THE SUNDAY BUSINESS POST n24 OCTOBER 16 2011OUT ON YOUR OWN Social media for start-ups In the fifth part of our series on using social media, industry expert Conor Lynch explains how mobile media can help your business Many of us now use smart phones for a multitude of tasks. Forever connected to the internet, they can be used to access information and entertainment resources online at any time and from any location. For companies selling to the consumer, the smartphone trend cannot be ignored. While out and about, consumers are increasingly sharing their CONOR LYNCH good and bad experiences of the products and services they encounter. Recent reports have sharing online. Share suggested that as many as photographs using 90 per cent of people trust Facebook, Instagram or product or service Flickr. recommendations from people they know, compared to just 14 per QR Codes cent for advertising. This QR codes are a two- shows the potential value dimensional version ofLorna Coleman, communications and project manager, First Step TONY O’SHEA of social media to bar codes that can send businesses. information to a mobile If you own your own device using its camera. company or you are In order to read the codes,First-Step bridges setting up in business, it is users need a QR reader vital that you get to grips app, which will return the with social media. decoded text or web URL. Otherwise, you risk being left behind. The term ‘mobile Qik media’ describes the This is an application that portability of media allows you to use yourthe start-up gap through devices such as mobile phone to capture smart phones, iPods, moments on video, which iPads and ebooks. Media you can then share with includes music, videos, anyone at any time. games and photos, which can be downloaded on to AudioBoo devices using applications or streamed over the This app helps users to internet. post and share sound files, waste of our time and our resources. ‘‘We always emphasise that the Social benefit Mobile marketing is known as ‘boos’ toFor 20 years a not-for-profit company Worldwide, microfinance is at the riskiest end of finance ^ our loans are business plan must be commercially sound. You have got to show us how There is a social aspect to this style of lending, said Coleman. Microfinance becoming an important aspect of social media as it Facebook, Twitter, Posterous, Tumblr and enables companies to Friendfeed.has been giving a financial helping unsecured and we lend at nine per cent.’’ you are going to fund your business and how you are going to fund your offers a new angle. Last year, First- Step received one-off funding from a communicate and engage The rate of attrition in First-Step is loan. We are looking for business labour market activation scheme (see with consumers in an Wordpresshand to businesses trying to get off the somewhere between 10 and 15 per plans with a lot of truth. We are look- panel). ‘‘This enabled us to bring to- interactive way using any mobile device. Use this mobile app to cent. ‘‘During the life of a loan we ing for determination and fighting gether a network of the unemployed ´ground, writes Siobhan Brett can see businesses failing, but we fol- low the loan and eventually we get chances of success,’’ said Coleman. and assist them in the area of business start-up. We can see all aspects of the In Ireland, around 700,000 people use the manage your blog as it allows you to stay in touch paid,’’ Coleman said. fall-out from the recession and First- internet on their phone. with your readers by ApplicantsT he squeeze on credit has understanding of repayment,’’ said Step Finance is a little-known gem in Collectively, they have editing posts or replying left many small enter- Coleman. The type of business approaching this kind of time,’’ said Coleman. downloaded eight million to comments on the go. prises in the lurch when ‘‘Microfinance is about character, Bank finance First-Step for finance has changed Running ‘‘on a shoestring’’ means applications. It is it c om e s to s e c u r i ng trust, personal contact and qualitative Coleman was keen to point out that significantly since its launch. First-Step does not have a budget for expected that, by 2013, start-up finance or loans data. It may seem like a softer form of First-Step did not operate in direct ‘‘Now we are providing loans advertising, Coleman added. more people will access Location Based for business develop- lending than forms that focus on competition to the banking sector. across the board, to all age ranges. ‘‘We are in operation for 20 years the internet from mobile Servicesment. A not-for-profit Dublin com- quantitative data or assets, but that ‘‘Businesses and entrepreneurs ac- There are people who have just taken and still we find people who have not devices than frompany, First-Step Finance has been does not at all translate to softer re- tually have to prove they have been redundancy money who are looking heard of us.We would like to reach out computers. By 2012, LBS is a way to sendproviding small funding amounts for payments or requirements.’’ turned down by a bank before we can for a small loan to combine with it. more, but we are heavily reliant on almost 60 per cent of custom advertising and20 years to businesses that can provide engage in lending.What we hope to do There are young, highly educated word-of-mouth,’’ she said. digital advertising other information toproof of their viability. Loan refusals is to help people back into the banks,’’ people who are taking steps to offer worldwide will be mobile phone subscribers First-Step offers loans of up to she said. back the services they provided to the directed to mobile based on their location ate25,000 repayable at nine per cent First-Step refuses about 70 per cent of ‘‘Many of our clients actually be- companies that made them redun- Application process platforms. any given time. You canover three years. loan applicants. ‘‘People often fling in come bankable during the loaning dant,’’ said Coleman. Processing a First-Step loan applica- With statistics like use applications such as Its loan book is funded by the So- applications, thinking this is soft- period with First-Step. It gives people The average loan size has increased tion takes about three weeks. ‘‘The these, it is imperative that Foursquare, Facebookcial Finance Foundation (SFF), a touch microfinance. That is not the a track record,which can work in their also, with the maximum amount run- drawing down period tends to be de- companies get to grips Places and Googlewholesale supplier of funding whose case,’’ said Coleman. favour.’’ ning to e25,000, compared to e12,000 layed primarily by the client, who can with mobile media. You Latitude to check intocapital is provided by banks. It also ‘‘It is disappointing to receive plans First-Step does not offer pre-enter- in the past. be slow in providing all the necessary must have the technology your current location forgets seed and venture capital funding and proposals that aren’t fully worked prise advice, preferring to point peo- ‘‘This is because people are more documents,’’ said Coleman. you need to engage with others to see. Thesefrom Enterprise Ireland. through or finance-ready. It is disap- ple in the direction of the County and confident, better prepared, more ar- Businesses that succeed in securing customers in real time applications provide a To cover its overheads, First Step pointing for us, as a small operation City Enterprise Boards or the Leader ticulate ^ they are less averse to risk,’’ First-Step funding tend to remain across the entire customer way for peers torelies on philanthropy. Set up by of three-and-a-half people, and a partnership. said Coleman. loyal to the company, Coleman said. life cycle. recommend businesses toNorma Smurfit and a group of simi- ‘‘The First-Step ‘alumni’, if you will, Mobile apps can create their friends, whichlarly-minded business people in 1991 all keep in touch,’’ she said. an enriching customer carries more weight and^ a time economically akin to the pre- First-Step has supported 2,000 experience while also trust than expensivesent ^ it is backed by a range of do- companies.‘‘Our loans can, and in boosting profits. Start- advertising campaigns.nors. ‘‘Although we are not for profit, we Micro-enterprise networks many cases should, be seen as part of a rainbow of funding,’’ said Coleman. ups should not miss a valuable opportunity tooperate commercially, and we expect ‘‘People can comfortably tell us leverage mobile devices Augmented Realityall loans will be repaid,’’ said First about a credit union loan, govern- and create – or use – apps AR is when youStep’s communications and project With the support of the Labour and entrepreneurship skills to the is to help recipients of ment assistance, or a County Enter- to provide the best superimpose computer-manager, Lorna Coleman. Market Activation campaign, provision of start-up capital. Jobseeker’s benefit or allowance prise grant they might be in receipt possible customer generated content over a First-Step is setting up 10 The initiative also includes to start their own businesses. of. A pot pourri of funding makes experience. live view of the world. AnMentoring regional micro-enterprise early-stage mentoring supports. To be eligible to participate in more sense these days. We would also Many companies are augmented reality learning networks for The Labour Market Activation the scheme, participants must be look for some personal funding ^ why building their own application is aFirst-Step also has a panel of volun- unemployed people who wish to Fund was established as part of in receipt of one of these would we take a risk if you won’t?’’ applications for combination of the realteers who provide mentoring services become self-employed. Budget 2010 to support skills, allowances for at least three First-Step can also help businesses smartphones like iPhones scene viewed by the userfree of charge. Each learning network will aim training and education months before joining the to leverage funding from banks. and android devices. You and a virtual scene ‘‘If a business encounters a specific to strengthen the entrepreneurial programmes for unemployed programme. ‘‘If somebody needs e70,000 to too can develop your own generated by thearea they are having difficulty with, potential of each participant. people, who want to improve Time spent on training or build their business and they have, application, but creating computer that augmentswe will put them in touch with a men- The emphasis of the their education and skills or start education programmes counts say, e5,000 from a family member or a worthwhile app is the scene with additionaltor,’’ said Coleman. programme is to support and their own business. towards this three-month period. friend and can combine that with challenging enough and information. ‘‘If we see people falling into trou- encourage participants through Managed by the Department of First-Step also has its own e25,000 secured from us, that will cer- getting users is an even This concept of ARble or having difficulty with repay- the final stages of business Education and Skills, the fund requirements, including: tainly help them upon their second tougher task. allows you to sharements, we will assign a mentor, which planning and into the early stage supports 26 independent projects & the provision of a draft approach to the bank,’’ said Coleman. content such as photos development of their own around the country, which run business plan; and videos with yourhelps doubly ^ them and us. Occa- business. training and education & the completion of a Start Your First-Step has an ample loan fund Useful mobile customers while involvingsionally, if we have some funding, we to cope with demand, according towould intervene ourselves.’’ What makes the micro- programmes for the Own Business course; Coleman. ‘‘We are certainly looking apps for business them in the process. First-Step Finance provides 100 enterprise development networks unemployed. & a commitment to engage in the for more people, but more people bet-loans a year, researching each appli- unique is that they follow a clear With support from the First-Step Regional Micro- ter prepared.’’ There are many businesscant and their business carefully. progression from business idea Activation Fund, First-Step’s aim Enterprise Networks. For more information, visit applications available for Conor Lynch is a social‘‘There is a lot of trust and a mutual www.first-step.ie improving marketing media strategist and prowess, boosting sales or founder of SocialMedia.ie, cutting costs, but make a Dublin-based firm that sure you have a clear advises businesses digital strategy before you nationwide. Lynch wasCommercial inventions recognised at Technology Showcase start investing in apps. recently announced as one of the members of the Digital photos and judging panel for thisSome 120 inventions devel- launch, Minister for Research nies take time to grow, a recent lished in 2010, which is already who co-founded Glanta in tems, a UCC spin-out that has videos year’s Appys, an annualoped by publicly-funded re- and Innovation Sean Sherlock sample assessment of these employing 27 people,’’ the min- 2010 as a spin-out of Trinity d e v e lo p e d p r e s c r i p t io n s awards event for Ireland’ssearchers were introduced to said state-funded research, ad- spin-out companies showed ister said. College Dublin to sell a hand screening tools for older peo- At its most basic, your mobile media sector, whichpotential investors at Enter- ministered by Enterprise Ire- that some 12 companies are Sherlock presented Enter- hygiene training and assess- ple. Sonex Metrology, a develo- mobile phone is a great takes place in Dublin onprise Ireland’s Big Ideas Tech- land and the Higher now employing a total of more prise Ireland Commercialisa- ment system that uses image per of photoacoustic testing device for creating high- November 3. To learn morenology Showcase in Dublin’s Education Institutes, had given than 250 people. tion Awards to the founder of processing technology. equipment for semiconductor quality digital content like about the awards, go toConvention Centre last week. rise to 185 spin-out companies. One of the best examples is three successful spin-outs. Another winner was Clini- and solar cell wafers, won the photos and videos for SocialMedia.ie Speaking at last Monday’s ‘‘Although spin-out compa- FeedHenry Waterford, estab- These included Gerard Lacey, cal Support Information Sys- third award.