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You can’t boil the ocean overnight are wise words especially when it comes to making a pitch for funding or making a presentation in a business awards competition.

Let me explain. Just two weeks ago I had to listen to a range of start up businesses in different sectors from across the island of Ireland as part of the Startups Awards 2015 judging process. It was a privilege as most of the presenters told great and thoroughly engaging stories about what motivated them to set out on their own and establish their own business. It takes guts and determination and you can’t but be inspired by these brave people.

But to the point of this post and the boil the ocean reference. Some of the pitching entrepreneurs based their expected revenues and growth targets on unrealistic market sizings. The Startup Awards is a great platform to practice a funding pitch. My fellow judges are all experts in their respective fields (banking, accounting, patents) and we all picked up on this mistake. It’s a trap that many aspiring entrepreneurs fall for. I recall making this point along with the lack of pitching practice during the judging process in the 2014 awards process.

In effect, you are telling would be investors that you don’t fully understand how to size a market. This is critical as the potential investor will not hand over cash for a proposal that is based on unrealistic forecasts. It’s the kiss of death.

A key concept is the Total Addressable Market size (TAM). TAM is a term that is typically used to reference the revenue opportunity available for a product or service if there was no competitors. The error some of the contestants made was that they did not add any constraints to their TAM. They were pitching and telling us that they were going to conquer the world or boil the ocean overnight. Very unrealistic and totally unattainable targets.

The addition of constraints such as competition, personnel and distribution challenges helps to modify your strategy and bind it with a more credible set of boundaries. The actual exercise of analysing the competition is absolutely critical. This task alone will teach you so much but omitted, it’s a fatal flaw.

So, looking to gear up to launch a new business, well make sure you nail the TAM.






Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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