Startup Story: Paul Morton from Grandma Technology

Boranup, Western Australia

I recently got a chance to speak to Paul Morton from fantastically-named Grandma Technology recently. They are solving the problem of a lack of information about activities and attractions in the south west of Western Australia. Here is their story.

//SN: Hey Paul, tell me a little about what Grandma Technology is.

Grandma Technology has built a software platform to easily and inexpensively support publishing guidebooks in the form of Apps. Our Apps merge the advantages of paper guidebooks and websites while leaving behind the limitations. For example, they supply information and full maps just like you’d expect from a good website but require no internet connectivity to function.

Compared to websites they are much better at supplying information contextual to a person’s location (e.g. show me all public barbecues ordered from their distance from me). The Apps do use the internet for background activities such as periodically updating their content. The Apps have many other features that make them easier and faster to use than paper guidebooks and websites.

We have produced our own App guidebook to showcase the technology. It’s a free Android App (sorry, no Apple version yet – its coming) that is a guide to the Margaret River Region of WA. It describes the best free places and activities in the region. It has surfing, beaches, cycling and hiking content with fully navigable route maps, camping, caves, and much more.

We also have a tightly-coupled website that has some of the same content and supports authoring of the content that is used on the App and website. For example, a restaurant could add a listing via the website and it automatically appears on the App. You can read more about the App by going to this Google Play page, or visit the associated website.

Our business plan is to produce other Apps for other tourism regions based on our core App software. This software is designed to very easily support different databases of content that are produced from information that can be collected by non-technical people. The App platform suits producing guidebooks for anything that has location-dependent information, so the application extends beyond tourism. For example, hiking and mountain biking guidebooks.

Margaret River Find the Fun
Margaret River Find the Fun

//SN: So where did the idea for this come from?

My wife and I moved from Vancouver, Canada, to Dunsborough (a small town in the Margaret River region) in 2008. We found there was very little information about the free places and activities in the area. Websites had some information but it was very fragmented and hard to find. You had to wade through pages of hits, Ads, irrelevant, misleading and out-of-date information. Websites did not work in many places because of coverage black spots. And they were hard to use on small phone screens.

We soon realised this was a big problem both in our local area and further afield. Once a tourist was moving around in our tourism region, armed with a smartphone, they couldn’t really get information from the web without lots of effort and frustration. Our idea was to solve this with an App that didn’t rely on the internet and used smartphone technology to do things that most websites cannot do.

From the very beginning the App software was designed with a complete separation of the content it displays (text, photos, maps, icons, information categories) from the “engine” that displays it. It was designed so that this engine could be reused to produce other Apps for other places and niches. This greatly lowers the cost of an App and allows them to quickly be published.

//SN: Who is your perfect customer, and what problem or challenge does Grandma Technology solve for them?

Our first customer is the user of our App. Our App provides information in places and scenarios where websites and printed material fail. When they are mobile in our tourism region it provides unparalleled convenience. This increases the fun they have – they don’t get frustrated discovering the best things to do and can always safely find places.

Our Margaret River Find the Fun App also charges tourism-related businesses to be on the App. We give these customers a great way to reach mobile tourists. After a tourist has been using our App as a mountain biking or swimming spot guide, they will use it to find somewhere to taste wine or drink coffee. Our App markets their business and uses maps to guide people to them.

Our third class of customer are people and organisations who purchase an App from us. Another tourism region for example. For a tourism region, our App is a great tool for promoting their region and ensuring tourists get the maximum pleasure from their visit. Happier tourists are more likely to convince others to visit and come again themselves. Over time this grows tourism and produces many economic benefits.

//SN: You are based in beautiful south west, right? Do you feel there is a hurdle with being ‘outside the big city’, or is this just nonsense?

Being located in the small town of Dunsborough has not yet been a great limitation to our business. The biggest drawback is our isolation from the Perth technical, startup and investor community (I’m always seeing events at Spacecubed and eGroup that I’d attend if I was in Perth). Closer personal relationship with people in Perth would definitely be a benefit now and as we grow.

More people will need to join our company as we grow. I’m undecided as to whether or not being located in Dunsborough is a disadvantage. It’s very unlikely we’ll find the right software engineering talent locally. If we set up good technology and systems to support remote employees and partners then we can recruit from a much larger talent pool than just Perth.

Not being in Perth will force us down this path from the beginning, and that could be advantageous.

//SN: If there’s one tip that you would suggest to someone with an early stage startup idea, what would it be?

Be prepared for more hard work than you anticipate. A good idea is needed for success but will not result in success. You need to sell it in a world with lots of competition to people bombarded by complex technology. You’ll need to be stubborn!

Margaret River Find the Fun
Margaret River Find the Fun

//SN: Thank you so much for your time, Paul, and best of luck with your app, and future apps!