Startup Spotlight – Thomas Bibby, Reg Point Of Sale

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Tell us a bit about your background, and when did you first venture into entrepreneurship?
I grew up in Limerick, and left to study Computational Chemistry in Dublin when I was 17. After working in programming in Dublin, I did two years’ volunteer work in West Africa, which led to a move to working in the non-profit sector when I came back to Dublin. Just over four years ago I felt the lure of programming again, and so I left my job to start Reg.
When did you first spot the need for Reg? What problem is it solving?
Two of my friends were opening a café in 2012, and as the nerd in my group of friends, they asked me to look into till systems. The available options were expensive, difficult to use and based on outdated technology. Reg is an iPad point of sale system focused on ease of use, simplicity and stability. It puts independent retailers in control of their business.

How did you get the business off the ground?
I didn’t want to take any outside investment, so I ‘bootstrapped’ by finding paying customers at the very start. Word of mouth has always been our strongest asset in growing the business, right from the early days.

What is it like being a husband and wife team: do you have to make a conscious effort to ‘switch off’ from the business side of things?
We’re doing a bit better these days! For the first few years it really was 24/7 but we’ve tried to reclaim some of our weekends recently. Making a conscious effort to switch off from the business has helped us to make better decisions – sometimes you’re so immersed that it is difficult to make strategic decisions.
What made you decide to move and do business here in Limerick? What is the start up/small business community like here?
When I left Limerick at 17 I honestly never thought I’d be back. I met Sheila at a work event and we got married in Dublin in 2006. Two years later we moved to Limerick. We’re both big fans of Limerick as a place to live and as a great place to run a tech start-up due to a combination of low cost of living, great connectivity, and Limerick’s status as a creative city.

What kind of relationship do you have with your clients?
One of our biggest selling points about our system is that it is so stable and easy to use that you’ll never need to call us, so we never hear from most of our customers! But now that we have over 100 customers we’ve learnt a lot about the challenges that new independent retailers face, and we do our best to share our expertise with our customers.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a business?
The year before our product launch was a very stereotypical startup situation – I was doing 12 hour days, 7 days a week, just hammering out code. I think after launch I had two months where I was ‘burnt out’ – I was just so mentally exhausted, it was a real challenge to keep going. It was a reminder that I’m no longer a spring chicken at 37! Work life balance is important not only for your personal well-being, but for your professional productivity as well.

Who are your role models in life and work?
It might be a cliché, but I really admire our customers, most of whom are independent owner-managed retailers, including seven out of the Top 100 restaurants in Ireland. Being an independent retailer is a really hard job, and I admire our customers’ tenacity and commitment to excellence. Part of our aim is to put some of the tools that the big chains have into the hands of independents to help them compete.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out?
Build a great product that you can be proud of, and be wary of those who offer you advice!

What does success look like to you?
Last week we gave a donation to a not-for-profit cafe in Dublin, Our Table, which aims to provide training for people who have been granted asylum in Ireland. Being able to give back to projects such as this makes me immensely proud.

What does the future hold?
We’ve a fantastic customer base here in Ireland and I’m hoping to extend this to the UK next year by appointing our first distributors. Our focus is on slow, sustainable growth of the business so picking the right partners who understand what we do will be crucial.

Article by: Kayleigh Ziolo

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