Derry 2.0 - The recipe for a successful startup

It’s easy to say you have a startup – just give your idea a name and you’re half way there. But at the same time it’s only when all the bits of the jigsaw come into place that you end up with a real, growing, thriving business – and most startups simply never get there. So what does it take to become a successful business? What’s in the DNA of a good startup that isn’t there in less successful ventures and what can you learn from that?

6. Infrastructure & Supports

Communications links, a large ‘home’ market to test your ideas in, access to lightening fast broadband, entrepreneur-friendly tax laws and public sector supports, low-cost places to work from and a likeminded community of people to work with – these are all valuable assets, which is why you see various cities, or even areas within cities, being pegged as the next startup hub. Certainly these things are all important and beneficial but successful startups don’t need them, and good entrepreneurs will find ways to do what needs doing regardless.

5. Finance

Access to capital too, is important; but it is surprising how few ‘essential’ expenditures there are when you are a startup. That’s not to say that access to investment capital isn’t important. Far from it. Money helps ideas scale quickly. Money helps overcome obstacles and bring in expertise. But raising money can also be extremely time consuming and a useful excuse for not getting things done regardless.

4. The Idea

Business ideas on their own are pretty useless, there needs to be a focus on the team’s ability to execute. This is certainly true to the extent that I’d rather invest in Steve Jobs with a rubbish idea than Joe Bloggs with a great idea – people matter, teams matter. But even that is only half the story. Great businesses come out of that beautiful place where great ideas and great people collide. An idea is about the potential for a business, people are about the ability to deliver that potential.

3. Talent (aka “Team”)

You can’t be a great digital startup without great digital talent. You can’t be a great business without great business talent. An idea in itself is one thing, but if you don’t have the ability to execute to a world-class standard, you’re sunk. In short, ideas + talent = great businesses. Take either out of the equation and you’re going to struggle.

2. Work Ethic

Starting a business isn’t easy. It takes work. Lots of it. Over a long period of time. Often without reward. Frequently without support. Always more than you think. There are no shortcuts. Work ethic simply means doing what you need to do to get things done. Get things done and you’ve a chance. Too many startups simply have too many excuses.

1. Attitude

Attitude claims the top spot on the basis that it makes all the others either (a) happen or (b) irrelevant.

But attitude is not the same thing as personality. You don’t need to be a classic Type A personality to start a business. In fact, many of the best entrepreneurs I know are quiet, thoughtful and frequently quite shy.

Attitude is a choice. Which is the great thing about starting a business, you choose. If you’re successful it is down to your willingness to make it happen. If your idea fails, it is your choice whether you change direction, come back again with something new or crawl into a hole.

Two-thirds of the things on this list fall firmly into the category of ‘things that you control’. The remainder (infrastructure and finance) are largely things that you can find ways around if you need to. Either way, your attitude is what will make the difference.

Mark Nagurski is Derry’s Digital Champion, based at the city’s Chamber of Commerce. You can contact him by email to or by visiting