Alex Schregardus Of VisitorM Talks Apps And Start-Ups
I’ve known Alex Schregardus for three years and have followed the progress of his app, visitorM, with interest. I’ve been wanting to interview Alex about the progress he went through developing his business, using LEAP and the support from Enterprise Ireland, plus the idea behind the app. Finally I pinned him down to answer my questions.
What is your business background and how did you make the decision to become self-employed and an entrepreneur?
I’ve been self-employed since 2005, working as an independent IT contractor. This originally came about after an offer to join a UK startup while living in The Netherlands. In 2008 the global recession hit the contracting market hard and, as is the way, my contract wasn’t renewed. With few contracts available at that time I decided to apply my skills to a venture of my own.
I had no business background when I decided to start my own company. I was just a techie with a great idea. Turning a great idea into a great business was, and remains, quite challenging. There was a lot to learn; there’s still a lot to know and learn as the business grows. It doesn’t seem to get any easier but at the same time it keeps things interesting.
You’re Dutch and having worked there what differences do you see in business between Holland and Ireland?
I don’t think there is a great deal of difference persé. Dutch businesses seem more naturally disposed to selling into mainland Europe, whereas the default position in Ireland is to look to the UK and US first. I’m of course grossly generalising a complex scenario but I do believe that a Dutch business would be more comfortable selling into Ireland than vice versa.
I think this is largely a cultural and geographic thing. Language-wise Ireland has a huge advantage being able to do commerce natively with some large English speaking economies. Dutch is not a huge language in world context, so I think naturally they’d have to look outward.
What start-up help did you receive? What do you think are the advantages for starting a business in Ireland?
We have received financial support from Enterprise Ireland and I’ve been extremely lucky to have assembled an advisory team with deep knowledge of business strategy and information technology. A major advantage for Irish start-ups is support from organisations like Enterprise Ireland. I can’t think of an agency with that level of support and network in The Netherlands.
You took part in the LEAP programme in Limerick. What is LEAP and what did you gain from this?
LEAP is an enterprise acceleration programme by the Limerick Institute of Technology in partnership with Enterprise Ireland. It is a year long programme to help start-up companies through business management training, free office space and mentoring support. LEAP helped me navigate through early stage business plans. This had a direct impact on how we developed a product to cater to a target market born out of market research.
Tell me about the company you set up.
Xyndi Ltd was set up to support IT contracting and work started on our first mobile service, visitorM, in 2009 when we developed a technology platform to enable self-publishing of mobile applications. VisitorM enables hospitality businesses to manage visitor information content and customise the look and feel of their app online while we take care of the technical bits like App store approvals, mobile development and support for new devices.
It is a complete turnkey solution for mobile app publishing and management. The client provides the content and customizations using our online app manager. You can even manage multiple apps and track geographic usage online in real time. Our online app manager simultaneously updates content on multiple devices like iPhones, iPads and Android while we deliver full service software maintenance with new versions, bug fixes and software updates backed by great customer service. VisitorM really lowers the cost of your mobile presence.
How did you come upon the idea for visitorM and what research needed to be carried out?
We started with the concept to simplify mobile apps for small businesses. That was a grand statement but hard to target any specific markets with. So we looked at what type of businesses could benefit from this solution and how they were catered for. While there are many services out there to build your own website and even mobile app, we looked at which markets did not have well established solutions specifically aimed at them. The hospitality sector stood out and we developed visitorM to make it easy to deliver local visitor information through mobile apps.
What market sector would benefit from using visitorM?
VisitorM is aimed at the hospitality sector but there are other vertical markets on our roadmap that we’ll build solutions for based on our shared technology platform. VisitorM delivers maximum value for small businesses like B&B’s, Holiday Rentals and generally businesses which cater to visitors coming into their region or locality. Tourist towns can benefit hugely from visitorM, being able to highlight local attractions, businesses and events all in one app for visitors to use simply.
It can be flexible, for example, LIT use our app to provide students with local information, courses, college contacts and what is going on around the campus – all in one app on their Smart Phone. We see visitorM helping to add value to these businesses as they can reduce printing costs on brochures and flyers, while delivering a cutting edge alternative that is really useful to their clients.
What would you like to see happen for visitorM in the next year?
Continue to grow our customer base and innovate with features that help our clients engage with their customers using visitorM. We’re working on some exciting new features to generate lots of value for our customers while at the same time making the mobile apps more useful for end users. We’re really committed to the idea of our mobile apps driving user engagement with our clients using visitorM for their mobile presence. I can’t share too much of our roadmap just yet but general areas we’re working on are improved support for other platforms outside iPhone as well as mobile commerce capabilities to help drive new revenue for our customers. If your readers are needing an app then check out visitorM to see if we can help you simply.
I’m so pleased I’ve finally been able to interview Alex about his app and share this with you as I think it’s a great concept. I use it for my neighbours cottages which I help publicise online – Claddagh Cottages is free to download on iTunes – just a little plug there but does help you see the app in use too. Using it myself I know how simple and quick it is to use to update information, plus it’s so handy for visitors to the cottages. Do you use apps regularly and ever wondered about the idea behind them?