Adam Fulham on the start-up scene in Ireland

ThinkBusiness caught up with Adam Fulham, founder of Startup Network Europe, who will be hosting the Irish Startup Conference 2020.

How and when was the company started?

Startup Network Europe launched in November 2019, as a physical events business. We relaunched in April 2020 as an online events business, in response to COVID-19. Things have gone great ever since. This evening (Tuesday, 11 August, 2020) we’ll be hosting The Irish Startup Conference 2020!

What is the problem you are trying to solve?

There are lots of startup events, but only a few are worthwhile going to. I think there’s a huge opportunity to create entrepreneur gatherings which:

  1. Have great content. Entrepreneurs want to hear from founders who have been there and done that. You learn most from other people’s successes and failures
  2. Have great audiences. Most start-up event audiences are either hyper-focused or not focused at all. I love events where there is a right mix of attendees
  3. Have a great atmosphere. Too many events end with the last PowerPoint slide. Always head to the pub after events, as that’s where the best networking happens!

This doesn’t just go for Ireland, but for countries across all over Europe too. So, we can say it’s a big market!

“The best thing about entrepreneurism is that you make lots of mistakes”

What is your core product and service about and how does it work?

We help start-ups by hosting online meetups, seminars and trade conferences. Most of these events are free, as a way of reaching out and giving back to the start-up community. Some – particularly niche seminars for niche audiences – are paid and that’s how we monetize.

Tell me about your business journey

I’m the sole founder, as it suited much better to found and bootstrap the company alone. When I was 23, I was introduced to entrepreneurism by a book called The 4-Hour Work Week. It was really inspiring and led to me reading other books about self-improvement in general.

The best thing about entrepreneurism is that you make lots of mistakes, which you have to look at as your fault and your fault alone. Blaming yourself on things you can control, instead of external factors you can’t control, is really liberating as it enables you to take action and change.

“COVID-19 has actually turned out to be a massive opportunity for us”

What are your impressions of the start-up ecosystem in your region and in Ireland in general?

I live in Turin in Italy now, which has a great startup scene. However, I must say that Ireland is at a much higher level in terms of government support and the ease of doing business. Dublin’s status as the tech capital of Europe is something we should be really proud of and appreciate too.

I believe there is a need in Ireland to have a cohesive and united startup community, as the scene in Dublin and elsewhere is divided into a lot of sub-communities. This means a lot of start-up entrepreneurs of one skillset aren’t connecting with those of another.

What are your growth plans?

Right now, I’m completely focused on Ireland because I think it’s best to get one market right, before expanding elsewhere. COVID-19 has actually turned out to be a massive opportunity for us, as it’s easier to expand internationally with online events than it is with physical events.

Our first expansions will happen with start-ups based in major hubs like Barcelona, London and Prague. Fortunately, language isn’t a barrier as most startup founders are able to speak English.

“Sales changes your life because calling lots of people you don’t know every day really pushes you outside of your comfort zone”

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?

Having very little money making my first business was a great lesson! It forced me to learn skills and spend as effectively as possible. For example, I learned how to make my two websites,  LatinAmerica.ie and StartupNetwork.eu, for a couple hundred euros, rather than hiring someone externally which would have cost a lot more.

I hired freelancers on Fiverr.com to make logos, translations and videos (like this one for €35) at really competitive rates.

Is there anything you’d do differently?

I’d get a job in sales the minute I graduated from university. Sales changes your life because calling lots of people you don’t know every day really pushes you outside of your comfort zone. You also learn where the customer comes from (marketing) and how to connect and engage with them in order to turn them into customers (sales).

What advice do you have for fellow founders?

Read all of these books. It’s better to read 10 amazing books than 1,000 average ones.

Interview by Stephen Larkin

Published: 11 August, 2020