Mark McGeough is Co-founder & COO of Ekho, a venue engagement platform that allows tourist attractions to manage, deliver and analyse their multimedia content in order to drive deeper visitor engagement and understanding. Both Trinity College Dublin graduates, Mark and his Co-founder & CEO, Raef Tyrrell, founded Ekho in the summer of 2017 with the help of Blackstone LaunchPad at Trinity and plan to launch with The Science Gallery Dublin in April 2018. Click this link to learn more about Ekho.
What prevents a lot of people from giving entrepreneurship a shot is the notion that you either require a large team or financial resources in order to succeed - or some combination of the two. Our experience demonstrates that while they are nice to have, they are not essential.
What is necessary however, is to be able to clearly communicate a compelling vision.
Ekho’s story is an example for other students and would-be-entrepreneurs who may have a great idea but fear they lack the resources around them to succeed.
Starting from zero:
When you first start out, especially as a student, you face the daunting perception that you don’t know what you are doing. You have zero real-world experience, zero capital, zero customers and zero credibility.
That is why being able to communicate a clear, potent vision of the future is of seminal importance.
What makes a great vision, at base, is a well founded but inspiring narrative. One that takes a small idea or problem and connects it to something bigger. One that resonates with the listener by touching on the commonalities of human nature; purpose, emotions, goals. People buy into visions that establish a connection and take them on a journey.
Nearly a year ago now, when Raef and I first began our entrepreneurial journey, we had no capital and few resources; just the two of us and a small MVP - one beacon and two screens to flick through on Raef’s smartphone.
What we did have however was a simple yet well defined vision; Enable tourist attractions to understand their visitors better so that they can empower their visitors to learn more, at their own pace, in a more engaging way.
Communicating our vision effectively provided us with the opportunity to participate in the Launchbox Accelerator program, win our first test partner and ultimately raise funding.
Practice makes perfect:
Ever hear of the 10,000-Hour rule? The 10,000-Hour rule is based on a study by Anders Ericsson and popularised by Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers. It is the idea that success requires constant practice, and Gladwell draws on a host of examples ranging from The Beatles’ musical talents to Bill Gates’ computer savvy to hammer home the message.
Put simply, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” - Benjamin Franklin.
With any story, how it’s told matters. And so with your vision, the delivery is crucial. This is even more salient when you are a startup seeking the attention and wallet of target customers with busy schedules and their own priorities. You have a limited time to gain their interest. That is why it is imperative to practice how to clearly communicate your vision. There is no time for fluff.
Preparation in this regard, can follow two forms:
First, directly working on presenting your vision succinctly: Practice saying it to yourself in front of the mirror. Ask your friends, family or someone that you respect to listen to your pitch. Reach out to student support groups like Blackstone Launchpad to get their opinion
and tips (a huge help to us when figuring out how to concisely present our vision). The most important thing is to seek out honest, constructive feedback.
Second, look to identify hidden opportunities to further develop your communication skills; class presentations, pitching competitions and public speaking activities will enable you to hone these skills so that when your opportunity arises you can take it.
Do the research and know your audience:
Knowing who you are presenting your vision to matters. That’s because when we tell stories, we are not just telling them for the sake of it, we are telling them to achieve a certain goal.
Do the research and ensure that your vision aligns with solving real problems that your customers have, while empowering them to achieve their goals. Successfully establishing that connection will allow your customers to buy into your vision. Fail, and you will be fighting an uphill battle.
We learnt this the hard way. Early on in ekho’s journey we approached one of Ireland’s leading attractions having failed to prepare enough. The problem wasn’t that we couldn’t communicate Ekho’s vision. It was that we failed to align it with their goals. Net result, we left the meeting with nothing but a tough lesson - deeper research.
But we didn’t give up. Fast forward a couple of months later. Another meeting, another chance, same customer. This time we had done our homework; Research into their five year strategic vision? Check. Knowledge of their five year funding plan? Check. Investigate the background of all the key decision makers? Check. With a thorough understanding of our customer, we could align Ekho’s vision with achieving their goals. Result: they are now a prospective client in our sales pipeline.
So if you have an idea but fear that you lack the resources necessary to succeed, remember that if you are prepared, capable, tenacious and coherent, you are in with a shot. And a shot is all you need.
And if it doesn’t work out, at least we can say that we took it. Will you?