Hi Joe, please tell us about the man behind ChargeApp.
Being a serial entrepreneur, I’ve enjoyed a career that has overlapped many different sectors. I started out in property, qualifying as a chartered surveyor before moving into finance and founding my own project delivery consultancy, property development, sports agency, legal services, property funds, investment…..to owning a football club.
While I’ve never lost an interest in property and I’m still active in the international property development scene, I’ve also branched out into new areas fueled by my fascination and excitement with start-ups. For example, I’ve recently set up a fund concentrating on technology sectors.
You are revolutionizing the way we charge our phones and shop. What was the inspiration behind it?
ChargeApp was born initially out of frustration when a mobile battery life ran down at a key point in a business negotiation. This highlighted what many of us know – into today’s mobile-driven world, we rely on being always ‘on’ and constantly connected. Mobile phone charging points have started to spring up to meet this demand but we often don’t know how to find them when we need them. This inspired me to provide a solution for mobile users seeking convenient ways to keep their phones charged while they’re out and about. Some of these charging stations are located in retail stores or coffee shops, partly because brands are competing to get customers through the door. So ChargeApp is designed to drive users to charging stations in store, helping to increase footfall and sales.
The really clever part of ChargeApp is in its marketing capabilities. Consumers are already using their mobiles in stores with so called ‘show-rooming’, so we recognised an opportunity where brands are really missing a trick. We’ve included a feature whereby retailers can design a promotion and push it out to users. This targeted communication allows retailers to encourage customers to spend in store or encourage them to revisit, enabling them to engage with new and existing customers.
How did the business go from concept to launch?
I’ve always been focused on innovation and ChargeApp was born from an idea but also my interest in new technology. I’m passionate about connecting people and providing a service with multiple benefits.
It really all began with me running the idea past by business partner and co-founder of ChargeApp, family and friends, then some initial desk research found there was nothing like this on the market. From there I reached out to my contacts in the world of app development, to bring together a team of specialists to develop, market and launch the app and in shortly over 12 months the app became reality, launching to market on October 2015
You are a serial entrepreneur in your own right. Out of all you’ve done and created, what is the number one advice you would give to any entrepreneur embarking on a new project?
I find the hardest part is developing an idea or opportunity and believing in yourself and abilities. If you’ve previously been an employee, you will have been delivering for an employer with as pre-built infrastructure around you. Starting your own business is very different. Saying that, once the decision is made the rest is just a process…company name, logo, address, business cards etc.
How do you balance life and business?
I work best in the mornings, so I’m up and online early getting the most out of the hours before many people have even started their working day. I’m fortunate in that I love what I do and so I do find myself working, networking and negotiating at all hours, especially given the different time zones involved in international transactions. There can be opportunities to combine work and pleasure; for example, I’m a keen rugby fan and I make the most of opportunities to strengthen professional relationships while we enjoy a bit of corporate hospitality!
People often remark running and being an owner of a diverse portfolio of companies is time consuming, actually it isn’t! It is all about prioritising expectations and needs of others as sometimes simply a phone call or a coffee can address lots of issues.
Outside of work, I play the guitar (badly) and have a crazy Italian family. I also enjoy supporting charities such as Great Ormond Street Hospital (as an ambassador) and Help For Heroes, where I am currently training for the SAS Challenge.
I also mentor a number of people, the latest being explorer Rosie Stancer. She is taking on a trek across the Teklamaken Desert in China to raise money for the Special Olympics Great Britain.
How did you fund ChargeApp in the beginning?
Charge App was funder between myself and my co-founder, we explored crown funding and external investors but felt the need to manage the process and ensure control was paramount.
You have partnered with Pret, McDonalds and Starbucks. What has been the response from your target audience?
From consumers looking to charge their devices, the feedback has been positive and when you mention it to friends and colleagues they say “what a great idea”. We are also building the number of retailers and charge point locations and these brands have commented that the increase in footfall is amazing, one referred to it as an “increase in grazing time in the store”.
Where can we download ChargeApp?
Most entrepreneurs say, “start now, instead of waiting on perfection”, what are your thoughts on that?
I’m a firm believer in the phrase carpe diem. Recognising and seizing an opportunity is the way in which many entrepreneurs become successful. Of course, it also takes a lot of hard work and drive to turn an idea into a successful business venture. You can spend months and years perfecting an idea, but ultimately you can only learn and develop having tried and sometimes failed. I try to see any mistakes as learning opportunities.
What are your top tips on staying motivated?
I like to look outside of my day-to-day role for motivation. As a philanthropist, it is rewarding to work with those that are less fortunate. Most recently we have been working with Help for Heroes to ensure that 25p from every ChargeApp download is donated to this incredible charity. I am also doing the SAS challenge over two days in June to raise money for Help For Heroes (To support, please have a look here). Knowing that I can play a small part in helping change people’s lives motivates me.
How would you define being an entrepreneur?
I believe an entrepreneur is someone that can turn their skill to create a successful new project or business time and time again. For me, I’ve trained as chartered surveyor but my inquisitive mind has led me into many new business ventures.
What plans do you have for ChargeApp over the next 12 months?
We are ramping-up the roll-out of ChargeApp across Europe. Our most recent partnership is with charge point installer Doc-Station who have more than 150 stations in Switzerland. We are also rapidly expanding in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Finland. As well as growing our network of charging points featured on ChargeApp, we want to concentrate on our unique brand marketing feature and develop more offers and promotions. It’s a really exciting time for us!