Boardbug: Frank Lawrenson and Adam Coxen

The baby products company which is a real bundle of joy

Frank Lawrenson and business partner Adam Coxen created a technology, but needed to identify a lucrative market for it. They chose to gear Boardbug, a device enabling one object to communicate with another, to the needs of parents. And early signs are that through the company’s baby monitoring products they’ve hit the nail on the head.

With so many potential applications for this low-power radio technology, it’s clear the selection was crucial. Extensive research, utilising the expertise of universities, and a fundraising tour eventually led to a change of tack from initial plans to tag surfboards and their owners’ belongings. Having secured £45,000 and £105,000 in innovation grants through the government’s now-defunct SMART award scheme, the company has raised funding of more than £1m. But to meet escalating demand more is now required, explains Lawrenson.

“Having previously targeted a further £300,000 to grow the baby products business, we have raised our sights and are looking for around £1.5m,” he says. “In addition to growing existing markets these funds will be used to create an integrated solution to enable users to use mobile phones or PDAs to protect and access other assets, such as opening or locking a car and turning its alarm on or off.”

The reason the company launched a standalone iteration of the device first was to create a working business and prove the technology. The first production run of the child monitors is largely being sold through Mothercare. The second run will be focused on increasing the number of retailers, including deals with Boots, Toys R Us and Co-op.

Beyond that the monitor is likely to be sold through the travel industry at Heathrow and Gatwick, plus Harrods and in-flight through First Choice, which might also use the device in its creches. These breakthroughs led to the product winning the prestigious Best Innovation 2005 In Personal Electronics award from the Consumer Electronics Association, and the success means bespoke products for skis and luggage, ensuring the owner doesn’t lose them, will follow.

Take-off for the company has come about pretty quickly, with the move from research to sourcing a partner for supply and production, closing deals with large retail groups, testing, securing patents and finance, and expanding into new markets all happening over the past 12 months.

But now price erosion as a result of the weak dollar and competition from larger brands are Boardbug’s main concerns. However, Lawrenson says switching manufacturing to the Far East could solve pricing issues and he dismisses the rivalry it has faced so far. “Offerings from competitors in this space have been extremely weak due to barriers to entry into the market posed by our technology. In the meantime Boardbug’s ambition of integrating its wireless technology into mobile phones is now getting closer to becoming a reality.”

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