German entrepreneur Lukas Decker came to Ireland to do a masters degree. He stayed to set up a business which solves the problem of unwanted coins for airline passengers.
His company Coindrum has developed machines for airports which accept coins and issue vouchers which can be used in airport retail shops or, alternatively, to donate the money to charity. The machine is the first of its kind for airline passengers and according to Mr Decker, offers a win-win solution for all involved.
The owners of the coin can make good use of unwanted currency and nuisance change, the airport retailers get extra business and the airports divest passengers of extra metal before they go though security machines.
Coindrum gets a commission from the airport retailer on the vouchers used by the passengers when they make purchases. The three-year-old company installed its first machine for a three-month trial at Dublin airport in December.
Armed with results which show passengers are willing to use this machine and spend the vouchers, Mr Decker will exhibit the Coindrum machine at an international airport retail exhibition in Milan this week.
“The machine was used by thousands of passengers in Dublin Airport and the usage increased month on month.
“Our figures show people typically outspend their voucher by a multiple of three,” says Mr Decker who expects to install five machines or more in Dublin Airport this year. Since January, a Coindrum machine has also been running in Knock Airport.
The inspiration for the company came to Mr Decker when he was putting coins into a toll machine in Italy. “I thought this would work for airports.” At the time, he was studying for a masters in management at the UCD Smurfit Business School.
Entering the inaugural Ireland Fund Business Plan Competition, he came away with the top prize of €10,000 and a contact in the aviation business that was to prove very significant. One of the judges was Declan Ryan, co-founder of Ryanair.
“He went on to become a two-time investor in the company and a director,’’ says Mr Decker
After qualifying in 2012, Mr Decker registered the company and, as his first step, put together a board of directors. This involved Mr Ryan, Declan Fearon, the CEO of Tipperary Crystal, and Prof Frank Roche, deputy principal of the UCD College of Business & Law.
“Having a strong board gave the company credibility and opened doors to suppliers and potential clients,’’ says Mr Decker. His next step was make arrangement with a provider of coin-processing equipment which agreed to develop the Coindrum machine.
Over the last two years, he has spent time talking airports and airport retailers. It has been difficult for a small company to convince the airport sector to adopt a totally new idea but he believes he is making good headway.
The next step now is to ramp up sales and also to fundraise, because this is a capital intensive business which involves Coindrum providing, maintaining and servicing all the machines.
Since starting up, Mr Decker received a feasibility grant from Enterprise Ireland and more recently some high-potential start-up funding. Securing angel investment from Irelandia Investments in 2012, Coindrum raised further funding in 2014 and is seeking another cash injection to launch the company internationally.
It is negotiating with international airports and several travel retails chains.
Barrow St, Dublin.
Coin machines for airports.