In the third part of our Diary of a Student Entrepreneur 2021 series, our young founders talk about the importance of instilling the right culture in their start-ups.

Every summer LaunchBox, Trinity’s student accelerator, offers 10 start-ups €10,000 in equity-free funding and a place on the three-month programme. Follow how these start-ups get on here.

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

Evan Mcgloughlin, co-founder of Diglot

Young man with dark hair wearing white shirt.

“The pinnacle of company culture for me is where everyone wakes up excited every morning to produce something bigger than themselves”

Listening intently to the turbulent nature of the founder’s stories over the past four weeks on LaunchBox has consolidated my belief that great start-ups are a product of a strong company culture.

The importance of company culture is something I’ve become staunchly aware of in the past few weeks as Diglot continues to expand. Starting off on a two or three person team you relish the benefits of being included in every business discussion and decision. This drops off exponentially with every new hire added to the team. Heightened importance is placed on delegation and a strong company culture is defined by the decision-making when you aren’t in the room.

The pinnacle of company culture for me is where everyone wakes up excited every morning to produce something bigger than themselves, they are creatively engaged in the task they are doing and they approach every challenge as an opportunity to fail and learn from the experience. My role as the CEO of Diglot is to do everything in my power to instill that belief system in everyone at the company at all times. I have learned through LaunchBox that I am not alone in struggling to execute on this daunting task.

The programme has really helped instill that confidence to step away understanding my own bandwidth limitations and having faith that the people I have on-boarded can carry out the vision of the company. I’ve learned to be purposeful with the tasks I prioritise, and the manner that I communicate this to everyone making Diglot what it is. Thinking deeply about this throughout LaunchBox has facilitated a level of clarity in the kind of company culture I want to create at Diglot.

Diarmuid McGonagle, co-founder of Fonz Music

Young man wearing bandana.

“ In some sense, Covid-19 has ruined the startup experience. Instead of all nighters together, we work on our own schedules. Instead of being glued to our office, we haven’t left our homes. Instead of building inseparable bonds, we’ve built healthy working habits.”

Every Sunday evening for over a year now, Fonz Music has held its weekly meeting. Jay calls in from Virginia. Dermot from Limerick. Ben from Dublin. Myself from Boston. It’s not your typical start-up experience. There are no all-nighters pulled together. There are few spontaneous ideas from sharing a few cans together. There’s no schedule we all share.

In some sense, Covid-19 has ruined the startup experience. Instead of all nighters together, we work on our own schedules. Instead of being glued to our office, we haven’t left our homes. Instead of building inseparable bonds, we’ve built healthy working habits.

When our lives return to normal and we’re granted the opportunity to act like a true start-up, some big decisions will need to be made regarding culture. Will we convert to the typical workaholic startup culture, or stick with the “work-when-it-suits” culture.

Start-ups traditionally have two competitive advantages. One, when building products, is speed to market and flexibility. The other, tailored towards employees, is “no rules” and the do-it-yourself attitude.

If we decide to give employees free rein to live wherever and work whenever, do we lose that quick collaboration that can only be harnessed in compressed offices? Or will we enable our team to build quality products consistently, rather than in bursts?

Being in a cohort of other startups through LaunchBox, we’ve been able to tap into the general start-up culture. Constantly chatting with other motivated entrepreneurs has helped us stay focused and keep our eyes on the prize. More importantly, we’ve been able to see where our team is weak and what we need to improve. 

Getting the Fonz Music team to collaborate in person will certainly be a new page in our development. However, for the time being, we’re making the most of our healthy working habits.

Heather Bruton, co-founder of UniPeer

Young woman in coffee shop.

“That is the beauty of start-up culture in general – everything is constantly in flux and everyone is open to new ideas”

Pitching to a large group of people is always daunting. Even sitting in your kitchen talking to a screen can get your heart racing. In fact, I checked my heart-rate on my FitBit right after a pitch and it had spiked to 140bpm. For me, pitching our idea practically every day has definitely been the most challenging aspect of LaunchBox, but with each pitch it gets a little bit easier.

Recently, I have been thinking about what kind of culture I want to foster within my start-up. Coming from an English literature background, I am keen to keep our team working in a creative space. I am constantly brainstorming. I don’t want us to settle; I want to keep expanding on our vision for UniPeer. That is the beauty of start-up culture in general – everything is constantly in flux and everyone is open to new ideas.

My focus for UniPeer is to create a welcoming, inclusive and mindful culture because student wellbeing is at the centre of our mission. Myself and my two co-founders have been friends since our first year at Trinity, so making a conscious effort to respect each other’s boundaries and way of working is really important.

This has been something of a learning curve for me as I am a perfectionist and like things done a certain way. I draft and redraft everything I write multiple times over.

Participating in LaunchBox has made me realise I cannot be a perfectionist about everything. There is not enough time to fret over every word in an email. There are too many other things that need to be done. In a high-pressure, and oftentimes chaotic, working environment, I cannot linger on the tiny details. I need to keep my eye on the bigger picture.

Published: 5 July 2021

Recommended