O’Brien inspires new entrepreneurs to take a chance

  • Digicel founder says small companies compete well against market leaders 
  • “Forget the climate – no perfect time to set up a business”

Story Hothouse Denis O'Brien

What makes a great entrepreneur? was the theme addressed by Denis O’Brien at an event for prospective entrepreneurs in DIT Kevin Street.  Speaking to a capacity crowd in the Gleeson Theatre, O’Brien spoke about his own experiences, from starting Esat Telecom to establishing Digicel, one of the fastest growing cellular phone services in the world.  Outlining some of his successes and failures to an audience that included students, established entrepreneurs and those involved in the DIT Hothouse programme for start-up companies, he encouraged anyone with a good idea to have the courage to follow it through.

While suggesting that everyone should read the financial papers these days to see ‘economic history in real time’, he urged entrepreneurs to ignore the current climate.  “There is no perfect time to set up a business”, he said, “so if you have a good idea, this is as good a time as any other.”  He also paid tribute to social entrepreneurs, like Mary Davis and Mary Lawler, as people who really make a difference in our society and who are driven by the same urgency as profit-makers.

Chaired by John Murray, who presents The Business on RTE Radio 1, the seminar was the first of a series of events organised by DIT Hothouse in collaboration with Dublin City Enterprise Board (DCEB) under the title “Be Inspired. Be an entrepreneur”.   Before the keynote speaker, Murray interviewed two entrepreneurs, Ivan Mac Donald of Dial2Do and Ross Brennan of Cicerio Networks, both of whom recently came through the Hothouse business start-up programme, and asked them about their first-time business experiences.  There was also a lively question and answer session, with questions directed at the three speakers.

O’Brien offered a number of key pieces of advice which he said were crucial for prospective entrepreneurs:

  • Take every opportunity to travel
  • Whatever you do, do it well
  • Hone your communication skills
  • If you borrow, pay back – and remember, your word is your bond
  • Leaving college, get your first job anywhere  and learn from it

O’Brien emphasised the benefits of getting experienced professionals on board to offer their advice and guidance, especially in the early stages of a new business start-up. He said that this was something that his own businesses had benefited enormously from. He encouraged entrepreneurs to do the same by tapping into the wealth of knowledge that experienced and retired professionals possess.

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