Mole app: an anti-theft deterrent for tradespeople

The company

The concept for Mole app was born whilst founder Mike Flanagan was working in operations for a building contractor in Yorkshire. The owner’s van was broken into and £13k worth of equipment stolen in a matter of minutes over the lunch hour. 

At first what appeared as an isolated inconvenience that would be covered by insurance, unearthed a massive underlying problem that the industry deals with on a daily basis. Mike discovered that many in the trade do not have their equipment insured due to the increased premiums related to repeated claims and the increase in van break-ins. 

In the UK, a van is broken into every 23 minutes, this can cost the victims £14,000 when tool replacements, repairs and loss of earning are factored in. For the 4.5 million smaller commercial vans on the UK roads, there needs to be a deterrent that is focused on the tradesperson and built for their industry.

After months of research, Mike couldn’t find this solution and set about building Mole, a live video feed app to prevent the content theft of commercial vehicles.

During the initial stage of Mole, Mike started to work for a retail-tech company in London. It was here he met his co-founder Sara. After numerous conversations, Sara found the underserved SME construction industry interesting, and saw the parallels between the independent retailers that she built her company with and the SME contractors. The similarities primarily included the under-digitalised inventory and lack of knowledge of the after purchase behaviour, and location of inventory.

Van break-ins impact virtually the entire value chain of the construction industry and can be devastating financially and mentally for those involved. Mole’s solution is born out of this, to provide an anti-theft deterrent for those who we rely on. Mole App’s solution is tradesperson first.

Mike and Sara discuss how the Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry has helped them to build Mole app.

What were the highlights of the course?

Highlights included the collaboration with the Great Manchester Cyber Foundry team, analysing limitations to establish what was needed to push the project forward, and knowing what we needed to have in place before running tests, as well as having access to a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.

How has being on the course helped you as an individual?

It has made the business look at the project from different angles. As it’s a technology that’s been done before the assumption was that you could put something in there and see how it works which in fact is more of a complicated solution.

How has being on the course helped your business?

It has driven the business on dramatically and moved the product to the point where we have something tangible to demonstrate which helps tremendously and has attracted investment. We’ve previously spent time establishing partnerships and relationships which called for proof of concept, which we now have and which can be used as a demo.

Is there anything you do now in your business that you wouldn’t have otherwise done? 

Now we have a consideration for the ever-changing technical side of the business and cyber security. Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry has opened our eyes to robotics, which was previously on the roadmap for further down the line, however now is incorporated for all roll outs. Before Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry the focus was on having the minimum viable product (MVP) built and utilising the connected camera from an existing off the shelf product, however we are now building the connected Mole Device.

Would you recommend the course to other people? Why?

Absolutely, by working with Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry, Mole app was able to: Refine the app and app development, gain a report on GDPR, pitch Deck iterations and gain a full and clearer understanding of taking the product to the pilot stage. Everyone on the team has been a pure joy to work with and the course helps you to analyse your business. Everything exceeded our expectations.

Have you had any recent successes in your business as a result of the programme?

Yes, we’ve attracted new interest from investors in the business.

Do you have any advice for other small to medium-sized businesses?

Our advice would be to be very open minded and don’t assume you have the answer to the problem, we assumed we had a lot of the answers and certain things would be easier than they were i.e. motion sensors and battery life. Don’t have too many assumptions and expect that your assumptions will be challenged quite a lot.

What was the best thing about your partnership with the universities?

The association with the University of Salford has added credibility to the business. It has given us access to so many extremely qualified academics from various disciplines for the project, we felt lucky having the ability to work with them at the same time. The funding from Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry has helped the business evolve and grow faster. We’ve been able to recognise and identify the different disciplines required for building Mole.

The highlight was when we decided to locate the business to Manchester, we faced a lot of resistance. Working with Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry has proved that it was the right decision and having the product and business built in Greater Manchester is the best thing for Mole.

Find out more about the Mole app