Why are we doing this?
In 2012 The Irish Times first opened its doors to startups, with The Irish Times Digital Challenge
This first initiative was followed by The Irish Times FUSION in 2013, an experiment in which we attempted to match the energy of the startup community to the market reach of the advertising industry. Now, in 2014, we are working with AIB to launch the Start-up Academy.
The objective of the academy is to support entrepreneurs across the country. This goes beyond our previous work in two respects. First, it is not limited to technology ventures. Second, it focuses on community building first and is targeted not only at new startups, but at prospective entrepreneurs who have yet to make the leap into starting their first business.
There are two things at the heart of what we are doing: community and the lean business canvass.
Community, as the Kaufman Foundation recently reported, is a key factor in fostering new entrepreneurism. People who know entrepreneurs are likely to be entrepreneurial themselves. Dublin, in particular, has a very strong tech startup community, but our hypothesis is that something that goes beyond tech (and extends beyond Dublin), is needed.
To help build this we are launching a series of events across the country and inviting the emeriti of the entrepreneurial world to speak and share their experiences. These events, AIB Start-up Nights, are for everyone active in the startup world, in any sector or industry. That includes would-be and could-be entrepreneurs who are thinking about starting their first venture.
Lean business canvass
But, beyond community, we intend to offer something far deeper. The early stages of a business is hard and few first-time entrepreneurs have the entire set of skills to cover finance, accounting, marketing, sales, product development and more.
Irish Times Training, a subsidiary of The Irish Times, has offered many courses related to business performance over the years, but now, via the Start-up Academy, we are doing something new. In 2015 it will admit a select group of startups to an intensive training programme built around the lean business canvass methodology, to tackle each of these issues. Our hope is that in a very short space of time this curriculum will prepare entrepreneurs to grow their businesses faster and more sustainably.