Pat Lynch, Stephanie Lynch, Jonathan Healy, Sinéad Doherty, Brendan Finucane.
There was a great turnout at the IGNITE Graduate Business Innovation Programme Open Information Evening last Tuesday 6th May.
The highlight of the evening was an inspiring discussion with panelists Stephanie Lynch founder of OnTheQt.ie, a website that profiles ‘hidden gem’ destinations for tourists, (www.ontheqt.ie), Brendan Finucane of Vconnecta Ltd, who has developed a mobile platform for political campaign management, (www.ecanvasser.com) and Dr Sinéad Doherty of AnaBio Technologies Ltd, who provides encapsulation solutions to the food and pharma industries, (www.anabio.ie). All three took part in the IGNITE programme in 2013. The panel also included Pat Lynch, serial entrepreneur, member of the IGNITE Advisory Board and Stephanie’s Dad. Pat founded MicroTech Cleanroom Services following redundancy from Seagate Technology in 1998. He has since gone on to be involved in a number of successful start-ups. Jonathan Healy of Newstalk kept the discussion lively.
In a wide ranging discussion, the panelists spoke about the inspiration for the business ideas, what encouraged them to take the first steps, the highs and lows they have experienced to date, the support provided by IGNITE and their plans for the future.
All three businesses were inspired by personal experiences. Stephanie Lynch saw the opportunity to promote Ireland’s off the beaten track destinations when working in the US, Brendan spotted the need for a product such as Vconnecta’s Ecanvasser when canvassing for a local politician and Sinéad recognised the potential for protein based encapsulation during her research work.
On the question of influences, UCC BSc (Business Information Systems) graduate Brendan noted the importance of winning the UCC Entrepreneurial & Social Society Young Entrepreneur’s Competition in 2012 and the encouragement of Sean O’Sullivan, CEO of South Cork Enterprise Board, UCC PhD graduate Sinéad was encouraged to start her own business by colleagues at Teagasc and Stephanie, with a BA (TV, Radio and & New Media Broadcasting) from the Institute of Technology in Tralee, noted success in the 2012 Young Entrepreneur Programme as an influence in starting her business.
Pat Lynch remarked that the biggest challenge to starting your own business is often in refusing job offers. All three entrepreneurs turned their backs on attractive job opportunities to start their own businesses and they haven’t looked back.
All three spoke about how they benefited from different aspects of the IGNITE Graduate Business Innovation Programme.
Sinéad Doherty remarked that IGNITE helped her to “complete the picture”. She described herself as being happiest in her lab, working as a scientist. IGNITE encouraged her to develop the necessary business skills to transform from “lab rat” to winner of the Cork Chamber of Commerce Emerging Cork Company of the Year Award for 2014.
Stephanie Lynch described the benefit of the guest speakers and recalled a key moment during a workshop when successful entrepreneur, Johnny Walker, described her business as a “nice lifestyle” business that challenged her on the scale of her ambition. This comment spurred her into action to expand the business outside Ireland.
Brendan Finucane highlighted how regular panel reviews and progress reports as well as the guidance and support of business mentor, Anne Moore, helped him to realise the full potential of the business. Critically his participation on IGNITE brought him to the attention of an investor whose support has propelled the business from a final year project to a commercial product with Irish and, more recently, US customers.
All three also emphasised the benefit of working with and learning from the other participants on the programme.
Pat Lynch commented on the ups and downs he has experienced in business. He noted that running your own business requires long hours, dedication and passion and can be a lonely place when things go wrong. However, he reckoned he has created more wealth in three years working for himself than he did in twenty years as a white-collar PAYE worker.
Among the audience were IGNITE alumni Mike McGrath of Supply.ie, Liam Ryan of MR Food Innovation, Jayne Ronayne of KonnectAgain as well as IGNITE mentors Anne Moore, Neil O’Brien and John McCarthy and members of the IGNITE Advisory Board Dick Lehane, Paul Sutton and Sean O’Sullivan.
The IGNITE Graduate Business Innovation Programme is an incubation programme that supports recent graduates turn product ideas into commercial reality. The programme consists of a comprehensive schedule of workshops and seminars, an effective one to one mentor programme, access to the Universities academic, research and commercialisation expertise, business network development through regular networking events as well as office facilities and seed funding.
The Programme is open for applications for IGNITE 2015 until 30th May 2014. Application details are available at http://www.ucc.ie/en/ignite/know_more/
The Programme is funded by Cork City Council, Cork County Council, the Local Enterprise Offices of Cork City and County and UCC/Bank of Ireland.