This a guest post by Keith Bohanna co-founder of dbtwang. Keith is an experienced internet consultant/trainer to many Irish organizations, and is involved with numerous initiatives @ startups in Ireland. Keith participated in the first iGap Programme promoted by Internet Growth Alliance & Enterprise Ireland
Between November 2009 and April 2010 15 Irish internet businesses were brought through 6 days of workshops and coaching to force them to refine and focus their business models and commercial propositions.
It worked really well and this post give you our take on it as one of the participants.
First of all we had to pitch for the place – last year over 40 businesses went for the 15 places and you can expect that to go up significantly this Autumn when the call for iGAP 2 goes out as each of us as participants are passionate advocates of the programme and process.
Having been awarded a place we turned up at the first of 6 day long workshops. Key differentiator here between this and some other programmes – the majority of the workshops were lead by an experienced entrepreneur based in either the UK or the USA.
So we experienced:
Jonathan Dillon – Strategy and Value Proposition
Coming out of a background of Yahoo Strategic Partnerships and Acquisitions he now works with technology businesses across 3 continents.
His session was about the broad focus of our businesses – the market we were after, our growth ambitions and our positioning.
This was the first time I had heard the acronym BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal.
Ed Bussey – Monetisation and Revenue Models
Ed is a serial entrepreneur who has been successfully involved in figleaves.co.uk and then ZYB. He now runs Clash Media.
He spent the day working through the various models open to internet and technology businesses and then helped us explore the likely parameters around how each model works in reality – ie how we should manage our expectations and assumptions when forecasting.
Justin Knecht – Customer Centric Service and Product Design
Justin straddled the academic and entrepreneurial worlds at the time with a post in the Centre for Design Innovation in Sligo and a flegling start-up – Perfect Pints. Since then he has committed full time to the world of self employment!
He explored the fuzzy world of brand and services with us and forced us to consider the practical impact of â€œcustomer touch pointsâ€ as we continued to design and implement our services and solutions.
Sean Ellis – Marketing & Customer Acquisition
Sean was the closest thing (next to Jonathan) to a consultant on the programme – but he has some pedigree. An advisor to businesses such as KISSmetrics and Performable he is one of a number of A list bloggers in the area of lean start-ups and metrics.
With his session being in January we missed the day (we were attending the NAMM trade show in LA). He covered the key need to focus early and often on customer needs – with the Product/Market fit being crucial. So you establish exactly what people want and will pay for before you start expensive marketing and sales campaigns.
Oren Michels – Internet Business Development
Oren runs Mashery – an API enabler and general powerhouse in San Francisco. He has also founded businesses (WiFinder) and been involved at senior level in Feedster.
He gave us a great grounding in Business Development – helping to position it in terms of sales and also providing a process by which business partnerships could be identified, flitered and negotiated.
He also said that APIâ€™s are essential! Which is very likely true for any internet business intent on scaling
Brian Caufield – Preparing for Funding
Brian has been a VC (Trinity VC), a founder (SImilarity Systems) and an angel investor. He was also the programme lead for iGAP.
He laid out the reality of funding in Ireland – how the game is played at each stage, what exactly those stages are and what to expect as you move through each of them.
Thats some detail – what was the outcome? Based on the output (a 10 minute pitch session to a panel of entrepreneurs in front of 50 people) I can honestly say that every single one of us as participants could see major improvement in each others propositions.
We had heard them all in the opening sessions in November and by 21st April every business was more clearly focused with much a stronger value proposition and a compelling reason to invest in them. That is a very tangible outcome – it makes each of us much more likely to succeed by virtue of positioning, focused effort and better communication.
Specifically for dbTwang we may well have received the prize for best improved pitch. We started with wooly aspirations (in the hairy Aran Knit category) around a social network for guitar lovers and aspirations towards premium content.
We are about to launch in August (just waiting on that elusive merchant account) a premium service called Guardian which will help musicians and guitar enthusiasts protect their guitars from loss. It addresses a specific pain in the marketplace and is a very clear proposition with strong positioning.
Thanks are due to the guys in the Internet Growth Alliance – Colm Lyon, Ray Nolan and Dylan Collins principally – whose experience of successful startups helped them formulate a programme which is directly relevant to helping high potential startups become global faster and more successfully. They managed to get the attention of Enterprise Ireland where Ray Walsh and Jennifer Condon carved out funding and Sarah Buckley ran things.
Final point worth noting – while the programme is aimed at High Potential Startups not every participant who started iGAP 1 had HPSU status. That might change this time round in iGap 2