Past participants: Dorothy Creaven / Element Software
Dorothy Creaven was a 2012 New Frontiers participant at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. Dorothy has a degree in Electronic Engineering and worked at Google and Abbott before co-founding Element Software, an award-winning developer of mobile engagement software.
Dorothy and co-founder, James Harkin, created Element Software in 2011. The company began life as a mobile app development services provider, with clients such as Ericsson and Sage. However, Dorothy and James soon realised that a major failing in the industry lay in client engagement – lots of apps are downloaded, but very few are successful in terms of longevity of use, which means that companies are missing opportunities to build relationships with their users:
We wanted to come up with a solution to specifically tackle this problem and so developed our mobile messaging platform, Element Wave – an online customer retention and conversion tool for brands who have published mobile apps.
I was very impressed by Dorothy’s potential as an entrepreneur when she applied to the programme. Element Software had already built apps, so she understood the weakness of the offer being presented to brand managers by apps, which was great validation of the new idea.
The pivot from service to product as a service
Before commencing New Frontiers, Element Software built apps to order. This is essentially a contract software development service model which can be difficult to scale. The team realised that the key to growing the business centred on developing their own intellectual property, which they could scale using SaaS (Software as a Service) though mobile and cloud. In essence, the major change was transitioning the company from a service to a product as a service business model.
The New Frontiers process puts market intelligence-building as a first priority. Dorothy followed the processes and advice from our consultants to prove market appetite for the idea before investing in the software application build. Mapping out all stakeholders for their solution indicated a need to include other parties in their value proposition (other than paying customers). The route to market and customer acquisition strategy was also developed on the programme and the sale to Element Wave’s first customer (RTE) was developed and secured.
Industry recognition and new funding
Element Software won €50,000 as the Best New Startup company in the 2013 Seedcorn competition. Its application to Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start-up Fund was also successful. The company has received awards from industry organisations and been acknowledged in the press for its innovation and business kudos.
Participation in New Frontiers was an important catalyst for us to set our company on a better path for future success. I would highly recommend anyone thinking of developing a new business to apply for the programme.
In 2014, Element Software has secured investment, expanded its team and increased functionality of the product to encompass push notifications, geo-location targeting and mobile analytics. It has also expanded its support services to developers seeking to embed these service in new app releases. New customers such as SAGE, Granda Bus (Spain) and GAA have signed up and significant contracts are likely to be announced in 2015. Today, Element Software technology is installed in over 4 million mobile devices.
Though the seeds of the idea were in place before New Frontiers, the demands of the app-building business did not afford Dorothy and James the time to pivot their business in a new direction. New Frontiers provided structure, expertise and funding to allow them to plan their new direction and to de-risk the new business plan to optimise opportunity for success.