The team behind BlueTape have been in the news a lot of late, thanks to their product – a connected tape measure aimed at making shopping online for clothes easier – winning first place at the recent PCH Hardware Hackathon.
The prize includes office space at the DCU Innovation Campus, plus mentorship, design services and a €3000 cheque made out to the newly-minted company. I caught up with Jonny Cosgrove, Killian Dolan and Alex Beregszaszi from the team on their second day in their new office, to find out what happens next.
Hi guys! How’s it been since you won?
Jonny: Everything’s happened very quickly. The hackathon was only the weekend before last, and we moved into the office here yesterday.
Killian: We’re still working out a business plan and what the product is going to look like. The hackathon doesn’t give you much time to work these things out. We’ll be meeting our first client tomorrow.
Wow. Already? Are they based in Ireland or somewhere else?
K: They’re based in Europe but operate globally. But we’re still testing stuff out – the tape measure is the idea that’s gained traction, but we have a few other ideas on the boil at the moment too.
Are you able to know what it’ll be like manufacturing the tape, just based opon building the prototype?
J: A lot of the guys on the team have experience with manufacturing, and PCH are giving us a hand developing the model. Alex and Killian I have been on three winning teams before in PCH Hackathons, so we have experience with this. Our teams won the beef hackathon, the last PCH Hackathon (their winning product was a self-counting cash register), and now this one. We just happen to gravitate to similar ideas, and we all work well together.
We’re not trying to redefine clothes sizing or redefine the industry… We just want to compliment an existing industry which is being cost over six billion dollars a year in a growing market.
Had you worked with Bluetooth before?
K: Only on bits and bobs, nothing designed to be physically released. Right now it’s a learning curve, but we’re having a lot of fun.
With BlueTape, were you aiming to create a solution for a problem you’d experienced yourselves ordering clothes online?
J: I’m what gets called a ‘bearded buddha’ body type, so…
K: And I’m an engineer, so no matter what clothes I buy they look terrible on me…
K: So in short, yes.
Is everyone on the team an engineer?
J: No, our backgrounds are quite diverse. I’m doing my MBA right now, but I ended up getting involved in the hackathons over the last six months. One of the great things about being involved with this is that, it’s not just about building a product as quickly as possible, you’re also meeting co-founders, creating a community. Hardware right now is a little like software was in the eighties: we’re at the beginning of something big.
K: Things which were expensive years ago–developing hardware, for example–have absolutely plummeted in price. Arduino, buying parts online…it’s all more accessible now. And the internet has brought all these elements together in a way that wasn’t there before.
Are investors willing to take a chance on hardware, or is it seen as more of a risk?
J: Well, it’s hard to say when your company is only a couple of weeks old. But to be able to say we’ve had people interested in us already can only be good.
K: Even just looking at the media coverage the hackathon got, it’s clear that people are starting to get interested in hardware.
Do you see BlueTape being an everyday product for people buying online, or more of a luxury product?
K: We’re not trying to redefine clothes sizing or redefine the industry… We just want to compliment an existing industry which is being cost over six billion dollars a year in a growing market. No one wants to send all thoses clothes back in the post, so if we can change that we’ll have proven ourselves useful.
It’s something you definitely notice with women’s clothing, that sizing is different from shop to shop.
J: And brand to brand, and country to country…
Completely. But does that mean if you pitch your product to shops that you’ll end up exposing a few uncomfortable truths about vanity sizing?
Alex: I think that’s something we can counteract. We can give customers a profile for each shop and make choosing sizes easier.
So what’s next? How fast do your mentors expect you to move?
J: It’s still a little too early to know exactly, but things are definitely moving fast. We’re speaking to customers now, just trying to work out what direction to go in, and we’re aiming to formalise ourselves as a company. And we’ve not found anything out there that’s exactly like what we’re doing. We’ll work out the direction we want to take the product and very quickly pursue it, within the next few months.