Start-up of the week: Scamps

23 May 2016

Scamps founders gearing up for a busy summer, from left: Paul Berrill, Patrick Dooley and Liam Cunningham

With the school holidays approaching, our start-up of the week is Scamps, a search directory to help you find the right camp for your child in your locality.

“We have everything from sports camps, to music camps through to the arts,” explained Scamps founder Liam Cunningham.

“We give parents the ability to choose the right camp for their child based on their needs, interests and camp environment. Scamps automatically pinpoints your location and highlights the abundance of camps on your doorstep.

‘The ultimate goal is to be the of camps’

“Within each camp profile, there is significant detail, such as camp times and dates, instructor qualifications, ratio of instructors to campers and how to book your child a place. Each camp can be reviewed so you can see which is the best peer-reviewed camp in your area. We take the hassle out of the search process for parents and ensure that children find the camps that they will love.”

The market

Recent CSO statistics have shown that 65pc of the male and 55pc of the female population of the Republic of Ireland are currently in employment.

“With more than 1.1m children in Ireland, it is reasonable to suggest that families with two working parents are finding it increasingly difficult to juggle full-time jobs and also accommodate their children during the 15-18 weeks of school holidays,” said Cunningham.

“Scamps is the only one-stop-shop for parents accessing camps in Ireland. Our focus is solely on promoting the array of camps we have all over Ireland and on making sure parents can easily find the appropriate camp for their child.

“Parents are frustrated at the amount of school holidays, the significant costs of childminding fees and the multiple Google searches they have to undertake to find a camp that works for their budget, location and child’s needs. Scamps addresses all of these issues through a simple, easy-to-use search platform.”

The founders

Founder Liam Cunningham is a chartered accountant working in Google. He is the former president of the Friary Youth Club and former senior leader of the Knockadoon Youth Weeks (KYW) summer camp.

“I oversaw the growth of the KYW from six days, 55 kids and 30 volunteer leaders in 2011 to three weeks, 300 kids and 80 volunteer leaders in 2015.”

His brother Niall Cunningham is a marketing campaign planner at LinkedIn. He is also a former president of Friary Youth Club and is current senior leader of the KYW.

Co-founder Patrick Dooley is a chartered accountant who works at EY and is involved in the Louth Mavericks American Football Team and is trying to establish a summer camp at present.

And another co-founder, Paul Berrill, is also a chartered accountant working in St James’s Hospital and is heavily involved with Louth GAA and with local GAA camps.

The technology

“Scamps is very easy to use, I’d go as far as saying we developed it with the intention of making it foolproof for the non-tech-savvy crowd.

“The user simply logs on to Scamps, selects the camp category, location and age of their child and hits search!”

He said the search results page can be further filtered if parents are looking for a specific camp, such as horseriding, basketball, adventure, language camps, etc.

“The ultimate goal is to be the of camps. We want to represent every camp in the country and be the one-stop-shop for parents locating camps in Ireland. We want to offer a selection of camps in every town in every county in the country. We already have at least one camp in every town.”

Pitching in

Scamps started the sales process in early April and already it has partnered with three out of the four biggest camp providers in the country: Starcamp, Let’s Go! and GAA Cúl Camps.

“We expect to add the fourth to our ranks soon. We have a selection of camps across every category (multi-activity, sport, drama etc) and this number is growing by the day. There are hundreds of camps out there that could avail of our promotional service and we are doing our very best to find them all.”

Cunningham said that the biggest challenge was convincing camps to partner with Scamps at the beginning.

“We were basically selling them a ‘future truth’ that we would be like or in a number of months. Once we got one or two of the big providers like Starcamp and Let’s Go! Summer Camps to come on board the rest began to take notice and we have seen a huge uptake in recent weeks.”

Community spirit

Cunningham said he was impressed at the community spirit he has experienced in the Irish start-up landscape.

“As this is my first start-up I wasn’t sure what to expect at the beginning. I had my idea, yes, but other than that I wasn’t sure where to begin.

‘Believe in your team’s ability to be the best at what you do’

“But I was blown away by the amount of free information I got from people in the start-up community. Lots of people were happy to steer me in the right direction.

“There are also some great supports out there like the Feasibility Grant on offer from Enterprise Ireland. The Dublin Start-up Digest has also been of great benefit as they regularly organise meet-ups with other entrepreneurs and keynote speakers on topical areas like raising funding, perfecting your sales pitch, etc.”

Cunningham’s advice for other tech self-starters is: do not keep your idea a secret and don’t be afraid of someone stealing your idea.

“Go out there and start telling people about it! At the end of the day, you have to believe in your own ability and your team’s ability to execute your vision.

“There will always be competitors and you can guarantee people will replicate your business if it’s successful.

“Believe in your team’s ability to be the best at what you do.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years