Cornwall based Paddle Logger is a watersports software app that allows SUPers, surfers, kayakers and general watersports enthusiasts, to track their progress after a session out on the water. Stylish and simple to use, Paddle Logger has proven popular with watersports enthusiasts all over the world. Looking to take the business to the next level Founder David Walker enrolled on the inaugural SpaceTech Incubation Program funded by the UK Space Agency and delivered by Cornwall based partners; The South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications, SETSquared, Goonhilly Earth Station and the University of Exeter.
Invest in Cornwall caught up with David to find out more about the company and the Spacetech Program.
What’s the secret behind the success of Paddle Logger?
There are other sports tracking apps available but none are really suitable for water based activities, and especially not watersports in the UK when cold hands and numb fingers make usability a problem. Our solution was pretty straightforward. Big, easy to use buttons. It was designed for UK waters but works great in warmer climates too. 70% of our sales come from the USA which was initially unexpected. The app uses the GPS tracker in any smartphone and doesn’t require a Wi-Fi connection or phone reception. You just start and stop the app before and after your session and review the data whenever you like. Usually back at home once you’ve warmed up!
So you had the idea. What was the plan after that?
It was horribly naive. I had the idea in the summer after my 2nd year at University in Cornwall. I figured I would design it in July, build it in August and then release it in September, in time to give me some beer money for my third year. That timeline slipped but the impetus to start was underway and I never looked back.
How long have you been going as a company?
This is the end of the third year, but it’s been running seriously for about 18 months. The University of Exeter is really good at recognising self-employment as a destination after graduation and I won some funding through their employment programme which got me started. The funding I received was invested in a friend who works in Falmouth who helped me with the design and a total re-brand from my first iteration. The great thing about living in Falmouth is that a lot of my social network is involved in the creative industries – photographers, filmmakers, graphic designers – so there’s no shortage of people available to help and inspire you, or to collaborate with.
Doesn’t having a phone with you distract you from enjoying paddling on the water?
Not at all and that’s the whole point of the App. Press one button, stow and go. For me the water is my escape, but like many others I am curious how far I’ve been afterwards. If you do want more interaction then you can drop pins, add photos, whatever you choose. The social media aspect is also really popular. Paddle Logger links directly to Facebook and Twitter so you can share your activity with friends – isn’t the whole point of social media to make your friends jealous? Other apps force you to sign up to their exclusive platform but I wanted Paddle Logger to have a wider reach than that. A huge amount of the likes and comments I get are from friends who don’t SUP or surf but love the content and are often motivated to give it a go themselves. This wouldn’t happen if it was a closed community and that’s a key difference of Paddle Logger.
How was the SpaceTech Incubation Program?
Amazing. It sounds crazy as the SETsquared course was just 3 days, but it helped us completely reassess the company, and understand the business of why people buy things. It distilled any of the contradictory aspects of the whole app – the escapism versus the expedition. SpaceTech helped us realise that the app needed to satisfy both these needs. Investigating additional revenue streams and partners was also very helpful and we are looking at launching a new hardware product later this year, inspired by these conversations. We were mainly focusing on the adventure applications, however the SpaceTech team helped us consider bigger opportunities offered by the app format, beyond tracking. We don’t want to get too ‘Safety-Dad’ but it’s very easy to get into difficulty on the water. Everyone knows you should tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back, but no actually does this. For the next generation release we’re looking at integrating a system that will include data that will be able to assist in emergency situations. The product tagline is now ‘enhancing experience through escapism, exploration and safety’.
What sort of other companies were on the programme?
A whole range of businesses were involved in the programme, from a Russian satellite component manufacturer, to a company in Devon designing robots. We all came from technical backgrounds and, in different ways, we were all trying to find solutions to problems. I had worked on projects with ESA (European Space Agency) before so I knew about cubesats, but also that ‘Space’ doesn’t mean you are necessarily launching rockets. ‘Space’ is such a large encompassing term. It was amazing how fast everything moved following the direction and intent SpaceTech gave us. Everything we’ve spoken about literally came out of the 3 day programme. It provided us with huge levels of encouragement and potentially created a whole new product.
How has being based in Cornwall helped?
Well obviously, the idea itself was born out of my passion for being on the water around Cornwall. The coast becomes part of most people’s lives in Cornwall. Whether they’re a surfer, paddleboarder, kayaker, sea swimmer, dog walker – people in Cornwall have an understanding of, and a connection to, the ocean which makes it a great test bed for marine related products. In addition to this the business support offered here is fantastic. Not just SpaceTech, there’s the University of Exeter’s Start Up Support, the South West Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications, Superfast Business, Marine-i, Invest in Cornwall – so many helpful programmes designed to help new start-up companies.
What would you say to someone thinking about setting up a business in Cornwall?
You don’t lose out on anything being based in Cornwall. ‘Digital Nomads’ seems to be the term of the moment for freelancers and there are loads of us in Cornwall. Why would you want to battle on the tube every day, or queue for an hour to get a coffee? Actually, walking down Falmouth high street is not too dissimilar to walking through parts of Hackney or Shoreditch. There are cool bars and a great music scene, you could easily pick Falmouth up and drop it into a London borough – however the benefit we have is that we’re also right by the sea.
David Walker was talking to Ross Hulbert, Business Engagement Manager, Invest in Cornwall. To discuss setting up your business in Cornwall contact the Invest in Cornwall team.
David Walker Founder, Paddle Logger
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