Wednesday 17 July 2019

Murtagh-backed waterless car-washing business sees demand soar along with temperatures

Emmet O’Brien of No-H20 says the firm is looking to raise further investment in the US as it concentrates on the market there
Emmet O’Brien of No-H20 says the firm is looking to raise further investment in the US as it concentrates on the market there

Ergo:Samantha McCaughren

Just like an ill wind, the drought has brought some good for one businessman - Emmet O'Brien of waterless car-washing company, No-H20.

The business, in which Kingspan chief executive Gene Murtagh invested €400,000 last year, has seen sales in Ireland grow by over 20pc in the past eight weeks. The car-wash service uses a biodegradable liquid cleaner, and the company provides an app-based mobile wash and valet service, as well as bases in several locations such as car parks.

"I wouldn't say we are total eco warriors but a by-product of what we do is saving a huge amount of water - about 130 litres of fresh water per wash," said O'Brien, a former professional race car driver.

Summer is usually the company's quieter season as cars generally don't get as dirty and people are on holidays. "But this has been our best summer to date," he told me. "I wouldn't quite say it's gone viral but it's that kind of effect."

O'Brien, who is now based in the US, told me that the company had engaged in guerilla marketing such as teams turning up at targeted companies and offering complimentary car washes.

O'Brien acquired the global intellectual property rights for the cleaning system in 2014 and the first franchise was established in 2015, in Dubai. In the UK, the business works with car rental companies and is exporting to eight other European countries, New Zealand and Australia, among others. Some 85pc of revenue now comes from outside of Ireland.

Turnover is expected to be €2m said O'Brien who added that he is embarking on a €4m fund-raising drive to back an ambitious US expansion. O'Brien was coy about Murtagh's involvement in the company. "He's been a huge influence on the business. He has seen the opportunity, as we have seen it. He's a very sharp guy."

O'Brien said that while the company is open to further investment from Ireland, he expected that much of the company's future fundraising would be done in the US. "The scale here has taken some time to get used to," he said, speaking from Miami. "If you are up at five in the morning here or 12 at night, the roads are full of cars.

"Americans drive everywhere and it's an average of three to five cars per household, 300 million registered cars and two billion car washes a year."

Which may not bode well for the environment but is a massive opportunity for O'Brien.

Davy takes spiritual turn with archbishop lunch

Investor pitches at Davy’s Dawson Street premises are nothing new but the corporate surrounds will take a more spiritual turn next week. Diarmuid Martin, archbishop of Dublin, will hold a lunch on Tuesday, described as ‘part of a series of private informal business briefings’ relating to the World Meetings of Families, which includes the Pope’s visit.

The invitation was issued to key business people by publisher and TV personality Norah Casey who is working on fundraising fromfor the event.

“The lunch will provide a private space to update the corporate community on the tremendous progress that has been made in preparing for the event, explore ideas and provide details of some of the final remaining sponsorship packages available,” she wrote. She flagged it as ‘small gathering of key leaders’.

As reported in these pages last week, billionaire builder Luke Comer has made a substantial contribution, but I also hear a number of very prominent business people have declined.

 

Another top Eir executive departs the company

The winds of change continue to blow through the halls at Eir since the arrival of Xavier Niel as owner of the telecoms company.

Telecoms veteran Peter Clarke, who is currently managing director of Eir Business, reporting directly to chief executive Carolan Lennon, becomes the latest high-ranking executive to depart the business.

Ergo understands that Clarke decided that he wanted a new challenge after more than two decades in the business.

He was previously MD of Eir’s National Broadand Plan (NBP) tender and is understood to have helped design the strategy that saw the company hatch a plan to bring broadband to the most commercially viable of the rural homes under the scheme, which led to Eir’s exit from the NBP process.

During his time heading up the company’s crucial Open Eir division its profitability jumped. Given that Clarke also managed relationships for the company with the likes of Vodafone, Sky and BT it is hard to see his telephone staying silent for too long.

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Just as Ireland was edging its way out of the recession, Bank of Ireland launched a new type of account, Premier Banking. It was aimed at people earning over €100,000 (or €140,000 for a couple), or customers who have savings of €100,000 but who didn’t have the millions of euros in the bank which might classify them as a high-net-worth individual.

The benefits of the accounts were never that clear — there is a nice black debit card and a dedicated phone line — but the only extra benefit promoted at the launch was two annual free passes into the DAA’s executive airport lounges. More benefits were to follow.

Well after five years, the bank is edging towards some enhanced benefits. A spokeswoman said a pilot Premier Rewards programme began with 500 customers in January. The rewards would naturally be high-end, such as discounts at luxury hotels.

What is perhaps more surprising is that the bank now has over 100,000 Premier customers — a very boom-time number indeed.

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Developer David Daly, who returned to the sector last year after staying under the radar for almost a decade, has been given the go-ahead for the redevelopment of a protected building on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.

The building’s basement houses Peploe’s, a popular spot with well-heeled diners, which is excluded from the plans. The property was built between 1776-9 as one of a pair of houses, by the developer and surgeon Gustavus Hume.

Daly, whose Albany Homes was one of Dublin’s largest and most successful housebuilders before the property crash, will refurbish the house — repairing the historical facade, upgrading a modern office building to the rear, and adding two storeys to the existing office building in the process.

Permission has been granted by Dublin City Council with a wide range of conditions

 

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