#CanonSmallBusinessHero: How Eyetease is overtaking the competition with its innovative vehicle technology

CanonSmallBusinessHero: How Eyetease is overtaking the competition with its innovative vehicle technology

Our latest #CanonSmallBusinessHero is Founder and CEO of Eyetease Limited, Richard Corbett. Having founded the business in 2010, Richard has gone on to launch two disruptive digital media propositions to the global market; the world’s first HD digital taxitop technology and the first high-speed Wi-Fi system for vehicles. His innovative thinking has helped change regulations in several major cities across the world to now allow rooftop advertising on taxis, including in his home market – where the technology has been installed on to London black cabs. 

1.    Tell us a bit about your business 

Eyetease is the global leader in digital screen advertising and Wi-Fi technology for the transit market. We pioneered the first digital screen technology to be used on taxi roofs in 2010 (named ‘iTaxitop’), as well as creating the first in-vehicle Wi-Fi system (previously named ‘CabWiFi’, now ‘EyeFi’). 

What we try to do is make rocket science simple. We are passionate about making cities more intelligent and connected. Today, we’re proud to supply our ground-breaking technology to some of the world’s largest industry players, including the biggest out-of-home media company in the UK and America. 

2.    Why did you start Eyetease?    

I started the business when I was 24 years old – it was the height of the recession and I couldn’t find any work. I’d always wanted to do my own thing and had pushed myself to come up with millions of ideas as part of an entrepreneurship society at university. When the recession hit, the combination of not finding a job I was passionate about and the necessity of paying the bills really was the driving force for me to say “this is the time to start my own business”. 

3.    What’s been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced? 

From a business perspective, the biggest challenge for me – and for every entrepreneur – is cash flow. Money will solve pretty much any problem that presents itself to you and it’s something you don’t have great quantities of when you’re starting out. So that was a massive challenge. 

What I found quite interesting is when you don’t have a lot of money, you’ve got to think of things creatively. You can apply different lenses to every single problem and think, “well actually, is this the right way to do it?”, so the challenge of having no money provokes you to think more intelligently. 

4.    What barriers to growth have you experienced? 

Eyetease operates in a very conservative market, so I’ve had to overcome technical challenges in the creation of brand new taxi advertising technology, as well as commercial challenges such as educating people on what it is, how it works and its benefits, to enable the sales process. 

The other challenge was the legislative barriers. No one had done this before, meaning I had to put a case forward to as to why regulations must change to make my whole idea possible. 

5.    How digital do you consider your business operations to be? 

A fair bit! All of our products incorporate hardware, software and cloud-based backend systems, as well as using cloud based software. People don’t realise that when they talk about the Internet of Things, it’s actually very heavy on the hardware. Without that, the product doesn’t exist at all. 

Social media is also very important to us for increasing awareness of our product– we’re on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. I’m personally on everything from Instagram to Snapchat. 

6.    How much time do you spend on admin? 

Too much. Admin is a by-product of a business being your baby and there are certain decisions that need to be made or information that you don’t want others to be involved in. I think that needs to change over time as it’s not scalable or time-efficient to be in control of all the admin. 

I think that as an entrepreneur, no one teaches you what to do, how to do it and when’s the right time to do it, but when you start to grow you need to accept that you are going to have to delegate more. Key decisions will need to be made elsewhere at some point and that means stepping away from admin. 

7.    What’s the one piece of tech you couldn’t live without? 

It’s got to be my mobile phone. It acts as a mobile office allowing me to see anything, anywhere. It’s fantastic. 

8.    If you could give one piece of advice to another small business, what would it be? 

My philosophy is that a B2B business must market itself as a B2C business. It’s important to remember that everyone you’re selling to in a large corporation is a consumer. 

9.    What does success look like for your business? 

When I was asked the same question in 2010 by a friend, I told them that success for me was ‘seeing my product being used every 5mins in London’. When I achieved this in 2014, following my roll-out of 400 screens across London taxis, my viewpoint on the world changed. Today, success for me is having the freedom and resource to attack each and every high growth opportunity that captures my imagination. I can see so many opportunities out there to change the way people live for the better, but having the resource to develop these new solutions in adjacent markets is a luxury we do not have as an SME as we grow our existing product set across the globe. We’re proud to have our own R&D facility functioning well in central London and over time this will be used to develop new solutions for these high growth opportunities. This will take some time but we hope to get there soon!