14 Jan Start-Up Series winner: TradeSmart
Description: A secure escrow payment solution to help tradespeople to get paid on time, whilst protecting their customers.
Founders: Phillip Daneshyar, Robert Gallagher & Richard Fleeman
Can you tell me a bit about your business background?
Phil: I set up a health-tech start up whilst at university. From there I sold a licence to a med-tech firm in California and worked with them as a product manager/entrepreneur in residence for 18 months, eventually launching a dehydration diagnostic test which took less than 60s to estimate if a patient was at high risk of dehydration.
Richard: I’ve been an electrician for over 7 years, after completing my apprenticeship I set up my own business that had 7 employees with healthy turnover. It’s my experience in the industry that led me to the idea behind TradeSmart.
Where did the idea for the business come from? Was there a moment or experience that made you feel a need for it?
Richard: Rob (co-founder and cousin!) and I were discussing one of my customers, someone had me do work for them and then refused to pay, in the end it cost me over £20,000. It was at that point we decided to find a solution to the problem.
Rob: Yep, something that was important from day 1 was to create a company that would stop exactly this kind of thing happening to small businesses. It’s always sore to know that happened to my family member but we’re proud to have taken that experience and find a solution to it.
Phil: I’ve been friends with these guys for years and when they approached me with the idea behind TradeSmart, it was instinctive to me that this was a solution to a very big problem.
What is the business’ USP?
Phil: Trust. TradeSmart creates trust between both parties by automating paperwork and payments for tradespeople and their customers.
Richard: Traditionally, there has always been a grey area when it comes to tradespeople and customers working together. Usually, it is around payments and quality. TradeSmart makes that grey area black and white by securing payments and automating crucial paperwork, making the entire transaction clear to both parties.
What has your experience with raising funding been like in the past? Had you ever tried to raise funding for this business (or another business) before entering the Start-Up Series?
Phil: I’ve raised private angel investment before and found the process difficult. It’s hard to find investors with an appetite for early-stage companies, and terms are often complex or unfair. The Start-Up Series was straightforward, a clear application process and a fast decision. Exactly what you want from an investment round so you can focus your time on the business.
Why did you enter the Start-Up Series competition?
Rob: Quite simply, we needed to raise capital and we knew we had a strong application. The format of the competition gave us the best chance of showcasing our team and actually having ourselves heard by potential investors.
How did you find the ‘deep dive’ with Worth Capital?
Richard: The process was very personal and it felt like Paul and Matt really wanted to understand the business and who we were, as well as get a sense of how we could work together.
Phil: What I liked most was that we walked away from deep dive thinking ‘even if we don’t win the competition there are several key ideas in that came up in the deep dive itself that will benefit us’. So it really was a valuable experience in that sense.
How do you feel about winning the competition?
Rob: So excited and relieved. It finally puts us in a place where we can focus on making the best possible product and delivering to our customers, rather than spending our time selling a vision to investors.
A lot of businesses entered – what do you think made your business stand out and win?
Phil: I think it was our team, we’ve got an outstanding team that includes a PhD from Cambridge and someone who has 7+ years of experience in the industry we’re working in. It’s the perfect mix of experience, technical ability and business acumen needed to build this product.
What stage is the business at currently?
Richard: We’ve just recently launched the business and are running paid trials.
What do you plan to use the Start-Up Series investment for?
Rob: To fund the business to product-market fit, so basically, the money will be spent on sales and development.
Finally, what’s your ultimate vision for the business?
Our unified vision is that TradeSmart is the first thing a tradesperson looks at in the morning and the last thing they switch off. We want to become the lifeblood of every construction business. Helping them succeed.