Our start-up of the week is Pavanu Mobility, which develops technologies such as robots to survey footpaths and pedestrian areas.
Pavanu Mobility has just completed the inaugural StartPlanetNI accelerator, which is the only equity-backed accelerator programme currently available in Northern Ireland.
The company presented at the recent Demo Day in Hillsborough Castle, Co Down to an assembled investor audience from across the island of Ireland, the UK and further afield.
Pavanu develops technologies and services to survey footpaths and pedestrian areas.
“The data and reports generated can be used by authorities to rebuild and repair pedestrian areas to ensure accessibility, such as wheelchair access and safety for everybody, regardless of age, ability and circumstances,” said Pavanu’s CEO Natalia Shiel.
“Our objective is to disrupt the way pedestrian areas are built, repaired and maintained.”
The Target Market for Pavanu is urban pedestrian areas all around the world.
“Our customer base is city and town authorities, visitor/customer businesses like hotel complexes, tourist attractions and retail shopping malls, in fact, any place where there are a large amount of people using pedestrian areas in the built environment.
“There are over 4,000 towns and cities in the world with a population in excess of 150,000. Our serviceable market is approximately 200 towns and cities in the UK, Europe, US and Canada.
‘Pavanu is here to ensure that pedestrian areas in the built environment are accessible and safe for everyone regardless of age, ability, and circumstances’
– NATALIA SHIEL, PAVANU
“Over €160bn was paid out in compensation for trip and fall hazards last year. €3bn is spent every year on repairs, maintenance, design and building of pavements in pedestrian areas. The problem of accessibility is an ongoing process of lengthy litigations and endless trip and fall injuries.
“Our services can detect and analyse these problems way before the actual injuries occur or after a trip or fall happens. By using Pavanu’s data, and knowing the areas that are potentially dangerous, our customers can save hundreds of thousands in lawsuits.
“The population of the world is getting older every year, current generations live longer, and over 15pc of the world’s population have a disability. Pavanu is here to ensure that pedestrian areas in the built environment are accessible and safe for everyone regardless of age, ability, and circumstances.”
“I have managed and owned other businesses for the 10 ten years,” Shiel said. “Through the years, I have learned how it is important for a business to have structure and future planning. Any ‘smooth sailing’ is only a dream for the start-up. We have to work extremely hard to get results.”
Shiel completed a course in Business Studies in Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), which gave her great insights on the financial side of a business.
“Having experience in retail and with two successful start-ups, I realised that leadership means keeping a team together while moving forward.”
Noel Joyce, product designer and the creator of the whole idea of Pavanu, is also a wheelchair user.
“It is Noel’s firsthand experience that inspired the project. Noel is a very motivated individual with great patience and lots of experience in the business side of start-ups.”
Darren Mealiff, CTO of the company, is an industrial designer with a background in engineering.
“He was involved in the development of Pavanu from the very beginning. And it has to be said that, no matter what kind of turmoil the company is going through, this is the person who will always be there.”
Darren Conroy, electronic engineer, is the “brain” behind the sensory platform. He is a graduate of Dublin Institute of Technology.
“Darren is a real genius in his field. The ‘mad scientist’ every tech company has to have,” according to Shiel.
The device Pavanu has created is called PASIV (Pedestrian Area Survey Inspection Vehicle). It is like a wheelchair robot that can be used to measure obstacles in pedestrian areas that are potentially dangerous for trips and falls.
“This is complemented by a cloud-based platform that we are developing, which manages the data and generates reports for our customers,” Shiel explained.
“Such customers include local authorities, tourism groups, stadiums and private companies, such as hotels.
“This device has different types of sensors that allow us to get a reference to the location and seriousness of the problem. This is complemented by a cloud-based platform, which manages the data and generates reports for our customers.
“When the data is up in the cloud, it is filtered to extract the necessary information.”
She said that, for Pavanu, the main goal is to implement technology in order to achieve full accessibility and safety on footpaths.
“It is not enough to create the technology that works well. We have to create awareness about problems and issues with the built environment, issues that were overlooked and ignored for way too long.”
Shiel said that the StartPlanet NI accelerator gave the team some excellent investment opportunities and access to a number of prominent business figures through mentoring sessions, both of which has helped them grow as a team and a business.
“While perfecting and developing our technology on the programme, we successfully secured orders from two large customers, Dublin County Council and Offaly County Council, to the value of approximately £20,000. After bootstrapping [up to now], we are currently raising a round of seed equity investment to enable the company to rapidly scale.
‘Take any opportunity that is there for you. Ireland is a fantastic country to bring your idea to life, as people are receptive and driven’
– NATALIA SHIEL, PAVANU
“We also have A strong sales pipeline and significant customer engagement throughout Ireland and the UK.”
Shiel said the team is enjoying the challenges of start-up life. “Any new beginning is a big undertaking. But saying that, we love it. Pavanu is working within constraints that have existed for many years. And to break these barriers, we have to really prove ourselves.
“At the moment, we are working together with several communities to bring awareness about safety and accessibility in pedestrian areas all around the world.”
Leading the innovation charge
Shiel said that Ireland has massive potential and there is no shortage of new ideas.
“I see it becoming one of leading countries in innovation and new businesses.
“Yes, we do live on a small island and maybe action-based changes are not coming this way very quickly, but the opportunity to try is there in abundance.
“These days, programmes and opportunities are opening everywhere and it is solely up to people themselves to take the opportunities or not. Pavanu was one of the lucky teams to get onto the first year of StartPlanetNI and I can certainly recommend such programmes as a way to develop your idea into an actual working business.”
Take your chances and work hard
Her advice to other start-ups is to take chances and work hard. “Take any opportunity that is there for you. Ireland is a fantastic country to bring your idea to life, as people are receptive and driven.
“I cannot praise enough the opportunities we got from the StartPlanetNI Accelerator programme and I would urge people to try and secure a place on it or other such accelerators. But, needless to say, we still had to work hard to make things happen. At the end of the day, it is you that drives the idea.
“You don’t have to go far to get your idea heard, just take action at every opportunity, whether it is here or a thousand miles away. It really all depends on you!”