Dane Ralston.



What is your business called?


Where is it based?

Finnieston, Glasgow.

What does it produce, what services does it offer?

iOpt uses data analytics, high tech sensors and the latest Internet of Things (IoT) technology to allow owners and managers of large residential rental property portfolios to monitor the internal environment of their assets from afar. iOpt’s bespoke algorithms and machine learning techniques predict when and where issues such as mould growth will arise, allowing preventative intervention before repair costs or tenant health issues escalate. The technology vastly reduces the amount of property visits, cutting down on carbon emissions, whilst helping to identify and support vulnerable tenants who may be struggling with fuel poverty.

To whom does it sell?

To anybody who owns or manages over 500 residential rental properties, including

Social Housing providers, private investment companies or the military.

What is its turnover?

iOpt is still in early stage development. We have been revenue generating from day one, on paid for pilot projects.

How many employees?

Four but we are looking to employ more including a Chief Operating Officer.

When was it formed?

April 2016.

Why did you take the plunge?

Before setting up iOpt, I was involved in another business, Losstek, which I founded in 2012 along with two other business partners. Essentially Losstek existed to help asset managers to reduce losses reduce losses in the electricity distribution network. I was at a Smart City event with Losstek and was approached by an employee of Renfrewshire Council who was interested in talking to us about asset management and tracking. My background is in asset management and tracking within the automotive and aerospace industries. We set up a pilot project for the Council based on an analysis of their requirements. The project went so well that we took the plunge and set up a separate company. At first, I was running both companies, but iOpt began to do so well that I decided to work on iOpt full time.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

Before running Losstek I was a senior level general business manager with several leading UK based and international companies, including Goodrich Aerospace and Linn Products Limited. In these roles I built award-winning relationships at board level with customers and partners such as Aston Martin and Turkish Airlines. My various roles over the years have involved a significant amount of innovation especially in arenas where asset monitoring is key to extending the life of, and optimising, the performance of critical assets.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

Initially contact with Mactaggart & Mickel was made via a friend of my wife’s. I approached them along with another American investor with a funding request. As a result, we received a £600K investment boost. This came from Mactaggart & Mickel Investments, our lead investor, alongside two other corporate investors, the Scottish Investment Bank and a US-based global leader of IoT technologies. We also received funding from several individual investors. We specifically sought out value-adding investors with expertise in the property, data and tech sectors.

What was your biggest break?

Meeting the Head of Asset Management at Renfrewshire Council at the Smart City event three and a half years ago. He was looking for a remote asset monitoring system for the Council’s properties.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

I enjoy networking and working with people in the industry. I love the fact that not only are we helping customers to save money, we are helping them to protect the health of their tenants. The scale of opportunity is massive, and we have a chance to create a significant difference around fuel poverty and tenant health.

What do you least enjoy?

Administration. I prefer the big picture, strategy type stuff!

What is your biggest bugbear?

Big companies that don’t innovate and aren’t prepared to work with small companies who can help them; although we do have some excellent big customers who are very forward thinking and innovative, such as housing provider Places for People..

What are your ambitions for the firm?

To be the leading company in predictive maintenance and asset monitoring in housing globally, and to make an impact for our customers and their tenants.

What are your five top priorities?

1. Building the product.

2. Learning from our customers .

3. Delivering for our customers.

4. Building a quality team.

5. Educating the sector on the value of what we do.

What single thing would most help?

A customer coming on board for our first large scale roll out. We have lots of positive pilot projects going on, which will eventually lead to a next stage, but it is a slow moving and cautious industry.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

As a start-up company we have been very fortunate to have benefitted from lots of Government support, including receiving funding from Scottish Enterprise and a business start-up grant from Renfrewshire Council, business advice and an EU funded start up grant to buy laptops for the company.

There is so much support available for entrepreneurs if you are willing to go look for it. We have been really pleased with the support we’ve received to date.

The biggest difficulty for us was to find affordable office space. Local Government subsidised co-working spaces tend to be in city centre locations which are difficult to get to and cost a fortune for the business in parking fees. This is an issue which should be addressed.

In addition, currently the EU is a big source of funding for start-ups and we have certainly benefitted from grants offered through the EU. I hope that the Westminster and Scottish governments have a contingency plan in place once Britain leaves the EU. This hole in start-up funding could be potentially disastrous for start-ups in the UK.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

To listen to what customers are saying and what their challenges are; don’t try and overcomplicate in the initial stages.

How do you relax?

By spending time with family and getting outdoors, either sailing, hill walking or skiing. Sailing is my overriding passion. I am a former member of the National Olympic Development team in Sailing and I have won seventeen European or National sailing championships to date.