Our start-up of the week is Galway-based Chargys, which has devised the Chargy, a single use emergency power bank for smartphones.
“Chargys is all about powering freedom,” explained company co-founder and CEO Jonathan Madden.
“The Chargy, a tiny, single-use power bank will be available from your nearest shop, bar, train or bus station, ready to give your mobile phone a boost. No cables, no plugs, no worries on the go.”
‘We aim to be the Coca-Cola for your phone’
– JONATHAN MADDEN
“Once it’s done, simply recycle it. One-hundred per cent of funds raised from recycling are donated to our official partners, Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation.”
According to Madden, there are over 3m smartphones in use in Ireland, which on average are being charged 2.2 times per day.
“Yet we still end up with dead phones in our pockets and the dreaded ‘low battery anxiety’. Anyone who has uttered the words ‘my phone is going to die’ is our market.”
Madden explained that Chargys is not just for phones.
“Our Android unit powers e-cigarettes, Go Pro cameras, tablets, anything with a micro USB port.
“Our market, even just in Ireland, is quite vast and so we are focusing our efforts on the 18–34-year-old segment in a casual, fun way. We believe the results will then cascade into the other segments.”
Madden said that, globally, there are approximately 2.32bn active smartphone users.
“We know that low battery anxiety is a global issue due to its publication across the world. We are not alone in our frustration. So we believe the growth opportunities for Chargys are unlimited.”
Madden has worked as an IT broker since graduating from the University of Limerick four years ago with a master’s in technology. He also worked as an all-Ireland salesman for Champion Sports in 2008.
“I returned to Ireland from Spain last July in order to work on Chargys with my co-founder, Bryan.”
Bryan Larkin has been a salesman and mechanic for the best part of 10 years.
Unsure of what he wanted to study at third level, he chose not to go and instead focused on earning. “He’s the hardest working person I have ever met. His days regularly start at 6am in his sales job and end at 2am or 3am happily working from his home garage. His resourcefulness alone makes him an amazing addition to any team,” said Madden.
“Our backgrounds are very complementary, which we feel creates a strong, well-rounded team. It also makes splitting up the workload pretty simple as tasks naturally suit one of us better. We met through music and it has kept us connected over the years, regularly meeting up to play a few tunes.”
Chargys come in two types, colour coded for simplicity. Red for iPhone, with the lightning connector, and green for Android, with the micro-USB connector. These two types cover more than 99.7pc of the smartphone market.
Simply remove the power saver tab to turn on the Chargy. Once inserted into your device the Chargy will deliver its power over the space of one hour. Once the power has been fully transferred, the phone will begin to vibrate, letting you know its time to remove the Chargy.
“All of our retailers are required to accept back used Chargys,” Madden explained. “We then collect these and recycle.
“The funds raised from this process are fully donated to Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation. We believe this, along with the value gained from the Chargy and competitions run on our social media, is enough to incentivise users to be responsible and recycle the Chargys.”
Madden explained that the ultimate goal for the young company is to create a global brand.
“We aim to be the Coca-Cola for your phone. Ireland is a fantastic proving ground for this product and we will soon be ready to release nationwide.
“We have designed Chargys to scale fast. Being a small impulse retail product, success only comes with volume, so we have built everything in order to be ready for that.
“We also believe that these can finally create a true charging solution for high traffic bars. Where busy bars don’t have the time to charge phones, nor the want, Chargys offer real margins to the bar, for a service that clients need with absolutely no maintenance or setup.”
Charge your imagination
Madden said that the Chargys are already a hit among test retailers.
“Things are going incredibly well. Our test locations are proving – as we hoped – the effectiveness of Chargys as a charging solution.
“Two weeks ago, a retailer told us he didn’t believe that they would actually sell, but that he liked us, so decided to give it a shot. He told us this as he placed a repeat order.
“Customer acquisition has not been an issue, as the value is immediately apparent once you understand the product. We have run a beta test in limited locations since January in order to refine our processes. This also allowed us time to work on the best routes to market specifically for scale.
“We are very interested in attracting investment in the near future.”
Like most founders, embarking on the start-up journey is a challenge.
“Time is always a challenge. I have a seven-year-old daughter and finding time to balance a day job, a start-up and a family is quite difficult, as I’m sure many of your readers know all too well. It requires a strict level of planning and productiveness to make it all work and to stay sane.”
Madden believes the start-up scene in Ireland is fantastic, but it is getting quite packed.
“The boom is back, seemly. It’s now very cool to be part of a start-up and the resources available for free on the internet are beyond belief.
“All of these factors combined are allowing people to take more risks, which I feel will inevitably create more diamonds in years to come. I do fear, however, that at some stage we may be buried in motivational speakers. But for now, I am excited about what the next few years will give us.”
His advice to other would-be founders is to give it a try if they feel they have an idea that is worth experimenting with.
“Nike got it right in 1988: ‘Just do it’. Everything else you need is on the internet.”
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