Connect-In: Making money from misplaced items

Have you ever wondered where your house keys are or where you’ve placed the TV remote? A Scottish start-up is looking to fix this age-old problem with their latest technology. Connect-In founder Raj Sark spoke to BQ about his start-up journey so far.

Connect-In Ltd. designs and manufactures ‘LUPO’s’, a Bluetooth device which helps people track their misplaced items.

LUPO allows users to keep track of their valuables straight from their smartphone, by attaching a LUPO to the items they most commonly misplace.

The product was funded by Kickstarter last year following a successful £27,488 crowdfunding campaign and now ships to over 40 countries across the globe.

Speaking about what inspired him to launch Connect-In, Raj told BQ: “I have been working in the wireless communications industry for over 3 years and saw an emerging trend and the need for both energy efficient and small form-factor wireless devices to power what is described as in the Internet of Things (IOT) and wearables.

“Most of us have lost something of value at some point in our lives. In fact, over £1.5bn worth of gadgets are lost in the UK every year!

“I wanted to do something about it and for my own frequently misplaced keys. I presented the idea at a Strathclyde Uni pitch competition which I had won, but at that time when I was a student (2009), the technology was limited to be able to support something like LUPO so I took up a regular corporate job.

“Today modern smartphones support app development and have Bluetooth 4.0 hardware support. The Lupo App and device work together to find, secure and control your smart devices.”

After being victorious in the Stratchlyde pitching competition, Raj decided it was time to push on with the firm and get the wheels in motion.

He continued: “Connect-In Ltd. started with some self-investment (thanks to my former job), bit of boot-strapping and a lot of passion.

“All through the summer of 2012 we had been prototyping, testing new concepts and trying to raise money from investors. We have in the meantime been aided by a number of innovation awards, these included:

  • Mar 2012: Wins at MIT Global Startup Business Plan Competition ($5000);
  • Jul 2012: Wins 6 month office space within Nokia incubation
  • Feb 2013: Secures angel funding through Gabriel syndicate & open bank account;
  • Mar 2014: Complete successful Kickstarter campaign (raised 40% over and above goal);
  • Apr 2014: Kicks-off £100k R&D project with InnovateUK, London;
  • July 2014: Gets awarded a UK patent by UKIPO;
  • Dec 2014: Shipped all Kickstarter units of LUPO (made in Britain)
  • Apr 2015: LUPO lite sells out at Gadget Show Live, Birmingham and subsequently launches on Amazon in June: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B010Q7Y9Q2

“We try to speak with our mentors and look around everywhere. Entrepreneurial Spark has been a great help in supporting us!”

Like any entrepreneur delving into business for the first time, Raj encountered a few challenges along his way.

He said: “Early on our start-up life simply looked full of challenges. If you know the saying: ‘if anything can go wrong, it will’ and it did.

“Running out of money, facing lengthy legal hurdles and being close to bankruptcy were all a part of this journey. The more we matured the more we learnt how to see challenges as an opportunity to grow or learn something new. I’ve never looked back since!”

He added: “We are now working on licensing partnerships with two large Organisations who can help us the LUPO to the next level. Pilot currently going well, cannot be named at present due to NDA but we hope soon!”

As with many other start-up ventures, Raj had to risk the comfort of a secure job and income to devote his time and money to launching Connect-In and it wasn’t a straight forward decision.

He told us: “Leaving a secure, well paid corporate job was not easy but it is one of the most important decisions I have made in my life.

“Financially I would possibly be much better off had I just stayed with a job. But then I would probably have regretted rest of my life that we never actually did it when the market window was still open.

“It’s been a rollercoaster ride and a tough one, but the learning experience has been most incredible and along with rest of our team we seem to have grown in so many ways personally and professionally with our start-up.”

After speaking to Raj about how his journey has been so far, we were intrigued to know where it will take him going forward. This begged the question, where do you see the company in a years time?

He said: “A lot can happen over a cup of coffee and more so in a year or two! We are always open to possibilities, it’s hard to say where we might be. One thing for sure we will continue doing what we love doing, make more LUPOs and possibly introduce more connected products.”

In partnership with: Startup Britain