‘The job of the entrepreneur is to be both a poet and a plumber’


“During the last two years we’ve won some and lost some, but we’ve also learned a lot along the way.” Niamh Bushnell.

As part of a‘fireside chat’ with Pat Carroll during Limerick’s monthly Startup Grind networking event, Dublin Startup Commissioner and serial entrepreneur, Niamh Bushnell, talked about the two years she spent in the role. Bushnell moved on from this post in March 2017. 

Shortly after graduating from the University of Limerick, Niamh Bushnell started her first business, Pan Research, in Dublin in 1996. She then moved to New York, where she worked for as VP of Software with Enterprise Ireland, before taking the leap back into entrepreneurship, with MarketSprint and later tech-directory startup TechResources. She also founded a mentor-matching startup, IDIRUS and became an angel investor with ERANYC.

Two years ago, Bushnell moved back to Ireland, where she took up the post as Dublin’s first Startup Commissioner, with responsibility for spearheading the development of the city as a global hub for innovative companies.

Moving to TechIreland

In March 2017, Bushnell moves on to head up TechIreland, the most comprehensive, public database dedicated to innovation in Ireland. Through this platform, the complete data on Ireland’s tech ecosystem will be available to everyone, for the first time. This non-for-profit will perform multiple functions. Firstly, as a business development tool, it will help connect Irish startups with international investors, the media, and global customers. Secondly, it will act as a place to learn about investors here and internationally who are active in Ireland. And finally, it will identify Irish-based global partners and customers and serves as a feeder of data to third party international databases, e.g., Crunchable. 

Bushnell ended her fireside chat in Limerick with some top tips for startups. 

Niamh Bushnell

There are no shortcuts

There are no shortcuts to building a great business. No one out there has the answer for you and your business – no mentor or investor no matter how experienced, can tell you exactly who to hire, how to spend your marketing budget, or what your pricing model should be. That’s your job. As an entrepreneur, you need to go through the discovery process in a systematic way and create your light at the end of the tunnel. Seek great mentors, listen to their advice and then prove it out in the market painful (or joyful) step by step.

Tech is challenging

If your product involves technology and your skill set is not tech, become an expert listener and communicator quickly. At my last startup I had a super smart and patient technical co-founder, and yet we still struggled every day to communicate clearly on the roadmap for the product. To win, every day must be a successful team communication day.

Be a poet and a plumber

The job of the entrepreneur is to be both a poet and a plumber. Most of the time I was pretty good at telling a product and strategy story that inspired people and got them excited. I was less good at focusing on the numbers. Successful businesses love numbers – acquisition costs, lifetime value of customers, deal sizes, margins, cash flow, revenue, usage, retention, attrition – and more. So, before, during and after, to scale your business get up close and personal with the numbers and stay there.

The Startup Grind Dublin and Limerick chapters are sponsored by Bank of Ireland. Pictured above (main image) are Pat Carroll, Bank of Ireland and Niamh Bunshnell, Dublin Startup Commissioner at the Bank of Ireland Workbench Space, O’Connell Street Branch, Limerick. The other photo of Niamh Bushnell is by Red Eye Media.

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