Jo tragically lost her husband in an accident in 2018 which led to her moving back to a cottage close to her family’s farm in Cornwall. While the cottage was undergoing renovation work Jo and her three children were staying in a nearby caravan where space was limited; leading them to want to undertake more days out and go exploring. Despite this desire they found it much more difficult than they originally thought with many local beaches and beauty spots not having the full facilities they required or being turned away for safety concerns caused by high tides and strong currents.
This led Jo to start seeking better, real-time information about facilities & safety at Cornish beaches but found this information lacking in the public domain. She then started speaking to official bodies like the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) who introduced her to a Met-Office-led and University-of-Plymouth-linked real-time rip current tracker which was not publicly available. They would however support someone making this information accessible to the public to improve safety and this is where the nucleus of the idea for My Coast, an app which integrates real-time safety, facilities and activity information for Cornish beaches, started.
Jo has worked as a chartered accountant for many years as well as having built and sold successful businesses before so she was confident she was the right person to deliver a digital solution which would help people plan better, safer days out and boost local tourism in Cornwall. That said she had no experience on the technical side of how to actually build an app, so she knew she needed to reach out for expert help and advice to get started.
“I’ve always been driven and never been afraid of so-called impossible projects. I needed something to focus the mind after the death of my husband and I had the capital and the drive to push on and do it.”
She turned to her friend, next-door neighbour and super-connector business coach for help who in turn recommended her to ATI2. After submitting her proposals and some initial meetings ATI2 took Jo on as a client, who mostly wanted help with market research & competitor analysis to establish a need for the app.
This work was undertaken by ATI2’s Innovation Research Champion who compiled an in-depth dossier of what was already out there and how this compared to the My Coast proposal. It found that while some of them covered parts of the My Coast remit, no single-source covered all of the integrated data and information that My Coast was proposing in terms of attractions, events, activities, facilities and safety.
“The work undertaken by ATI2’s Innovation Research Champion was absolutely instrumental to the project. It helped me demonstrate the need for the app and then sell that need to stakeholders to generate necessary investment and buy-in.”
With the need for the app demonstrated Jo was more determined and motivated than ever to get the ball rolling on the project and so started recruiting for a developer who could deliver a prototype of the app in an ambitious timeframe. 34 developers applied but only two thought it was possible within the timeframe, her eventual choice delivered it within just 15 weeks. This initial version of the app went live in July 2022 with funding from South West Water & Aerospace Cornwall, it currently covers three beaches and already has 3,000 downloads. Jo is looking to apply for Cornwall Council’s Shared Prosperity Fund to roll out the app further and hopes to cover all 58 RNLI covered beaches by Spring 2023.
“None of this would have been possible without the help from ATI2. The learning gained from the market research & competitor analysis was vital, I had never done any of this before.”
With a foothold in Cornwall Jo is already thinking big about the future of My Coast by generating more investment to implement new features like emergency service push notifications as well as expanding into London and Europe starting with Helsinki. She is also thinking of expanding the remit of My Coast away from just beaches in a few years if the app proves successful and popular.