Hi Des and welcome to InspiredStartups.com! We have met during my past postgraduate study with Digital Marketing Institute, where you deliver lectures in Location Based Marketing, PPC and SEO.
But firstly, tell us a few words about yourself. Where did you begin your startup journey and what inspired you to pursue your own business?
"How far back do you want to go? My mother likes telling a story about how I turned the back garden in an amusement park for an afternoon when I was 7. With my younger brother we charged neighbours to come in, think it was 5p a head. Some of the older kids wanted their money back, so I locked the house door and put the keys and takings through the letter box. So I was outside, but no-one could get their money back. My mother arrived home to a mini riot in the garden!"
What do you love about being an entrepreneur? Willing to share least favourite parts?
"I don’t want to over-do the clichés, but being an entrepreneur is full of ups and downs. Building something is really satisfying and rewarding. But the downs can keep you awake at night, like running low on money and sacrificing things so time goes into the business. And there are days when it feels like we are cracking nuts with rocks (getting nowhere), and a positive outlook is really important."
You have built two startups: The Search Mill (digital marketing agency)and 3funnel (web conversion analytics tool). How exactly does each of these businesses help other companies?
"Both businesses are very close and that is deliberate. It takes a fair bit of time to get good at something and we wanted to capitalise on the synergies and experience of The Search Mill when starting 3funnel."
Can you describe your typical working day? How do you manage to share multiple roles under the same hat?
"The wearing multiple hats thing is hard. But I try and group particular type of tasks together over a couple of days. So I have a few days of detailed work, then a few days of meeting people and sales. Trying to do strategic business work and detailed business work in the same day is really hard, so I break them up."
In your opinion what are the secrets to startup success?
"Good mentors and a bit of luck are two of the biggest factors (although many people don’t like to admit the luck part). Someone that knows your industry and can steer you away from pitfalls is invaluable. But beware, lots of cowboys call themselves mentors, so pick wisely."
What are the key lessons you've learned throughout your entrepreneurial journey?
"It’s very much a marathon, not a sprint. Starting out nothing could happen fast enough. But put in a good effort each day and things start to happen after a while, you just got to be patient."
Any big mistakes you did and could advise other early-stage entrepreneurs on how to avoid them?
"Mistakes are part of the entrepreneurial world. Keep your costs low and tell everyone about your product (even while it is only an idea). You will learn way more from sharing the idea than keeping it like a golden secret."
Recently, you have delivered a presentation during the recent Growth Hackers event which took place in Dublin. Any tips on lead generation and growth hacking you would like to share with startups trying to grow?
"Short answer. Use exit surveys on your website or web app. Why did people leave and what was frustrating for them. Long answer, growing a business is a long term endeavour. You need to bake the growth of the product into everything. Engineering, Finance not just Marketing and Sales."
I am also aware that your second startup 3funnel received the NDRC assistance. What was your experience and how did you benefit from the NDRC Launchpad Programme?
"The Launchpad program is great. There was 14 similar companies starting out and helping each other. The people we got to know and the shared experience really helps develop the business."
Any experience with pitching for funding? Would you like to share a couple of tips with other startups?
"You have to a lot of pitching to get good. My advice is get started. You are going to make mistakes and poor pitches. The more you get out there and do it the better you will get…"
Could you give recommendations on "startup launch checklist" for entrepreneurs looking to start their own business in Ireland?
"Just get out there and do it. You will never start with the best idea. Be prepared to make mistakes, just try and stay away from mistakes that will sink your business. Challenge yourself to test product market fit as soon as possible. Failing fast, if you have learned something is not going to work, that is one of the best lessons possible."
Three words to describe yourself?
"Optimist, Opportunist, Growth Hacker."
Finally, where can our startup community find you online?
Website: thesearchmill.com or 3funnel.com
Twitter: @dessie_martin or @3funnel or @thesearchmill
Thank you Des, we wish you and your startup partner Elaine Thompson the best of luck with your new conversion web analytics software "3funnel"!