Our start-up of the week Crono Labs’ teenage founders want to create Ireland’s first truly successful hardware start-up.
Crono Labs’ Oliver Burke (17) said the objective for the start-up is straightforward. “Disrupting the computer hardware market, which has not seen major innovation for too long.
“We want to get rid of the typical desktop tower in favour of a compact case that you mount your monitor onto.”
Along with school pal Ruairi McNicholas (18), the pair from Headfort in Galway have already embarked on an Indiegogo campaign to raise funding for their hardware design.
“We are targeting tech enthusiasts who want a desktop that is aesthetically pleasing and easy to transport while not compromising on the performance that they demand,” Burke explained.
“The LAN gaming scene is where we think our product will shine the most, where we can provide an easier alternative for the participants that are forced to transport their large towers and monitors to and from events.
“Dreamhack, a LAN gaming company, boasted 22,000 participants at its annual event in Sweden, with many more participating in other cities around the world, which shows how big the market is!”
Since primary school, both Burke and McNicholas have had a flair for technology, with the duo quickly becoming the go-to tech support among family and friends.
“We learned to code and use Photoshop at 15, and built our own computers at 16.
“The culmination of our tech knowledge was our success in the F1 in Schools Challenge, the world’s largest technology challenge for students, where teams design, build and race miniature Formula 1 cars.
“Of 20,000 teams from around the world, we were one of just 39 to make it to the World Final in Abu Dhabi.”
Crono Labs’ desktop case uses standard VESA mounting to ensure compatibility with almost all monitors.
“We have managed to fit standard hardware into a more compact package using some clever layout innovations.
“Our goal is to make tower-style desktops a thing of the past and replace them with PCs that you mount your monitor onto.”
Spreading the word
Marketing is one of Crono Labs’ strongest efforts at the moment, spreading the word of the crowdfunding campaign, as well as video reviews of the design, among tech bloggers.
“We have gotten good feedback on technology forums, which we see as an indicator of good customer acquisition in the future.
“Bloggers we have contacted have been extremely enthusiastic and we have had people tell us via online discussion websites that they would buy the case in the morning if they could!”
From regions to riches
Burke says that, like all start-ups, the biggest challenge has been lack of funding. “Due to being students, we have had to do things the hard way, from promoting ourselves online to utilising crowdfunding to fund prototypes. Sourcing a prototype also proved difficult.
“Being in a rural area and working from home, we haven’t really experienced it yet. Hopefully that will change with us attending the Web Summit this November!”
The pair say they draw their inspiration from Elon Musk for his determination to advance technology in difficult markets.
Their advice to other start-ups is to involve both customers and manufacturers in the conversation as early as possible.
“We received invaluable suggestions right from the start when our product was a basic concept. Also, self-funding the start-up initially would be extremely beneficial.”