Interview with BluPoint CEO, Peter Dingley
Fri 4th November 2016
In each issue of Park News we get right to the heart of a Science Park-based business. In this issue, we interview Peter Dingley, CEO of BluPoint.
Tell us about BluPoint. BluPoint is a social impact company.
We are all about reaching individuals and communities, particularly in the developing world, by delivering information and services where there is no internet connection or it’s too expensive for people to access. We deliver content such as education, healthcare and important information that governments and other companies wish to disseminate. Ultimately, it’s all about improving lives in the non-digital world.
How did the business come to fruition and when did you get involved?
Originally, BluPoint came out of research that Founder, Mike Santer, conducted at the University of Southampton. His degree was centred on the adoption of mobile internet in Africa; his research identified real problems with internet access there, and this in turn spawned the concept of creating a hub for delivering content in remote areas. I got involved at a very early stage when Mike and I began to explore whether we could create a business around his concept. At this time, BluPoint was just an idea and an embryonic prototype.
You’ve worked both for corporates and start-ups: which do you prefer?
I much prefer start-ups. I’ve worked for very big corporates and they are a great experience and an excellent way of learning, but there’s nothing better than starting a business from scratch, growing it and seeing where you can take it. BluPoint is particularly exciting because it’s a business out to do good, not just generate a profit like most commercial operations.
The company has been a real success story - how did you get it to this stage?
Having taken the business through its formative stage on the Catalyst Programme, we got the opportunity to apply for ICURe funding in January 2015. Once we had secured this funding, we made the decision to focus on the business. It enabled us to travel around the world, conduct further research and to ensure that there was a business opportunity and a service that people would be interested in and would want to buy. Subsequently, we received half a million pounds in funding from Innovate UK and we knew we were onto something!
We’re now at a stage where we’ve got our first two deployments: one in South Africa where we’re in 15 schools and a health clinic, and one in Tanzania. The technology is working, we’ve got paying customers and a really interesting sales pipeline. We’ve grown quickly so far; from just two to fifteen people in that last year but we’re still a start-up.
What are you currently working on?
Right now my priorities are continuing to develop the technology. Even though our first version has been deployed, we’re already working on the second. Another priority is to close deals with all the customers in the pipeline. There are some really interesting opportunities and hopefully we’ll be able to make an announcement or two very soon. After that, we’re planning to start another round of fundraising with angel investors and that’s really time consuming.
What do you predict for the business in the future?
We’ve got very ambitious expansion plans, so, assuming we can raise the next round of funding, we will grow very quickly. Our stated aim is to help 20 million people in 20 thousand communities by 2020 and that’s really where we want to get to. We’ve made a start so hopefully, we’ll hit this target and we’ll find that it wasn’t nearly high enough - and be more ambitious next time!
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs starting-up in business?
You’ve really got to believe in what you’re doing because it is hard work with long hours. Make sure you manage your cash properly and always work to get customers because customers are everything in a start-up business. Once you have customers, you’ve proven that what you’re creating is something that somebody wants to buy – and there’s no better verification than that!
What do you like about being based on the Science Park?
There’s a great ecosystem here that helps people to connect. Being able to be flexible in workspaces is also a real advantage. We’ll be looking for more space fairly soon so it’s good to know we have the flexibility to move offices and the support of the management team here to achieve our ambitions.