Early in August, First Fridays returned to Dogpatch Labs in the heart of the Grand Canal Innovation District, Dublin, and there were plenty of start-up lessons on show throughout the morning and afternoon. A panel discussion and fireside founder chat complemented the mentoring and welcome sessions as a big crowd turned up and tuned in for the monthly meetup. In just a few days on September 2nd, Ludgate Hub will host the September edition where there will be even more great takeaways for founders – so, what did we learn from the August get-together?
Charlie Taylor, Technology and Innovation Editor at the Business Post; Jess Kelly, journalist and podcast host at Newstalk; and Philip Costigan, Senior Account Manager at 150BOND engaged in an insightful Educate panel discussion. They had lots of sound advice for start-ups looking to get their stories out into the world
One of the key points was that founders should not be afraid to inject personality and authenticity into press releases – Charlie made the point that it’s important for founders to be themselves as it’s too easy to become homogenous – to be too similar to other start-ups – which makes it less likely that a journalist will be attracted to a founder’s story, even if the hook is there.
Indeed, they also spoke about being savvy with headlines and hooks. Philip has lots of experience helping cutting-edge international technology clients amplify their message, and he made the point that start-ups should know when to be clever with email subject lines – and when to simply tell the truth, however plain it might seem.
Another point raised during the panel by the three panellists was for founders to build relationships – and for PR teams to build relationships – with journalists. They also spoke about the importance of not being afraid to set stories aside and wait for the best time to release them. As Charlie explained, the difference between a 500k funding round and a €1m funding round could be six months, and it might just be worth the while to wait before bringing that news to your broadsheet newspaper.
For the Inspire founder talk, CEO and co-founder of Kinzen, Áine Kerr, spoke about her experience as a leader and also about the challenge of creating platforms that make verifying news and truth easier. Aine used the Arab Spring as an example of citizen media where people on the ground were using smartphones to post to YouTube to report incidents and news. She knew then, with Storyful, what the problem to solve was: how to do you take content from the margins to the mainstream in verifiable ways?
“We are dealing, in society in many ways, with a breakdown in trust” – Áine said, before going on to quantify her statement by asking a question for founders to ponder: “Is my work harmful, or is my work going to do good in society?”
This thought tied in with her background as a journalist, editor, and co-founder where she has worked on the best ways to share information in the age of fake news, disinformation, and modern-day journalism. At a time that is largely defined and supported by technology, it was interesting to hear Áine speak about how important it is to have humans in the loop of the fact-checking solutions that also include automation and algorithms.
Aine also touched on the idea of starting a start-up in the midst of a recession, as she had joined Storyful in 2008. She talked about how would-be founders and founders starting out can understandably be dissuaded from establishing a business in the middle of an economic downturn, but she encouraged founders in the room to ask themselves a simple question: what’s the worst that can happen?
Áine expanded on this point by saying: “If you know your why…the hows follow…you re-build patience,” she explained. Indeed, when asked the question of how to remain focused on your end destination, when surrounded by the fog of uncertainty that is a recession, she used a great.
By Trevor Murray