Our start-up of the week is a novel new company called Nice Notes, which is ideal for people who can remember when there was no internet. It allows them to turn their paper notebook into a digital document.
“We sell you a paper notebook that is stored in the cloud when you’re finished with it,” explained Ronan McGuire, founder of Nice Notes, who has just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to get the ball rolling.
“We send a notebook to you, and when you’re finished with it, you can post it back, and we’ll digitise it. We then recycle the original one or return it to you.”
“People who can remember when there was no internet!” said McGuire.
“There’s a certain demographic that loves technology, but will never let go of paper.
‘I love the scalability of software, but something about physical products keeps drawing me in. Nice Notes is basically a mash of those two worlds’
– RONAN MCGUIRE, NICE NOTES
“I count myself as one of them. That’s for individual orders – I’m also going the B2B route, and hoping to build that channel out – you tend to hit a few birds with one stone that way.”
McGuire is on a solo run with Nice Notes.
“I studied business and politics at Trinity and founded a natural cosmetics business whilst there.
“That’s where I learned to stay away from distributors! I was always trying my hand at schemes, organising school discos, that kind of thing.
“After college, I did marketing for start-ups in Dublin, Berlin and San Francisco, and learned how to code last year as well.
“I love the scalability of software, but something about physical products keeps drawing me in. Nice Notes is basically a mash of those two worlds.”
A third party handles the scanning of the notebooks but McGuire manages the hosting and the distribution of the data to customers.
“The customer can log in and browse or download their files, and do with them what they wish.
“I am aiming to have optical character recognition, so handwriting will be searchable within the PDFs, but we’ll see.”
McGuire intends to bootstrap the business for as long as possible and grow it that way.
“I got the idea from Need/Want, guys in the US who have built physical-good brands. I admire companies like Treehouse and Basecamp, who seem to have grown more steadily. There’s a certain beauty and skill to that I think; building a company that lasts for years is attractive to me.”
McGuire said he hadn’t slept for 48 hours while preparing the Kickstarter campaign, which achieved 60pc of its target six hours in. Two weeks later, the project is fully backed by 11 backers.
Challenges he faces as a founder include handling publicity and masterminding manufacturing.
“I’m incredibly awkward in front of cameras, and the end result is painful for all involved I think. Working with the Chinese manufacturers so far has been fairly smooth sailing – touch wood. They work on Saturdays and Sundays, which makes my life a lot easier.”
McGuire says that while the energy around start-ups in Ireland is impressive, there’s a bit of an industry building up around them.
“There are less barriers to entry than say in finance, so you get a more of a mixed bag – brilliant people, and less brilliant people. But I love it.
“You meet great characters in start-ups. There’s nothing like when you get a bunch of motivated people together working on a goal.
“There are lots of distractions that one should be wary of, meet-ups etc, in fact, there’s a whole industry of them!
His advice to other self-starters is to reach out and get advice.
“Ask for help and lose the ego – I had to learn that myself the hard way! People will be more generous with their time than you think, but you have to stick your neck out a bit.
“In San Francisco, there was an especially open culture where no reciprocation was expected. The attitude in Europe is to be a bit more closed off. Cynicism (some might say realism) is more prevalent on this side of the pond.”
Paper notebook image via Shutterstock