We talk airports, coin inconvenience and the importance of mentoring with Lukas Decker of Coindrum, winner of the ‘Best New Idea’ Category for Dublin City in the IBYE competition.
Using Coindrum, airline passengers can spend unwanted coins before going into a different currency jurisdiction. They operate machines in departure gates that turn coins into airport retail vouchers, or that let passengers donate to a charity of their choice. It's an easy, free and quick service to solve ‘coin inconvenience’ for passengers, whilst converting more travellers into retail customers for airports.
Lukas, congratulations on your #IBYE Award. Where did the idea for Coindrum come from?
One day, I was paying for a motorway toll by throwing coins into a machine to lift the barrier and I just thought: “if it was only this easy to get rid of my coins in an airport.” That’s pretty much exactly what Coindrum now does.
Have you run your own business before and was it something you always wanted to do?
Coindrum is my first real business, although I’ve always had side projects and ways to make money before I even knew what entrepreneurship was. I am only 26 and actually started working full-time on the business right after completing my Master studies. It is definitely in my blood and the most fun and addictive thing.
The business has clear global potential - was this always part of the business plan and how have you integrated it into the company’s strategy?
Given that Coindrum operates in airports, it is highly international in nature and a truly ‘born global’ business.
Growth will always mean new markets and countries for us and as our service benefits all affected parties (including passengers, charities as well as airports and their retailers), we believe the innovation to be a ‘no-brainer’ for any airport.
There is a complete vacuum in the market and the abundance of airports to partner with is encouraging. With that in mind, every aspect of the business is geared towards scalability - on the demand side this is mainly achieved through our travel retail chain partnerships, as they each have many portfolio airports.
You brought outside expertise into the business early in the process, with Declan Ryan as an investor. How was that achieved and what benefits have you seen in having an early investor on board?
Coindrum won the ‘Ireland Funds Business Plan’ competition in 2012, which is also where I met Declan (Ryan) and shortly afterwards, closed the first angel round.
Obviously, the money was important as Coindrum is comparatively capital intensive and it allowed me to focus on the business full-time.
More importantly, we also quickly put together an amazing board of experienced Directors. People are everything and especially that early in the process, attaching the strongest team possible to the project is key.
From mentoring to credibility and contacts, I always benefited from prioritising these relationships.
What are your future plans and hopes for Coindrum?
My short-term ambition, is to prove to the industry that our expectations for the market uptake hold true in our imminent first Irish projects.
Once we achieve that, there is little guesswork left; every airport should be a Coindrum partner and we are set up to deliver exactly that.
Why did you decide to put your business idea forward for the ‘Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur’ competition?
It’s crucial to create exposure for yourself and your project - the more events and competitions you show up for, the more people you meet and the more opportunity presents itself, just be prepared to take advantage of it.
The Coindrum team, funding and countless other highlights all originated with a single hand shake at one of these events.
What did you gain from your participation in the Entrepreneurs’ Bootcamp?
The best outcome for me personally was meeting the other entrepreneurs and learning about some of their truly exciting companies. Everybody had a different story, yet there is this immediate bond between like-minded people that are driven to build something out of nothing.
What does winning the ‘Best New Idea’ in Dublin City ‘Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur’ competition mean for Coindrum?
Coindrum is about to go live and the entire industry is awaiting our trial results. To make them a success and secure the consequent scaling path, we need to educate the market place and are thirsty for public exposure.
In airport currency exchange, people are sceptical about getting “ripped off”, our job is to show that we genuinely offer a free service, sometimes even free bonus credit for every transaction.
It’s also the competitive drive of course – there is plenty of that in the room when there can only be one winner.
How has the LEO Dublin City helped your business so far?
Winning the Dublin City ‘Best New Idea’ category in the IBYE competition came with a €10,000 investment prize, which will help make the trials successful.
What business person (at home or abroad) do you admire most and why?
Generally, I try to take advice from people with a successful track record and luckily, quite a few of those are attached to Coindrum. I am very conscious that I am learning different things from each of them and like to think that they manifest in a unique mix that is my own way of doing business.
What advice would you give anyone under 30 who is thinking of starting their own business?
Creating all aspects of a business from the ground up is the most amazing learning experience and although it requires a lot of compromise on other parts of your life, it’s been one of the most rewarding endeavours for me yet.
To find out more about Coindrum, please visit www.coindrum.com or watch the explanation video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Yq2XnNMyd8.
About the #IBYE Competition
Launched by the Government earlier this year, Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition is an integral part of the Action Plan for Jobs 2014 and is supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation through the 31 Local Enterprise Offices around the country. Find out more at www.ibye.ie or by searching #ibye on social media.
Best of luck to Coindrum in the rest of this year’s #IBYE competition!