Start-up Night Dublin: make sure to ‘pick your co-founders carefully’

Turning gaps in the market into business opportunities was the theme in Dublin


Turning gaps in the market into business opportunities was the theme at the AIB Start-up Night in Dublin last night.

Guest speaker Jennie McGinn of online fashion retailer Opsh explained how What Will I Wear Today, the fashion blog she started with her sisters in 2009, turned into a business opportunity.

Along with sisters Sarah and Grace, McGinn took the business concept to the NDRC (National Digital Research Centre) Launchpad programme, where they built the shoppable magazine, Prowlster.

Prowlster evolved into Opsh after they determined that online consumers were overwhelmed by too many options and craved a single destination to shop for their favourite brands and products.

McGinn talked about the challenges of raising finance, scaling a team, scaling a user-base and penetrating the UK market.

“Pick your co-founders carefully. You are wedded together until the end of time,” she said.

“Be firm in your vision - it’s what gets you through the dark days. Start your investor conversations as early as possible, and always be asking for money, help advice and support.”

Bernie Kinsella, CEO of, a company that allows customers to ship packages internationally without leaving the comfort of their homes, was an AIB Start-up Academy finalist last year and returned as a guest speaker.

Kinsella, also the managing director of Wheels We Deliver, talked about how she saw a gap in the consumer shipping market and started WorldBOX to address it.

“Make sure you have really good people around you, and if you’re doing a start-up, at least try to fix a problem. The bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity,” she said.

“We looked at the five things people hated most about shipping and tried to fix them.”

On a personal note, Kinsella said, “there isn’t enough time in the day, and it’s guilt all the time if you’re a working parent setting up a company”.

But Kinsella thinks it is the right time to start-up in Ireland because of the many funding options available to early-stage businesses.

Three start-ups gave five-minute “elevator pitches” to show aspiring entrepreneurs and early-stage start-ups how a pitch is done.

Darragh Kirby and Shane Murphy pitched online group travel and activity booking platform, Groopeze. The company connects suppliers and people making group bookings.

“We’re reinventing how online group booking are made, managed and paid for,” Kirby said.

Antonie Geerts pitched Seditio, a digital consultancy company. Geerts said ten years ago, no one was really doing digital marketing. Then, as e-commerce, social media and the internet became more popular, companies simply added the word digital to their advertising and marketing services.

“Businesses got hurt in this free for all boom…in order for companies to be successful in digital marketing, they need to have some level of knowledge of what can be done,” he said.

Geerts said Seditio differs from other companies in that it doesn’t take on new digital advertising or online marketing campaigns.

“We look at old campaigns and try to fix them.”

Phil Martin, also one of last year’s Start-up Academy finalists, pitched his authentic corn tortilla manufacturer, Blanco Niño.

He set up the business after discovering a gap in the market for corn tortillas.

“As soon as I realised I wasn’t mental, I jumped on a plane to Mexico.” There he learned all about corn tortillas and how to make them.

Martin now employs nine people and is exporting across Europe.

“We have one hundred per cent retention of every customer,” he added.

The event was part of a nationwide tour leading up to the second AIB Start-up Academy, which is open for applications.

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