For our latest Startup Spotlight Series interview, we speak to Ronan Finnegan, the co-founder of Spacebands. He talks to Trendscout about their mission to help businesses across the world operate seamlessly by reducing the risk of health & safety hazards by using their device.
At 27 years old, Ronan built one of the UK’s fastest-growing wearables companies (SpaceBands – with Harry Kimberley-Bowen). Completed a $100k crowdfunding, Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaign (Submrge Weallets). Been a TEDx speaker. He’s been featured in national newspapers, TV and radio, built and sold two mobile app businesses (GYMorDONATE and WAKEorDONATE – an alarm clock app that donated to charity when the user pressed snooze), and was invited to the U.K. Parliament’s House of Commons in recognition of my work for the charity sector with these mobile apps. Run a marketing agency for hotels and retreats. He even had a speaking line in Nexflix’s The Crown and other shows like Bridgeton, Sex Education, His Dark Materials, and Wonder Woman 2.
Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you better. So, can you tell us a bit of your “backstory” and how you got started?
At 18, I had the concept for a mobile app idea that I crowdfunded. From there forward, I have upskilled at every opportunity and continued to ask for help along the way. Once my businesses started getting press coverage, the snowball effect really started moving. Being young has aided this process for sure!
What was the most exciting story that happened to you since you launched your startup?
Spacebands went viral on Twitter after Martin Lewis (money-saving expert) wore our device on his ITV show as we had sold them to ITV studios to keep their production crew safe from COVID. We later discovered that Jimmy Fallon (USA) had done the same thing!
No startup founder is immune from making mistakes, and it’s part of the “growing pains” they go through. Can you share one mistake you’ve made with us and the valuable lesson it taught you?
Our mistake in our early days was that we were self-funded. We made £0.5mil before looking for any investment. We had early success, but we have since realised that our growth would have skyrocketed even further if we had more cash to play with.
There has been much talk about supporting diversity and inclusion among startup investors. This may be obvious to you, but can you share with our readers why it’s so important for investors to support startups with a diverse and inclusive executive team?
Of course! Diversity brings 101 different beliefs and ideas, and changes in views are the best way to bubble up innovation.
If you can inspire a movement that would bring a positive change within your community, what would that be and why?
I would help people to see risk as a less scary thing. Too many people suggest that entrepreneurship isn’t for them because it can all go wrong quickly, yet I don’t know one entrepreneur who hasn’t had things turn negative and recovered from this with later success!
If you had a chance to spend a day with someone and have the liberty to ask anything, who would that person be? What three questions would you ask?
I would love to spend time with Dale Carnegie, my favourite author.
Can you share your favourite life quote with us and why this is so relevant to you?
“I can; I will, I want to” – at a young age, my Grandma taught me to believe in myself without displaying arrogance for doing so. It has been the main reason for my success so far.
Great! Thanks for that. Now, let’s go to the main focus of this interview. Can you share with us the story behind that “A-ha Moment” you had that led to the idea of creating and launching your startup?
I have been an entrepreneur for the past 10 years and have worked on various projects and businesses. For spacebands, I was led in bed when a text came arrived from my best friend Harry asking if I could help him with an idea he had. Later that same day, I agreed to put all my personal savings into the business, and we are both so grateful that I did! Here we are 2 years later with a £4mil business.
What do you think makes your startup stand out? Can you share with us examples to show this?
Spacebands.com recently completed our first investment round last month, raising £450k.
- Backed by a large Institutional Investor
- 1,000+ Existing Customers, including NHS, MoD, Amazon & Panasonic
- Featured on: BBC News, Sky News, The Independent, ITV
- Part of #1 Business Incubator SETsquared & Workplace Accelerator
Spacebands creates software and wearable technology that aims to make workplaces safer.
After gaining extensive press coverage and 1000+ customers globally with our social distancing device (including the NHS, MoD, Panasonic, Sony & Amazon), we are now pivoting to create a new multi-feature hazard alert system that will aim to change the future of workplace safety, well-being and insurance.
What are some “myths” or misconceptions people have when launching a startup that you’ve debunked throughout your journey?
That you need to test, test test. Analyses results are very important, but the best way to get things started is simply jumping into the deep end and trying to swim!
If there’s one significant difference between launching a startup and launching a small business, what would that be and why?
You need to build your support network as these people will hold you up and hold you accountable as you grow.
What are the top three traits that entrepreneurs must possess to launch a startup successfully? Can you expound on why you chose these three traits?
These three traits are the most important in my eyes because, without empathy, you cannot get people to be honest and open with you. Therefore you cannot receive feedback that could change your business for the better. Without self-belief, no one will tell you that you should keep going when things aren’t looking right. Without perseverance, you won’t be able to climb the mountain of work to see the beauty when it’s all been done right!
Let’s flip things around: What do you believe are the three things that can cause a startup founder not to become successful, and why?
If you look at what other people or companies are doing better than you, you’ll never match up.
If you think you are doing everything better than everyone else, your team will fall apart.
You must trust the people around you to work with passion and drive; the second you doubt this, everything will turn sour.
As a parting gift to our readers, what are the top three pieces of advice that you can give to them about launching a startup and why? Please share a story for each.
If you don’t do it today, you’ll find an excuse not to do it tomorrow.
You have to fail to succeed. I have had business failures in various sectors, but these are the main reasons for my later successes.
Continue to educate yourself. Learn skills to understand every element of the business, even if you are not an expert in any singular topic.
Thank you for these fantastic insights and for your time. We truly appreciate it and wish you all the best on your journey.
Spacebands is Raising!
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