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Survival secrets from entrepreneurs on making it through year one of business

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First of all, we spoke to Dave O’Flanagan, the CEO and co-founder of Boxever, a cloud-based marketing platform that enables retailers to capture, analyse and act on large volumes of customer data in real-time. He spoke to Real Business about the journey he faced and offered advice to other entrepreneurs who seek to do a similar thing.

What made you decide to start the business?

I had a light bulb moment – something happened that made me realise I had to take action to make things better.

I was working for a travel tech company at the time, and I was talking with a representative from a major airline who told me how hard it was to know anything about their customers – he couldn’t even tell if a particular traveller booked tickets with them more than once a year.

That’s when I knew there was an opportunity to address customer intelligence in the travel market, so airlines and other travel providers could better serve travellers.

Our goal has been the same ever since – putting customers at the centre of their experience with a brand, by helping companies better understand them, where they come from, how they interact with the brand and what they’re worth.

What difficulties did you face in the first year and how did you overcome them?

Our challenges came when we had to start scaling the company to meet the needs of some large international brands. We are headquartered in Dublin, but selling to customers around the world, across the US, Europe and Asia.

With this expansion came new issues like managing an international payroll and navigating various employment laws, even just dealing with people in different time zones took some getting used to. The good news is that the startup ecosystem in Dublin has become formidable and lots of people are bringing passion and knowhow to the community.

The government provides benefits to companies like ours and helps us reach new markets. Having that support was a major factor in helping us overcome those initial challenges. What’s even better is that the startup environment is attractive all sorts of new talent to Dublin, which is helping us build out our global team.

What tips do you have for new startups looking to survive their first year of business

There’s always going to be unanticipated problems that come up in the first year of business. Tapping the local talent pool is one key – hiring people who have expertise that your founding team may not have can make all the difference.

Having a presence in areas like Dublin, Boston or Silicon Valley definitely increases your chances of finding talent that can get you through those challenges. Even with an increasingly mobile workforce and all sorts of digital communication methods, location still matters when seeking talent and starting a business.

The first is a crucial time to think about the scalability of the company, and whether the local business environment will allow expansion.

On the next page we hear how one business owner met the task of raising capital with to create a small team and minimum viable product (MVP).

Image: Shutterstock

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