But then what? Who do you speak to and what do you do? Thousands of ideas must be dreamed every day, but unless you know how to take an idea from pencil sketch to boardroom presentation, how many good ideas fails before they have really begun?
TheEmployable spoke to Mark Nagurski, Digital Champion for Digital Derry in Northern Ireland, to see if he had some helpful tips on what the first steps should and could be. Mark has the remit to help promote and develop the Digital Content sector, encouraging new business start ups and working with new entrepreneurs on shaping their ideas from initial concept through to potential business beginnings. Mark has been an entrepreneur and business owner himself and has experience working with investors and funding bodies in supporting project and business start ups.
Thanks Mark for your time, lets get the grilling under way!
What are the biggest mistakes people make when starting a business from scratch?
The biggest mistake that you can make is to not get any help. I’ve started quite a few businesses and the best have always been started with a co-founder and the really good ones have been those where we looked
for lots of partners early on. Very occasionally a new business will have a good reason to protect their idea but in my experience, nothing happens until you start talking about your idea and getting others involved.
What would your advice be to someone with a business idea, but no idea on then what to do next?
Just get started. Give it a name. Buy the domain. Put up a simple website or blog. Then start talking about it. You don’t have to have all the details figured out, in fact, it’s better if you start getting your ideas out in public early and then use the feedback to refine or pivot your idea. And if you happen to have an idea for a digital business in the NW of Ireland, give me a call.
I am sure you must hear about a lot of initial business ideas, at that stage what percentage of ideas would blow you away?
I won’t say that it never happens but it’s rare. It’s much more likely that I’ll get excited about a particular entrepreneur or team of people. A great group of talented, committed people is much more likely to deliver a great new business than a bad team with a good idea. The holy grail is when you get both together, that’s when things really get exciting.
Has the economic and employment situation improved the number of people coming forward with ideas?
I don’t have any hard facts to say either way but my gut instinct says that more people are looking at entrepreneurship as a viable option. When you’re safe in a comfy job and good salary then the risks of doing something new seem much higher. Take those things away and people start looking at the advantages that starting your own business can offer.
What do you think are the best ways of funding a business startup, if you don’t want to lose a percentage of your business to a venture capitalist or angel investor?
Actually, I don’t think that you should worry about ‘losing’ a percentage of your business to an angel investor
or VC, it’s much more about what you can gain. Taking equity investment can be a brilliant way of getting an experienced business person involved in your business and provides the capital many people need to grow quickly. You can, of course, bootstrap your business with your own savings and early sales – and it’s often a good idea to do this before you speak to investors as you’ll be in a stronger position – but ignoring the potential benefits of taking on an investor just isn’t smart. Beg, steal and borrow to get as far as you can. Focus on making sales early to fund your growth. And then look at investment as a way of growing your business quickly.
In your experience what are the typical characteristic traits that someone needs to have to be an entrepreneur?
There’s no one type of entrepreneur. I know as many great business people who are shy, quiet and introspective as flashy, confident ones – maybe even more so. That said, it takes a fair amount of determination and enthusiasm to make a business work and successful entrepreneurs have these characteristics in spades.
Talk to us about your plans for Digital Derry, there have been some exciting plans put in place for the next few years I hear?
There’s a ton of stuff in the works. Our goal is to help create 100 new digital businesses in the city by 2015. We’re focusing on the very early stage stuff – financially, the first £20,000 – in order to help more people turn
their ideas into initial prototypes and demos so that they can speak to investors or start winning their first customers. That means plenty of opportunities to access small amounts of seed capital. We’re also working hard with the university to involve more students in starting their own businesses. There’s also a major marketing component to our strategy which means a major international festival devoted to digital culture. You can get a good feel for what we’re up to and check out some of the specific projects at www.digitalderry.org
Any inside hints on what might be the next big digital content platform that we should be investing in!?
Nope – but that’s the fun of it!
If you have a digital content idea and you are based in and around Derry in Northern Ireland, contact Mark Nagurski to chat. Use the www.digitalderry.org website to contact Mark.
If you have an idea and you don’t know who to turn where you live (assuming you live in the UK or Ireland) contact TheEmployable and we will do our best to try and help if local support is available!
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