Belfast Telegraph

Dragon strikes deal with local inventor

By Clare Weir

A Belfast inventor is celebrating after scooping a €30,000 (£25,000) investment from the Irish version of Dragons' Den.

Pat Toner sold a 15% stake in his new VacRing product to newest 'dragon', New York-born Sean O'Sullivan.

The VacRing, made at Crossen Engineering in Belfast, can be attached to any plastic bag and the user can either attach a vacuum cleaner nozzle or just roll the air out to create a vacuum pack.

A knot can then be tied in the bag to seal it, or a reusable tie can be utilised.

Mr Toner said the product can be used on any plastic bag.

Having worked for years in the building trade, he said he initially started working on the product a year ago as a way to cheaply store materials, but has now discovered multiple uses for the VacRing.

"We took it to a trade fair and were amazed at all the potential markets," he said.

"I initially wanted a way to pack a paint tray with paint and a roller and keep everything dry.

"The VacRing can be used by swimmers - to keep wet clothes from dripping on dry clothes in another bag, backpackers, motorcyclists who may not have much room in their panniers, people who are sailing, to keep their pasta or sugar free from condensation.

"Our biggest target would be the air and travel market as we see the VacRing being able to slash the amount of packing space that is needed.

"It will save money on checking in bags and save time at check-in and carrousel. Working in the building trade I was always having to think about how to solve problems but I never thought I would end up on Dragons' Den," he added.

"I am really pleased to have a partnership with Sean O'Sullivan, as one of the newest and most influential dragons on the show."

Irish-American Sean O'Sullivan is arguably the richest of all the Dragons to date who have taken part in the RTE series.

He has been responsible for several multi-million dollar start-up companies, including MapInfo, the company which went on to pioneer mapping for the internet.

In 1996, Mr O'Sullivan's company NetCentric coined the expression "cloud computing" but it is only now that it has come in to common parlance.

The VacRing retails for £9.99.

The RTE version of Dragons' Den is a spin off from the hit BBC show of the same name.

The other Irish Dragons are Norah Casey, Gavin Duffy, Niall O'Farrell and Bobby Kerr.

Last year, a Carrickfergus man now living in Wiltshire appeared on the British version of the show.

Despite getting knocked back, Paul Blair is achieving runaway success with his Safestix - a rubber dog toy which replicates a wooden stick but which does not splinter.

The 40-year-old former Army major set up the company in 2009 after his own pet was injured.