Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Hybrid Mail Solutions boss gets £81,000 Dragons' Den money to develop cross-border cut-price post service

Colm at his business in Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh
Colm at his business in Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh
Colm on RTE's Dragons' Den programme

A Fermanagh postal service entrepreneur has set his sights on the export market after winning a €100,000 (£81,400) investment from Irish television's business reality show Dragons' Den.

Director Colm Courtney said his firm Hybrid Mail Solutions, based in Lisnaskea, can cut the cost of sending post from Northern Ireland to the Republic by 30%.

The company circumvents the international postal levies imposed on mail destined for the Republic of Ireland, slashing the average 96p cost per letter to just 60p.

It provides companies' letterheads, prints the letters and posts them from within the Republic, doing away with the circuitous journey of post from Belfast to Dublin first passing though Britain.

Mr Courtney started his business in January 2012 when the economy was still depressed. He received assistance through Invest NI's Propel Programme, then he braved the lair of RTE's Dragons' Den last month.

His pitch on the show, in which business owners seek investment for their ideas from experienced investors, ensnared dragon Barry O'Sullivan – the chief executive of a Silicon Valley technology company with a base in Galway.

Mr O'Sullivan pledged a €100,000 investment for a 20% share of its equity stock – which Mr Courtney said he would channel into IT and software development, sales and marketing across the UK and Ireland and potentially toward capital equipment.

Mr Courtney said he had recently received queries from US firms expressing interest in Hybrid becoming a printing and posting hub for international post destined for Europe and Asia.

And he said the business's vision was also set on the public sector across the UK and Ireland.

From his production premises at Lisnaskea Business Park, Mr Courtney's team of four employees prints individual companies' letter-headed and logoed post and from there it's just six miles to the border where post is then dispatched off to the four corners of the Republic.

Mr Courtney, who worked in the insurance industry before setting up his business, says the new approach eliminated the time, money and labour-wasting process of businesses posting their own letters.

He said: "If a customer sends a letter from Northern Ireland it costs 97p for a stamp to the Republic of Ireland because it goes through the UK mainland and incurs international postage costs.

"We will do that for 60 pence and we provide the paper and the envelope and the stamp. We print it here so it's faster and cheaper and greener and companies could save 30%.

"Firms no longer have to buy headed paper, toner, pay for maintenance contracts to service their printers, pay for franking and they don't have to pay staff to stuff envelopes, freeing up their time," he added.

Businesses download software linked to Hybrid which has access to downstream access licences, giving firms desktop control over documents, letterheads, attachments and stationery.

This allows customers to benefit from postal discounts, with the entire process reducing costs, companies' carbon footprints and speeding up the delivery of mail, as well as tracking their letters.

Background

Dragons' Den has proved a big hit in both the UK, where it is broadcast on BBC2, and on RTE1. The process is famous for the searching questions asked of contestants by the investors, often resulting in their acute discomfort. Colm Courtney from Fermanagh emerged from RTE's Dragons' Den last month with a €100,000 investment for his business.

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