Hannah Joyce is the founder of Akroo, a professional coaching and training platform which she established in 2020. Having initially started on the NDRC pathway a few years ago, Hannah has come through a number of the programmes and is part of the current Accelerator programme which is set to come to a close later this summer (by which time a new cohort will have started their Accelerator journey).
As part of the Accelerator, Hannah has brought her idea to the next level and has worked alongside some fellow start-up professionals to get investor-ready. With over 50 percent of the programme completed, Hannah took time out to chat with the PorterShed blog about her journey to date and what the experience has been like for her.
“It’s been an incredible journey, to be honest. I’ve learned so much and have met some extremely impressive people and I’ve really felt so supported throughout,” Hannah says.
“The level of detail and the attention and the respect and time that people were putting into it from NDRC in general and from PorterShed and Dogpatch Labs and everybody in the entire Irish ecosystem – it’s been really consistent.
“It doesn’t matter if you have come in and just raised a round of €1 million, or you might be going through a bit of a pivot and a re-brand – everybody is really given the same amount of time and effort, and everybody feels really equal in terms of the support that is there, which is really great.”
Having the chance to meet fellow founders face-to-face during the accelerator was something Hannah really appreciated, and it offered a chance to catalyse ideas, share connections, and make introductions so much easier. Group meetings, fireside chats, CEO breakfasts, and weekly retros all gave the cohort a chance to meet up in the first 12 weeks. Now, as the startups continue the final 12 weeks of the programme, they are working more solo, but still keeping in touch.
Sharing knowledge is a big part of being a founder – and growing as a founder – after all, and Hannah has some advice for start-up founders who are currently at the idea stage:
“Just go for it, and really lean into the support that’s out there – it’s something that I didn’t do well enough, I think earlier on,” she explains.
Hannah draws a comparison with one of her NDRC programme fellows – Carla Rosenkranz – who took a more macro approach starting on her journey, whereas Hannah adopted a more micro, deep-dive approach. Carla wound up telling Hannah all about the NDRC pathway, and they both ended up getting involved in their programmes.
“I really owe it all to her for introducing me to all these different programmes! It’s a really interesting approach that we both took. I took a head-down, ‘let’s start building a platform approach’, whereas she zoomed out and looked at ‘what can I leverage in Ireland that’s going to get me to where I need to get to’, and I think that’s a really great approach.
“It was only other founders that told me about the supports that are other, so reach out to people,” she says as a few words of advice.
It’s definitely a common theme – start-ups learn from each other, and if you’re a founder experiencing a pain point, the chances are, someone has solved that problem before, in some shape or form.
And when it comes to the Accelerator, what are the key nuggets of wisdom that Hannah has picked up throughout her time?
“Skills from customer discovery, customer validation, being able to pitch, to being able to leverage your network and mentorship in a way that’s really powerful.
“For example, if you’re going to ask someone to be a mentor, or you want to set up a call with someone and you need help from them, giving them the best-polished three-minute pitch of your business doesn’t help as much as saying ‘here’s where I’m struggling and I know you’ve done this in the past’. What’s so much more useful is being able to be vulnerable,” Hannah explains.
Hannah also touches on the point that most founders should really embrace the idea of experimentation. She encourages them to follow the data to solve problems – because the numbers can measure how close you are to achieving that goal.
And when it comes to objectives, Akroo has plenty on their list, and Hannah is keen to make the most of the short and long term. Growing the user base and continuing to improve the technical aspects through consistent feedback from those in the know are two of the key areas they are focusing on. Alongside that, Hannah is training her sights on further developments.
“Keeping an eye on potential co-founders, I’m always exploring that, and probably to hire later in the year. We’ll probably have the first bit of help coming in June on a part-time basis, and then to continue to grow there, and properly grow out the team after the first big set of users have come off the pilot test of the platform,” Hannah explains.
By Trevor Murray