Alan Costello of Resolve Partners explains how to work with “high impact companies”, why good startup data is gold and how there is no “entrepreneur gene”.
With a background in science and business strategy, Alan Costello has worked in and with start-ups and developing SMEs in Ireland and Europe for over 15 years.
He was Head of Venture Capital Investment at NDRC before co-founding Resolve Partners in December 2020. This Irish entrepreneurship consultancy seeks to support emerging companies with venture capital investment and business innovation. company, with an increasing focus on climate technology.
Earlier this year, Resolve Partners helped run Accelerate Green, Bord na Móna’s new acceleration program to scale Irish businesses on climate action and sustainability. A six-week Accelerate Green pre-accelerator is running from the end of the month and applications are open until tomorrow (August 5).
“We are increasingly working with companies in the areas of climate and sustainability – or companies that have a big impact”
Tell us about your experience with start-ups and entrepreneurship.
Our role and work at Resolve Partners is to support and challenge start-ups and scale-ups around their commercial and customer orientation. We understand the technology and the product and how it comes to market – there is often a gap in investment or a gap in access to the business needed to complete the story and we help with that too.
Increasingly, we work with companies in the areas of climate and sustainability – or influential companies that matter.
I’ve been doing this for over 15 years, involving myself in start-ups and business innovation, but mostly using the experience I have to help and support founders to move their business forward .
In your opinion, which areas of science and technology offer the most opportunities?
Currently, opportunities and needs lie in climate and sustainable technologies.
Electrifying with renewable energy, reducing and capturing carbon from industry and improving food and agri-food economies for our growing population – we see this as Climate Technology 2.0, the second wave of investment and scaling in the sector that aligns with government, business and people – significant shifts in market readiness. It’s exciting to see the global tech community begin to deploy its resources in this sector today.
Bord na Móna has announced a second Accelerate Green program, which runs one day a week for six weeks, starting August 18. We at Resolve Partners are excited to work in conjunction with Bord na Móna to grow and grow the business community leading the sustainability revolution in Ireland, and after the success of the first program we are excited to meet the next cohort!
For the second program, we target companies at an earlier stage of development and seek to support entrepreneurs with innovative technology solutions designed to solve large-scale challenges in renewable energy, carbon capture and sequestration, food and sustainable beverages, and the circular bioeconomy. Program delivery is a mix of in-person and online courses. Participants will receive group workshops, one-on-one mentoring sessions, guest speakers and access to our extensive business, innovation and investment network.
What are the qualities of a good founder? Are good entrepreneurs born or can they be created?
I think we increasingly like to see the fit between the founder and the market – a reason, credibility, or deep experience with the problem and the market they’re trying to grow in. Courage and determination are also important, especially when a founder has insight and analytical skills.
But absolutely, the founders can be supported and helped – there is no entrepreneur gene!
What does a successful entrepreneur have to do every day? What tools and resources are essential?
Engage with customers. The insights gained from such a deep understanding of the use case are crucial. The Five Whys and Mom’s Test are great tools for this.
From recruitment to supporting the team in place, building a start-up to achieve an escape trajectory is not a linear process. It takes a lot of raw human power and you and your team need to be more than 1+1=2.
What is the essential ingredient for the success of a start-up?
It will be the people. Unaware for a moment that the wrong person could damage a start-up, the right person is the one who can deliver the customers, the one who can build the product better and faster, the one who can motivate themselves and others around them.
How can founders build a good team?
Understand what you are, what you are not and what you need. Find that and embark on a two-way testing period – check skills and culture fit.
Ask people in your network and ecosystem for ideas and suggestions. When you’re open, you’ll be surprised how many people you can be introduced to, and your network can grow quite impressively with a little effort.
Within the team, consider stock ownership and employee ownership for team members, but do so with caution and seek advice
What advice do you have for founders starting out looking for investments?
Good data on your traction is gold, and communicating the vision and how you’re building is also necessary. Without both, investors will quickly turn to the next opportunity that presents itself.
When you have a good narrative with traction, increasing investments is much more of a conversation. Investors want to be excited about you and the vision – they only make a few checks a year against the hundreds of options they’re considering.
What are the biggest mistakes founders make?
Bad “future checking” – overselling the change and the impact it will have, with no data or information to back it up.
Falling for the sunk cost fallacy – if it’s the wrong product, code or location, you need to move on before it drags you down and takes up too much space in your head. Startups need to have the maximum human intelligence and skills deployed in the right way to succeed. If something distracts you from this, it will hurt.
What do you think of mentorship and the qualities one should look for in a mentor?
Mentor/coach/advisor and board director are very different things and certainly still different from an outside consultant.
Part of the focus could be on the tactical elements – how do I build this, negotiate that? Some of these could be introductions and endorsements to a larger network, and others could be strategic planning or personal development for yourself. If it doesn’t seem like all of these things can be delivered by one person, they can’t!
Mentoring or coaching from an outside perspective, or with the ability to match patterns and draw from broader experiences, is extremely helpful for founders who need to think about operations, strategy, people , customers, investments, products and all the myriad of other things. !
The key attributes you are looking for are honesty, respectful feedback, and support for yourself, combined with relevant experience. Being challenged is good for you.
What’s the number one tip you have for entrepreneurs?
If you have the data and information on customer issues and needs, everything else flows from there, unless you’re building pocket nuclear power plants or quantum computing!
You will be able to create products, build a team, and earn investments if you have proof that customers buy you and your USP.
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