For an early stage start-up, getting awarded the CSF is a terrific milestone to show investors and potential customers
Devan Hughes gives advice from his experience of applying for the International Entrepreneurs CSF
For Devan Hughes and Gabor Krasznai, a passion for business led them to co-found the new grocery delivery service Buymie. A mobile app for on-demand groceries, customers can order their items from a selection of local stores or outlets and have them delivered to their homes in as little as one hour. Awarded the Competitive Start Fund by Enterprise Ireland last year, read on for Devan’s advice on impressing with your application – and for making a success of your start-up.
Invest time in research
We were awarded the Competitive Start Fund (CSF) in November 2015. I had applied before with a previous business idea and didn’t make it past the first round. But Enterprise Ireland took time to give us really detailed feedback, so we knew exactly what to work on in order to improve our chances next time around. To make it through, you need to be consistent and committed. For previous businesses, I had written big content heavy business plans. But this time, our application to the CSF was our first real business plan, and my advice to anyone applying is not to spend a lot of time in writing a big document.
Instead, invest time in research and know your market inside and out. To start, we researched the market, the players and identified where the inefficiencies existed. We then built our business around those inefficiencies. From there, we put together a financial model and looked at every different possible scenario for a 5-year forecast. This allowed us to stress test our business model and understand exactly how market conditions and consumer adoption would impact our performance. It’s really important that you put in the time to consider all of this and to compile everything before you apply.
Listen to feedback
To be honest, when I started out I was very bad at our 30-second elevator pitch. It’s been something I’ve had to practise and learn. For us, we joined a programme here in Dublin where we practised pitching in front of people for 6 weeks. During this programme, we got feedback and critiques on every aspect of our pitch. Without that feedback or help, you tend to learn off the wrong script and will have difficulty getting your message across. Nowadays I pitch to anyone I can, and talk about the business to anyone interested. I’ll debate the business but always consider people’s feedback.
It’s very important to actively listen, and not just to hear. Most people will give you very valuable feedback, so it’s about taking that away and looking at it to see how it can help you improve your business or product. Some people will give you their opinion as well about whether or not they think it will work. Your job as a founder is to be able to filter the logical advice from emotional opinion.
Avail of resources
We found the CSF very valuable. It really gave us a kick-start and stamp of approval at an early stage. As a start-up, third party validation is critical. Enterprise Ireland know the market and know the way investors work. For an early stage start-up, getting awarded the CSF is a terrific milestone to show investors and potential customers. It acts as a seal of approval for the team, and the business idea. Being recognised as an Enterprise Ireland start-up indicates to the market that we’re committed and consistent in our approach and that we have been validated by one of the leading commercial organisations in the country.
Don’t be afraid of failure
When I started out, I was intensely afraid of failing. But now I try and fail as quickly as I can. I see it as a way to improve your chances of success. If you look at anyone who has been very successful, they’ve all experienced failures. The key is to fail differently each time, and learn each lesson as you go. My advice is to be prepared to fail, fail as quickly as you can and then keep going. In reality no-one really cares about your failures except you, so once you get over the fear of it, there is nothing stopping you.
Interested in applying for the Competitive Start Fund for International Entrepreneurs? Find out if you’re eligible and how to apply here.