For someone with a disability, finding a hotel to stay in, an outlet to shop in or a pub to drink in is not as simple as checking out good Tripadvisor reviews.
Accessibility is still a huge problem today. Entrepreneur Matt McCann is working to help improve the issue.
Through his app Access Earth, individuals around the world can find and rate places based on their accessibility needs.
We spoke to Matt to find out more about his innovative startup journey to date.
Where did the idea for Access Earth come from?
When I was in college I went on holidays over to London with a couple of friends. We booked a hotel that said it was wheelchair accessible. I use a rollator to get around so I need some level of accessibility. When I got to the hotel there were three steps up to the entrance and I couldn’t fit the rollator inside the room. If it wasn’t accessible to me, it definitely wasn’t accessible to someone in a wheelchair.
Because I was doing computer science anyway, I thought this would be a great way to put that to good use. Over that year I developed the first version of it. The idea came from the lack of information out there really.
How did you research the idea?
I had some connections at organisations like the Irish Wheelchair Organisation. I asked them, ”Is this just me or is this a bigger problem?” and they told me it was a problem that a lot of people faced.
A big part of it is raising awareness as well. Even in the last few years, it has become a lot more prevalent than when I was starting out.
How did the company grow?
We’ve got about 80,000 places rated and we’ve got about five to six thousand users spread over the US and Europe. We got the Enterprise Ireland Competitive Start Fund recently so we can really get on with it now.
We actually hired our first full-time employee last week. Between interns, part-time and contract people we have a team of about 6 people at the moment. It’s been great so far.
Why do you think Access Earth has been so successful?
I think because we have the immediate global focus. It’s in the name. We’re not trying to start in a particular town or country. Social media has helped with that. Every day we are getting random enquiries from people in India and Scandinavia and places like that, it’s great!
What has been the company’s biggest achievement to date?
We were given an award for an innovative practice 2018 at the United Nations Zero Project conference this year. I got to talk on a panel there at the UN in Vienna so that was great. For me, getting that exposure at the UN has been fantastic.
What has been the biggest challenge?
I guess it’s been being able to pursue all the different opportunities that we have currently. I want to be able to chase every opportunity that we can but I know that with the limited team that we have at the moment we can’t do that so it’s picking those battles.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their own business?
Make sure it is something you enjoy because it’s going to be your life for the next couple of years. When I’ve been pitching to people I’ve found that they invest in your passion for it. If you don’t love what you’re doing it’s going to come across.
How do you measure success in the company?
Metrics-wise it’s the number of places that are getting rated and the number of users that we get every day. It’s also the random messages that we get sent in saying that we have helped someone.
What do you wish people knew about the website?
I guess just that it’s out there. That’s the big challenge, getting that awareness that there are resources available.