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! Hows it been since you won?
Jonny: Everythings happened very quickly. The hackathon was only the weekend before last, and we moved into the office here yesterday.
Killian: Were still working out a business plan and what the product is going to look like. The hackathon doesnt give you much time to work these things out. Well be meeting our first client tomorrow.
Wow. Already? Are they based in Ireland or somewhere else?
K: Theyre based in Europe but operate globally. But were still testing stuff out the tape measure is the idea thats gained traction, but we have a few other ideas on the boil at the moment too.
Are you able to know what itll 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.
Were 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 its a learning curve, but were having a lot of fun.
With BlueTape, were you aiming to create a solution for a problem youd experienced yourselves ordering clothes online?
J: Im what gets called a bearded buddha body type, so
K: And Im 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. Im 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, its not just about building a product as quickly as possible, youre also meeting co-founders, creating a community. Hardware right now is a little like software was in the eighties: were at the beginning of something big.
K: Things which were expensive years agodeveloping hardware, for examplehave absolutely plummeted in price. Arduino, buying parts online its all more accessible now. And the internet has brought all these elements together in a way that wasnt there before.
Are investors willing to take a chance on hardware, or is it seen as more of a risk?
J: Well, its hard to say when your company is only a couple of weeks old. But to be able to say weve had people interested in us already can only be good.
K: Even just looking at the media coverage the hackathon got, its 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: Were 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 well have proven ourselves useful.
Its something you definitely notice with womens 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 youll end up exposing a few uncomfortable truths about vanity sizing?
Alex: I think thats something we can counteract. We can give customers a profile for each shop and make choosing sizes easier.
So whats next? How fast do your mentors expect you to move?
J: Its still a little too early to know exactly, but things are definitely moving fast. Were speaking to customers now, just trying to work out what direction to go in, and were aiming to formalise ourselves as a company. And weve not found anything out there thats exactly like what were doing. Well work out the direction we want to take the product and very quickly pursue it, within the next few months.