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'Tis the season to give others a helping hand

By Aaron Taylor, chief executive at Frankly

Over this past number of months I've had the privilege of spending some time with a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs, helping them shape their vision and outline their thinking for fundraising and scaling their businesses internationally.

Right now, it's clear there are a lot of really super talented people in Northern Ireland doing great things, but most of them are in need of structure, guidance and a role model to help keep them focused on what they need to do. With Christmas around the corner, it got me thinking about what entrepreneurs with some experience under their belts can do to give back and help those who are coming through and who are perhaps experiencing the same issues that we have had to deal with, or are still dealing with in growing businesses.

As we buy - or in my case get ready to start buying - presents for friends and family and begin to think of all the things we're going to give away this year, surely now is the time to look at what we can do to help others with big aspirations of their own.

Whether that is people in our own companies who need to be empowered to have the belief to do their job better, or a start-up entrepreneur who could benefit from a regular coffee meeting and someone to bounce ideas off - sometimes it doesn't take much to create that spark.

One of the things that makes start-up hubs like Silicon Valley, London and New York so successful is the willingness of people to give up time to help those around them. To strengthen them, to keep them going when times get tough, to inspire them to chase their dreams while at the same time keeping them focused on the tasks at hand.

Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely place. At times you can't share your concerns with your board for fear of spooking them, you can't share your concerns with your team in case you demotivate them, so for a lot of entrepreneurs, with no outlet to unburden themselves, there ends up being no choice but to internalise everything, which just adds to the pressure they are probably already feeling.

As a business community, particularly in the digital and technology start-up space, we need to make sure we are the people who can offer a sounding board to the many aspiring entrepreneurs who want to create something new. They are the future. Those who have covered some of the hard yards and enjoyed the taste of success need to remember what it was like starting out, to remember the help, guidance and hand-holding received from their own mentors; advice that was required to get from stormy waters into calmer seas.

Looking around Belfast, there are some exciting companies coming through - companies like Locate a Locum, Humain, Limitless and TAG Performance, to name but a few. These companies, and many others with real potential to make it big, will no doubt be looking for that assistance on the next stage of their journeys.

Given that it's the season of goodwill, I would recommend anyone with time and value to add to get in touch with some of those exciting start-ups and maybe arrange to grab a coffee to hear what they are doing; to see if there's something that you can help with. Sometimes, being a sounding board is all that's needed. Sometimes you'll have a connection or relevant experience that will help solve a problem that's been bothering them.

As a small tech community, we really need to come together and help each other maximise our chances of being successful. Only by pulling together and supporting each other, are we really going to be able to achieve the goal of putting Northern Ireland on the global map and being recognised as a start-up environment that's going places, driven by our own, homegrown entrepreneurs.

Recently, a group of us from Northern Ireland have set up a new venture that will be announced soon which taps into that need. Our aim is to help provide an environment that will ensure the current and next generation of entrepreneurs have the belief that everything is achievable, with the infrastructure in place in Belfast to help make anything possible.

My hope this Christmas, is that when you read this, you too will have that same aim, and look at how you can support and inspire those around you.

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