This week I found myself in the familiar position of discussing Northern Ireland’s digital startups.
Among the usual scuttlebutt, the discussion turned to how last year’s crop of likely stars were fairing. Like any industry, digital media has struggled to shrug off the recession but the same kinds of issues kept popping up in our conversation.
What do we need to put in place to encourage digital entrepreneurship? And what do we need to do in order to help raise the relative odds of success for those that do start?
Here are my top five.
- The Mentality: Starting a business is risky but it can also be tremendously rewarding. Removing the risk from the equation (ie grants) is not the answer. However, we can do more to put that risk into context and change people’s attitudes towards failure and introduce entrepreneurship as a career option.
- The Ideas: We need to start thinking about ideas in new ways. First, we need our ideas to be bigger, tackling markets well beyond the north of Ireland. We also need ideas that are current and innovative. Some of the most exciting ideas come from our universities and colleges, so we need to figure out ways to work better with them and get those ideas out of academia and into industry.
- The Money: Starting a digital business often costs less than a nice summer holiday but to really grow a business an investment of capital can be vital. We need to make this early ‘seed’ money easier to access. Derry-based Seedups.com, for example, helps match start ups in need of capital with investors — you can upload your idea for free.
- The Expertise: Investors can bring more than money to the table and many bring a wealth of expertise to the party. Digital entrepreneurs must focus on building a team that can help them get ideas off the ground.
- The Community: Last but by no means least, we need to build a community of like-minded people who can help support new business starts, encourage new ideas and work together to ensure their collective success.
We have the talent to do all this. What we need is to start bringing it all together.
Mark Nagurski is Derry’s digital champion. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org