Interview with Fintech Entrepreneur David Cunningham
Entrepreneurship seems to be a popular in Ireland today?
It seems that being an entrepreneur is a cool thing to be these days, people are looking for autographs and selfies from Gary Vaynerchuk to Elon Musk to Sheryl Sandberg, they are the new celebrities. It used to be that everyone wanted to be sports stars and singers/rappers, now these celebrities want to be entrepreneurs.
What people do not realise is that for the most part entrepreneurship is hazardous for one’s health, relationships and finances. We should be warning people that proceeding into entrepreneurship should only be taken with extreme caution and of course good advice!
What are the first steps when building a startup?
I believe in having a robust scientific approach to reduce uncertainty and risk as much as possible before deciding to build a startup. I like the structure espoused in Eric Ries’s timeless book “The Lean Startup. “
Before you take the leap you need to validate your leap of faith assumptions. These are your value and growth hypotheses.
The value hypothesis tests whether your offering really delivers value to customers if they were to use it. The growth hypothesis tests how new customers will discover your offering. Before investing you need to validate these hypotheses and if people don’t find value and it cannot easily grow then you need to change your offering (iterate), or kill the idea before investing more time and resources into the endeavour.
How do I know if my business is scalable?
This will be answered by validating your growth hypothesis but when you launch and make sure you can sustain a viable business the iterations you make from learning should indicate whether introducing more capital will result in exponential profit from that investment. The focus on scalability without proving one’s worth first is an interesting one, and sometimes it is ok for a business not to be scalable. If it just gives a solid living and the person is enjoying their work. That scenario is ok by me!
Top three things to consider when undergoing this process?
1) Am I the right person to start this business? What unique skills do you have that makes you the right person?
2) Will the risks to my wealth, health and relationships be worth it?
3) Is anyone else willing to take this risk with me by putting in the effort required? If not then that raises concern.
How do I get funding to scale my business?
Enterprise Ireland is one of the best and largest venture capitalists in Europe. If you can show traction then this source of funding is a fantastic option. Venture capital is traditionally very hard to access in Ireland but some great organisations are available such as the Western development commission, Udaras na Gaeltachta and the HBAN Angel Investment Network.
Can technology help me scale my business?
Often it can, but in my experience people leveraging existing relationships or creating new relationships is the best way to scale. Sometimes there is no substitute for personal relationships.
Top mistakes people make when they approach scaling their business?
Losing the culture that made the company successful in the first place. Scaling is really tough, very few do it but many who do find a way of keeping the ethos, values and atmosphere that makes people want to go the extra mile for the benefit of the people who make up the company. People want to be inspired at work, be part of something important and meaningful that is respected.
Which companies are good examples of this?
What is the future for personal data in business?
The future is trust. Building trust is the only thing that will keep people with a business and once eroded it can never be reclaimed. My view is that the world is crying out for someone or some technology to trust with their data, Facebook, Google and others have failed people. My prediction is that despite a tough run, banks have the best opportunity to be the one we choose to manage and control how our data is shared.
David Cunningham is the definition of a serial entrepreneur. He is co-founder of Validator.ie, an entrepreneurial support company that helps entrepreneurs to validate their ideas and supports them to reach their potential. He is cofounder of Portershed.com the renowned startup hub. He is the founder of data consultancy firm 36tdata.com and a new fintech conference being held at Dublin castle in March 2020; fintechforum.co
If you have a Startup idea and would like to come in and discuss it with us in PF Solicitors, please get in touch – info@pfsolicitors
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