With over 20 child deaths on farms across Ireland in the last ten years and many more injured, Littlepal hopes to be the solution to such tragedies. Co-founder Eugene Beatty speaks to ThinkBusiness about his startup.
In the beginning
Dymphna (co-founder) and I both work for the same organisation and have crossed paths a number of times. Last year we were having a coffee and were discussing a recent farm fatality involving a child. As parents, we were saddened and could only imagine the pain suffered by the child’s family. During our conversation, we both wondered if there was some sort of device that would alert the driver of a tractor to a child nearby. We discovered that although there had been attempts to develop a warning system, they had been unsuccessful for various reasons.
“The device is attached to the windscreen of a tractor and is plugged into the cigar lighter.”
Engineering a solution
I have been involved in various technological projects in work and had an idea that we could develop an alert system that would work and be viable. We met with experts in the engineering field and with a professor from NUIG. He has been a great help to us and has guided us to a specialist company who would go on to produce our first early stage prototype.
“Our product can prevent death and injury.”
How it works
The device is attached to the windscreen of a tractor and is plugged into the cigar lighter. The child wears a ‘trigger’ which can be a wristband or clasp. Once the wearer comes within range of the receiver, the device flashes and emits a warning sound alerting the driver to the presence of a child or vulnerable person. The device is portable which enables the driver to move it from the tractor to a jeep or digger. This means that the end user does not need to have multiple devices which keeps costs down. The device is universal meaning that visiting children wearing similar ‘triggers’ will be picked up by the device.
“We discovered that although there had been attempts to develop a warning system, they had been unsuccessful for a variety of reasons.”
Our product can prevent death and injury. It can give peace of mind to parents. We have carried out extensive market research and based on our findings we know we there is a market and we can also produce similar devices to be used in other areas.
“We believe that we can export to other countries.”
We have funded our early stage prototype ourselves and have also paid for fliers, roll-up banners, and business cards. We funded our stand in the innovation arena at the National Ploughing and have met with suppliers, developers and other experts all over the country. As we are both in full-time employment, you can imagine that all of our leave is used up and we have also had resort to unpaid leave.
“Once the wearer comes within range of the receiver, the device flashes and emits a warning sound alerting the driver to the presence of a child or vulnerable person”
Once our product has been fully tested we hope to have it produced in Ireland and we have had meetings with a few companies who are eager to meet our needs. We believe that we can export to other countries within the EU and further afield. We have been approached by two companies who are interested in using our product in their businesses.
“What strikes me about both of these guys is that they both believed in themselves and their products.”
Our Local Enterprise Office has been very helpful and has supplied us with mentoring. This has been invaluable. Family and friends have rallied around us. We could not have achieved what we have so far without the help, support and understanding of our spouses. We meet as much as need be in Moy Valley Resources, where we have use of their hot desk facilities. The start your own business course we attended through our LEO enabled us to understand the business model and was very helpful.
We were advised to apply for New Frontiers and our application was successful, and we completed phase one. We then won a place at the NPA innovation hub and this has greatly raised our profile. We received extensive media coverage at the NPA.
Richard Branson is someone both Dymphna and I admire. His rise was phenomenal. I remember when he had one record shop in Surrey. Ian Dury would be another. I would not put myself as his number one fan but I always like the music. I was fortunate enough to meet him and the thing that strikes me about both of these guys is that they both believed in themselves and their products. Ian had so much going against him, spent a long time in the hospital because of polio but he fought his way back.
Interview by Stephen Larkin.