A product preventing fires from overheating mobile devices is set to go nationwide, writes Trish Dromey.
Cork start-up Firemole is planning to go nationwide this year with an innovative safety gadget which helps prevent fires by sounding an inbuilt alarm when it detects that an electrical device is overheating.
“Firemole is the only fire prevention device on the market which alerts people to overheating devices,” according to founder Seán Ó Tuama, explaining that the Firemole is a small battery operated temperature sensor which can be attached to the plug of a charger and other devices.
“Faulty chargers, and other devices which overheat, are a leading cause of fires. Earlier this month, Amazon had to recall a quarter of a million power banks which were at risk of overheating,” he said.
Since setting up the company in September 2016, Mr Ó Tuama has sold more than 2,000 Firemoles on his company website.
Now he is preparing to sell into retail, raise funding, target exports and launch a smart version of Firemole.
While working as an electrician he noted the world’s increasing reliance on technology, the fire risks associated with faulty devices such as overheating chargers and the lack of any means of prevention.
Setting up Firemole in September 2016, he signed up for Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme at the Rubicon Centre in Cork Institute of Technology.
“All I had, at that point, was a drawing on a piece of paper,” said Mr Ó Tuama, who spent six months developing the device.
When he won a New Frontiers innovation award in May, he sent out a press release hoping to generate interest in his product and got a much better response than expected.
“I got a couple of million hits on Twitter and was contacted by news outlets, radio stations and distributers,” he said.
He didn’t have a website before the first article about Firemole appeared, but built one himself before a second was printed.
Purchasing the components for 3,000 units from manufacturers in Cork and Prague, he assembled the Firemoles himself and filled the pre-orders in August.
“The initial sales were in Ireland, but I have since shipped orders to the US, the UK and Australia.”
Securing €50,000 in Competitive Start Funding from Enterprise Ireland last year, Mr Ó Tuama has since taken on his first employee, Peter Sweeney.
He is now the company’s chief technology officer.
Meanwhile, Mr Ó Tuama has also organised a second production run for units which will be assembled, tested and shipped out in May from a facility in Prague.
He has applied for a global patent on the Firemole, which is now retailing at €12.99.
The smart version, set for release in September, will be able to alert the owner via an app when a device overheats and also have the ability to switch it off automatically.
Using the CSF funding to invest in packaging and marketing, Mr Ó Tuama said the goal now is to make the most of first mover advantage in this space and to establish Firemole as the ‘go-to’ brand for fire prevention in the home.
The aim is to develop sales in Ireland this year and to move into exports in 2019.
“We have a large order from a well known Irish retailer — this will go out in May,” he said, adding that, through a distributor, he aims to develop sales to other Irish retail outlets.
“We are targeting 60 outlets this year and once we have developed the Irish market, we will work on exporting to Europe and the US. In April, I am going on a trade mission to San Francisco where I hope to make contact with US retailers.”
In order to scale the company, Mr Ó Tuama plans to raise €200,000 in private investment this year with a view to
securing matching investment from Enterprise Ireland.
He said this will be required for ongoing R&D, marketing and also to build a team.
Expecting to recruit one or two people for sales and marketing this year, he plans to grow the staff size to seven by the end of 2019.