Dundrum man Aaron who left school at 16 wins £300,000 funding for Hurree shop tracking app
A young Co Down entrepreneur who left school at 16 has secured £300,000 and landed a major high-street retail customer for his mobile app tech business.
Dundrum man Aaron Gibson (22) has created Hurree - a business and consumer mobile app which allows users to earn coins which can be exchanged for cash or products, as well as receiving offers from retailers.
He is also using 'beacon' technology, which allows shops and other businesses to monitor customer spending habits in-store.
Aaron is hoping to break into major global markets such as the US within the next year.
"I hated school, and I left with pretty terrible GCSEs," Mr Gibson told this paper.
"After leaving, I managed to talk myself on to a business course, but hated it. I then fell in with a non-profit accelerator. I began talking to people, and the idea grew."
Now the business is hiring five staff to work in both Belfast and London - with sales roles aimed at growing the firm in the UK and Ireland, before taking on the US and other global markets.
"It's a customer engagement platform, and the idea is similar to Twitter, with statuses and images, and customers can follow businesses," Aaron said.
"We also use iBeacons. For example, you can go [into a store] and hold your phone over the beacon.
"We deliver the data to the businesses and can go in and convert customers. We can work out if the customer hasn't bought anything from the store, then interact with that customer.
"Consumers have the consumer version of the app, and will get tailored 'push' notifications."
Mr Gibson, who has already raised £300,000 in start-up capital, received a lot of early help from his grandparents.
He is now working with a London company to try and raise further cash from the US, with hopes of launching there in the next 12 to 18 months.
The business is also in the process of finalising a deal with a major high street retailer.
"We currently have six non-paid staff," Mr Gibson said. "Finance has been through generous grandparents and a bit of help from Invest NI. And we closed an investment round with a London venture capital firm for £300,000."
Mr Gibson told how the new jobs would focus on sales.
"It will be boots on the ground, going out and converting customers," he said. "Anywhere which has medium to high footfall - we can go to almost any place on the high street."
Hurree works with the latest 'cloud beacons', which can connect to any smartphone using wi-fi. That then allows businesses and retailers to monitor customer behaviour.
"There needs to be around four cloud beacons around the store, which will show the flow and dwell time of customers," Mr Gibson said.
The latest major study here showed that almost 36,000 people were employed in the so-called knowledge economy across Northern Ireland.
Companies involved in pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, software, electronics, aerospace and financial technology are among those driving the knowledge economy.