First of all may I say Happy New Year to y’all. December came and went under a mad torrent of work. December’s highlight was winning Learning Pool’s “Mrs Doyle Award”, the award for being unable to function without the aid of tea or coffee. Christmas was basically doing nothing, until last Thursday….
Then Lyra posted on her blog about the hand out culture in Northern Ireland. It struck a chord with everyone who read it. It raises an interesting question though: is it better to spend your time selling your product than trying to raise grant/equity money?
My thoughts on this are pretty well know, I don’t taking money if I don’t really need to. I blogged about this in July 2009 in a post called “The first step to success is not to depend on everyone else“. Investment (grant or otherwise) is usually called for when rapid growth is required, depending if you want the coveted/dreaded “first mover advantage”. What’s definitely lacking is sales training that I’m aware of, especially in Northern Ireland. I’ve seen first hand many times the utterance of “when we/I get the money”, like the government organisation are just going to hand cash over to anyone.
Hi-tech businesses have an additional barrier to climb, what I call the “scotch mist” theory. It’s really difficult to sell a concept that no one can see. Websites have a difficult time especially as it’s nigh on impossible to estimate user growth patterns. It’s one of the reasons I think that websites faired poorly on Dragon’s Den. For every Groupon or Facebook there’s the littered remains of a thousand startups who thought the opportunity was worth copying. It usually isn’t by that point the light goes on in the entrepreneur’s head.
Tangible product seems to have an easier time, one Northern Ireland startup the excellent Rory’s Storycubes, is a physical product. I remember the first time I saw the prototypes on a complete off chance meeting, I also remember coming away from that group meeting in August 2009 thinking, “he’s on to a winner”.
The odd thing about Thursday’s Twitter conversation about the funding/bootstrapping argument was I standing in the middle of Derry. While all this talk was going on between my peers and friends: Matt Johnston, Lyra McKee, Marty Neill and David Kirk – well this chap was selling hotdogs like I’ve never seen. And it came down to a very basic formula: right product > in the right place > at the right price > with the right promotion. I’m guessing his turnover was £60 in a 30 minute period. Not saying it was like that all day but he was doing a damn good job. He got a fiver out of me, didn’t haggle once….
The whole put me out of my pity party from the previous few days in the, “how the hell am I going to make this work”. Thursday night I had a sales meeting penned for 9am the next morning and got a subscription confirmed as well.
The conclusion is simple: if you put your mind to it you can do it.