Q&A with Ryan Donnelly, founder of Enzai Technologies

  • What does a typical day at work look like for you?

    I don’t think there is such a thing in a startup! It’s a really varied experience and you never really know what to expect day to day. But I’ll try my best to provide a quick overview of what running a company involves.

    Lots of my work revolves around sourcing and helping customers. This often takes the form of Zoom calls to understand customer problems, and present ways that we can solve them. I’m regularly giving presentations to industry experts on relevant topics and discussing ways that we can help.

    I’m also heavily involved in taking feedback from our customers to our development team to improve our product. This will often involve team meetings, which we try to do in person in the Ormeau Baths, and lots of brainstorming which tends to be good fun for all.

    I spend a lot of time with investors – both our existing ones, and potential new ones – to explain what it is we do and keep them up to date. There’s also a lot of admin, day-to-day tasks involved in running a company, such as keeping on top of email, legal, accounting and finance, recruiting, etc.

    What does Enzai Technologies do and what do you hope to achieve within your business within the next 10 years?

    We’re building a product in an emerging area, that we are confident will become a critical part of the ecosystem as AI continues its push into all aspects of our lives. We have an opportunity to build a category-defining company, so we’re hopeful that in 10 years’ time we will be leading the charge in this space.

    How did you come across the Regional Talent Engines programme and what made you apply for it?

    We heard of the Regional Talent Engines through the Ormeau Baths. For those that don’t know, the Ormeau Baths is a co-working space in the heart of Belfast that provides space to early stage companies to grow their ideas (… and yes, it was quite literally a Victorian bathing house in an earlier incarnation!). It’s a fantastic place to get involved in the local startup scene, and we were recommended to apply by the leadership team at Ormeau Baths.

    We knew the team behind the Regional Talent Engines. The Royal Academy of Engineering has a really strong team here in NI, also working from the Baths, and we knew the opportunity to work with them (and the wider Royal Academy of Engineering networks in London and further afield) could be a game changer for our company.

    How did the Regional Talent Engines programme get you to where you are now?

    It was incredibly helpful. While on the programme, we managed to close our first investment round and the advice we received from the team to get that across the line was critical to closing. We were immediately able to leverage the wider networks of the Royal Academy of Engineering team to get advice on problems we were facing as a business. There was always an expert on hand that had been there, done it and got the t-shirt. It felt like having a structure around the company to get us where we wanted to go. We were really grateful for the experience and wouldn’t be where we are today without it.

    What advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting up their own business but isn't sure where to start?

    I would love to write a book on this someday! Because I remember this feeling so clearly from my early days, and I kind of stumbled into how to do it in a bit of a fortunate way. I’ll caveat this response by saying that this is an approach I found useful in a B2B enterprise SaaS context, but it may not be as relevant for other startup businesses (say something in consumer products, hardware, etc.) but hopefully still useful.

    In summary, the best place to start with is something you’re interested in. If all goes to plan, you’ll be doing this for 10+ years, so make sure it’s in a space that can keep you engaged and pushing forward. Develop some sort of hypothesis around what you think may be a problem. When you start, the quality of that initial hypothesis really doesn’t matter at all - whatever you come up with will probably be wrong. But once you’ve got it, go and speak to people that you suspect may be customers to test it.

    Listen very clearly to what they say in response and what they identify as problems in their own workflow. Use the feedback to refine your hypothesis, go and speak to another person and repeat the process. Do this again. And again. Don’t stop until you’ve spoken to as many people as possible (in our case it was probably over 200) and gain as clear a picture of the problem as you can. Start designing a solution and then you’re well on your way to starting your business.

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