Earlier this year, The Dublin Tech Summit took place in the convention centre. Unfortunately, I did not have the resources to attend (could not justify the cost of a ticket versus other current costs).
Inspired by an idea I heard on a podcast, I decided to see if I could make use of the fact that all the brains of the Tech and Startup world would be in Dublin for a few days. So I looked through the list of speakers, and tweeted or emailed any that I found particularly interesting (about 12). I offered to pick them up from Dublin Airport and drop them to the destination of their choice. One London-based V.C. accepted, but only with 20 minutes notice so I politely withdrew my offer.
Then my luck turned and Paulina S Tenner (twitter link here) got back to me kindly letting me know that she was ok for getting to the convention, but told me I could drive her back to the airport. I was delighted and quickly got in touch to confirm.
Paulina S Tenner – Serial Entrepreneur
I had to admit, apart from what I had read on the website of the tech summit, I did not know anything about Paulina. Here is what the summit site said:
Paulina, aka Pow, is a serial entrepreneur, an angel investor and a cabaret performer. In 2010 she started GrantTree to help tech companies navigate the world of government grants. Since then the team of 30 have delivered £50m+ worth of equity-free funding to tech startups, scaleups and established companies.
I googled Paulina and found some great talks which she had given at various events. I found this video on leadership honest and enlightening. I was more impressed by this video of Paulina speaking at the High Growth Summit. It was about motivation and how GrantTree realigned how it thought about its employees.
I learned about GrantTree and how they help companies learn about and avail of government grants. I learned how Paulina and her co-founder started work out of a spare bedroom and built their business into the success that it is today.
Now that I knew some more about Paulina and her experience, I was even more excited about spending time with her and getting some advice. In the life of a start-up, it is very easy to speak to founders that are in the same position as you are. So at Booking Hawk, we have an early stage product, less than 100 customers etc. I can easily speak to founders of companies that are in roughly the same stage as we are. It is much more difficult to get access to somebody that is 10,20 or 100 steps ahead of where you are. This was now my chance and I wanted to learn as much as I could about how Paulina got so far and see what, if anything I could learn from her story.
My Own Personal Tech Summit
Paulina presented me with some homemade banana bread when I met her and thanked me for doing the airport run. We spoke about how she enjoyed her time in Dublin, about her experience at the Tech Summit and then the conversation turned to BookingHawk.com. Paulina wanted to know where we were as a company, where we wanted to be and what was stopping us from getting there. I gave her some background for context and then the conversation flowed. I was taking in as much of this gold as I could. I haven’t shared everything we discussed for two reasons. Firstly, I do not want to betray Paulina’s trust and secondly, get your own airport run with a Serial Entrepreneur! What follows are four pieces of advice/tips that I am comfortable sharing.
Paulina on Next Steps…
Much to my delight, when Paulina heard about what I had built and how far along the business was, she gave me great words of encouragement. She told me most start-ups do not get as far as I have and that what I had achieved was not easy. Paulina was surprised to hear that setting up a Limited Company in Ireland was as expensive as I had heard it was. She suggested that this can be done quite cheaply and easily.
Paulina on Networking…
I asked how Paulina had scaled her business. I was very surprised when she spoke about how much networking she had done. In the early days of GrantTree, Paulina would attend at least seven networking events a week in London. Usually, she attended more than one per day. She spoke about how it is natural to start with your personal network. As you grow your network, you can refer people to the businesses of people in your network. Paulina said that networking is all about helping others. Once you start to help other people out, they will naturally return the favour. Paulina suggested that I look into BNI Ireland and MeetUp.com. Paulina suggested a couple of online groups that I should join. If you would like to know what they are, just ask me!
Paulina on Customer Relationships…
“Doing favours is your best currency as a start-up”. What a great tip. This doesn’t just apply to networking and referrals, it also applies to users of your system. When she heard about how important customer service is to BookingHawk.com and how we regularly do simple favours for our customers, she suggested the following. When you do a favour for someone, ask for a simple one in return. It may be as simple as ‘oh can you please give my Facebook page a like’ or ‘could you please fill out this short survey’.
Paulina on Cold Emails…
We discussed follow-up rates, email content and useful tools. Paulina agreed with my assessment that cold emails should not be sent from Mail Chimp. If you don’t know why find out the hard way yourself or send me an email! We discussed scripts and templates and Paulina kindly agreed to review mine. How very nice! On a more general point, Paulina said that often times the hard sell is not a good idea. She said it is much better to start off with the aim of learning more about your potential customers and target market by doing research. Often times, these research conversations can lead to more.
There you have it, four great tips and no expensive tech summit tickets. Ok, I did spring for a few road tolls, but it was completely worth it. Sincerest thank you, Paulina! Paulina mentioned that she would like to speak with Irish tech businesses (spending €100k+ a year on R&D) to chat to them about whether they’ve used grants at all and if the process was a pain or easy enough. If you know any such business, please tweet Paulina.
Finally, if you know someone that would benefit from an online booking system, 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.
PS – if the Entrepreneurship doesn’t work out, there may be a career in banana bread manufacturing!