How it began
Founded in 2012 by Patrick Garry and Conor O’Toole LoyLap provides a platform to businesses which allows them to market to their customers in an automated way. It also allows customers to have a digital wallet, buy gift cards and preorder items.
The inspiration for the idea for the business came from seeing the positive response companies such as Starbucks had with the launch of their loyalty app. Even though the app was in its infancy and just provided loyalty functionality, the response was very positive.
They saw an opportunity to help other businesses avail of the same technology, particularly smaller businesses which wouldn’t have the resources to create their own application.
As the company launched it developed and adapted to the needs of its customers. Patrick states what the company has evolved into now was unforeseen back when the company first launched.
The background of the founders
Both Patrick and Conor studied at Trinity college. Patrick did a bachelors in business and German and Conor did the same bachelors in business. After university they both found jobs. Patrick worked in finance in Deutsche Bank and Conor found a job in technology consulting in Accenture.
Patrick says it wasn’t until later on as the company developed his experience in payments with Deutsche bank became useful. Understanding the payment directives such as PSD2 allowed him to understand the opportunities that were available for LoyLap.
Is prior experience essential for starting a business?
Often people, particularly young people, can be deterred from starting a business because of lack of experience. We asked Patrick if he thought you need to have relevant experience before starting a company.
“No. I don’t think so. Especially if you’re willing to learn.”
Patrick talks about how they didn’t have experience with loyalty systems but they knew loyalty systems were the way people would start to engage with technology with physical presence businesses.
Starting a business when you’re younger means you don’t have the same responsibilities as someone in their mid 30s or 40s has in terms of family life and financial obligations. You also don’t need as much money to survive the younger you are. In the initial stages of LoyLap they were able to bootstrap the company on very low revenues. The younger you are the less of a risk it is.
Even if you start a company and it doesn’t work out, during those 2 or 3 years you will have gained so much experience. There are a lot of large companies in Dublin such as Linkedin, Salesforace, Google and Hubspot dying to hire anyone who has started or has been involved in the early stages of a company. It shows they have well rounded experience and they tend to fit well into modern office cultures. I’ve seen people for whatever reason, unfortunately their company wasn’t successful. But everyone of those people have found very good jobs afterwards.
How did you fund LoyLap at the start?
We had some money saved from working but we had only been working for roughly a year and a half, 2 years, so it wasn’t a lot. We were able to leverage the money we had saved through the Local Enterprise Office (LEO). We were provided with an R&D type grant where we could hire an engineer which helped subsidise our development.
How did you grow Loylap?
We grew LoyLap by reinvesting the profits every year. The quality of service we provide to our customers is paramount. Because of the nature of billing, if we don’t provide what we say we’re going to provide our customers can cancel our service. It’s not like selling a used car. We are constantly supplying a service to our clients which they can cancel if we don’t perform.
How did you get your first customers?
We initially knocked on doors and asked 20 businesses to trial the service for free. In the early stages you can’t charge people for an early stage product. Of the 20 businesses that trialled our service 10 were willing to pay to continue using our service.
Any other advice for entrepreneurs?
My advice would be, if you are an early stage startup find yourself a good partner. Find someone who augments you rather than someone who is you. For example, if you’re good at sales don’t find another sales person. Find someone who is good at product. Also pick someone who will see the business through. When you are on low salaries and low calories it can be tough. It will take a significant amount of time until you can actually take a proper salary from the business.
If you would like to share the story of your business please contact firstname.lastname@example.org