Luring clients with a magnetic force

As it prepares for an assault on the US market, Dublin company Smart Wall Paint has this month re-branded as Smarter Surfaces.

Luring clients with a magnetic force

Starting out by producing paint which could turn any wall into a white board, the three-year-old company now has products which can make any wall or smooth surface magnetic and one which can turn a wall into a projector screen. The new name reflects the wider range of products on offer, explains joint managing director Denise Doran.

Named as Business Start up in the Ulster Bank Business Awards and as Emerging Small Exporter of the year by the Irish Exporters Association in 2014, Smarter Surfaces now sells in 28 countries globally. It also won a European Office Product of the Year award. “We increased sales by 100% and are aiming to do the same again this year,” reveals Ms Doran.

Selling to global entities such as Linkedin, Google, and Mastercard as well as universities and schools, Smarter Surfaces believes it is now the world’s largest supplier of smart surface coatings.

“When the company was set up there was one US company producing a similar product, so we ignored this market for a while,” says Ms Doran, explaining that the company is now ready to take on the competition on its home turf.

Back in 2010, Smarter Surfaces founder and joint managing director Ronan Clarke came up with the idea of creating a paint to turn a wall into a whiteboard. Working in the construction industry, he had a request from a client for a white board room. Discovering that there was no inexpensive or easy way to make one, he looked for a solution.

Over the next two years, he developed a coating, found a manufacturer to produce it. and launched on the market in 2012 . Signing up for a New Frontiers Programme, Mr Clarke teamed up with Ms Doran, the marketing trainer on the course.

During 2012, the company redesigned the packaging, the image, and the website and began to make an impact.

“Our first corporate customer was SAP in CityWest in Dublin which coated three floors of its European Headquarters with our product,” says Ms Doran.

Moving to Rathgar, Smart Wall Paint began hiring staff. Signing its first channel partner in the UK, the firm worked on developing a network of distributors. By the end of 2013 it had six distributors and grew this to 28 last year.

“We sell in South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, and a range of European countries. Australia and Saudi Arabia are our biggest markets.”

Ms Doran says it was a challenge at the start was to bring a totally new product to market. “Our initial strategy was to target countries that were modern and progressive — these were the low-hanging fruit. Now that the market has developed we are going after the more conservative countries.”

Having started with one product in 2012, the company broadened its offering in 2014 with the launch of magnetic primer. This month it added magnetic wallpaper and projector paint.

Business customers who use the products in brainstorming and planning sessions now account for 60% of revenue.

Customers in the educational sector include schools and universities across the world.

Smarter Surfaces now employs a staff of 22 and is in the process of hiring two more. To date, the company has been financed mainly by its owners but received some investment from Enterprise Ireland in 2013. Re-branding this month, the company has ambitious plans for 2015.

“We aim to have distributors in 50 countries including the US and to grow sales by 100%. We will also be launching two new products in quarter three,” says Ms Doran. Company: Smarter Surfaces Managing Directors: Ronan Clarke and Denise Doran Location: Rathgar, Dublin Set up: 2012 Exports: 95% Staff: 22 Products: whiteboard paint and magnetic coatings and wallpaper Website: www.smarter surfaces. com

With its white board paint and projector products, Smarter Surfaces is expanding, writes Trish Dromey

Our initial strategy was to target countries that were modern and progressive

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