Aiming to take some of the noise, the cold and the hardship out of camping, Kerry company Thermo Tent has set out to produce the world’s first thermally and acoustically insulated tent.
Company founder Derek O’Sullivan has developed a tent with a triple layer of insulation and launched it on the company website at the start of the summer.
Since then, Thermo Tents has sold over 100 units, negotiated with Amazon, held discussions with outdoor chain stores in Europe and the UK and used crowdfunding to raise money.
“We are set to become a vendor on Amazon in the UK and the US in October and to open a sales office in New York in November,” said Mr O’Sullivan, who expects to start selling to retail stores in early 2016.
An engineer who previously ran an insulation consultancy service, Mr O’Sullivan has applied for a patent on his new invention.
Describing it as “a tent within a tent’, he said it can solve the problem of temperature spikes experienced by campers by keeping the tent 8C warmer than the outdoor air in winter and 8C cooler in summer.
“It has been designed to reduce noise transfer by 35 decibels,” he added.
As might be suspected, this invention was sparked by his personal experience of a chilly night in a crowded noisy campsite in Snowdonia.
“I thought about the uses of insulation and said ‘why not a tent?’”
Starting with a rough sketch, he then spoke to retailers, tent manufacturers and campers, establishing that there were no insulated tents on the market and that the demand possibilities were good.
Obtaining Competitive Start funding from Enterprise Ireland, Mr O’Sullivan set up at Kerry Technology Park Tralee last year. Signing up for the New Frontiers startup programme, he finalised the design and found a manufacturer in China.
A Dutch manufacturer of glamping tents helped Thermo Tent develop an insulated glamping tent. During 2014, Mr O’Sullivan also produced an insulated tent designed for use by relief agencies.
“With this, we have now become an approved supplier to the UN.”
Thermo Tent ran a Kickstarter Crowdfunding campaign at the start of the year.
“Between April and May, we raised €51,000 selling approximately 50 tents to buyers from Australia, Israel, the US, South Africa and around the world.”
Mr O’Sullivan explained that the company started by selling a three-person tent for €500 and charging €1,700 for a six-person one.
He says Kickstarter was significant not just because of the money but also because of the publicity.
Taking on two full-time staff, the company is now participating in the Seedrs Equity crowdfunding platform.
“We set out to raise £70,000 sterling and have already gone over this and it is still running,” said Mr O’Sullivan.
This funding will be used to hire a staff member for the New York office, which the company plans to open later in the year.
“We have also had discussions with Enterprise Ireland and with a US investor,” he said, adding that the company will require significant funding in order develop sales internationally.
The sales strategy involves taking the new Thermo tent to major camping exhibitions in the UK and Europe and also to show it at the UK Glamping Show this month.
The major target market is high-end outdoor retailers and Mr O’Sullivan said the company is close to finalising an agreement with a large retailer with outlets in the UK and Europe.
During 2016, the company also plans to market its relief tents to non-governmental agencies and to develop sales of the insulated glamping tent.
Mr O’Sullivan said that in the US alone the camping market is worth $1.3bn annually and the European market is even larger. “Our product is unique, there is nothing else like us on the market and we see huge growth opportunities.”
Targeting sales of €1m by year three, Thermo Tent expects to grow the staff size to 10 within a few years.