Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

‘Why digitised DIY’ has the makings of a revolution

Entrepreneurs utilising open source innovation will transform our world, says Ron Immink

Martin McLaughlin from Dunola
Breda Doherty, from hubb.it festival website
Breda Doherty, from hubb.it festival website

I am a fan… a huge fan… of author Chris Anderson. Both The Long Tail and Free are great reads and truly thought provoking. The question asked in Free is “what happens if your service will become available for free (which it will)”?

Talk about putting a fox among the chickens.

Digital Disruption is another book to explain the speed of innovation.

We are now talking overnight ‘big bang’ disruption.

Coder Dojo trained entrepreneurs using free tools, utilising global platforms, using shared IP, open source and community principles as key features to compete with the big boys (and win). In Digital Disruption there are a few references to the “making community” and how that will be the next wave of disruptions.

‘Making’ is the new black.

Anderson’s Makers, The New Industrial Revolution is another cracking book about how the same principles that transformed the ICT sector are going to transform the manufacturing world. (It’s a book that should be read by any policy maker in the area of entrepreneurship, SME policy and economic development).

Digitised DIY, where the need for economy of scale no longer applies, will provide bottom-up, highly networked, open source, with access to all the production tools you need with a single click of a mouse.

The one-size-fits-all approach of the large manufacturers no longer need apply. You can make small batches at competitive prices. Scale is no longer an issue.

From an entrepreneurial perspective, the ‘maker movement’ is where ICT was in 1985.

You can already predict where this is going — apply the lessons and get on the bandwagon.

But it is also incumbent on the education system to jump on the same train and teach ‘making’. We need a 3D printer in every school.

Which brings us to printers. Remember the dot-matrix printer? That is where 3D printing is now.

Now you have a small printer on your desk, printing HD colour pictures. That is where 3D printing is going.

For the large manufacturers it is going to be very hard to |beat open source hardware, with no patent protection, shared by a community of passionate, people.

Open source innovation is cheaper, faster, better researched and already has a head start in market research, marketing and support; with social capital and your eco system the new marketing tools; with word of mouth automatically built in; with a lot of emphasis on branding and trademarking.

And because it is driven by passion, it will attract the best talent from all over the world, working together.

Try to beat that as a company.

So as a company you are now losing on economy of scale, IP, marketing, talent and passion.

Maybe finance is the last barrier to entry?

Alas, that is why they invented crowd funding.

And crowd funding even reinforces all of the above — the market research, the selling, the word of mouth, the social media, the storytelling, the community, the speed to market, the channel, the distribution and the beginning of what Brian Solis calls the dynamic customer journey and constant feedback loop (from his book What is the Future of Business).

Chris Anderson has been spot on with his earlier books and I think he is spot on with Makers. From a policy perspective, from an educational perspective and from a personal perspective.

This movement can transform economies, people and allow you to finally follow your passion.

Ron Immink is co-founder of www.smallbusinesscan.com.

'Demand for the product is growing. We believe we will become the brand leader'

By Paul Gosling

Dunola is little more than two years old, yet it is already achieving an impressive rate of growth. Turnover was £150,000 in the first year, it should hit £250,000 this year – and could soon double if its hopes of getting products into major retailers are achieved.

"I have always dreamed of having my own brand, to provide quality products, at good prices, that people could trust," explains managing director and founder Martin McLaughlin. "A brand that could grow over time to become very large – in Ireland and then in Great Britain."

One of the Dungiven-based food company's main products is rapeseed oil, which it argues has much stronger health benefits than alternatives, including olive oil. "It is the healthiest cooking oil on the market," claims Martin.

The business also produces a range of gluten-free sauces.

It did not take long after the business was formed for trade to grow. "We put some samples out there and the feedback was good," Martin explains. "Then we instituted the brand and introduced a range of convenience sauces."

An important step soon after came from a chance meeting with Ireland's Good Food Ambassador Jenny Bristow, who agreed to endorse and use the company's products. She is leading a marketing campaign this year, which is being rolled out across Ireland and Britain.

The company's products are now stocked by Spar, Costcutter and Dunnes, in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. "We have 280 customers in Northern Ireland and another 80 to 100 in the south of Ireland."

But the key to growing significantly bigger is to break into the market of the major supermarket chains.

"It's very hard to convince retailers, especially the larger retailers, that Dunola is a serious brand," Martin admits. "That is our main aim at the moment – to convince the large retailers that we are a serious brand.

"We are proving at the minute through our customers that there is demand for our products and from our sales online. We are seeing demand for the product, which is growing."

In particular, says Martin, sales of the rapeseed oil are very strong in the Republic. Oil sales are likely to increase further in the south and in the UK as awareness of rapeseed oil and its health benefits become better known. "We believe we will be the market leader," says Martin.

The next stage of development involves a significant strengthening of the business marketing. "We have hired a PR company and we are hoping that will grow sales," Martin explains. He adds: "We have a young student who is promoting the online sales."

"There is a long way to go for awareness of rapeseed oil," admits Martin. But he adds: "Our sauces are as important to us and our brand."

Negotiations are also taking place with a large retailer in the Republic which could provide a further boost to sales of both product ranges.

With six staff at present, Dunola has some way to go before it makes its mark as one of Northern Ireland's best-known food brands – but it has made an impressive start. In its first year of trading it won the accolade of 'Best New Business Award North West'. Now Dunola is well placed for that big push into significant expansion.

Case Study: 'Improving conference experience for visitors'

By Paul Gosling

Ever been to a conference or festival and had the feeling you were not quite in the right place at the right time – that you were missing something that was probably better, more hip, or more suited to your personality?

Well that was exactly the experience of Breda Doherty and Catherine Morris when they attended what is perhaps the most exciting and important music event in the world – South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

Breda and Catherine left feeling that they wished they had known a bit more in advance to make the best of things. And from that, two years ago, a business idea was formed. What if, they thought, they could provide a website that provided visitors with the inside tips to make the experience the best that is possible. This would also help conferences and festivals maximise attendees' satisfaction and make it more likely that people would come back in following years.

An opportunity arose to pitch the idea, thanks to a start-up programme for new digital businesses that was then called Digital Derry and which has since been renamed CultureTech, a subsidiary of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.

Programme director Mark Nagurski suggested that the pair put the business idea forward to a new competition, the inaugural Digital Derry Seedcomp.

If they persuaded the judges that theirs was one of Derry's best new digital business proposals, they would be given intensive mentoring support.

They pitched their idea to a panel of experts in June 2011 – and came third. From then on they were given mentoring support, not only from Nagurski, but also from Derry's 'Digital Ambassador', Colm Long – the operations director for Facebook in Ireland.

As the proposal became more concrete, the Hubb.it (pronounced Hubbit) business and website were developed, winning support from organisations, including Esynergy, Seed UPS, Invest NI and the Creative Industries Innovation Fund.

Breda is the managing director and did most of the groundwork prior to launch.

While Catherine still supports the business, she is no longer closely involved with it because of time constraints. Today there are two other staff with Breda – one a content contributor and the other a business strategist. "Hopefully down the line we will have a massive team," adds Breda.

The CultureTech festival in Derry last August was the ideal opportunity to launch the website and apply the business idea at a large conference for the first time. "We used CultureTech as a test bed to see how we could make Hubb.it useful for people who attended," says Breda. "At CultureTech we were able to launch with very little money. Mark gave us a venue to use – that was great."

Hubb.it is currently engaged on support and promotional activities for a music festival in Los Angeles, an arts festival in Scotland and the annual Electric Picnic in Co Laois. It was also commissioned to support the recent European Business Network (EBN) conference in Derry, to assist delegates make the most from their attendance.

Breda explains how the service works: "We make an events page that has things like the event profile, where people can buy tickets, other pages with top tips on things to see, what to do, where to eat, where to stay in the local area. These are the things that organisers might not have time to do themselves. Afterwards we help event organisers to analyse responses."

Following the positive experience at last year's CultureTech, Hubb.it has been re-engaged to promote the event, which takes place in Derry in the second week of September.

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