(As seen on Times of Malta)
What do you do if you get what you think is a brilliant idea? You can either set it aside to simmer, expecting it to lay the fabled golden egg. Or else, you can pitch it to an audience, get precious feedback from your peers, develop it and launch your own start-up business.
The latter, of course, is the option that gives you the best returns. And it’s what young entrepreneurs are doing during the Malta Start-Up Weekend, a regular event that brings together designers, developers, entrepreneurs and experts to embark on a start-up journey. Around the world, entrepreneurs are joining the movement: Start-Up Weekend is a global network and part of Up Global, a non-profit charity. It is organised in various countries, building a global network of passionate leaders and entrepreneurs.
Simon Azzopardi, the local representative of Start-Up Weekend, is the physical embodiment of such enthusiasm and speaks about start-ups with passion.
“Developing and launching a start-up is a very exciting process,” he says. “During Start-Up Weekend, around 60 to 80 entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs meet to find out if their ideas are viable. Attendees are usually a mixed lot: some have a technical background while others have business experience.
“On Friday, they propose their ideas and the best 10 to 12 are chosen. By Friday night, teams are formed and for the next two days, they will work on how to convert an idea into an operating viable business and prepare their pitch for potential investors. Then on Sunday night, they present their start-up in a Dragons’ Den-style pitch.
“During the event, they also receive support from mentors and coaches, who are experts in their respective area,” adds Azzopardi, who apart from his involvement in Start-Up Weekend, is also the managing director of his own company, Tain & Able.
“This coming October, we wanted to complement the Start-Up Weekend with other events to attract a wider audience. Rather than just the weekend, we are inviting start-ups, entrepreneurs, investors and corporates interested in this space to join us. We will be joined by TMobile’s incubation hub, Hub:raum, who will also be conducting a series of workshops on lean start-up methodologies as well as have local start-ups share their experience with acquiring funding. The events will be open to anyone interested in this space, including corporates.”
This week will serve to strengthen the local start-up scene.
“The local start-up scene is a bit dispersed. However, the community spirit is getting stronger. There is a phenomenal interest from abroad, especially from Nordic countries: entrepreneurs from these countries find Malta to be very affordable and they are also attracted to the local lifestyle.
“There is also a strong interest from other Mediterranean countries: in most of these countries, the economy is suffering, whereas the Maltese economy is doing well. Just last April, for instance, we had several start-up pitches from Italy. Other entrepreneurs from North Africa and Egypt in particular are also looking towards Malta as a potential space where to incubate their ideas.”
Failure is not the end: just a lesson learnt in the process to try again
There is a lot of value in incubating start-ups in Malta.
“Given its small size, Malta is the perfect test-bed: if you fail here, it’s not the end. We also have good quality, English-speaking human resources and enjoy access to other markets. Moreover, start-ups incubating in Malta bring fresh thinking, new skill sets and the potential for the development of intellectual property: this further generates the local economy.”
Various studies show that around 85 per cent of start-ups fail, not only in Malta but also in most countries. What contributes to the success and sustainability of a start-up?
“First of all, finance may seem essential, but it isn’t. Of course, it’s good to have the capital, but without it, you can still achieve a lot. Not doing anything because you don’t have the financial strength is just an excuse.
“For me, the two essential ingredients that contribute to start-up success are community and entrepreneurship.
“Community is everything. Locally, we tend to be very jealous of our ideas and are afraid that someone else might steal them. In fact, during Start-Up Weekends, most attendees find it difficult to share at first. But then, they see others pitching and discussing their ideas and they follow suit. We need to recognise that the community is invaluable in helping you pitch and develop an idea.
“Entrepreneurship is also important. The essence of entrepreneurship is the drive to try, fail and try again until you succeed. Failure is not the end: just a lesson learnt in the process to try again.”
Azzopardi is finalising the details for the Start Up Week, which will start on October 13.
“The event will be held at Microsoft Innovation Centre, Skyparks Business Centre and as previous years, everyone is welcome to join, irrespective of age, background or idea. All you need is drive.”
For more details, visit www.startupisland.org