Diary of a student entrepreneur 2020, part 5

This summer 10 start-ups from Trinity are taking part in the LaunchBox accelerator programme. In this fifth episode the entrepreneurs learn about culture as a cornerstone of business.

LaunchBox, in partnership with Bank of Ireland, and managed by experts in Tangent, Trinity’s Ideas Workspace at Trinity College Dublin, provides mentorship, funding, access to alumni and investors, and the ideal collaborative environment to launch new start-up ventures.

This is the eighth year of LaunchBox, but the first year that the programme is running online

To get a sense of the calibre of these start-ups, check out their video pitches.

Lauren O’Reilly, cofounder of ProMotion, pharmacy student

auburn-haired woman smiling.

“Culture is everything, and our characters contribute to the culture our start-up has”

Over the course of the last few months on LaunchBox, I have been learning a lot about both our ProMotion user and our customer, through extensive market research. For many of the cyclists, one of their concerns was often to do with bike theft, and this led to us factoring bike locks into the design of the wheel attachment, as well as including an anti-theft guide in our app. Even though Covid-19 has hindered the street survey approach, we have found people to be so willing to help online. Brands and cyclists alike have given us so much insight via Zoom calls!

Alongside learning about customers and users, I’ve found that I’m learning a lot about myself along the way. Culture is everything, and our characters contribute to the culture our start-up has. As positive people ourselves, who have witnessed the effects that negative work culture can have, we love being able to create our own. We maintain open communication, and have daily meetings to tie in with one another, even if only quickly. This allows us to deal with issues as they arise, as well as bounce ideas off one another.

With Demo Day fast approaching, as a team, we are excited to deliver our pitch and to share what we’ve been working on these past few months. LaunchBox has certainly accelerated the growth of ProMotion, and putting our pitch together has enabled me to reflect on how far we’ve come, and to clearly visualise the future of ProMotion.

David Weitbrecht, cofounder of Rezero, creative thinking and entrepreneurship graduate

dark-haired man in white shirt.

“Customers are an invaluable source of insights and industry knowledge”

Today I’m going to talk Culture and Customer.

Culture is one of the key building blocks to creating a high performing and effective team. I believe a strong culture emerges from communication and trust. That is, communication that is open, timely, consistent, and continuous to ensure everyone is on the same page. We do this by over communicating and making sure not to presume prior knowledge/same viewpoint. This shared understanding begins to build trust within the team and is further built by ensuring individuals in the team have ownership and responsibilities for different elements of the business. We work actively to improve our communication and build trust as our company culture grows and matures.

Customers are an invaluable source of insights and industry knowledge. By speaking to them, you can unlock the door and open new opportunities to improve your product or service. From speaking to potential customers early on, we found out that they did not want to use or be associated with a plastic product in the context of a deposit return system. This insight prompted us to source a non-plastic product with better environmental credentials which would meet and exceed customer expectations. Without speaking to the customer, we would not have known this.

Demo Day is fast approaching (3 September) and we are busy creating and updating our presentation. I am most excited about sharing our journey the past three months. I’m proud to highlight some of our successes and thankful to have the support of LaunchBox along the way. I’m excited to see the other teams pitch to see some of the great work they have put in and what they have achieved along the way.

Liam Lysaght, co-founder FiltraCycle, engineering student

Red-haired man in white shirt and patterned tie.

“The resilience required to take ‘No’ 19 times in a row and still pick up the phone in search of ‘Yes’, arises from our company culture”

With the first fully online LaunchBox Demo Day less than two weeks away, I am most worried about the possibility of technical difficulties. For example, the electricity to my house was cut this morning, causing my Wi-Fi to drop unexpectedly. In person, it is possible to laugh and power through a technical problem, but online all you can do is hope one of your teammates will jump in and carry on.

I am really looking forward to Demo Day, mostly for the opportunity to show off all the progress we have made since we pitched for a place in the LaunchBox programme. This has been an amazing summer for FiltraCycle, and none of it would have been possible without LaunchBox.

FiltraCycle is primarily a B2B company, with our main customers being waste collection companies and plastic product manufacturers. In trying to attract these enterprise customers, we’ve learned that if you’re willing to hit the phones, and take 19 “No”s for every “Yes”, it is possible to get big customers on board even when your startup idea is barely passed the concept stage.

The resilience required to take “No” 19 times in a row and still pick up the phone in search of “Yes”, arises from our company culture. FiltraCycle’s culture can best be described as a viciously lean startup motivated by friendship and environmentalism. Rather than assign specific tasks, team members are assigned goals, and given the freedom to pursue them however they feel is best. This approach requires a level of trust that is only possible given our team’s close personal friendships, and the understanding that as CEO, everyone’s mistakes and failures are ultimately my responsibility. 

LaunchBox Demo Day will be online at 12pm (IST) 3 September. Tune in on Tangent’s YouTube Channel. You can register here to be sent a reminder: https://lbox20demoday.eventbrite.ie

Published: 24 August