Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

How internet is providing funds for our entrepreneurs

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A growing number of Northern Ireland businesses have been been turning to crowd funding to secure cash to grow their businesses with increasing success.

Glenarm singer Ben Glover secured 118% of his £6,500 target to record his fifth album.

Belfast artist and designer Andrew Wood's attempt to fund new ranges for his ethical product company Bright Stem, which sells via its own website and through Amazon, was another winner.

Even acclaimed author and screenwriter Colin Bateman, who penned Divorcing Jack among many others, financed his first ever collect of short fiction and drama, Dublin Express, through this 21st century platform.

Most have been funded through Kickstarter, the largest crowd funding platform in the world which focuses on creative projects.

Funders receive one of a kind experiences in return for investment.

A Kickstarter project currently vying for finance from the public is a bike light that aims to revolutionise cycling in the dark.

See.Sense uses patent pending sensor technology to monitor the cyclist, the bicycle and the environment, which improves road safety by enabling other road users to see them more clearly.

The Newtownards engineer behind the new product, Philip McAleese, appreciates only too well how important it is to be seen, after being struck by a motorist who said "sorry mate, I didn't see you".

Just after seven days on Kickstarter, Philip, along with his business partner – wife Irene – have seen the fruits of their efforts. They raised £9,000 of their target £12,000 with 22 days to go.

Philip told the Belfast Telegraph it is the only light on the market that can respond to the road, flashing brighter and faster to improve visibility. It will sell at £35 if the target is reached.

"With research showing that most cycling accidents occur due to poor light, See.Sense can detect situations when other road users might not see them," he explained.

"See.Sense can detect when a cyclist is at a junction, at a roundabout or travelling through a tunnel. In such situations, the light increases its brightness and flash rate to make the bike more visible to other road users," he added.

The product, designed by Philip, has been launched to the public after two years of development. It is USB re-chargeable, lightweight, weatherproof and has no switches since it operates via motion detection.

Philip joined the league of Kickstarter entrepreneurs following a corporate career working as an IT Director in investment banking, fired by the confidence of positive feedback from local cycling clubs.

He recapped: "Light performance is usually a trade-off between high brightness, long runtime and compactness.

"Choose any two at the expense of the third. See.Sense breaks this rule by using its power intelligently, enabling it to be bright when you need it and still have a long runtime in a small package."

Philip's company is one of a select group of companies participating in Invest Northern Ireland's 'Propel Programme', designed to help high calibre entrepreneurs launch businesses with export potential.

Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform used by creators of unique products and services and creative projects aiming to get their business off the ground. People pitching project or business ideas are appealing for money from the public, bypassing traditional avenues of investment. They select a deadline and a minimum funding goal, and if it's achieved, the money goes towards developing the idea into a tangible product. Investors are rewarded with unique experiences. If the project fails, no funds are collected.

£9,000

The amount raised by Philip McAleese, 75% of his £12,000 target

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