Featured startup: Tim Arits – Intouch
Tim Arits is an ex-Google, ex-chicken-breeding drummer from the Netherlands who is about to change the way we share our contact information with our networks.
Tim and his co-founder, Javier Mey, joined the New Frontiers programme in 2015 to work on their contact app, Bundly. The idea was simple – when you change something like an address or phone number, why should it be up to your contacts to update your information? Why can’t you be responsible for keeping that information up to date, and allow it to sync with your entire network without them having to do anything?
That was the inspiration behind Bundly. Both Tim and Javier had previous experience at global names such as Google and Santander, and both had moved to a new country for work, so they had first-hand experience of having to update their contact information with multiple contacts – both personal and professional.
“When I moved to Ireland for Google, everything changed – all my contact information changed, and it was a nightmare. I think the pain is really big when you move country, because all your suppliers and the services you use are going to change. It was really hard to stay in contact with people and the companies and services I interacted with – some of which I still use – my bank, for example.”
Once their idea was formed, Tim and Javier set about developing an app that would easily manage contact information – allowing users to control what information to share and with whom. Tim applied to New Frontiers in 2015 and was offered a place on the DIT Hothouse programme. They made a solid team – Tim comes from a Marketing Management background and at Google had worked in a client-facing commercial capacity, while Javier has a background in Engineering and strong technical experience.
“We got really great support from New Frontiers. It was my first company – although Javier had founded multiple companies, so he had quite an idea already on how to do it and what the pitfalls were – but on New Frontiers we learned to bring our idea or product out to our customers as early as possible.”
Tim conducted multiple user interviews to get feedback on any problems they had with the app and what features that they were expecting. The challenge lay in translating those results into improvements to the product – building a difficult product is easy, but building something easy is usually difficult.
“We thought that some things in our product were really easy, but they turned out to be a nightmare for consumers and had to change. Then there were other things we wanted to see differently, but were apparently really easy for users – so they were things we kept.”
After New Frontiers Phase 2 was over, Tim and Javier decided to look for funding. They were in contact with the NDRC, who suggested another startup that was working in a similar field and might be interested in joining forces. The synergy between the two teams was instantly recognisable, and Tim and Javier decided to join forces with Qreach to continue developing the Bundly idea… now called Intouch.com.
“It was a really good match, because they had some skills that we were missing, and we had some skills that they were missing. They were developing a contact management application that mainly focused on companies, and they had a really strong technical background – it was the perfect balance of research-based scientists and ourselves, with our more commercial background.”
After the merger, the new team went out and raised capital from the NDRC, Enterprise Ireland and some private investors in order to push forward with the development of the evolved version of Bundly – Intouch – which is due to launch very soon.
Available to individuals as an iOS or Android app, it aims to solve potential contact issues by allowing the user to automatically update their contact information with everyone in their network – while keeping ownership of personal information with the owner. The app will be free for all personal users, with revenues coming from the companies people interact with (banks, insurance companies, etc.) who rely on having up to date information about clients.
“The app is going to be for free for users, so we’re not charging them any money, and we are looking into a model to charge companies for the data that they receive. That said, we will never, ever exchange data without your consent, so you as a user are always in control of what information goes to whom, because that’s kind of the business model that we have, and if we don’t follow that then the business is gone.”
Intouch will be working with the Data Protection Commissioners, as well as any parties that are regulated in terms of data. Data protection is clearly an important subject for the company; they even provide services to companies to get ready for the upcoming Data Protection Regulation changes in 2018. Intouch will offer clarity on who has your contact details and where this information goes – which is becoming more and more of a preoccupation these days.
“New Frontiers is one of the very few programmes focused on the very, very early-start. A lot of incubators call themselves ‘early-start’, but you still need a product or a really concrete idea… New Frontiers is also focused on the people themselves. That really suited our needs. The people at New Frontiers were amazing, they really supported us.”
And if you were wondering about the chicken-breeding I mentioned at the beginning of the article… Tim attributes the fact that Google decided to hire him to this rather unusual hobby, which came up during his interview. His Ayam Cemani birds (known as ‘the Lamborghini of chickens’) were eventually sold to a breeder in the USA, and sadly Tim doesn’t keep any chickens here in Dublin ;)
(PHOTO – from right: Javier Mey and Tim Arits pictured above with the founders of Qreach)