Tech start-up of the week: Loylap

17 May 2014

Conor O'Toole, Patrick Garry, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD, Victor Castillo and Dan Wilson

Our tech start-up of the week is Loylap, which helps small businesses build and retain a loyal customer base and reward customers with cash back on every purchase.

Loylap is targeting the small and medium enterprises (SMB) market in Ireland and abroad. “The opportunity to expand technology adoption by small businesses is one of the greatest in the market at present, but it is also one of the most challenging, giving the sheer amount of individual businesses that exist,” said Patrick Garry, co-founder and CEO of Loylap.

“Our system lets businesses reward their customers with cash back on every purchase. The user’s rewards are stored on their smartphone and can be spent like real cash, at any time, in-store.

Future Human

“Loyalty, in our view, is the optimal way of connecting customers with the businesses they frequent the most, and we are driving this connection by giving consumers a loyalty system they value and which is easy to understand. This allows businesses to retain their best customers, to increase customer spending and increase customer frequency.”  

The market

As well as catering to individual business, Loylap has built its technology from the ground up to cater for local community and group loyalty systems.

“Our community loyalty system enables all local business in an area to team up and offer their customers a collective group loyalty system where cash back can be earned and spent in any participating community business – whether a customer has been there before or not. It’s the ultimate local referral system. And more than that, cash earned in a community, stays in the community.

“We see a huge market in Ireland and abroad for these community loyalty systems to bring every business in a community together by operating their loyalty system as a community branded entity.

“So far, we have two communities using the service in Terenure and Sandymount, and we are currently working with more to get their loyalty systems operational by mid-summer,” Garry explained.

The founders

Conor O’Toole and Patrick Garry are the co-founders of Loylap.

“Conor and I have known each other since attending the same secondary school and subsequently the same university, so we know each other quite well. We both studied business at Trinity, after which Conor went on to work in technology consulting with Accenture and I went to work in business and finance with Deutsche Bank.

“We saw an opportunity with mobile software centred around loyalty for small businesses and decided to take the leap and set up Loylap. Conor is a self-taught developer with a business background, and I had a background in sales, marketing and finance, so we felt we had the resources required to get an MVP product to market. 

“We were accepted in NDRC’s LaunchPad after selling our MVP into a few Dublin-based businesses. From there, we expanded the team to include three great developers; Sean Deverell, Dan Wilson and Victor Castillo.

“We are now a team of five with a wide range of abilities and skills, which we know are absolutely critical for success.”

The technology

Loylap is designed to adapt to the business, or community, in which it is used by the customer.

“When businesses register, we get their logo and three high quality images of their business and use these to populate the user application. For the customers, Loylap becomes a tailored loyalty application for that business or community,” Garry explained.

Businesses choose the loyalty system they want to run, whether it’s Stamp or Cash Back. In a matter of minutes, they can have their own branded app up and running.

Once set up, businesses simply scan the customer’s app using a smartphone at the point of sale (POS) to put through the transaction. It’s designed for speed and ease of use.

“We use loyalty to connect customers to businesses,” Garry said. “Once a customer starts using Loylap, and starts growing their balance, we can then provide the business with details and insights into how the system is performing in their business. Further to this, we provide them with an engagement board to reach out to customers in app with messages, notifications and rewards.”

Global vision

Loylap’s goal is to become a global leader in customer retention software for small businesses.

“Businesses currently have excellent software available to track what is going on behind the counter; such as accountancy software and software for automated ordering, but when it comes to customers in front of the counter, businesses are still quite limited in what’s available to them to better make this huge unknown variable more consistent and understandable,” said Garry.

“We see our loyalty system as the best way to connect the customer with the business to reduce this unknown.”

The company has just gone live in the last two weeks with Loylap 2.0 on the app stores, which is the successor to the original Loylap MVP product it had in the market for 10 months.

“We used our time in the market with Loylap to constantly seek feedback from the businesses using it, and also from those who weren’t using it, and grew on this feedback to develop something they couldn’t afford to ignore,” Garry said.

“We are now in a period of customer acquisition and already have a number of very satisfied paying clients, including the Curragh racecourse in Kildare, which uses the product to reward patrons each time they come to the races, as well as great restaurants and cafés in Dublin.

“We are very happy with where our product is at the moment, but we are constantly making improvements. With the tech largely tied up for the moment, we’ve dusted our nice shirts and shoes to try and raise an initial round of seed funding,” Garry added.

Navigating Dublin’s start-up scene

Garry said the main challenge for Loylap, and from speaking with dozens of other start-ups in Dublin, is to not run out of money.

“Apart from the obvious there were challenges in terms of getting a team together that will have all the skill sets you require. There is a great event run in Dublin on occasion called Dubstarts, which pairs start-ups with graduates looking for work.”

The priority – build the team

Garry’s advice to other start-ups would be to make building your team your priority.

“Once you have an idea which you have thought about, developed, and gotten some market validation on, your next step should be to look into building yourself a team that can go about doing it.

“A lot of start-ups start off with two co-founders, which I think is great as it gives more perspective on things, but they fall at the next hurdle by looking to outsource development rather than build it themselves.

“Outsourcing tech development is great if you are, for example, making a physical product and you need a website with a shopping cart to sell online; but if you’re looking to build software that is your company’s main offering, then you need to get a team together to do this,” Garry said.

“The product will change significantly as you develop and get more and more market feedback, which will cause undue nightmares if you are trying to ask a consulting company to constantly change things around.”

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