MARCH 8, 2016

Lisa from Swimovate tells us how she proved the Dragons wrong …

As amateur triathletes, my husband Jim and I realised that there were plenty of products to monitor performance for runners and athletes, but nothing for swimmers. We talked to retailers, magazines, triathletes and swimmers who all said they would buy a product if it existed. There was a gap in the market and the PoolMate idea was born.

Redundancy in 2007 was the catalyst that made us realise the need to give proper attention to the idea. We had always been on the lookout for opportunities and finally realised that we needed to be proactive. We had an idea that we thought would work and suddenly thought, ‘how would we feel if someone else did it?’

Lisa Irlam Swimovate

With a background in electronics, Lisa and Jim did much of the ground work themselves

To keep costs minimal, we decided to do the majority of work ourselves. With a background in electronics, we created and designed the original PoolMate between us. The development process took two years and quite a few headaches.
There is a lot more to launching a product than just the product development. We had to think about patenting, finding a manufacturer, getting approval testing, reliability and the route to market.

It was at this point I sent off an application to Dragon’s Den and was amazed to get a reply. After weeks of really detailed due diligence and a scary screen test I was invited to be on the show! It was a long day, waiting in the Green Room with other nervous businesses, eventually they just ran out of time. I finally got before the Dragons a week later and was grilled to within an inch of my life. You see ten minutes on the show at the most but in reality it was about ninety minutes of full on questioning (trying to provoke a response for the cameras). I didn’t get the investment and didn’t make a fool of myself, so didn’t even make the editing cut. I was devastated but picked myself up, determined to prove them wrong.

I spent a long time looking for a reliable manufacturer and had a few hiccups on the way. To make the product affordable we had look to China but managed to organise it without spending thousands on costly travel. We used friends in our local swimming club as testers.

Poolmate in blue - Swimovate It forced me to be very creative. I learnt about web design, graphic design and market trends. I spent hours researching the market to fill the gaps in my knowledge. I got the website up and running, made YouTube videos to generate social-media buzz, went directly to retailers, spoke to sports magazines and wrote and submitted a press releases. The launch was a great success.

Within three months, we had covered our development costs, finally reaping the rewards from all our hard work. Five years on and and we have sold over 100,000 watches, the Swimovate brand is still growing and we have since developed several further models and have lots in the pipeline.

It’s a great job and I am so pleased we proved the Dragons wrong!



Thanks Lisa! You can view the full Swimovate range at

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