Tech start-up of the week: WattSpot

2 Feb 2015

Pictured: a WattSpot unit at Insomnia

Our tech start-up of the week is WattSpot, which has developed mobile phone charging units for the hospitality sector that allows people to charge up their devices for free in the time it takes to enjoy a cup of coffee.

Applied psychology student Conor Nolan and entrepreneurship student Conor McGowan (both 21) are the founders of WattSpot, a firm supplying an innovative service to the hospitality industry.

The business, which operates out of the Media Cube at IADT in Dun Laoghaire, aims to tackle battery consumption issues for consumers on the go, through the provision of free phone charging facilities across the country.

“We know how inconvenient it can be stuck with no battery in town or in college and have nowhere to charge your phone,” said Nolan.

“So we decided to do something about it. The product is suitable for a whole host of businesses from coffee shops to hotels, golf clubs to restaurants and many more.”

The market

“Our goal at WattSpot is to make everyone’s day a little bit easier and to make worrying about low phone battery a thing of the past.

“Our vision is for WattSpot to be everywhere, so that wherever you go, WattSpot won’t be far away. Businesses benefit from the incentive for customers to enter their establishment to charge their phones for free, sales increase and the overall customer experience is elevated. Everyone’s a winner!

“We target the hospitality industry (hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, etc..), but any business where people will spend over 15 minutes is a potential customer, including barbers, doctor’s waiting rooms, for example. Anyone with a smartphone can use the service.”

The founders

CEO Conor Nolan is  21 year-old psychology student from Termonfeckin, Co.Louth, with a background in start-ups.

“When I had the idea I went to Conor McGowan, COO and co-founder, who studies Business and Entrepreneurship in IADT and is from Wicklow town, because we frequently chatted about ideas in the past.”

WattSpot started up a few months ago, when the founders began cold calling businesses with their idea for the service.

Since then it has grown rapidly and is now available in establishments such as Insomnia Coffee Company, Topaz and independent businesses across Ireland. With exposure at events such as the Web Summit, WattSpot is set to expand to the UK within the next few months.

The technology

With connections to cater for every smartphone in the market, WattSpot units provide rapid phone charging to provide a considerable charge within the space of a coffee.

“With a built in lead acid battery, our chargers are portable to move from table to table.”

Nolan said the goal is that when people are down to their last few percent of battery life they ask themselves “Where is the nearest WattSpot?”

He continued: “Then they open up our website and find their nearest charging point. To provide free phone charging, everywhere, to make everyone’s day that little bit easier.”

Sparking up

“We started off with market research and cold calling businesses, and the response was incredible. I knew it would be, as I worked in the Arnotts Electrical Department for the last three years and was asked at least ten times a day by staff and customers alike to charge their phones.

“We are now in some of Ireland’s biggest universities and companies such as DCU, NUIM and Insomnia and Topaz with many deals close to being done. And we are also expanding to the UK in mid February.”

Nolan said the biggest challenges so far have sourcing the required technologies and negotiating with clients.

‘This entrepreneurial stuff is addictive’

Nolan said the start-up environment is currently buzzing and there is plenty of encouragement about.

“It’s in a great place right now. For two students to start up a company and within six months be eyeing up the UK shows how much support we’ve gotten, in particular from IADT.

“AIB also helped us get to the Web Summit and that got us international exposure.

“We are also in the New Frontiers Phase 2 thanks to Enterprise Ireland so we have our own HQ in the Media Cube, Dun Laoghaire.”

His advice to other would-be founders is to go for it if you believe in your idea.

“The support is there is you look for it, and even if your first idea doesn’t work out, you’ll get straight back up and try something new.

“This entrepreneurial stuff is addictive!”

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