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10 rules for starting a business, according to start-up founders

Thinking of taking a leap into the world of entrepreneurship? Read this first.

We asked the founders of 17 start-ups to share their most valuable advice for other self-starters. This is what we learned.

1. Focus your idea

First things first: decide what it is you are going to do.

“Look around,” said Legitify co-founder and CEO Aida Lutaj. “What is a problem you would like to solve? What is a process you would like to improve? What is a change you want to make happen in the future? Focus on that and go after it.”

Strikepay co-founder and CEO Oli Cavanagh recommended founders “focus on finding a real problem”.

“Get started, iterate quickly and work with great people,” he added. Which brings us to the next tip.

2. Find the right people

“Pick your team carefully: people you can trust and who have complementary skills,” said Liltoda founder and CEO Prof Deirdre Murray.

Tracworx co-founder Fionn Barron said you should “surround yourself with a team that shares your values and vision”.

As well as building a strong core team, you should “identify your desired advisers early”, according to Nua Surgical co-founder Barry McCann. “It gives you credibility, but most importantly it provides a support structure for the tough journey ahead.”

Murray also recommended you should “make sure your partners are happy and know what their roles will be”.

And Lutaj added that founders should “beware of the culture you are building”.

3. Do your research

“When starting out, you need to learn as much as you can about your industry and become an expert in your field,” said Barron.

Volograms CEO and co-founder Rafael Pagés had some advice on how to tackle this: “Invest some time researching the market and understanding who you will be selling your products or services to. This will save you a lot of time in the future, and will help you navigate the product-market-fit journey better.”

4. Get some feedback

This is the golden rule repeated over and over by start-up founders. “Listen to, and act on, feedback,” as Strikepay’s Cavanagh succinctly put it.

“Get feedback on your idea as soon as possible,” said Refurbed CEO and co-founder Peter Windischhofer. “It is the fastest and the only way to build a product that many people will like.”

Sustainability-focused start-up Vyra learned this the hard way. “At the start of our journey, we were preoccupied with developing our idea and building our product without speaking to those we intended to use it,” said co-founder Luke Fagan.

“It can be incredibly easy to fall into the trap of thinking your first idea is what the world needs, but how can you be sure without speaking to the world?”

Tracworx found the best way to go about this is “show, don’t tell”.

“We like to show how our technology works and the impact it has. Seeing is believing!” said COO Barron.

This doesn’t have to cost anything more than time, according to John Hannon, a former Stripe engineer who now leads his own company, SalesTier (formerly Gain Grain).

“If, for instance, you want to create a service that presents data in a cool way via dashboards and widgets, then stick the data in a Google Sheet, generate some graphs and put it in a slide deck before writing a line of code,” he said.

“This can be sent to prospects for early feedback before you go down a rabbit hole of creating feature after feature without customer validation.”

Dataships co-founder and CEO Michael Storan agreed. “You can achieve a huge amount nowadays without loads of resources. It’s all about getting those first customers and figuring it out as you go. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good!”

You must also be ready to pivot based on what you learn at this crucial stage.

“Identify your unique selling point and be open to opportunities,” said Liltoda lead Murray. “Your product may have an application that you have not even thought of yet.”

5. Start on the right foot

Murray also recommended founders “get the legal stuff sorted out properly” early on.

“You need good legal advice to get everything safely in place from the start,” she said.

When profiled for SiliconRepublic’s Start-up of the Week series, Murray explained how she secured support for her University College Cork spin-out, which is developing apps for children, from a local firm.

6. Talk to your community

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” said Nua Surgical CEO McCann. “Too many founders are extra secretive about their idea in fear that it will be stolen. However, unless you open up (to the right people), you will never overcome the major hurdles in your path.”

Novus Diagnostics co-founder Dr Elaine Spain said her start-up “benefitted enormously from the support and advice of other entrepreneurs, investors, vendors, and many, many more” in its early days.

“There is incredible willingness to help right across the start-up community here in Ireland. The best advice we can give other self-starters is to get out and connect with the community – you’ll find a huge network ready and willing to help you get things off the ground.”

The start-up community is a vital guide for those founders taking their first steps. “You can try and plan for the road ahead, but it is fraught with uncertainty,” said PlantQuest CEO Ger Carton.

Carton warned that some books and podcasts tend to focus on the “good news” and not the full story. “Get out and talk to other founders and get the ‘warts and all’ experience and be fully informed about what is involved in getting a start-up off the ground,” he advised. “The start-up community is filled with amazing organisations and mentors who are more than happy to point you in the right direction and share their journey with you.”

And Vyra product lead Fagan finds the conversation flows both ways. “We’ve found that no matter where you are on your journey, there’s always someone else ahead and behind of the stage at which your business is at. It’s a great feeling to be able to both get and give advice,” he said.

“Don’t be afraid to get out of the lab and speak to people about what you’re trying to do at all stages of your development,” he said. “It also enables you develop relationships and build your network from the start.”

7. Be brave

Facing your fears is a theme in our advice from founders.

“Go for it! What’s the worst that can happen?” encouraged Trustap CEO and founder Conor Lyden, who got his start as an entrepreneur while still in college.

“If it doesn’t work out, at the very least your CV will be stronger for the experience and the learnings will stand to you. Best case scenario, you won’t look back,” he said.

Pushing ahead with confidence requires a positive mindset, according to Alan Barry, CEO and co-founder University College Dublin research spin-out PlasmaBound.

“All the mumbo-jumbo about positivity and taking an upside position is true. This can be difficult for engineers and scientists who are often all too aware of the plethora of pitfalls and risk-points the start-up needs to transition. It’s critical to see your start-up as a huge opportunity you must be grateful to have the chance to go for,” said Barry.

“Similar to sports psychology, fearing failure is one of the quickest ways to achieve it. The best way around this is to have a broader view. Ensure you have other outlets and interests, so it’s not an eggs-in-basket situation. And yes, train yourself to believe in the possible.”

Heed the advice of Tympany Medical CEO and co-founder Dr Liz McGloughlin, who said: “Keep going and take all feedback on the chin. Digging deep is an essential and always thinking of the glass as half full helps too.”

8. Have patience

“Things always take longer than you anticipate,” said co-founder Naomh McElhatton. “Stay calm, focused and keep going.”

Even in the fast-paced and rapidly growing sci-tech industries, “starting a business takes time,” said Zipp Mobility founder and CEO Charlie Gleeson.

“It took us 625 days between putting together our business plan, researching the market to come up with solutions and a strategy to the industry’s problems, and eventually making our first £1 in revenue,” he revealed.

9. Think big

Gleeson also advises budding Irish entrepreneurs to “think bigger than Ireland”.

“While the market provides an excellent testing ground for new technologies, products and services, companies looking to really scale must look beyond our shores into the UK, Europe and beyond,” he said.

10. Be honest with yourself

Finally, going back to Lutaj, she said founders need to take a reality check before they venture forth.

“Be honest with yourself about personal sacrifices you have to make including financial runway, time needed to be dedicated to building something from the ground up, and support networks – do you have one?” she said.

Ask yourself: Is this going to be a rewarding experience?

For many, it is.

“It is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done in my life,” said PlantQuest co-founder Carton.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

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Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.

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