Introducing – Archipelago
John Egan Managing Director of Archipelago talks to startups about the vision of this exciting new enterprise…
Founders: John Egan, Steven Menton, Ciara Donlevy, Mairead Galavan, Aisling Hanby, Orla Hanby, Gemma Coady, Valerie O’Reilly, Des Hernon, David Holt, Eoin Dinsmore, Suzanne Monnelly, Sarah Brennan
Staff Number: 4 full time, 12 part time
Date started: April 2010
Tell us what your business does?
There are 3 different Archipelago companies: Concepts, Works & Epoch all with different functions, 1) Enterprise, 2) Leveraged Strategy, 3) Design, Arts & Culture all administered by Archipelago. To focus on Concepts; Concepts’ focus is the facilitation of young Enterprise in Ireland. To that end, we have created a service, Conceptum, which significantly reduces the costs incurred while starting a company while also making it much more time efficient. We have done this by securing discounts and preferential rates with high end service firms in Dublin and coupling it with our own in-house strategic services to create a complete start up solution, from registration to web-design.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
We felt enterprise in Ireland was massively inefficient and staggered. Start ups weren’t nearly as sophisticated as they needed to be to survive and it was principally because 1) cost of enterprise was too high, 2) Clear, concise guidelines with solutions weren’t readily available. 1,500 -2,000 companies start in Ireland every month and 75% of them will fail. In normal circumstances most of those failures will start again or go back to regular employment, but for people of our generation, in this climate it equates to forced emigration. We believed we could fundamentally change the way business was done in Ireland by imposing a level of sophistication and efficiency on Irish enterprise.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Yes, absolutely. We all feel a responsibility to justify ourselves and enterprise is the most efficient way of doing so.
What planning did you do before you started up?
A phenomenal amount. The unique and broad nature of our undertaking necessitated an almost academic amount of research. We needed to understand the system of enterprise in Ireland better than anyone else and how it worked from start to finish. We had to recruit service firms, some of which (for example Vodafone & AIB) were large corporates
who required a significant amount of formal due process. We had to build a process for each service we offered and build 3 completely bespoke business models.
Which entrepreneurs do you admire?
Branson because he’s the prototypical entrepreneur and he understands the positive role entrepreneurs can pay in society. Niklas Zenstrom & Janus Friis the founders of Skype for completely changing the telecoms industry with a simple idea and minimal costs. Per Andersn – the founder of Metro Newspaper for creating a newspaper that can actually work in this day and age, Tyler Brule (Founder of Monocle and Wallpaper magazines) for producing two of the worlds best quality magazines and succeeding by juxtaposing old and new business models. Bob Young founder of Lulu.com for creating an ingenious online model and an old school example: King C Gillette for coming up with the razor and blades model over 100 years ago and it’s still one of the most successful business models around.
What challenges have you faced how have you overcome them?
Too many to name. Trying to create something atypical means you’ll always stumble upon people who try force standard procedures on you. We believe as an entrepreneur you should constantly challenge convention, change the game instead of just keeping up.
How have you promoted your business?
Very quietly up until this point. We needed to put stress on the structures to see how they held up and what we needed to change. We’ve tried to keep business to a trickle until we were ready. Now we are.
Are you optimistic about 2011?
Extremely, Archipelago is a product of this economic environment, we feel very comfortable within it.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Probably 3 things that might not mean anything to you until your faced with it, but….
1) Justify yourself: constantly challenge convention and peoples accepted norms. If your business is to be mediocre you’ll fail, sooner or later. Change the game.
2) Resourcefulness: Remember there’re are many alternative forms of currency – opportunity and sacrifice to name but 2 and when your starting out it’s probably all you have. Resourcefulness is the key characteristic of the entrepreneur; do your best to foster it.
3) Getting back on the horse: it sounds clichéd but enterprise is often lonely and often times it doesn’t take much to make you doubt yourself. If you can’t get back on the horse, enterprise isn’t for you.