On the up · 3 September 2015

Beambox: Automated marketing to bars and restaurants through WiFi

Pocket-size marketing: The Beambox product
Pocket-size marketing: The Beambox product

As an 18 year-old businessman, Callum Short has made fast progress in his efforts to get Beambox off the ground – and will soon be launching a crowdfunding campaign to provide that all-important finance for growth.

The ability for companies to interact with customers in an innovative and engaging way is big business these days, often the key element in ensuring return custom.

Having developed everything himself, from the idea, to the front-end web development, to its back-end system that the whole show runs on, Short fielded a few questions from Business Advice so we could find out more.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business? 

I’m an 18 year-old entrepreneur based in Bristol. In the last few weeks I launched Beambox, a wireless technology startup focused on using free WiFi to automate marketing and track customers. It’s a small plug and play device that goes directly into their existing broadband, where it then creates a new hotspot that collects customer data using social sign-ins.

(2) How long have you been around for?

We launched three weeks ago, the minimum viable product has been developed and manufactured over an eight-month period.

(3) How will you make money?

We operate as a subscription-as-a-service. Our monetisation comes from the paid plans, although we do offer a free plan to help businesses get into the technology and understand its value. The idea and technology is a fairly new concept, so it’s important that the barrier for entry is low to incentivise adoption.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

The technology is our own and the idea is very new. It allows small businesses to gain powerful insights on a consumer level and then automate marketing, nurturing customers to come back again. I’ve been speaking to a great volume of businesses over the past few weeks, specifically in the hospitality industry. Companies often use email marketing as a means to increase rapport with consumers, and tell me that mailing forms have accumulated 2,000 subscribers over a few years, or 1,200 subscribers over 12 months. I always say that’s great, but Beambox will dwarf those numbers in a much shorter amount of time.

Beambox founder Callum Short
Beambox founder Callum Short

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

The technology. Beyond an extensive web panel which acts as the eyes and ears of the hotspot, an embedded device is used to manage the network itself and construct the hotspot network. We had to build our own framework to operate this and we outsource the manufacturing of the device itself.

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

We’ve been approved for a seed funding round and have just launched a free plan, beyond that we have a Canadian who has bought a Beambox and some multi-chain brands interested in adoption. We’re only getting started.

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

From a technology standpoint I had it covered, none of the programming or development required was new. Surprisingly, the main problem I had was getting the product casing to look appealing and match the branding properly. Working on low volumes with low startup capital meant that a cost effective solution was hard to find. In the end, we went for 3D printing.

(8) In five years’ time, I will be…

Beyond our initial offering, we plan to integrate a solid affiliate solution for industry consultants and resellers. We also plan to build in an enterprise level offering for a more tailor-made and hands-on system.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

I would say the ability to shrug off failure and continue to create, brand and deploy. Every new venture has its own set of requirements which must be dealt with to bring it to life. Even if the startup does not live on, the learnings from it will. They will open you up to a whole new dimension of possibilities and startups that are aligned with your skill set.

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

I’m not a follower of celebrity entrepreneurs, I think there’s greater value in following those who aren’t known. Though I would say Elon Musk is the epitome of determined. It’s one thing to disrupt the automotive industry, but space transportation takes things to another  level.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.

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