Archive for January, 2009

You bring the coworking, we’ll bring the creche

January 29, 2009

It's been a while since I posted to but the subject has come to my attention again recently as I've been tracking the progress of Coworking Belfast and the coinciding efforts to establish a new style of startup incubator in Limerick.

Following a fresh trail of links yesterday I came across another fascinating hybrid – Cubes & Crayons marries the concept of coworking with the provision of childcare facilities, all under one roof. I think that's a brilliant twist on the concept and one that's ripe for execution in the Irish market, particularly in Dublin. For some reason, most of the startup entrepreneurs I know seem to have young children so a Cubes & Crayons clone could really hit the sweetspot for many of those.

For that reason I contacted the director of a childcare franchise, whom I've known for a while, and asked for his thoughts on the subject. Even though his business if focused on a specific market niche it's certainly a concept he's willing to explore with any entrepreneur bringing coworking expertise to the mix.

So, if anyone's interested in brainstorming the idea further please leave a comment below.

Case study: successful use of social media by Irish not-for-profit

January 28, 2009

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

The Rose Project
is a Dublin based charity that helps people with HIV and AIDS in
Eastern Africa. They are a practical no nonsense organisation who
provide relief and in many cases, fund projects, that no other aid
organisation will go to. Maryrose Lyons and Brightspark Consulting were commissioned to update the project's online presence in 2008 and achieved particular success with their Twitter campaign. Intrigued by that I wanted to know more and sent Maryrose the following questions –

Me: Maryrose, can you tell us more about The Rose Project?

Maryrose: The Rose Project is a charity that helps people with hiv and AIDS in Eastern Africa.
are a practical no nonsense organisation who provide relief and in many
cases, fund projects, that no other aid organisation will go to.

For example, the Kenyan Govt claims that there are no sex workers in
that country… yet poverty forces many women into that age old way of
getting money… The Rose Project funds a project that aims to retrain
women in hairdressing, dress making etc. You can view a short vid on it
here. Check the stories out – Granny Banda is another favourite of mine.

Me: What is your involvement?

Maryrose: Brightspark was commissioned by The Rose Project to
update its online presence in late 2008. The new site (featuring video
content and links out to all the key relevant social media sites) went
live just in time for World Aids Day in December. Like all orgs you get
exposed to that are doing marvellous work, I"m kind of hooked now and
I'm currently working on a Facebook strategy for 09 and trying to
improve the flow of good news stories for Twitter….they are there,
but it's a case of getting a hold of the amazing CEO as she whizzes
around the place!!

Me: What/who convinced the Rose Project to embrace social media and social networking?

Maryrose: Me!! They knew they needed to reach out to a wider
audience… they have an amazing array of photos and stories and there
was a Radharc Award winning video made about their work… so we
chopped that up into small web friendly segments, and are feeding the
stories out through the blog, Twitter, and FB.

Me: What have the results been like?

Maryrose: Great – they are receiving donations from as far
afield as Alaska and Adare. Many people are compelled to write notes to
them along with their donations about how the content has touched them.
That is something new that had not been experienced before. Twitter –
the big Amazon hook up which has led to Amazon potentially distributing
their gift wrap is amazing. Think of the awareness!! Facebook – I'm
setting up a page which will be more feature rich and we'll have a plan
for engaging people in discussions in place by the end of this month…
so watch this space on Facebook…

Me: Specificially, how did the relationship with Amazon come about? And how does that work?

Maryrose: I can't provide too much detail just now as they
are locked in top secret talks!! .. but literally someone who works
quite high up for Amazon found the Rose Project on Twitter, followed
them for a bit, checked out the site, and made contact (after having
some internal talks about getting the paper distributed)…

Me: I noticed that the Rose Project came up witn a novel 'hook' with regard to Tweeting. How important do you think that was?

Maryrose: Thanks – I think that was very important. I came up
with it because I am a human being and while my heart lies with African
people and their amazing strength of character for the s**t they have
to deal with… I don't want to be sold to all the time. I want to
insulate myself from demands and I don't want to receive tweets
[Twitter messages] from someone who's going to be pulling at my heart
strings to give money… that's why we say you'll only get good news…
and that's very much what the rp are about… no crying babies, but
positive good news stories, such as the €5million maternity hospital
they're building that will open in Malawi in May…

Similarly another charity I do some work for, Daisyhouse,
we added a section there where you can give your time… in these
times, perhaps people are feeling inspired to help, but just don't have
the spare cash… well now you can give your skills and they will be
just as appreciated.

Me: How would you compare Twitter to Facebook to YouTube
in terms of engagement and results? Or is it too early to make that

Maryrose: Too early for these guys … come back to me in 2 or 3 months and I'd be happy to share my thoughts with you.

I think YouTube is quite surfy… in that people aren't really in
buying mode, or wanting to be influenced mode when they're on there.

You've got to be careful about Facebook – remember it's all about
making people look good – so if you've got a message to get out, if you
can spin it so it makes the Facebook member look good for supporting
your message , you're there.

Twitter – if you're genuine, you'll do well. If you
genuinely set up an account and engage with your followers,
respectfully and frequently, then you can't fail – but if you set up an
account, spam the top twitterers and then sit back and wait for
results, then you're not going to do anything except validate your own
belief that Twitter is a load of hot air and is a waste of time!

Me: Any other observations?


1. I'm sad that Jaiku has
been killed off by Twitter – like betamex/vhs it was the technically
superior solution… but I wouldn't use it because all my mates were on
Twitter. 🙂 Plus I think Jyri Elkestrom is one of the true rock and
roll gods of the web!!

2. I think Twitter needs to introduce some new features to enable us
to manage our contacts… I have so many people following me, I'm
getting a bit wary now, as it's less of a friendly bunch of people who
I know.. so I guess I"m minding my mouth a bit more… I would pay for
features that enable me to manage groups.

3. I have a feeling that we're going to see a lot more
Irish brands embrace social media this year. In the few short weeks
since '09 started, I'm seeing more requests for Facebook ads than
Google Adwords. I think the cost per click on Google Adwords has gone
so high that it's making more people divert their spend to organic
listings… and other avenues such as Facebook

4. I don't really use LinkedIn…I know I should… but I just haven't warmed to it at all.

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Tuesday Push: IGOpeople really is going places

January 27, 2009

Image representing IGOpeople as depicted in Cr...Image via CrunchBaseI have to admit I feared the worst for IGOpeople when it launched a few months ago. The Irish startup was jumping into a saturated market of social networking platforms. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Ning, Ammado, Bebo, etc, etc, ad nauseum… who can keep up nowadays. It's just a growing blur of me-too clones. How could this "network for the real world" stand out from the crowd apart from it's tagline?

I'm delighted to say though that my concerns have diminished as I observe accelerating uptake and activity. IGOpeople has, in effect, become an outboard motor for many of the conversations that start on Twitter and elsewhere. Want to discuss the OpenCoffee Kilkenny proposal? Take it to IGOpeople. Need to better organize the DellCamp project? Take it to IGOpeople.

And unlike Twitter, IGOpeople offers sensible conversation threading, 'liking' and discussion flow based around thge very apt metaphor of Indviduals, Groups and Organizations (IGO). The freeform flow of Twitter appeals to many, including me, but the fact that I'm noticing more and more 'strangers' participating on IGOpeople signals the appeal of more organized structure,… and some excellent marketing! Of particular note is the eager involvement of Organizations, such as Vodafone Ireland, FBD and Enterprise Ireland. Indeed Vodafone are currently running an inventive Topup Giveaway competition.

All in all you've got to hand it to the clever team of entrepreneurs behind IGOpeople – it really is GOing places.

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My Twitter follower mosaic (warning, lots of images!)

January 22, 2009

Courtesy of Walter Higgins' latest utwility

Bumper Bytes ‘n Pieces

January 21, 2009

(+) Evert Bopp has been on a roll since backing Chris Byrne's idea for mentoring ex-Dells. Now he's laid out his vision for how a new kind of incubator / co-working center / tech hub might work in Limerick. Matt Johnston from the Belfast coworking group offers his views.

(+) But before any layoffs were announced Limerick-based Goodbuy launched and achieved 500 sign-up in only two weeks. I asked founder James Donelan what his plans were and he told me –

Our goal for Goodbuy is two-fold:

  1. Provide a site where Irish consumers can find great deals in stores and businesses nationwide.
  2. Provide Irish businesses with a powerful advertising and sales platform.

Our initial focus was on the consumer side of things – allowing users to post great deals they found in stores and businesses. Just yesterday we released our new business features for businesses which offers the following unique features:

  • Participation in the Goodbuy network.
  • A personal online storefront for your business, created automatically for you in seconds.
  • A unique web address for your business that can be used for advertising and marketing.
  • Advertise your deals and promotions to consumers nationwide.
  • Inclusion in our business directory.
  • We're currently offering a free 30-day trial membership to all businesses
the next couple of weeks we're adding some great new user features
including alerts and notifications. Signed-up businesses will can also
get the ability to receive qualified sales leads as well as tools to
help improve sales and online visibility.

(+) Joe Drumgoole tells us more about Bizspark, the new program for Startups from Microsoft.

(+) Great Twitter success story for the Dublin based Rose Project

"Someone from Amazon became a follower of The Rose Project.  That’s
how they found out about The Rose Project’s wrapping paper.  And now
Amazon are in discussions with The Rose Project on distributing the
wrapping paper.
Now that’s a good news story if ever there was one."

I've asked Brightspark Consulting for more details because this is a story all Social Entrepreneurs need to hear. But they're not the only ones…

(+) Irish teachers' attitude to Web 2.0 –

"I was disappointed, but not surprised, by the low percentage. There seems, at least in the education sector in Ireland, a small cohort that have succeeded in scaremongering the idea of a blog. Every time I give a course or a talk about blogs, I am asked about how secure they are. I find this question odd as they are no less secure than any other web application or site. In fact, I have heard on discussion fora several times that a teacher decided to “put up ‘an ordinary’ web site rather than a blog” as (s)he feared for the safety of the school."

Crikey, that's some truly frightening misinformation. Maybe these teachers need to read more about the likes of The Rose Project.

(+) Ken McGuire notes that 2009 is already looking like the year of video blogging (in Ireland at least)

(+) As if to prove the point Niall Harbison of gives a great motivational talk on being an entrepreneur, and post about small man mentality. Which sparked off some fiery debate in the comments and self-reflection by Robin Blandford. He picks fame and force. I pick family and force. What do you pick?


Building a bottom-up ‘task force’ for Dell, Limerick.

January 12, 2009

Dell LogoImage via WikipediaChris Byrne and Evert Bopp have come up with the idea to offer free start-up advice to Dell Limerick employees affected by the job losses announced last week. In a post to OpenCoffee Limerick Evert says –

"I do think this does not neccesarilly has to be all bad. In pure
practical terms this leads to 1900 people with up to 1 years salary
paid into their bank account. Quite a few of these people will have
skills that are still marketable and that could be turned into a
profitable business. All they need is the right support and mentoring.
While state development agencies such as the County Enterprise
Boards, Enterprise Ireland the IDA etc. have a role to play here I am
convinced that the Open Coffee Club can play a valuable part in this

That might seem like cold comfort to those who are facing an uncertain future right now but I'm very hopeful that Limerick can emerge out of this situation in a stronger economic position, as did Galway some years after the implosion of Digital Corporation in that city (where there are now more people employed by companies setup by those who lost their jobs at the time than there ever were in Digital).

I hate the term 'task force', which inevitably gets trotted out by politicians and others who've been dazzled in the headlights, but I think there's a role for Limerick-based entrepreneurs to play in creating a bottom-up 'task force' which can offer real help to people who want to create the kind of enterprises which will generate long-term employment and not get offshored at the hint of another economic downturn.

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Just a few predictions for 2009

January 2, 2009

Small list since I'm late to the party (been taking as much of a break as I can).

  • This will be a breakout year for Opensim, the 'Apache of Web 3.D' (yes oh cynics, the perennial breakout year for the 3D web finally happens). Look in particular for an announcement by Microsoft who have shown keen interest in the Second Life offshoot. Think 'Virtual Earth you can walk through'. Still smarting from their Lively fiasco Google will ignore these developments until 2010.ETOP_02
  • I know Pat Phelan is a telecomms guru but I'll stick my neck out and say he's wrong about Skype because they're in prime position to dominate the low end of the 'telepresence' market (otherwise known as video-conferencing) and are strongly hinting at significant developements early in 2009. Remember telepresence is Cisco fastest growing new product category and they're planning on bringning it to the home this year (though it'll be 2010 before the price is anything like consumer level)
  • Having said that, Skype Video will get some very interesting (though minor) competition later in the year from a Scandinavian startup developing a set-top box solution.
  • Asus kickstarted the netbook craze in 2008 and will do likewise for touchscreen PCs in the home in 2009. The Eee Top will be another category defining hit for the Taiwanese innovator.
  • Speaking of netbooks they'll continue to sell like…. er, netbooks, and become ever more useful with dual core CPUs and convertible touchscreens. There are even rumours that Apple is jumping into the fray with a large form iPod Touch.