In 2014, while I was an undergraduate at the University of Strathclyde.
What does your company do?
We have developed a range of security products for lone workers, including a monitored attack alarm, to a market-ready stage.
What is your target market – Who is buying your product / service?
We have decided to focus on B2B audiences as that’s where we it’s think we can have the biggest impact for the highest number of lone workers. The key opportunities are with housing associations, local authorities, charities, the care-at- home sector and so on. We are already in dialogue with many of them.
Why did you launch the company?
I was beginning to think about setting up my own business. Then I learned that a neighbour had been attacked by a stranger, and no one came to help. This incident shocked me, but it also inspired me to think about solutions to ensure help would come if someone was attacked or felt threatened .I did some research and discovered a gap in the market was for decent – and affordable – security to protect lone workers.
What is your background?
I was born in York and completed primary school there. My family then moved to Cannich near Drumnadrochit, Inverness-shire, and I attended Glenurquhart High School. In 2015 I gained a First Class Honours in Marketing and Enterprise from the University of Strathclyde.
What start-up process did you go through? What kind of research did you do into the market? Did you get any start up support?
My entrepreneurial journey began in 2013 (my second year at university) when I took part in the University of Strathclyde Enterprise Pathway Programme.
In September 2013, and alongside my university course work, I began an internship with the Scottish Institute for Enterprise which ran until June 2014.
I set up Pick Protection in 2014. The first task was to complete market research to test that my business idea was achievable, desirable and commercially viable.
Later that year I joined the University of Strathclyde’s Rising Star Programme. This initiative provided much-needed office space and also ensured I was able to network and learn from other start-ups. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this proved to be pivotal, as it was during one of these networking events that I first met the Gabriel Investments team. Even at that early stage, they were keen to help me with my business plan.
What are your plans from now to grow the business?
We are currently exploring opportunities with housing associations, local authorities, charities and the care-at- home sector. This is a big potential market for us. At this early stage, we are doing as much listening as we are selling.
What are your goals for your business?
I want Pick Protection to be the next high growth tech business to come out of Scotland. We have internal targets, agreed with our investors, but these are not yet in the public domain.
Are you getting any growth support? / Have you raised funds to develop your business? What and how?
In 2015 I secured £60,000 of investment from Gabriel Investments.
In 2016 I raised £774,000 from Equity Gap, the University of Strathclyde, Gabriel Investment Syndicate, Scottish Investment Bank and Unipart Group, who have also helped with the product’s delivery.
Have you ever entered any business competitions?
2014: SIE’s Young Innovators Challenge (£2,500 prize money)
2015: Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award for best undergraduate UK business (£5,000)
2015: Third prize (£1,500) in Converge Challenge (first undergraduate to have won an award)
2016: won £10,000 from Scottish Edge as part of their Young Edge Awards
Growth Category at the 2017 AccelerateHER Awards (as a winner, travelled to California in spring 2017 to meet potential US investors)
What are the main challenges you’ve faced so far?
1. Prioritising our target audiences. We have decided to focus on B2B audiences as that’s where we it’s think we can have the biggest impact for the highest number of lone workers.
2. Recognising that my own role has had to evolve. At first it was just me, my ideas and my laptop, and the only person I had to convince was myself. Then, as the funding came through and more people joined the team, my role is now as a leader, bringing everyone together to achieve a common goal.
Have you ever had to pivot or change direction?
Initially my idea was to market a personal alarm for individuals. However, following my research we have focussed on the B2B market. Also the increasing sophistication of apps has also resulted in us refining our suite of products, making them even more affordable.
Have you ever approached a mentor or business leader for advice?
I have excellent mentors, including Les Gaw of Amber North, whose expertise in the tech sector has been invaluable. And Unipart have been instrumental in helping develop our plans, as well as investing in Pick.
Who inspires you?
Other start-up companies who have done well and are now marketing their products or ideas.
Appointedd in Edinburgh for example but there are lots of others. Their success definitely spurs me on!
What startup lessons would you like to pass on?
It’s OK to ask for advice. Also – and this is easier said than done –surround yourself with good people. As soon as I met Les Gaw I was keen to sign a contract but he made me wait. We worked together for several months to check how we ‘fit’ together before formalising our business relationship. As a result we have formed a strong professional partnership that is of huge value to me every day.
How can the Scottish startup/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?
My experience has been positive right from the start. Ask me again in a few years!