How I started my business: BLACKBX

Patrick Clover

How I started my business: BLACKBX

Using public Wi-Fi networks is all-too-often a frustrating experience. Patrick Clover’s levels of frustration were such that he taught himself to code, and set about solving this problem.   

What did you do before you started this business?

Prior to launching BLACKBX, I worked for an Edinburgh-based start-up called inkspotwifi ltd., a company that delivers high-speed Internet connectivity to households and businesses where there is poor or no broadband availability. This was my first job out of school and my two years here were vital in building up my knowledge of the telecoms market.

What inspired you to start up?

BLACKBX was born out of my own frustration with poor quality guest Wi-Fi.  I spent my early teenage years with my family, living on a trawler in the Mediterranean, and was only able to access the Internet when on dry land. I always found it such a frustrating process, requesting passwords and registering details, only to find weak signal at the end of it. I decided that I wanted to do something about it, so I taught myself how to code and began building BLACKBX.

Tell us about your business in 100 words

BLACKBX is cloud-based Wi-Fi management software that makes setting up and maintaining public Wi-Fi easy and affordable for business owners. You simply need to plug in a small device to an existing Wi-Fi router.

BLACKBX gathers raw data that can help generate revenue, track new and repeat customers, identify peak visiting times and create customer mailing lists. BLACKBX gives businesses the ability to create bespoke, targeted marketing and promotional opportunities, enabling them to engage better with their customers.

We have 800,000 users worldwide and can be found in countries as diverse as Brazil, as well as in 300 UK-based venues.

How would you describe your business to your grandma?

I’d explain that our software provides businesses with a better understanding of their customers without having to talk to them directly. Using a Wi-Fi connection, we supply useful data to business owners enabling them to increase their revenue and make marketing easier for them.

I’d also tell my gran that we want to create an easy, intuitive experience for the guests logging into Wi-Fi via BLACKBX. For convenience, users can login through their social media, such as Facebook, and will not be timed out after a certain period. We stop the need of constantly logging into Wi-Fi, helping venues create an uninterrupted Wi-Fi experience for their customers.

Where do you get advice, support or help?

I wouldn’t say I have any formal mentors but there are a number of people who have been brilliant at providing sound advice. My family were a huge source of support in the earlier days when we were just getting our feet off the ground. Robin Knox and Paul Walton, co-founders of intelligentpos have also been incredibly supportive, as has Julie Grieve at Criton. It’s so important in business to have people you can turn to for guidance and advice when needed, especially when a company is in the start-up phase.

Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?

We were lucky enough to receive initial funding from the Princes Trust to help get the business off the ground and for the last 18-months we have been 100 per cent funded by our customers.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

It has to be having so many end users. We have around 800,000 people worldwide logging into public Wi-Fi powered by BLACKBX which is a huge achievement for us given we are only two years old. It’s a great feeling to be able to provide guest Wi-Fi for hundreds and thousands of people across the globe.

How do you differentiate your business from others?

Customer service and experience are incredibly important to us at BLACKBX. I’d say we differentiate ourselves from others through the dedicated support and service we provide to our customers. We are contactable via phone, email and live chat on our website and all enquiries are dealt with in-house. We aim to make sure any issues are resolved quickly and efficiently.

What’s it like to be your own boss?

It’s great being the boss. It has given me the freedom to make my own decisions without any obstacles being in my way.  There is a lot responsibility that comes with being the boss and sometimes that can be tricky but I have built up a business I am passionate about and this is what motivates me every day.

Where do you see your business in 5 years time?

In five years we want to be everywhere. In taxis, airports, hotels, bars, restaurants, stadiums, events venues. Everywhere. Ultimately, we want to create one joined up, seamless experience for those logging into public Wi-Fi across the globe.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

My advice would be to ‘do it yourself’. Relying on others to help you build or create a product has its merits but doing it yourself gives you a valuable understanding of how everything should operate and how the business should work.