Relationship and mentoring startup IDIRUS was founded over a year ago by Irish entrepreneur Niamh Bushnell. Bushnell, formerly of Irish government agency Enterprise Ireland and Orbiscom (acquired by MasterCard) was also the founder of New York based boutique consultancy firm MarketSprint. Bushnell has been living in the US for 15 years and mentors aspiring entrepreneurs at New Jersey based non-profit Rising Tide Capital.
Companies can use IDIRUS according to Bushnell, to optimize their internal talent, encouraging their employees or members to train, coach and mentor each other. Participants present their skills, interests and goals and are matched either directly or through a facilitator.
The idea for starting this company came through Bushnell’s interactions and work with lots of Irish tech companies entering the US market.
According to Bushnell all of these companies and entrepreneurs were facing the same challenge - how to get access to high level decision makers in the US.
“For companies so similar, yet not competing, it always amazed and frustrated me that they didn’t know or have a way to reach out and talk to one another. As a result, I was making introductions between people who likely often brushed shoulders with each other back home in Dublin or Cork or Galway. They just didn’t know it. As this experience persisted it got me thinking about specialist networks and how beneficial one would be to these entrepreneurs since LinkedIn didn’t seem to be fulfilling their needs.”
What kind of changes did the company/product go through in early stages?
We’re always changing as we learn from our clients, enhancing our technology and trying new things. Since the very early days we’ve used market feedback and usage metrics to evolve our product. Change is incremental rather than at a frenetic pace but it’s a component that’s absolutely critical for a company’s survival in the early days and for growth from there.
Do you have investors? Are you looking for further investment?
We’ve been generating revenue for the last two quarters which has allowed us to run our business as well as learn as much as we can about the market and the potential for our company prior to seeking funding. We’re getting much closer now to a time when investment will be important to accelerate our growth.
What kind of growth has your company experienced?
We now have 6 clients and steady revenue but we’re still an early stage company that’s busy growing our team, deepening our understanding of the market and improving our product.
How many customers do you have now?
6. The Irish ones include Enterprise Ireland, Northern Ireland Connections and our newest client - Boardmatch Ireland. We also work with Wayra (Telefonica) across Europe and have two early stage corporate clients here in the US who are public, Fortune 1000 companies.
Tell us about your industry: What was it like to break into?
We’re in the Human Capital Management (HCM) business which is experiencing a lot of upheaval and new opportunities right now. HCM professionals are looking for new ways to achieve their goals and are very interested in using technology as an enabler. So, connecting with key leaders and getting some initial traction for our work was not difficult and it’s a super exciting space to be in right now.
How many employees do you have now?
Two fulltime, 3 consultants
What's the biggest challenge you've faced so far? The greatest victory?
I think the biggest challenge for small companies, us included, is that feeling of isolation in an otherwise very crowded and noisy world. You really have to love what you’re doing and believe in it to start up and maintain your focus. Not every day is a great or successful day but every day can bring you one step closer to achieving something great.
In terms of our greatest victory - I’m proud of the client base we’ve been able to attract to date and I really love our redesigned product that’s just launching!
What's been the most important lesson?
Focus, Focus, Focus.
What are your plans for 2014?
We’ve a couple of very important pilots happening this year so one of the major milestones for us will be making sure they are successful and lead to bigger projects within our established client base. Other than that, this year is all about more clients and more success metrics for the product.
What are your immediate next steps and long-term goals?
Immediate is as above. Our longer term goal is to be the leading private peer employee matching platform globally.
What international markets do you foresee the company expanding into?
We’re already working across Europe, and Latin America would be an interesting market for us when the time is right. Our main focus today is US or Irish based companies with global offices so we’ll have people across 5 continents using our tool very soon.
What advice do you have for other people/companies starting out in your industry?
Come talk to me and I’ll be happy to make some introductions for you!
How can you scale?
Scaling for us is about clients and investment and both are a priority in the second half of 2014.
Who do you think are your customers?
Our customers are companies with 500+ employees who want to match up those employees for learning, networking, mentoring, career development and knowledge transfer.