Name – Patrick Clover Age – 25 Business –BLACKBX Based – Leith
What does your company do?
BLACKBX is a cloud-based Wi-Fi management software that makes setting up and maintaining guest Wi-Fi easy and affordable for business owners. As well as offering guest Wi-Fi, BLACKBX’s technology gathers insights on customer behaviour. It is a cost effective way to collect information over Wi-Fi and allows businesses to implement their own automated marketing campaigns.
When did you launch the company?
Towards the end of 2015
What is your target market – Who is buying your product / service?
BLACKBX is designed to give small businesses big business tools. We have installed our software at music festivals such as Wireless Festival, in smaller, local companies and huge hotels and shopping malls located in multiple locations internationally. Our software works anywhere providing guest Wi-Fi – coffee shops, beauty salons, taxis, bars and so on… The scope is wide reaching and virtually limitless.
Why did you launch the company?
I grew up on a boat in the Mediterranean and was only able to access the internet when on dry land. I always found this a painful process, requesting passwords and registering details only to find a weak signal at the end.
This experience was the motivation to create a company that could offer great Wi-Fi. At the age of 23 I
decided to do something about it, learned how to code and built the software necessary to get BLACKBX off the ground.
I really just wanted to make guest Wi-Fi a better user experience for everybody.
What is your background?
A major consideration for me before launching was having the right set of skills.
Initially, I wasn’t fully equipped with the skills I needed to be able to create BLACKBX but I knew that I wanted to build the software myself rather than outsourcing it to developers.
This meant teaching myself how to programme from scratch in my spare time, while still working for my previous employer (an Edinburgh based telecoms company) to ensure I had a steady source of income.
Once I was comfortable with my programming ability and had created a product I was happy with, I decided it was time to take the plunge, so I left my job and set up the business.
What startup process did you go through?
We are a small team, so for the launch everyone really had to pull together to work on everything from customer service to marketing to social media. It was tricky at times but we managed to get through it, and I think the team has grown stronger and more cohesive as a result.
What kind of research did you do into the market?
I knew from personal experience that WiFi could be improved and was confident that the product I had in my mind would improve on the user experience for businesses and their customers.
What are your plans from now to grow the business?
Continue to develop our product and to innovate. It should be something I am proud of and would want to use myself. As part of this we will keep listening to our customers and add the features they want. We want to stop businesses getting a tough deal, which they’ve just had to accept.
I’d also like to generate more investment to help us grow.
What are your goals for your business?
My vision for the future is for BLACKBX to be everywhere. Ultimately, we want to create one joined up, seamless experience for those logging into public Wi-Fi, from one place to another – in taxis, airports, hotels, bars, restaurants, stadiums, events venues.
Did you get any start up support?
In the early stages, we received funding from the Prince's Trust, which helped get us off the ground.
Are you getting any growth support?
Since the initial Prince’s Trust investment we have been 100 per cent funded by our customers.
Have you raised funds to develop your business? What and how?
We have spent the last few months fundraising and will be closing our series A round very soon. Watch this space…
What are the main challenges you’ve faced so far?
1 – The hardest moment was around six months in. Things were starting to pick up and more customers were joining up. This was great but it meant that we were overstretched, as we did not have enough revenue to hire anybody at that point. The existing team had to do everything including supporting our new customers. It was very hard work and long hours but I’m happy to say we got through it.
2 – The early stages of setting up the business was difficult. There is so much beyond just the quality of the product that it is hard to know where to focus.
Have you ever had to pivot or change direction?
In terms of the product, I knew what I wanted to create and the finished article was very close to what I pictured.
We thought all our sales would be direct to businesses but we’ve recently opened up our partner channel that allows seasoned companies in the telecoms space to deliver our product.
Who inspires you?
Margaret Calvert – she was the head of signs for British roads and executed a design / product that gets used by hundreds of millions of people daily and has lasted over half a century. I hope as a business we can achieve a product with similar utility and ubiquity that stands the test of time.
What startup lessons would you like to pass on?
I think learning to say no is a very valuable lesson. Also having a vision, being aligned to it and not being distracted from it.
How can the Scottish startup/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?
They could make first stages of setting up a business easier. For us, having someone who understands tech and its role in society now, someone who was nearer our age and who we could relate to more easily would have been excellent
and a valuable source of support.