We talked to Damian Horton of Eloy about being better on the road and here is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Damian Horton: The family is well. My father has just received his first vaccine which is great news and hopefully a sign that we will soon be able to return to normality. My wife and I are really busy and we have 3 children at home. With schools closed, it is hasn’t been easy juggling our various responsibilities. However, it’s been fun getting my older children involved in some Eloy work, helping me test the app, which has been useful as we’ve been unable to work with focus groups or even do any guerrilla coffee-shop testing.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Eloy.
Damian Horton: Eloy has sort of brought my life full circle. I studied mathematics as an undergraduate and postgraduate, with my research thesis in autonomous vehicles. However, this was before any of the advances had been made in connectivity that we are so used to today. There were no smartphones or Google Maps so most of the work I did was hypothetical. As a result, career options in the industry were limited, so I went into financial services and then FinTech, where I met one of my co-founders, Anna Corp.
How does Eloy innovate?
Damian Horton: We are building the most immersive customer interaction with a phone that drivers could wish for. Voice-controlled functions, integrated navigation, car management, and more digital services on top of that. We’re planning on releasing our next version of the app in a few weeks and we think that’s going to be a real game-changer. Unfortunately, I can’t share any details with you yet but watch this space.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Damian Horton: The business was in its infancy when Covid hit. The current team literally had one meeting together before we decided to start working from home for a while as things were looking worrying.
Then the whole country went into lockdown and we’ve been working remotely ever since.
We used the time to find other sources of revenue and start building relationships with customers to who we hope to be able to sell Eloy’s services in the future.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Damian Horton: We’re still only a small team so working remotely hasn’t been too difficult. We make sure we catch up daily even if it’s just a quick call, and then have a longer video call once a week. However, we’re hoping to expand the team shortly, and that will bring its own challenges. Potentially hiring people we’ve never met in person, and then settling them in and bonding with them without being in a workplace or even being able to go out for some team welcome drinks. It’s going to be odd.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Damian Horton: We had to manage the relationship with our b2b customers differently than we normally would. No on-site meetings meant we made good use of Zoom. We also gave them access to all our documentation and work-flow processes for transparency. For our consumer-facing app, we are using social media to start to build a pool of potential customers so that when we are ready to start marketing properly we have a group of people we can target.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Damian Horton: We were ineligible for the Covid grants from the government, as we were such a new business. However, we plan on working with a consortium to apply for some of the grants they have available for innovative technology. It’s great that they can support startup businesses in this way.
Your final thoughts?
Damian Horton: Just like everyone, I can’t wait for Covid to be over! I’m looking forward to getting Eloy into the hands of drivers so we can start to improve their lives. Returning to my children, I have a feeling they probably won’t need to learn to drive a car. Certainly not in the same way that my fellow Gen Xers did in cars with manual gearboxes and almost no technology. I think this change will happen over the next 10 to 15 years and it will be fascinating