DriverNet (IM Accelerator Programme)
Founded in 2016, DriverNet is a St Helens-based start-up providing software that enables delivery drivers to share real time information with their business customers.
Combining precision navigation, live customer alerts and information on delivery locations, the DriverNet app allows its users to save time, reduce emissions and costs, and minimise the risk of accidents.
Connected Places Catapult, DriverNet, Wayra, Telefonica/O2, Network Rail, ThoughtWorks Ventures
Completed. Six-month Intelligent Mobility Accelerator Programme project (February-July 2018)
The Intelligent Mobility Accelerator first wave was funded by the Connected Places Catapult, Wayra, Network Rail and ThoughtWorkds Ventures.
By the end of 2017, DriverNet had a working prototype for its app but still needed to develop this into a minimum viable product that could be trialled by potential customers. CEO Ant Chisnall was also eager for networking opportunities that would allow him to increase his company’s exposure to relevant decision makers in the transport and logistics sector.
Having already worked with Wayra and held discussions with the Catapult while developing the prototype for his app, Chisnall heard about the new Intelligent Mobility Accelerator Programme that was being set up by the two organisations and applied, successfully, for DriverNet to join the programme’s first wave.
A considerable part of the Accelerator programme was allocated to the networking opportunities that Chisnall had primarily been interested in, but that was just one element. “There were lots of opportunities to speak to investors,” Chisnall recalls, “but we also got help with pitch training, sales and marketing advice, PR support and plenty of tech help – all the way from CTO level to sitting down with specialists in areas such as navigation, as well as taking part in some very interactive workshops.”
Having previously focused solely on the delivery truck business, the company was also encouraged during the programme to consider other transport providers, including coach, bus and minibus operators.
“By the end of the six months, we had a product that was ready to be demonstrated to customers,” says Chisnall. “We’d also started talking to St Helens Council which subsequently led to a three-month pilot programme at the end of the 2018, supporting the council’s adult social care transportation unit. We’ve also begun commercial conversations with some of the largest public transport fleet operators, with a view to piloting further programmes both in the UK and abroad.”
As well as helping DriverNet to further refine and test its product, the company’s participation in the Intelligent Mobility Accelerator Programme helped to unlock a number of further opportunities, including a commercial partnership with Wayra parent company O2 Telefónica UK. DriverNet is also now negotiating a potential pan-Asian roll-out of its applications with one of the world’s largest oil companies.
The company is also planning a trial with international coach operators Ascendal Group, and is also in early stage discussions with a number of major fleet operators across Europe, the Far East and the USA.
While still a small operation, DriverNet has increased the number of its employees from four to five, and has also picked up a clutch of innovation awards and honours including being named as UK winner of the European Space Agency’s 2017 Satellite Navigation contest and finishing runners-up in a Sustainability Challenge run by Heathrow Airport in August 2018.
Being part of the six-month Accelerator programme required Chisnall to spend two or three days a week away from the day-to-day running of his company – not an easy commitment for a CEO whose company is still in the start-up phase. But he has no doubt now that it was the right thing to do. “I said to my team at the time that the risk lay in not doing it, rather than doing it,” Chisnall explains. “In the end, I would definitely say that taking part in the Accelerator programme was our company’s best business decision yet.”
By participating in the Accelerator, the company was able to create a pipeline of potential future customers or partners. Shortly after completing the programme, the company went on to win a Dragons’ Den-style pitching competition organised by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) – giving them the opportunity to present their technology to another 40 local councils along with some of the UK’s largest construction companies.
In November 2018, the company was selected to join the Catapult at an Intelligent Mobility trade mission to Los Angeles. As a direct result of that mission, DriverNet have agreed to run a pilot project in 2019 for a California-based international fleet operator.
Having made such a promising start within the business to business technology sector, Chisnall says his company is also eyeing the longer-term possibility of using its technology to build a delivery app aimed at the general public.
To find out more about the Intelligent Mobility Accelerator Programme and how it could help your business, please click here. You can learn more about DriverNet by visiting the company’s website here.