Limerick Business Leader: Digital disruptor aiming to drive through changes

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Innovator: Iain Gilmore, who founded Lynk Mechanic receives an award from Dr Vincent Cunnane, LIT president, and Mary Casey at the LIT New Frontiers Startup Awards

Innovator: Iain Gilmore, who founded Lynk Mechanic receives an award from Dr Vincent Cunnane, LIT president, and Mary Casey at the LIT New Frontiers Startup Awards

Iain Gilmore heads Lynk Mechanic, which aims to change the way car experts do business locally and nationally.

Tell us a little about Lynk Mechanic:

Put simply, LynkMechanic makes car maintenance an online experience.  We live and operate in an online world. Everything from clothes to travel and groceries are transacted online. The only thing which is not, at the moment, is getting your car repaired. I feel the independent mechanic is probably the most under-rated tradesperson on the planet! Trained to fix cars, they do not have the tools to digitally engage with motorists, nor to access the technical data necessary to carry out tasks for today’s connected cars. However, LynkMechanic is changing this.

How is this happening?

LynkMechanic is ‘digitally disrupting’ this vast market by deploying innovative tablets with cloud based software into the independent garage sector and supply chain. It allows three things to happen: motorists can book car repairs directly from their phone or device to their local garage through our booking platform, the garage then receives the order and some information, then the garage supply chain, motor factors and wholesalers, receive their orders digitally and are now connected not only to the garage, but also the motorist. Communications are improved, there is less time spent on the phone, and a better quality of experience for the motorist and the mechanic. 

What does your own role entail?

LYNKMechanic has a core founding team of three people.  Shane McCarthy is LynkMechanic’s chief digital officer. He is a social media strategist and recognised as one of Ireland’s foremost thought leaders on social engagement, digital marketing, online engagement and digitisation.  Sean Conway is an electronics engineer and LynkMechanics chief technical officer. After 14 years in corporate, Sean’s passion for cars and all things automotive drove him to retrain as a car mechanic and open his own garage. He lectures in automotive engineering as well as running his own garage. Meanwhile, we have an extended team of 11 different corporate partners and 63 people helping develop our products.

And yourself?

My role is the chief executive of LynkMechanic. Raising finance is also a major part of what I do these days, as well as the commercial side of the business. We now need to raise funds to keep developing and deploying our solutions out into the independent garage sector to help mechanics and motorists.  As we have been in research for last 18 months, we’ve now built and deployed version one of our products and have probably four more more development cycles to go through to get everything right.  I’m a former rally driver and passionate about all things automotive. I’ve over 25 years commercial and operations experience in industry, worked and done business in 22 different countries with multiple  different nationalities.

Where were you born and raised?

I’m a ‘Blue’ for my troubles! I was born and raised in Dublin.  Cornelscourt and Rathfarnham was where I spent my childhood. I came to Limerick as an 11-year-old, and lived in Castleconnell for a number of years. I’m now living in the beautiful twin towns of Ballina/Killaloe.

What is your educational background?

I started in Blackrock College while I was in Dublin. Moving to Limerick I went to St Clements College. I still have great friends from my Clements days. I studied business studies and industrial management at UL, and also trade union studies and labour law.

How did you get to where you are today?

I joined Fitzgerald Packaging as a production supervisor, and developed into production and operations management. As general manager, I did an MBO of the business. We started a rationalisation programme designed to set the business up for the globalisation of what was a rapidly changing business. We re-located to the Burlington Complex beside UL, however a fire at Shannon Development’s neighbouring facility destroyed our power supply, and the subsequent battles to get insurance companies to pay up forced the closure of this long standing important employer in the region. An overseas stint in site development and waste to energy re-built my appetite for business, however the banking sector implosion curtailed this as the fuel of development is lending, and no credit means no lending.

Why did you decide to set up the company?

I think entrepreneurship should have an antidote! Some kind of treatment program to cure the addiction. It’s a drug for me. For some reason, despite the challenges, I wake up and go for it every day. We don’t have our entrepreneurship culture sorted in this country. We talk about, it’s bandied about, but it’s not recognised with the priority it needs.  Businesses are the backbone of an economy. They are the economy, as there would be no economy but for the taxes paid by businesses and their employees.

What are your goals for the next 12 months?

To drive the development of LynkMechanic. As fast as possible. It’s a fantastic suite of products and a fantastic team. We’re based in the Nexus Innovation Centre in University of Limerick, and also out of Limerick Institute of Technology, both these entities have contributed massively to where we are today. We have our version one up and running since May, we’re figuring out what’s good and bad about it, and moving to version two in the coming months.

We know, as this area is so new and unique, we will have to go through probably five development cycles to fine tune the systems and get them suitable for mass deployment. I also enjoy mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs, I do a bit of that, as my experiences and war stories are enough to fill a couple of books. I’d like to do more of that, and talk also to the state’s supporter’s of entrepreneurs, as they need mentoring as well, the harsh commercial world isn’t the same as viewed from a state secured job. We need to get behind new businesses, help, not hinder. Take down the barriers to aspiring entrepreneurs, we need to teach it in secondary school, de-mystify the subject. Keep it simple.

In business and life, who do you look up to?

Richard Branson and Virgin are companies I have long admired. From controversial roots, and the school of hard knocks, Richard recognised that de-risking projects and collaborative partnerships have a far higher chance of being a commercial success than blindly going it alone. That’s why, if you look at what Virgin do as a business model, in every new commercial opportunity they enter, they partner with expertise from within the industry segment they are competing in. In many of Virgin’s businesses, they are minority shareholders, even if the business bears it’s brand. Virgin are very strong on people, they empower their employees to go do their job, give them the tools to do them, and let them get on with it. On the home front, I’m a huge admirer of Hugh O’Donnell’s massive achievements with Kentz. Again, teamwork, building teams, empowering teams, and communications and developing tools help to the teams has been Hugh’s hallmarks. Nothing is achieved in business without people, and trust in people.

In business and life, are you guided by any particular motto?

I love the lyrics of Chumbawamba. ‘I get knocked down, but I get up again You are never gonna keep me down’. My father Eamonn Gilmore, a well respected businessman in Limerick and further afield, this a maxim I love’. There is no such thing as I can’t”

Away from work, what are your pastimes and hobbies?

I try to keep the body and head in reasonable nick. I’m a regular gym goer, runner and cyclist, I also played a lot of tennis until an injury two years ago. Injury all sorted so must get my rackets dusted down, but LynkMechanic is all consuming at the moment, so I think the gym will have to do for now. Hopefully the courts will still be there when I get some time back!