Three things I will take from Invent 2019

Thursday 10th of October 2019, this was a date marked in the diary months in advance. This date marked the culmination of an incredible programme, where I would showcase my company, make valuable new connections and pitch in-front of a 700 strong audience. This is what the Invent 2019 final represented for me, and it certainly lived up to expectations. Having made the final 12 from over 100 applicants, myself and my company went through a transformational experience. Here’s a few things I learned along the way:

1.      I took a chance

 In complete honesty, I nearly didn’t apply for Invent. Many said I was “too early-stage” to apply, despite the programme being geared towards pre-revenue start-ups. Self -doubt began to creep in, asking myself if my company was ready for such a prestigious competition. However, I bit the bullet and applied.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I went on to pitch at the qualifying rounds, semi-final and at the eventual final at the Waterfront last week. However, it goes without saying that this would have not been possible had I not taken a chance. Especially for start-ups, I had everything to gain, so going outside my comfort zone for opportunities like these is beneficial in the long term.

2.      I learned more about my business

I began the Invent programme with only a vision, to revolutionize the way golf tourists book caddies. However, what Invent allowed me to do was to tie this vision to an anchor, forged from market research and validation, an awareness of my potential customers and the steps necessary to take my platform to market. This anchor was my business plan, which was 50% of the judging criteria for the Invent Final.

Having a deadline for the business plan naturally accelerated my progress and allowed me to visit each element of my business in much greater detail than I had previously. Having come out the other side, I now have a much greater understanding on what I now need to accomplish in order to turn my vision into reality.

3.      I learned to think BIG

Invent allowed me to see that, like all the other finalists, there is a global potential for our services and products. I believe the reason that Northern Ireland, but Belfast in particular, has turned into a bit of a start-up hotspot, is due to the incredible amount of support available, whether this be through grants, accelerators and in my case the support of Queens’ University Belfast. I believe that it is vital (I may be a biased) that local start-ups are nourished correctly so that they can scale-up and become the SME’s of our future, which will ultimately benefit our economy.

I would like to extend a massive thank you to the programme co-ordinator’s Jessica Caldwell(initially) and Karen Hall for their work to ensure that the programme ran smoothly, as well as responding to my numerous emails! I would also like to congratulate all the other finalists on their achievement and wish them the very best in their endeavours.

For Handicaddie and I, we are now back to growing our industry connections, and finalising the development of the platform, so hopefully we can put its business plan to good use very soon.

Graham Curry is an experienced caddie at Castlerock Golf Club and the founder of Handicaddie.com. Subscribe to the newsletter to keep you up to speed with progress.

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