ve seen that with a number of companies over the last few years, where as they build out stuff, they get a much richer, deeper layer of insight with their customers. And the ones that do that well, tend to be the ones that progress those businesses and further and better.
Dave: But from the time that we actually got the app into people’s hands, our understanding got so much better. And everything about the application, just it continues to improve at a rate that far surpassed my expectations because we’re basing all our decisions on behavior of the users and more understanding and that I mentioned the last interview I did with someone about I get asked all the time, but non technical people, how can I go build this thing? And it’s as a technical person, my actual first answer is, don’t build it yet. Go talk to customers. That’s when we got here to the NDRC, we had a good understanding of our customers and users but after we started the program and got a little bit more training on how to perform better customer interviews, we learned a lot that I wish we’d known before I wrote the first line of code. So if I ever do this again, I’ll be the one demanding that we don’t write any code for quite some time until we’ve spoken to people and really really understand.
Dermot: These elements of anthropology, sociology and ethnography in in everything you do to build a product and to build it really, really well. Although we don’t always use those terms, I think that’s essentially what we’re doing. We’re trying to really, really get close and intimate and understand and understand the behavior and it is, you know, it’s not about shifting that behavior, it’s figuring out how we can use existing behaviors. It’s a friend of mine Dermot Daly, runs one of the top app development companies in the, in the in the country called TAPADOO and he says, you know, you know you’re not going to change the user, you have to understand how how they behave, why they behave that way and then you need to piggyback on the behalf on the back of that behavior. And I really understand that piece.
Dave: That’s very good advice. All right. Is there anything else that you think we should throw in here before we wrap up?
Dermot: Not at the top of my head, I’m sure there’s probably a million million things I think about 30 seconds after I leave that I leave the room.
Dave: We could always do this again if you’re interested. Okay then. Well, thank you very much for joining me
Dermot: You’re very welcome.
Dave: It’s been a pleasure as always talking to you, and I’m sure it was useful for anyone who listens.
Dermot: Good. Brilliant.
Dave: Thanks very much.
Dermot: Thanks, Dave.
Until next time, remember any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.