Earlier this year, I sent an email to Meath Enterprise, more or less to the effect of:
“I am working on a software application. I believe that it will be successful and although I do not need any financial support or otherwise at this moment, I thought I should get in touch in case there is anything I should be aware of.”
I received a prompt reply suggesting that I drop into their offices in Navan for a chat. Initially, I was wary as I assumed that I knew everything (far from it) and that there was little gain. After speaking with Peter from PaydIn (another Meath-based software startup), I decided that it could be worthwhile. Peter said that his meetings with the Meath LEO office were overall worthwhile.
At my initial meeting, I spoke with Lorna. Lorna and I had a high-level conversation about BookingHawk.com. Lorna informed me of the various supports available. As I was not looking for investment at that time, I told her that I would be interested in speaking to somebody that had successfully launched a software product as I had some specific questions relating to that subject.
Lorna suggested that I apply for the Local Enterprise Office Mentoring Program. If successful, the program entitles the applicant to three meetings with a suitable mentor. The subsidised price of which is €50. The application form asked the following questions:
- Business name and address.
- A brief description of the business idea (online appointment booking).
- Year established.
- Turnover / Profit (both zero in my case)
- The number of staff if applicable.
- A brief paragraph about the applicant (Your CV in a paragraph)
- A paragraph about who your product/service is aimed at.
- Three issues you would like your mentor to specifically address.
All of these are straightforward and are intended as a means of the local enterprise office assigning you the most suitable mentor. Meath Local Enterprise Office assigned Paul Murtagh to mentor me.
Paul Murtagh – My Mentor
The first thing I did was to look Paul up on LinkedIn and check out his credentials. I did not think that Meath LEO would have anyone as experienced or qualified as Paul clearly was, working as a mentor. I then took a look at Paul’s website and was satisfied that he would be worth listening to.
A few days after acceptance to the mentor program, I received a call from Paul. The call lasted about twenty minutes. Like any founder, I was eager to talk about my product but it became clear, that Paul was more interested in talking rather than listening. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with this. Once he understood my product from a high level, he did not need to hear any more from me at this stage. After all, the whole point of the program is to learn from the mentor. The conversation touched on a number of topics including new customer acquisition. Paul did not try and steer me in any particular direction. Instead, he listed off options for me to research and decide the best fit for myself. We arranged to meet a few days later for a coffee (tea actually) in The Headfort Arms Hotel in Kells.
I demonstrated BookingHawk.com to Paul and once he understood it completely, we talked about a range of useful topics. Again, I was happy that this was a listening exercise. Topics discussed included:
- Potential New Features – Paul was a fresh pair of eyes and it was useful to get his opinions on how to add to the site. I did not agree with them all but it is always useful to get feedback.
- Competitive Advantage – Paul explained how it was important to know who and what your competition is, both direct and indirect. He explained the difference in these two and how to go about measuring up both in comparison to BookingHawk.com
- Market Quantification – Who is my target market, how big is this market.
- Do The Numbers Add Up – Paul suggested that after I do my homework on points 2 and 3, was BookingHawk.com viable? For example, to have a competitive advantage over my competitors, do I need to charge less. If so, and my target market size is 500, can I make a living from charging 500 businesses 10 euro per month.
- Cold Emails – Paul talked about what I had been learning the hard way. The art of the cold email and how low the responses would be. We talked about strategies to improve responses.
At the end of the meeting, Paul suggested I do my homework on the above topics and we agreed to meet again 3 weeks later.
Meeting two allowed me to go over the numbers which I had come up with. Paul looked at the numbers in depth, talked about the interest already shown in BookingHawk.com and the number of trialists on the system. We talked about the grants and supports available through Meath Local Enterprise Office. I was surprised to hear that the success rate was as high as Paul stated. Although this meeting is a few months back, I think Paul said 3 of the last 5 applications were accepted. Paul talked about promotion avenues and how to promote BookingHawk.com. Finally, Paul spoke about how to value a business and how investment works.
After the second meeting, I felt I had enough information to proceed for a few months without further contact. Apart from a phone call to Paul about copyrighting, I have not been back in touch with the Meath LEO. However, I now know of the supports available and when the time comes, I have no doubt that I will be contacting Paul once again.
Overall I found the meetings with Paul and Meath Enterprise to be very informative and worthwhile. I would recommend that anyone starting a business in Ireland makes use of their L.E.O.
If you know someone that would benefit from online booking, please let me know about them. I will send you a two paragraph email for you to forward to your friend so it couldn’t be less hassle for you to help a couple of Irish businesses to grow! As a thank you, I will help you out with some advice on your website / SEO / Tech Support.