This month we caught up with Ormeau Baths resident, Jonathan Smyth, CEO and Founder of Linc Technology. Here Jonathan shares what excites him most about entrepreneurship, his crazy experiences during lockdown and the biggest lessons Covid-19 has taught him about entrepreneurship.
Name & role: Jonathan Smyth, CEO and Founder of Linc Technology
Company elevator pitch:
Linc Technology will revolutionize the way you purchase jewellery in the future. It is the world’s first visual smartphone sizer allowing customers to measure their hand, this will not only increase sales but reduce returns and reduce carbon footprint.
Business/career goal for 2021:
It may put me under pressure timeframe-wise, but my main goal for 2021 is to get piloting and testing my system with one of the luxury jewellery companies I have been speaking with.
What excites you most about your role?
The stabilizers really are off, it is nerve-wracking and stressful, but I guess it’s exciting creating and shaping your own destiny, you make it what you want it to be. You can stay in bed every day and wonder why nothing ever happens, or you can stick your neck out and try to make a change and evolve. Every day is different, full of surprises and there are highs and lows. Paul Smith from Ignite did a presentation about being a Startup, showing the usual startup face which is a person crying, there are days you feel like that but it’s beneficial to surround yourself with good mentors, who can help guide you to overcome problems. Belfast is inspirational tech-wise at the minute, we have world-leading companies and products. To be part of a post-pandemic burgeoning tech scene is really exciting and we are having some great conversations face to face in the Ormeau Baths, now it is back open amongst my cohorts on Propel.
What are some of the coping mechanisms you’ve adopted to try and stay positive during lockdown?
I have had such a crazy lockdown; My directors at ‘Ineqe’, where I worked, informed us we continue to work from home on St Patrick’s Day 2020. At this time, I was studying and trying to complete my dissertation for my MSc in Software Development, I decided to take voluntary redundancy in order to launch my own company, caught Covid at Christmas, was accepted onto the Ignite Propel Programme and then won Queens University’s Dragons Den the following St. Patrick’s Day, 2021! To top it all off my brand new bike that I received as part of the ‘Cycle To Work Bike Scheme’ got stolen in June and was returned to me by the PSNI in January… but that’s another story. So to cope with all of this I have been focusing on getting outdoors with my fiance, going cycling, listening to and producing music and attempting to learn electric guitar…. Badly! Zooming with family and friends has been a staple social tool and yes, we were avid Zoom quizzers. I also realised how unhealthy I was becoming, as the cortisol levels rose, and so I called it a day on my relationship with The Pizza Co. and I’ve spent the last 3 months on the keto diet. I’m still addicted to staring at my phone but I’ve tried to give up on any other vices….apart from watching lots of Star Wars, I’m afraid it’s my go-to switch off/chill out. I can honestly say that I feel more focused and positive now than I did pre-lockdown.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur during lockdown?
Lockdown has made me more digitally fearless I guess, when you have been sitting in your spare bedroom working 24/7 and the news is pretty grim, you think what can I do to move things forward for myself? John Lautner, the architect, said “if you don’t stick your neck out, nothing ever changes”, in order to develop or design new products you have to be a risk-taker. I believe that with a laptop, mobile and a wifi connection you can achieve anything. I pushed myself in learning, developing, networking and stretching myself financially. I applied to Web Summit 2020 as a startup and got accepted, thankfully it cost 300 euros and not 2000 euros, due to it being virtually hosted. Through days spent pitching on ‘Web Summit Mingle’, I ended up connecting with one of the world’s leading diamond companies from my bedroom office, they validated the problem LINC can solve and they are in ongoing talks with us. Sadly, I was disappointed that Ridley Scott accepted my connection request and did not turn up for our meeting, he must have been busy winning a zoom quiz.
Going forward, has the Covid-19 outbreak impacted your approach to business and entrepreneurship?
Thank goodness the pandemic did not hit in the ’90s, it would have been difficult to work on development projects with dial-up and a Nokia phone! I realised that where I would normally expect to meet physically in person, I can be equally as innovative and collaborative at a distance with platforms such as Zoom, Slack, Github etc. Also, I would never have imagined networking internationally could be done so effectively from home. Sometimes all you have to do is reach out and people are happy and willing to give you 30 minutes of their time and that 30 mins can influence the entire trajectory of your company. I have connected with people through Linkedin and Instagram that I never would have thought possible pre-pandemic. As we were homebound, I realised pretty quickly that you could work 24/7 depending on who was awake around the world. Having a healthy work/life balance is vital, working continually with no cut-off is not only physically exhausting it can completely stave creativity.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs right now?
I don’t want to sound corny like Journey ‘Don’t stop believin’! But the most important advice is you have this great idea but make sure to listen and not just to your family. Get a good mentor or mentors. It is the ability to be dynamic and change that will help you succeed. I have learned that there is a bit of a formula to this and failing is not a bad thing, it just helps refine your model. Also, get on Linkedin and network, get to know who else is out there doing the same thing that you are doing. Find out if they are having similar problems and why that might be.
If you had to enter into a talent show what would you do?
I’ve been known to show some talent as a DJ in a past life, I got to do a fair bit of globetrotting on it.
Tell us something people would be surprised to know about you?
I was once an extra in a movie called ‘The Most Fertile Man in Ireland’, it starred Kris Marshall from ‘Death in Paradise’ fame. I was granted the role of snobby shop assistant as they used the shop I worked in as a set. I went to the cinema to see my big-screen debut, only to discover that I hadn’t made the cut! Probably a good thing as I wanted to remain employable.
If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?
Speak and understand any language instantly.
Who is your dream business mentor?
A tough one, Steve Jobs, he maybe isn’t considered the nicest guy sometimes but he achieved incredible things.
Name one resource (book, podcast, publication etc) that has had an impact on your approach to business?
This is hard as well, so much out there that has inspired me. I love the Wondery Podcast ‘Business Wars’. It has a great angle on leading businesses, from Mattel V Hasbro to Snapchat V Facebook, I just love hearing each company’s eureka moment. Books that I have treasured include ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries, a must-read for any startup, and ‘Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, hugely inspirational. Phil Knight really proves you can make your own luck and opportunities in life if you are willing to take the risk and believe in yourself.
Where can people find out more about your business?
They can reach me on Linkedin or through www.linc.technology