Next up with advice for young entrepreneur starting out is Peter Coppinger, co-founder of Teamwork.com.
Tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to start your own business?
Growing up in West Cork, there was always food on the table but I always only had one pair of shoes. I knew from an early age I’d do whatever it took to be successful. I was fascinated by computers from the second I rested my greedy little 8 year old eyes on my cousin’s zx-spectrum. At 10, my first computer came with a programming manual and I found something I loved to do.
When I first read about Bill Gates, I was immediately inspired and knew then that I was going to try to follow in his footsteps. In college, I felt that the internet was happening without me so I dropped out and started Digital Crew, a website and web application services consultancy.
After a few years and with hundreds of websites and web applications under our belt, we spotted a gap in the market and made the product that became Teamwork.com. After years of hard work we now have almost 40 staff, millions in revenue and some of the biggest companies in the world as our customers including Disney and Microsoft.
How did you get your business off the ground and what supports did you avail of?
When we were getting started it wasn’t as easy to access the resources that are available now for first time entrepreneurs, so a lot still happened behind the scenes and was painfully slow. In our first month with Teamwork, we made just $124. But we stuck with it and 2 years later it was earning €30,000 a month, enough for us to quit the consultancy and focus on the product full time.
These days you have one-stop shops, such as the LEOs, that you can go to in terms of advice about getting started, the conversions happen in the open and there’s a lot more positivity about the contribution that first time entrepreneurs can make to the economy.
Looking back now, is there anything that you would have done differently?
In the early years we didn’t do any marketing whatsoever. As perfectionist programmers I guess we never felt the product was ready. That was a huge mistake and that’s something I would certainly look at if we were starting out again.
If you had one piece of advice to offer someone considering starting a business, what would it be?
I’m asked this a lot and I always say the same thing: “Think Big”. It has never been cheaper or easier for you to build a successful business. Anyone can do it so why not give it a shot. Tip: Some good books here to get you started: http://personalmba.com/best-business-books/
Anything else you would like to add?
I feel too many potential entrepreneurs want overnight success and deep down are unwilling to do the hard slog it takes to be successful.
Getting started its important to have the focus on what’s important. There’s great resources out there to help you get started these days, as well as grant funding in some cases. Our success as a business has been built on a laser focus from day one, on building what our customers want and keeping them happy. This single-mindedness has allowed us to build a global business with more than 370,000 customers like Disney, eBay, PayPal and Netflix, across the world, without ever taking outside funding, debt or investment, so we’re captains of our own destiny. It all depends on your business idea, your circumstances and your needs, but the great thing now is that there’s a wealth of advice and help out there to help you make these difficult decisions when you’re getting started.
And make sure you buy yourself a second pair of shoes!