Inside MEEM: the British company making data backup simple
Too good to be true?
Sumner said he came out of his first meeting with Anil Goel convinced that “if it did what it said it was going to do, I thought it was amazing”. He then spent the next few weeks touring all the major telcos in Europe and the US to do his “due diligence” and find out if there was anything else like MEEM on the market. “There wasn’t, so I was in,” he said.
There are, of course, now cloud backup services built into Android and iOS, but Sumner says his research shows people simply don’t use them. “Even if you sit in front of the platform holders, they will tell you they [consumers] don’t use it,” he said. “People really don’t trust the cloud.
‘Where is my stuff? Who’s looking at my pictures?’ They’re not using it because they don’t trust it, and they don’t know what it means. ”
In fact, Sumner says one of his biggest challenges has been to convince people that MEEM can actually make backup as foolproof as he claims. “When I went round the telcos, they were saying ‘it’s not possible’. So when we produced the first samples, we had them engraved with ‘it’s possible’ just to have a little dig.”
However, with a backup solution as simple as putting a flash memory chip inside a charging cable, there is a danger that others will rip off Goel’s idea. Sumner is not blind to the risk. “We have patents and they’re very strong patents,” he said. “We took the best part of seven years to get them approved in North America and Europe. If you are charging via a cable and backing up at the same time, you’ve broken our patent. It’s very broad.”
The need for an app to handle the backup process gives the company another level of protection. “I don’t believe either Google or Apple would allow people to infringe our patents or deliver apps that would infringe our patents.”
Sharing the spoils
MEEM has been partly financed by crowdfunding – £700,000 of its £2.5 million funds have come from investors online. But MEEM didn’t use Kickstarter or Indiegogo to create pre-orders for its product. Using Crowdcube, MEEM gave investors an equity stake in the company, with around 6% of the firm now owned by small investors.
If MEEM hits its ambitious targets, the crowdfunders won’t just get a one-off product, but a genuine return on their investment. The firm aims to sell five million units next year, and 12 million the year after. But that will still leave 499 out of every 500 smartphone owners to chase. With MEEM cables costing from £50 for the 16GB model, there’s potential to become a billion-pound company.
The company’s not stopping at smartphones, though: a tablet version is in the works and Sumner plans to attack the laptop market soon. “Independent research said we would sell, in the first three years, between 23 and 27 million cables,” he said. “If we did that, I’d be a very happy man. If we sold more, I’d be even happier.” Certainly happier than he was batting balls back to his tennis coach anyway.