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Clear Presentation - A Dublin Startup Tale
by Startacus Admin
It’s Startup Dublin month, and of course as has been the case with all of our startup months thus far (Belfast, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester, Sheffield) we have been hunting out the creatives, self starters, innovators and entrepreneurs who call the city home and who make it the fab startup place that it is… folks like Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh.
He is the founder of a business called Clear Presentation Design (AKA Clearpreso), which helps startups to create presentation and pitches, that convey exactly the message they intend to supporters, investors and anyone else they want.
He has a wealth of experience, expertise and knowledge to share about startups, entrepreneurialism and the City of Dublin as a place to create and grow a business.
So sit back and relax with a nice cup of tea and a Cronut from Krüst, while he shares some of his unique insight.
Hi there Ed , in as simple terms as possible can you tell us a little about Clearpreso and what exactly you do?
Hey Startacus! So first up it’s worth mentioning that at the moment the Clearpreso team is me, myself and I, which I really like to be honest because it allows me to be fully immersed in a project from end to end. I work with startups when they are pitching on the big stage and need a quality presentation, so I’d have worked with 3 companies in the past 2 years that have presented at TechCrunch Disrupt, and dozens of others when they are starting to think about pitching for investment and/or that crucial first customer.
Part of what I do is help with messaging, getting the story right. Packaging what you do and where you are going into a 5 minute pitch isn’t easy, but it has to be done. As Tom Peters would say “Packaging counts a lot in a crowded world”, and right now startupland is pretty crowded.
The second part of what I do is design the slides to compliment the messaging, but they aren’t your average bullet riddled slides!
Can you tell us a little bit about your background how you have got to this point?
I did a business degree first and learned all the design stuff after that. So I guess in reality I’m business first and design second, something that makes me different from your average designer.
I had thought at one point that I wanted to be a management consultant type, flash suits, jetting around the world etc, (I think I had watched too much of The Apprentice) but an internship mid-way through University proved to me that I was a profound mismatch for that line of work.
I suppose the key turning point for me that pushed me over the edge was finishing in the top ten in the Slideshare “World’s best presentation contest” a good few years back, I thought to myself… hey I must actually be pretty good at this… So one weekend I set up a WordPress website and ordered a pack ofmoo.com business cards and I was on my way!
We can see that you have worked with a huge range of businesses from startups to multi nationals. What do you find are the challenges and benefits of working with such a diverse range of companies?
It started out pretty varied alright, I worked with car rental companies, finance companies, Universities, tech startups and even Russian tile manufacturers (really)
Over the last while I’ve ended up working with pretty much just tech startups with the occasional larger corporate job.
I’ve always seen the corporate work vs startup work as a bit of a trade-off. The corporate stuff can be more lucrative and the projects can be larger, but I don’t get the same level of satisfaction that I do when working with startups.
Let’s put it this way, I’m usually a very calm person, and there are only two situations in which I become a nervous wreck (in a good way… if that’s possible), the first is watching my little brother kick ass in basketball games, the second is watching my startup clients kick ass on stage. I find it hard to get that excited about corporate work
What has been the biggest obstacle you have been faced with to date and how did you manage to overcome it?
For me, as I guess with most people, the biggest obstacle starting out was getting those first few clients in the door. Design/consultancy work is a referral heavy game, and when you don’t have any work behind you it’s hard to know where to get started, so I employed methods I’d retrospectively call the Good, the Bad, and the Cheeky.
I used to offer a free trial on Twitter, “send me your deck and I’ll send you back a few slides the way I’d design them, if you like them let’s talk, if not no worries”, that sort of thing. A few people took me up on that offer and the jobs that have branched off those initial interactions have been spectacular really. One of the first people who took me up on the offer was a guy who ended up working for one of the startups that presented at Techcrunch 4 years later, and that’s why I got that job!
I attended a lot of general business networking events at the start, it was a good way to throw out loads of business cards, but not much else. I think really events like that can end up being a big room full of people selling with no actual buyers! I basically just wasted time and energy at these.
All is fair in love and… starting up. So in the beginning if I found a presentation posted by a startup to slideshare that looked like it could use some work I’d download it, redesign some slides from, it and send them to the founder out of the blue. This approach received reactions ranging along a spectrum of “F*ck you!” to “Wow, cool, let’s talk”. Ultimately it resulted in a few jobs at the start so I was okay with my devious tactics.