Howth-based TheStartup.com aims to be the Swiss Army Knife of starting a business with cloud, business plan, mentor and investor resources every entrepreneur needs.

Finance isn’t the only impediment to starting a business, but it helps. In reality, confusion around resources, where to start, who to get advice from and even writing the business plan all play a role in holding entrepreneurs back. Don’t worry, TheStartup.com is on the case.

Howth-based TheStartup.com is the brainchild of Rich Corbett and Fionan Murphy and aims to be a global resource for start-ups all over the world.

“The platform is designed to navigate this ecosystem and help to connect start-ups with the various components of the ecosystem that can help them”

“I think most people would like to be prepared for a new venture, but the journey sometimes is not clear,” explained CEO and co-founder Murphy. “Some of the elements of starting a new business are consistent and some are unknown. We are trying to demystify some of the consistent parts of the journey for people with ideas who have never acted on them.

“Starting anything new can be daunting, even starting a new hobby by choice or a new way of living like the current situation with Covid-19. So, imagine starting a new business which could have massive implications on your finances, relationships, or wellbeing.

“Our team knows from experience that the right resources and guidance are critical to giving people the best chance of success. We help match people with ideas to mentors, investors and service provider resources. We curate all of the tools, products and mentors on our platform so that our customers know they are dealing with trusted providers. We’ve also negotiated preferential deals with service providers to ensure our subscribers get the best value available.

“In short, we demystify the entrepreneurial journey and democratise access to trusted enabling resources.”

The idea behind TheStartup.com is that anyone with an idea, but unsure of where to start can commence that journey on the platform.

“We help individual entrepreneurs and teams globally,” Murphy added. “We are seeing a lot of interest in our white-label software solution for enterprise, called YourEcosystem. We can sell into any entrepreneurial environment such as academia, incubators/accelerators, corporate innovation, start-up judging competitions and the like.”

How TheStartup.com works

According to Murphy the budding entrepreneur completes Q&A to gauge their idea’s stage of development.

“We ask 50 questions about the idea. We don’t ask what the idea is. Once the Q&A is completed the user gets a score out of 1000 and also a list of tasks to help them develop their idea further.

“On completion of these tasks, their score increases and the user generates a 2-page overview of the business which they can have reviewed by an expert mentor. The platform also contains a suite of tools to help bring the entrepreneur along their journeys such as customer, market and competitor analysis.

“TheStartup.com is a community platform and as such contains a private network of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and jobs seekers. All members are able to connect on a forum of relevant content and also chat with an integrated chat solution. 

“To support entrepreneurs to source and engage the best service providers at the best price we have integrated a marketplace with discounts and offers on global service providers and a local coop of trusted service providers in the customer’s locality. 

Entrepreneurial prowess

Smiling man in navy jacket.

TheStartup.com founder Rich Corbett.

“Be confident about asking for money from customers and be confident about asking people for investment when you need capita”

Founder Rich Corbett is a seasoned and successful tech founder and investor who now lives in Ireland. Corbett is the founder, general partner, and chief investment officer of Palm Street Capital LP, an IPO-centric hedge fund founded in 2002 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Prior to Palm Street, Corbett was a director at EMC Corporation, where he conceived, built and managed EMC’s venture capital channel which included a $500m EMC Venture Fund focused on emerging technologies in storage-intensive businesses. The Venture Capital Team liaised with preeminent venture firms to advise, consult, architect, and co-invest in ventures portfolio companies.

He was also formerly a vice-president with San Francisco-based investment bank Hambrecht & Quist (H&Q). Noted for its focus on the technology, life sciences, and internet sectors, H&Q underwrote IPOs for Apple, Genentech, Adobe and Amazon. Corbett began his career at investment bank Bear Stearns, where he enjoyed a highly successful investment banking business. Today he is an active angel investor with portfolio companies in the US, Ireland, and Europe. He is a founder of Yoga.com LLC, an internet wellness portal and is currently a board member of TheStartUp.com, Seed Golf, Irish real estate start-up Lintil and Ideashares LLC.

Dublin native Fionan Murphy has a background in customer experience and project management. “I had worked in Mobile Telecoms for my career and I got to work on really interesting projects that all had commercial propositional elements and technical development components. I really liked being part of building things and then going to market. A critical part to a successful career in an enterprise is being entrepreneurial as you need to stand out and also show the measure of your contribution. 

“Working in an enterprise is very different to start-up but I think taking the best bits from both types of business is a really good mix to develop great propositions for customers. Each of our six team members has also come from enterprise to start-up so I think that is giving us a really good sense of the need for pace with consideration of future planning and scaling.

“I got to a point in my career where I felt that I had learned enough working for someone else that I was ready to be part of something I had a stake in.”

He describes the start-up ecosystem in Ireland as vibrant, friendly but laments it can be very helpful if you know how to navigate it.

“As someone new to ‘start-up’ it felt quite fractured. There is a ton of support from the government and enterprise but where do you start?

“The platform is designed to navigate this ecosystem and help to connect start-ups with the various components of the ecosystem that can help them. So, in the Irish context, we might recommend government programmes like the Local Enterprise Office, Enterprise Ireland or even supports from Revenue.ie.”

According to Corbett, TheStartup.com is not currently seeking funding. “We recently closed a very successful seed round through investment from the US and Irish investors. Enterprise Ireland is also an investor in the platform putting us in its High Potential Startup programme. We are forecasting a Series A fundraising late next year.”

Corbett said the venture is running according to plan. “While Covid-19 has caused many a change of plan this year for many start-ups, it has been more of an opportunity for us as many entrepreneurs can’t go into the school, accelerator or office, and our platform is being viewed as an extension of those places by our customers and allowing them to continue to engage with their students, workers, portfolio companies.”

Highs and lows

To rob an old tech industry adage, TheStartup.com literally eats its own dog food. “We use TheStartup.com platform for the daily management of the company,” said Murphy. “We need to answer the same questions and do the same work as the other entrepreneurs on our platform. Some of the external applications that we’ve integrated onto the platform we’ve selected from our Marketplace and we find best suited to our needs at the present time and at a cost that suits our stage, such as: Solgari for our external telecoms, Mattermost for internal communications, Miro for visual collaboration, and Microsoft Teams for file storage and application integration.”

Murphy adds: “Our team have all experienced the highs and lows of starting businesses in the past. We all have the scars of choosing the wrong service provider, buying expensive software that wasn’t fit for purpose, or negotiating a bad deal. We’ve tried to apply these lessons and learnings into our platform, mindful that we want to help people avoid these same pitfalls.”

His advice to start-ups is to get out there and sell. “It’s about customer, customer, customer! Focus on getting a customer or customers early to work with and get real, practical feedback on your offering. Ask for help! Make the phone call to ask someone for advice or opinion on how best to handle an issue.”

Corbett concludes: “Be confident about asking for money from customers and be confident about asking people for investment when you need capital. Try to give yourselves 12-18 months of working capital as fundraising is a full-time task, and can easily distract a founder and team.”

Main picture at top: TheStartup.com CEO and co-founder Fionan Murphy

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 6 October, 2020

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