Young entrepreneur James Gale (22) based in Kinsale believes in aiming and achieving high. The creator of StampOwl and SwiftFox tells Mary O’Brien that he sees himself running a multi-million euro business and providing employment for a lot of people in ten years time. “I would like to help Elon on his mission to Mars in any way I possibly can!”
After graduating from Bandon Grammar School in 2015, James went to Vienna in Austria to study a business degree. While studying abroad, he needed to find a way to share his experiences with his grandparents back home (“they don’t have Wifi”) and so StampOwl was born.
StampOwl is a service whereby users can create and send personalised Postcards from their smartphones. The Postcards are then printed out at one of StampOwl’s printing facilities and are physically posted to the user’s desired address.
“My journey with StampOwl has taken me many places and introduced me to some amazing people along the way!” says James. “In July 2016 we won a start-up pitching competition and received tickets to the European Innovation Academy in Nice. This experience had a profound impact on my life.”
In April 2017 James was invited to Kaunas, Lithuania to lead an Augmented Reality (AR) project to enhance tourists’ experiences in the city. “We prototyped and built an AR experience for tourists to avail of personalised tours around the city of Kaunas, discover interesting facts about each building and solve riddles to earn rewards, which were redeemable at local bars and restaurants.”
In September 2017, the inspiring young entrepreneur was awarded a place on Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers Phase 2 program in Cork; in December he was awarded ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ in the regional stage of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition.
In June 2018, James co-founded a new venture Swiftfox Apps.
Swiftfox Apps provides event apps and other event software to help bridge the communication gap between event attendees, organisers and partners. “We have worked with some great events including Zeminar, Heineken Kinsale Sevens and BAM Festival to create great products,” says James who graduated from University in July 2018 with a first class honours degree in Business Administration.
“By using our products, event organisers can send push notifications to each attendee’s phone or to specific segments within that list,” explains James. “Event organisers can update the event schedule at a minutes notice or get vital feedback with a quick survey. Our networking package offers a whole social platform around the event, allowing attendees to network, connect and chat with other attendees/ partners/ sponsors investors etc.”
James describes himself as a ‘sponge’, always soaking up new information and new learnings. “I believe it is extremely important to continually educate and improve yourself. I do this personally by immersing myself in audio programs and podcasts,” he says.
Each year James tries to set a new big learning challenge for himself. “Two years ago, I set out to learn the ins and outs of sales and persuasion, since I was seriously lacking in this area. Last year, I decided to set myself the challenge of learning front end web development so I could build my own websites and gain a deeper understanding to help improve my communication as a designer with software developers. This year, I have decided to enter into the world of 3D printing!”
James says that one of the reasons he loves software, is that “it really gives you the freedom to quite literally work from your laptop”. Currently based in Kinsale, he always describes his laptop as being his ‘office’. “We are currently a remote team, working from all over the world. It works quite well for us, allowing us to work with a range of different global talent. It’s definitely a balance between remote working and meeting up to get ideas down on a whiteboard. We try and meet up at least once a month, which usually involves flying to one of the team members city’s and spending a few days brain storming and discussing the future plans,” he explains.
One of the most significant milestones in James’ career has been signing a contract with the organisers of Dublin Tech Summit. “It is a very exciting project to work on and we’re looking forward to launching the app in April,” he says.
For James, his work is his life. “I love looking at people’s problems and then putting a great product out into the universe to solve this problem. I am inspired everyday by the opportunity to design new products and features and build them in a way that users’ can really benefit from them. The world is full of apps that are really complicated and difficult to use.
“Whenever we build a new product, we spend more time cutting out un-necessary features and taps, than we do designing new features. Distilling the product down into its most valuable and initiative form, is what distinguishes okay products from products that are great.
“I also enjoy working my own hours, as it gives me the freedom to pick and choose when I work.
“As I raise a family in the future I know that I will have to strike a better balance and find better ways to disconnect from work, but right now I have the time and energy to keep hustling hard!”
Inspired everyday by new people and projects, James’ advice for other young people aspiring to succeed in business is to sharpen up in the skills you need to succeed, whether that’s sales, marketing or design and so on.
“Know the difference between a ‘lifestyle business’ and a ‘license to print money business’ and decide which one you are going for. This will be engraved in the business’s DNA and it will be really difficult to change at a later stage.”
He emphasises that in business you have to be resilient. “You will fail often, but it’s all about getting back up again. You will make mistakes and you will encounter seemly massive problems. I love problems because they show me that I’m moving in the right direction. If I didn’t have any problems it would be because I wasn’t moving forward fast enough.”
He also advises yung entrepreneurs to avail of all the help and support out there. “Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) are a fantastic place to get help, support, mentorship and advise about your business. My local enterprise office in Clonakility have been a lifeline for my business.”
“I think Steve Jobs said it best when he said ‘great artist’s steal’,” says James. “People often get confused about what exactly this means! This doesn’t mean that great artists can take someone else’s work and just put their own name to it. It means that great artists truly value each other’s work. A great artist will use another’s work as a starting point and inspiration for their own project.
“If I can give you one piece of advice, take what other artists have already made great and put your own stamp on it. Make it better, make it unique.”