Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Good news for Small Business

The National Entrepreneurship Strategy is finally coming on stream. Full press release available on the Dept. of Enterprise website, gist of it here:

- The Tánaiste has announced a broadening of the financial supports available for fledgling businesses, from County Enterprise Boards.
- This does not mean that every start-up can apply for funding from CEB's now. Instead, those who were already eligible will have less stringent measures to adhere to.
- Whatever that means...

This seems to be an excuse for the Tánaiste to try and look good after last week's many blunders. This press release seems to be full of...well, nothing really. It's not opening the floodgates of eligibility and allowing every type of business apply for funding but at least it's a step in the right direction.

More info as I get it...

**EDIT** hearing rumours from CEB chums that now rent and wages can be covered in start up grants spanning an initial three-year period...this could be much better news than the press release suggests...sit tight!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pledge 50 euro by Outvesting

Hello all :)

I would like to draw your attention to this here voluntary initiative:

James Corbett blogs here and is currently championing a bloody good idea. Group investing a small amount so there is not a huge amount of risk per investment, but gives a small business an injection of cash that is much needed - a mere €5,000 to help them on their way. James is gathering 100 people together who are each giving €50- to a business...

Now I don't know any of the details yet but not only is it a fun idea but it is a worthy one. Think of it as charity, think of it as gambling, think of it as chambling or gambity for all I care, I've signed up for it and I love the idea of helping out worthy businesses who have a good idea but are struggling to fund getting the idea to market.

Many of the financial supports that are already out there - from small business loans (ahem, hello bankers) to First Step to the County/City Enterprise Boards to the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance are already helping many fledgling business out, cashwise. A few of them require matching funding. Most people have a bit of savings or can raise a little capital from friends, family and fools - but wouldn't an extra €5k really help the cashflow situation?

So many times a business will apply for funding and only ask for the minimum so that they don't take on more than they can pay back. An extra bit of cash is sometimes all they need to patch each source of finance to the next, in a long line of varied supports.

I commend the chaps over here who spurned the discussion, and brought about this little initiative of James' - let's hope it's not a "little" initiative for too long.

PS. I hope it's open to all sorts of businesses. A lot has been done for start-ups already, I'd love to be involved in keeping something afloat with a new business idea in an existing business... A business that is reinventing itself in the new economy...

**EDIT** I now have a blog to link to about this!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

UCD Alumni Looking for a Female Entrepreneur who recently started up

Today from LinkedIn:

LinkedIn Groups
Group: UCD Business Alumni
Subject: Are you a recent female entrepreneur?
UCD Smurfit School in association with a leading Irish magazine, would like to profile some recent female entrepreneurs. If you have set up your business in the last 12/18 months and would like to be profiled please contact businessalumni@ucd.ie.

We will need a short paragraph on you and your business, along with your degree and year of graduation.

The most appropriate businesses will then be selected for inclusion.

>>> Besht of luck ya'll :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Lots of business ideas, Inventions and New Services

People get in contact with me every day about a new idea they have had - they want to see if there is a business to by found in their idea.

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh but I must be honest. Most fantastical ideas have been thought of by now. For every new invention, there are usually lots of previous attempts. Most of them will have failed, and a few will have found success a lot less lucrative than originally anticipated.

Don't think I'm harsh - if you have a new idea, test it out. Not on your friends and family who may not want to hurt your feelings, but head to the next county, find your ideal target market - age demographic/gender/financial background - and really test it out with people you don't know, people who will be honest with you. Sometimes you need to take that scary step - don't worry, if your idea truly is as brilliant and as you believe it is, having an anonymous focus group reinforce your opinion will only be a good thing.

The way to protect your idea before you unleash a crude prototype on people you don't know, is to registered-post the designs to yourself and lock the unopened envelope away in a safe somewhere. If the time comes, a judge will open the envelope in court and go "ahoy ahoy, this idea certainly seems to be yours, good sir/madam..."

Be warned though, an idea or concept cannot be protected by copyright (disclaimer: I am not qualified in law, I just found all this out over time) - it is easier to copyright a design, painting, photograph, poem, song...

When it comes to protecting your Intellectual Property, there are many options open to you. Copyright, doesn't cost a jot. You don't have to buy the rights to use the copyright symbol (c), you just use it as a reminder to anyone checking out your product, that you are the sole owner of the property and you are aware of your rights.

Patents are expensive. There are not a lot of patent lawyers out there so the few that are, are busy and can charge as such. It is a valuable asset, a patent, so you need to be aware that it takes investment of both time and money to properly protect your idea. The thing about patents, is that they are registered in categories and by country. So, that can mean you could register your product in 5 or 6 categories, in the EU only or Ireland only or just in the UK and Ireland or in the EU and the US but not in Australia - you have so many decisions to make when considering patent protection. The best thing is to take some time out and search through the Patents Office website - they have lots of information there about how you can protect your idea.

If you have a service, which doesn't give you the facility to register a design - what can you do? Well, one option is to develop an excellent brand and register that instead - as a trade mark. You know Coca-Cola, the world's most recognisable brand? It doesn't have patent protection. It has registered the trade mark - have a look at the next can of coke you see, it will have a little (R) beside the brand somewhere. The thing about patenting, is that you are writing down your idea, therefore when the patent runs out - and they do - it will be anybody's gain. Coca-Cola have never registered a patent for their magic ingredient, simply because they never want anyone else to know what it is. So think about patenting before you do it - is it the best route to take? Think about the long-term plans and implications for the decisions you make now. Look at McDonalds - their greatest asset is their brand. Best option? Trademark.

Before you go to the expense of organising all your trademark categories for all the countries in which you see your product/service selling, you can use the (TM) after your brand. Properly protecting something means having registered it, which is why Coca-Cola have the (R) not a (TM) here in little old Ireland.

So that's three main options you have when protecting your intellectual property - copyright, trademark, patent.

There are guidelines available here for protecting your idea in Europe.

Copyright Association
2 Patent Attorney Firms I have had dealings with - in Dublin and in Wicklow
Patent Office, Ireland - Kilkenny, actually, some lovely helpful people down there!
EU Patents Office
World Intellectual Property Organisation - in Geneva, Switzerland
OHIM - for registering trademarks and designs in all 27 member states