Start me up: Dan Bladen, co-founder of Chargifi

We chat to Dan Bladen, co-founder of wireless charging service Chargifi, after starting Chargifi in 2013 they have expanded to nine international markets and raised over $3.4million in investment.

What exactly is your business and how does it help people?

Chargifi is a wireless charging service helping to combat a country-wide epidemic of Battery Anxiety.

We all know the feeling of panic when our phones die on us but according to recent research commissioned by Chargifi, these levels have reached crisis point, with over half of Brits (52%) suffering from at least one attack in a typical week. By providing quick convenient power to venues and public areas, Chargifi are helping customers recharge and venues attract more customers gain valuable insight into consumer habits.

What was your inspiration and motivation to get started in business?

The idea for the business came about when my wife and I were travelling the world a few years ago. We realised that much of our movement was dependent on where we could get a decent Wi-Fi connection, yet we still constantly struggled to keep our devices charged.

When we got back, my friend, founder and non-executive director Charlie Cannell and I got together to address the issue. We talked about how we might be able to give venues like coffee shops, bars, hotels and airports the ability to offer customers a wireless charging service while gaining valuable insight into their customer’s behaviour. Following early trials at Carnaby Street juice bar Moosh and early investment from Streetcar (Zipcar) entrepreneur Brett Akker, Chargifi has now rolled out to a number of international markets, including Hong Kong, Singapore and India, and received significant backing from Intel Capital in 2015.

How did your friends and family react to you starting a business?

Charlie aside, who loved the idea enough to partner with me, everyone has totally got behind the idea. I regularly get texts from friends, colleagues and clients suggesting places that need Chargifi – universities, trains, bars – even hairdressers – they really believe in the idea and would benefit from charging their devices at these locations. Our research shows that people consider power to be an essential utility along with toilets, water and parking and Chargifi exists to empower venues to meet this crucial need.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?

Any new business has to fundraise to survive. Showing top investors that your idea is better than the twenty they have already heard today is as a challenge every start-up faces but we believed we had something truly special and something that people truly needed. We hit the ground running, meeting potential investors and we’re delighted to include R/GA Ventures and Techstars amongst them.

In the early rounds of investment, investors are paying close attention to the quality of your company’s story (why you started the business and why you think it will work), the size of opportunity and the quality of the founders. You are selling the vision of what this could be, so having a clear picture of the future is key. Make sure you have your pitch honed and your investment materials perfected. If investors say ‘no’, ask for feedback so you can improve for subsequent meetings. It helps to become familiar with the lexicon of the investment world and to make sure that, if you’re a UK business, you and your investors are fully aware of how tax-relief schemes such as SEIS and EIS can benefit both sides of the table.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?

Choosing a brilliant mentor to guide you personally and professionally is crucial. Although it’s also essential to make sure you manage yourself – if you manage yourself, your team will too. Be smart and automate and create processes wherever you can to add bandwidth to your day.

Make sure you’re always aware of what’s going on in your chosen industry. I love checking out new apps and products from other companies to see how we might learn from them and apply new ways of product development for Chargifi. In technology, you have to stay on the front foot with what is going on in your market and in the broader market.

I cannot stress the importance of hiring the right people – when selling the vision of what your business could be, you must make sure what you already have is quality in terms of  a team that complement each other and share an end goal.

How do you expect your business to develop in the future?

There has been an explosive growth in the market for wireless power which is estimated to be worth $37.2bn by 2022*, with rumours about more devices coming with wireless power in 2017. For example we’ve already seen Dell announce their first laptop with wireless power at this year’s CES – we fully expect this to be the start of a much wider adoption of wireless power.

This huge growth in the market combined with successful existing installations indicates wireless power, powered by Chargifi, will become something the public will come to expect when visiting a venue. Each sector will modernise their respective facilities to attract customers, namely the hospitality trade. Pret A Manger has installed Chargifi in four London stores with plans for more. Imperial College London and The Clubhouse have also adopted the service. As competitors quickly update their venues to compete with these forward thinking companies, change will be rapid. The future of Chargifi is where one is never far from Chargifi Spot to power their device.

*Business Wire Wireless Charging Market Report 2017