Earlier this month, Inspirefest, a unique international festival of technology, science, innovation and art, took place in Dublin, Ireland, uniting many investors, scientists, artists, and entrepreneurs at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.

Startup survival guide: 7 rules to keep your business alive and well

The participants came together to share their experiences and inspire through their speeches. Notably, 75% of speakers were strong women, and most of the talks were about the necessary of diversity and today’s opportunities for start-ups.

Shelly Porges, former adviser to Hillary Clinton, tried to demystify some claims about investments in start-ups. She began her speech with some great examples on risky but successful investments made, such as Google, Apple and Amazon.

5 deadly startup myths, debunked

The first myth is that investors will recognize how good you are, as your mom would.

No, investors want to see customers’ involvement. That’s why you need to prove that the idea is interesting enough to involve customers who are ready to buy the product.

The second myth, considering women as investors, sounds like this:

“Now that more women are venture capitalists, my chances to get funded have greatly increased”

This myth, related to today’s world where we more often talk about strong businesswomen, is unfortunately not true.

Despite all opening opportunities and welcoming diversity companies, women today control just 5% of the capital.

So in reality, you still need to keep up with “classic” male investors.

Here’s the third myth: “If I don’t get venture capital, I will never get to grow my business”.


There are plenty opportunities in a wide spectrum of funding. You can use self- or crowdfunding. Ask your friends and family: Amazon was started with a parents’ investment. Use those opportunities that Angel Investors offer; apply for grants, online/Bank loan or VC. Don’t forget your clients: you can fund your operations with your sales.

The fourth myth: ”The best way to get ready to talk to an investor is to complete my business plan thoroughly”.

No, investors are not interested in you business plan at all.

The only thing they want is an answer to their 5 questions:

  • What problem are you solving?
  • How big is it in dollars & customers?
  • What makes your solution unique?
  • What’s your go-to-market strategy?
  • How much profit & impact will you have?

Prepare your answers and you will succeed.

And the last one: “When I complete funding, I can return to running my business”. Please, don’t go on that one.

Remember, managing your finances must be an ongoing priority and an integral part of “running your business”, whoever does your books.

Everyone who has ever started a start-up would agree – start-up is an emotional journey.

Susan O’Brieno, founder of Smigin, agrees too. Smigin is a language-learning company, unique in a way that it is digital and based on communication skills.

“Every start-up founder knows that to be successful you need to be focused, and to be focused, you need to be quiet inside your head,” said O’Brieno.

To maintain this calm, she introduced 7 rules for survival.

Rule 1: “Without passion you are wasting your time!”

Passion is the key to what you do.

If you can leverage that passion, your passion becomes your mission.

Susan O’Brieno is crazy about languages and that’s what her company does — helping its users learn new languages.

Rule 2: “Be authentic.”

People respond to real people on real stories.

You are authentic if you can solve a problem for yourself and help others to solve the same problem.

In this way, you are building an authentic solution.

Rule 3: “Put yourself out of there!”

You have to build your network and connections.

During your start-up journey you will make mistakes, but if you make real connections, you realize that others made the same mistake along the way, and they may even offer helpful advice.

Rule 4: “If you are not telling your story, no one will do it for you.”

It is all about preparation and practise of your idea and mission.

Remember, as a founder you’ve got to get it to a one-line-pitch.

Rule 5: “Play your strengths, there is one thing you can make better than anybody else.”

Encourage yourself for something new.

As O’Brieno started, she spoke 7 languages but not tech. Tech was important for making Smigin work, and as she learnt this “eighth” for her language, nothing remained impossible.

Rule 6: “Know your numbers!”

The language investors speak is numbers.

If you want to communicate with investors successfully, you need to learn their language and know how much your startup’s worth is.

Rule 7: “Harness the power of your belief.”

Believe in what you are doing and never underestimate the power of what you believe. With unwavering belief you will encourage everything.

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