Web Summit CEO talks startups and entrepreneurship

Image credit: Siobhan Coakley

In an event organised by the DCU Enterprise Society, Paddy Cosgrave (CEO, Web Summit) and Jay Bregman (Founder, Hailo) visited campus to discuss how and why students should get involved in start-ups.

After graduating college and deciding that traditional jobs weren’t for him, Bregman set up his first business: an e-courrier service. Ever since his other ventures have had a similar goal to simply “better organise objects that are moving around in space”. So came the creation of Taxi app Hailo and Bregman’s newest startup: Verify, a system that regulates drone movement.

Cosgrave explains that his entrepreneurship “didn’t come from the lecture hall,” but from what he learnt from working with societies. He explained that his drive to build comes out of frustration. The Web Summit is a subsequent result of the frustration of starting companies and never having a start-up conference in Ireland.

Cosgrave doesn’t downplay the workload that accompanies starting a business. “It takes a village to raise a child. Well it takes a team to build a company,” he said.

“You as an entrepreneur need the skill and ability to persuade people to join and to stay when it gets tough,” he continued. His advise for joining a company after college: “I think you should join a company on the basis of the people, ask yourself : will I learn from this person or this team? If you’re unsure, look again.”

“A great team is also essential when raising money”, added Bregman, who raised over $150 million when founding Hailo. Both however, warned on the do’s and don’ts when it comes to investors. Bregman explained that though having investors early on can help you through the process of establishing your company, they are not necessary in from day one. He also cautions “there are many bad investors, even in good investment firms”.

According to Bregman a good entrepreneur is “always curious and sceptical, the best entrepreneurs are those who fixate on what’s wrong [with the product] and venture to fix it”. He continues, “Learn everything you can about the market. Find a problem big enough to solve and build a bad version of the solution to present to investors and go from there.”

The panel concluded on the importance of risk taking. “Embrace all the risks that are available to you. Take all the risks in your twenties and do everything your mammy says you shouldn’t do,” concluded Cosgrave.

Siobhan Coakley

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