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Philosophy, writing and making cents: AIB Startup Academy week three gets real

Critical thinking for peak performance kicked off a day of intense thought and action in week three of the AIB startup Academy

Things get real as the AIB finalists are introduced to critical thinking for success and how to convey their brand message effectively


There was a healthy mix of philosophy and practical learnings in today’s AIB Irish Times Start up Academy. This was the third week for the eleven finalists as they follow an eight-week accelerator programme. Valerie Pierce was today’s first facilitator for “Critical Thinking for Peak Performance” before Fiona Ashe took them through the afternoon with “Writing for Business Clarity”.

Pierce said her job this morning was to get the finalists to think about how they think. She set them a task with a situation for which they had to try and come up with a resolution. Its aim was to show them the difference between passion and emotion when it comes to selling their product. Passion will ensure they remain focused on their product, while emotion can sometimes make them focus too much on their ego. For successful communication they must use their passion to control their emotion.

“It was a really practical session today whereby they saw that it doesn’t make sense to sell a product with your reasoning, you can only sell a product by showing someone why they should buy it, not why you should sell it. We learned from the Greek philosopher Aristotle who said when selling ideas ‘the fool will try to convince me with his reason, where the wise man persuades me with my own.’ It’s amazing how making sense equals making cents,” said Pierce.

The Academy is a joint venture between AIB and The Irish Times to help start-up companies develop as the finalists participate in an eight-week training programme in a range of entrepreneurial topics, from social media to business planning.

With each passing week the group are getting more comfortable with one another, and this was certainly evident with the lively and robust wrap-up on their morning task in Irish Times HQ which had plenty of laughter. Carrie Doorley of Queezybags said “I think there’s a lot more fun coming into the Academy now, everyone is settling in a bit better.”

Fiona Ashe took the group through the afternoon session, which focussed on the skills they need to write for their business with her module Writing for Business Clarity, an invaluable skill for any entrepreneur which can help every aspect of their business.

“I hope that (by the end of the session) they will be able to market themselves better through writing. It is very difficult to write clearly and effectively if you are not used to it. It is a bit of a skill, it takes a bit of practice and they are certainly learning the process and getting a bit of practice today. So I hope that that will be of great benefit to them in the future for their success,” said Ashe.

Ashe took the group through various exercises looking at the secrets of successful writing, how to write effectively, meeting the emotional needs of their ideal client, writing for search results pages, spelling and grammar and writing for social media.

Ryan Scott from DropChef explained that today’s session was a great way for all the finalists to step away from their businesses and products which they are so close to, and see things from a different perspective. “Quite frequently as an entrepreneur you are so involved in your product, but you are not really looking at the actual benefits for the customer. So this morning and afternoon really worked on how to step back and approach it from their perspective.”

Scott agreed with Doorley that the group were bonding as they approach the half way point of the Academy. “These tasks are great because everyone is getting pushed more and nobody’s afraid to pull any punches. Everybody’s getting to know each other, even at lunchtime now we have conversations, not only about what we got up to in our tasks, or our own businesses, but about strategies.”

The eleven finalists in this year’s Academy are Topper, Rebel Chillli, The Cool Bean Company, Brendan Joseph, Nasal Medical, Popertee, Leaves, Buska Boxes, Blackwater Distillery, DropChef and Queezybags.

At the end of the eight weeks the finalists will have to make one final pitch to this year’s judges in the hope of winning the overall prize worth over €200,000 which includes: a €20,000 cash investment from AIB, substantial advertising and marketing packages, PR training, office space and development support. There will also be a runner’s up prize. For more details on the prizes visit irishtimes.com/aibstartupacademy Next week: Lisa Hughes will be with the finalists for Marketing and Mastering “The Funnel”