Anne Lawlor, CEO, Journey Protector
“Winning the Competitive Start Fund (CSF) was perfect timing for our company,” says Anne Lawlor, CEO, Journey Protector. Here’s how it benefitted in building the business.
What we do
Journey Protector solves problems faced by haulage companies due to theft or damage of their load as well as issues associated with illegal stowaways entering the rear of vehicles. I researched the problem and realised that it was a big worldwide challenge, with a huge associated market.
The device and system which I have developed will protect drivers, haulage firms and their freight from loss or damage caused by clandestine stowaways – this will save time and money for our clients and give them a competitive advantage over their rivals. It’s a challenge which needs a company who can concentrate on providing a full-time solution, so we have become that company.
Building a scaling business
Although I had experience of running a lifestyle business, I was unsure of how to go about building a business which had capabilities of scaling worldwide. We needed to have our prototypes built and tested, source manufacturers and develop our pricing structure. We found that doing this to scale was totally different and required a lot of advice. Funding was also an issue - pitching is not as easy as you would think it is.
I was lucky enough to obtain a place on New Frontiers in Synergy Centre in Tallaght and this gave me the skills required to apply for the CSF. We didn’t get through on our first, or even second attempt, but the feedback provided proved to be invaluable. We made the suggested changes to our application and pitch and tried again. We knew that the CSF was the next step in our journey towards a fully functioning company exporting worldwide.
CSF gave us credibility as a start-up
To be honest, we got the CSF at the perfect time for our company. The finances have enabled us to get to the stage where we have our final engineering prototype and our first customers lined up to trial it. Enterprise Ireland connections have enabled us to meet people we could only have dreamed of meeting. I got to meet President Higgins and his lovely wife Sabina in Áras an Uachtaráin which was amazing. Winning the CSF gave us the credibility as a start-up to gain access to a large European port and obtain assistance from them to design a version of our product for use by Customs officers.
One of the best things I have experienced through winning the CSF for experienced business professionals was the Ingenuity Programme in DCU Ryan Academy. This course gave me the skills and confidence to bring my company to the world stage. I even pitched in front of hundreds of people in the RDS at the Telefonica Wayra pitch contest - this is something I would never have even thought of doing before completing the Ingenuity Programme. I also made wonderful contacts through the DCU Ryan Academy Ingenuity programme and, through one of these contacts, I have a potential customer in a geographical area I had not even thought about.
Clear vision for your company and product
I would recommend undertaking the New Frontiers programme prior to applying for the CSF. I found that it provided me with the validation of my business idea and the skills to write a business plan. I would say that you need to have a very clear vision for your company and product. You can use an innovation voucher with one of the Centres of Excellence to have any preparatory work done – research, proof of concept etc. We worked with WISAR labs, Letterkenny IT and found them excellent and really helpful. Make sure that you have your business plan and pitch deck ready, that it tells a story, and is easy to understand. Apply for any CSF call you can, and pay attention to the feedback.
Success at the right time
If you get refused - and I did twice before winning the CSF - listen to the feedback and act upon it. Once there is a market for your product and your company is ready, you will be in the best position to make a successful CSF application.
Field trials have just begun. Once they are finished, certification will be obtained and Journey Protector will launch at the end of 2018. Version 2 is already in the design stage and will be ready to take to market by the end of the year.
We will begin exporting in early 2019, initially to the UK and then Mainland Europe.
Interested in applying for the Competitive Start Fund? Find out if you’re eligible and how to apply here.