CEO of Dotser, Loughnan Hooper is interviewed by The Irish Advantage
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60 Seconds with the Founder of Dotser, Loughnan Hooper
This month we sat down with the Founder & Managing Director of Dotser, Loughnan Hooper. With over 20 years’ experience, Dotser is an award-winning software integration, software development and website development company. Specialising in mobile-first cloud-based web applications for the agritech, tools, machinery and event sectors – for example SuperShow – the fastest growing agricultural shows event management platform in Australia (www.supershow.io)
Why did you decide to set up Dotser?
I have always been interested in IT and an entrepreneurial drive led me to run several small business initiatives from a young age. Being ahead of the curve on general IT and office applications allowed me to develop my skills and gain hands-on experience in database and system projects and this evolved to include hardware and software platform options on the market across many industry sectors.
There was enormous disruption happening in the tech space around 2000. I had significant experience in various IT and marketing roles with considerable knowledge of the web sector. With a growing entrepreneurial desire to work for myself, I decided that if I were to be master of my own destiny now would be the right time to seize the opportunity and set up my own company – Dotser was born.
Exposure to the agricultural sector from a young age, helping out on my grandparent’s farm during summers, and involvement in local community festivals as I developed the business, led me to be seconded to manage the World Sheep Dog trials in 2005 followed closely by involvement with the national livestock show, Tullamore Show and devising the early stages of an online show management system that was to become SuperShow.
At the same time Dotser was providing websites and eCommerce software for a number of Agri machinery dealers which supported their rapid growth and success. I quickly realised the impact online systems can have on the reach and scalability of business and set about taking all my learnings to develop our own cloud-based software platform from the ground up.
Today, our core software platforms: ‘Dotser Agri’, our machinery and parts management software, and ‘SuperShow’, our show management system, power the leading shows and agri suppliers in our key markets (Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK).
Dotser is now a team of 14 like-minded individuals all sharing the entrepreneurial ethos instilled in the company from day 1 (many of whom have come from an agri or event background or have experience with agricultural shows & events, member associations and the agribusiness sector). Our experience and knowledge in the agri sector set us apart from any other.
What are the greatest challenges for your clients when running shows and competitions?
Typically, the event director or show secretary knows the in-depth specifics of their event from managing sponsorship to competitors to trade exhibitors. Having a secure centralised system to allow real time information to be shared with the team is essential to gaining efficiencies and improving processes – freeing up key people by allowing technology to take on the heavy lifting of data entry and repetitive tasks, takes the pressure off at key times when managing a large event.
“For e.g. (as stated in a client testimonial) one of the most time-consuming activities for show organisers is numbering entries and preparing the catalogue for print, which can take several days for a number of volunteers. This system allows one person to complete this task in 15 minutes.”
Your expansion in Australia and New Zealand is going very well. What particular issues are you solving for clients? Where are the opportunities?
We are essentially providing a tried and trusted model for Agricultural Shows to streamline their processes and key functions of running a show – managing membership, sponsorship, competitors and trade on one platform integrated directly with a mobile responsive website streamlines these processes.
The Dotser and SuperShow team are not only very experienced in web development, but key members of the team have been directly involved on the ground managing festivals, events and agricultural shows. This hands-on experience gives us a greater understanding of the key issues and it is likely we have successfully resolved any similar issues that might come up, in the past.
Also, unlike many event management software packages, we provide a significant level of human support at critical points with a dedicated SuperShow support manager throughout the implementation stage.
Our experience in developing a centralised system with the Irish Shows Association which represents 133 agricultural shows across Ireland, highlights the scalability of our software platform which can be replicated on a regional or national level. Working with some of the leading shows across Australia and New Zealand gives us the confidence to replicate the same model in the future.
You recently visited New Zealand and Australia. What did you find out about this market, being on the ground?
Being on the ground at the New Zealand Agricultural Show in Christchurch highlighted that agricultural shows are very similar across the world. The show may have certain idiosyncrasies but for the most part they have the same values and goals.
Similar culture and ‘get on with it’ attitude have allowed SuperShow to be easily adopted as a key administrative tool proving itself time and time again to deliver cost savings and improve the overall production of medium and large-scale events.
What are your plans for this market in 2023?
We now have 8 sizable agricultural shows and Fielday’s across Australia and the largest event of its kind in New Zealand. By sharing the SuperShow story and highlighting the real-life examples of how the platform is helping shows control key functions of the business, other shows are being offered a compelling solution to consider and invest in to run their events more professionally.
Has COVID changed shows and expos forever? Or are things getting back to normal?
I think it’s fair to say that none of us were prepared for a pandemic like COVID and it has been a wakeup call for us all. Being a software platform in the events industry, SuperShow was fundamentally designed to be dynamic and allow event managers to adapt quickly. It forced businesses and events to embrace technology for survival, with some temporarily adopting a virtual model. SuperShow proved to deliver the most comprehensive solution for shows allowing virtual competitions, trade exhibitions, with judging and results being presented on live streaming platforms or through Zoom on their event weekend. This allowed shows to at least keep a basic presence in the annual calendar.
With regards to the return of shows, almost all of our clients reported record breaking attendance and entry numbers this year, so it’s safe to say the shows were missed! It highlighted the public’s interest in local community events and hopefully visitors are suitably impressed to return again in future years.
What are the key benefits you have realised from EI support?
EI has supported us greatly in terms of business expansion consultancy, research and strategic planning reviews and advice.
Just over a year ago, Dotser availed of the Enterprise Ireland Strategic Marketing Review programme. With Dotser being an ideas centric company with a strong, entrepreneurial culture, the SMR was intrinsic to focussing us on our key solutions, markets and strategies. We have many innovative product ideas at Dotser and the opportunities for offshoot solutions tailored at niche sectors are great. The SMR process helped us to really focus on exactly what our prospects needed and wanted at every stage of working with us. This was undoubtedly the key to our sales success in 2022 and we look forward to further success in the years ahead as we implement our focused roadmap.
Additionally, we recently availed of the Market Discovery Fund, which allowed us explore market potential and develop relationships with our target market on the ground in New Zealand and Australia.
We continue to work closely with EI as we expand internationally.
You can learn more about Dotser by visiting www.dotser.com, or following them on their social media channels on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram