Acticheck: Karl Gibbs
The start-up founder on refining his business skills with an MBA and how his local business forum helped him find his team and investors...
Name: Karl Gibbs
Company name: Acticheck
Date launched: 5/11/2014
Number of Employees: 4
Tell us what your business does:
Acticheck has developed the world’s first continuously monitoring personal alert system, the Assure. It’s a stylish, waterproof smart band with a two-year battery life, that you can use to actively call for help but, if unable to, will also raise an alert on your behalf.
The band has configurable functions, allowing it to be tuned to personal wellbeing needs; it is ideal for solo sports people and live alone seniors, and it meets the security needs of lone workers and a person walking home alone.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
After a conversation with my mother. She lives alone and wanted a service that was able to check daily that she was okay. There are services that will call you once a day but the problem is that she has a busy life and so could easily be out when a call is made.
Initially, we set about designing an ecosystem that could work inside the home. As time has gone by, technology has advanced to the point that we can now pair the band with a smartphone via an app. This has extended the benefits of the Assure, allowing it to be used anywhere with a phone signal.
How did you know there was a market for it?
We started looking at data from the Office for National Statistics to find out how many people might benefit from some extra assurance – and we found that there are three and a half million people over the age of 65 who live alone in the UK.
Next we looked at government data to further explore this gap and identify any barriers to reaching a broader consumer market. We discovered that there are over four million lone workers in the UK and there is huge disparity between the services on offer to them.
What were you doing before starting up?
I trained as an actor and spent about a decade combining acting with jobs in business market research. My last role before fully committing to Acticheck was at the Central Offices of Quakers (COQ) in Britain.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
No, but I have always been creative and when this idea grabbed me I knew I had to see it through so I completed my MBA with the Open University to learn some of the knowledge and resource gaps that I needed to fill.
How did you raise the money?
We spoke to a local business forum and an e-mail was circulated to find people who might be interested in the concept and we found two successful businessmen who, though aware of the pitfalls, saw enough promise of success to fund us. It was through the forum that I also found my business partner, a financial consultant and ‘tech geek’, and our software engineers.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
Currently we sell the Assure system (home-based station, smart band and two years of service) at an attractive price-point online. After two years wearers will be invited to renew their band and ‘puck’ (the water resistant heart of the smart band which contains the battery) at a reduced price.
We may run subscription models too, but this route gives us a very short cash cycle, which is vital if we hope to grow. It is also one which makes it easy for people to buy the Assure as a gift for their loved ones.
Further down the line we will look at additional up-sell opportunities, such as colour band variations and multi-pack purchases.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
The key ones were finding the right team and obtaining finance, and now the main challenge is remaining focused.
When we launched the Assure at Innovate UK, we noticed so much interest in different markets and configurations – it would be easy to spread ourselves too thin, lose focus and not succeed in any of them. We have to do one thing, and do it well, before we chose what to do next
What was your first big breakthrough?
I think the most significant development was realising that we could move to being cloud-based rather than phone-based.
Also, when we started to explore the power budget of some of the components and realised that we could achieve a breakthrough battery life of two years.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
I am looking for a way to solve a problem and improve people’s lives, and I believe a business should be about both creating a profit and benefiting others.
So my advice is to ask yourself “who does my business serve?” and if your answer is only yourself then consider another way to use of your talents.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
I want to be able to look back and say that there are people who are benefiting from Assure being a success.