£126.44 – some people may recognise this amount instantly. Some people will have paid more, some less, but it’s always paid through gritted teeth. This is the amount it costs to replace your cracked iPhone screen at the Apple store.

Broken screens are more than a first-world problem limited to mobile phones, in business it means loss of productivity and bespoke screens could cost you up to thousands of pounds to replace. To prevent this, South West-based startup Tuffscreen has engineered a screen protector using unique multi-layered gel technologies and it boasts it’s the best one in the world.

“The technology we use is completely unique, there’s no other screen protector like it”

 

tristan fowler profil pic TuffScreenTechSPARK caught up with Tristan Fowler, founder of Tuffscreen, to find out how he is saving our screens. He tells us, “The technology we use is completely unique, there’s no other screen protector like it available on the global market. Add this to the fact that in tests we are more than twice as protective as any competitor product and we think we’re on to a winner!”

Like most startups, the idea came from humble beginnings, Tristan was working for an organisation that supplied credit card terminals to airlines and they saw high rates of screen breakage.

TuffSCreen three layered screen protectorHe tells us, “I spent some time doing some materials research and developed the Tuffscreen screen protector. My employer at the time decided they weren’t able to commit to the cost of the product development cycle so allowed me to purchase the technology along with the IP, trading rights, etc, and set up in business, that was nearly five years ago!”

Tough tech

Tuffscreen’s winning formula is a multi-layered approach, Tristan explains, “We chemically bond a hardsheet to a gel layer to produce the screen protector. The gel layer acts as the self-adhesive and impact-absorbing layer, while the hardsheet provides an anti-scratch, anti-glare and anti-fingerprint top surface that is soft to the touch. All this, without inhibiting the touch response or visual clarity.”

Engineering technology that defies the forces of nature was obviously a large problem that Tristan needed to overcome, he tells us, “The major challenge was the product development cycle; working with a bespoke gel and trying to work with it outside of the manufacturers’ recommended tolerance levels.”

“The network of contacts and businesses I have in the South West has been invaluable”

 

However, being involved in the South West tech community has helped him overcome some of the difficulties that come with being an entrepreneur, he adds, “The network of contacts and businesses I have in the South West has been invaluable to me so far, from legal and marketing advice to investment opportunities and customer enquiries. On top of this the network of institutions such as the University of the West of England and the University of Bristol that are able to assist in providing expertise and research.”

When the going gets tough

Tristan is also a member of Entrepreneurial Spark – the world’s largest free business incubator. Being part of this is something that he would recommend to any startup. He says, “It’s a really fantastic accelerator focused on the founder, rather than the business. Their view is that a capable and flourishing founder will make any business succeed so their focus is on provoking thought leadership and developing the actions and mentality of those leading the businesses.

“There’s a really close support network which is important for any business owner”

 

“The facility itself is superb and being able to work with and draw upon the expertise of so many other exciting businesses and committed entrepreneurs means there’s a really close support network which is important for any business owner especially in the start-up stages.”

Successes for Tuffscreen include rolling their product out across most sectors of industry with customers such as WHSmith, The Range, Argos, Warburtons, Greggs, Heathrow Express and Müller Dairy Crest all equipping their workforce with Tuffscreen tech.

“Start with the customer requirement in mind and solve their problem”

 

TuffScreen laser cutting screen protectorsAnd Tristan has advice for others hoping to startup and achieve similar success, “Do it! Unreservedly go for it! Make sure you’ve effectively validated your product and you’re sure you’ve got a market for it, so put the market demand ahead of a solution. Too many businesses come up with a fantastic product but then can’t find enough customers because they didn’t do their market research, so start with the customer requirement in mind and solve their problem.”

Taking the Tuff to market

To grow his company, Tristan is turning his attention to the consumer market and bring their industrial-strength screen protector to the everyday gadget. He says, “The consumer brand launch is the next big thing on the horizon, with an e-Commerce site and an Amazon web-shop in the pipeline we’ll have plenty of places for people to buy the product, we now just need to drive the customer to the stores and we’ll be flying.

“The quality and performance of the product speaks for itself”

 

“The quality and performance of the product speaks for itself but we just need to market it to enough people so they know that it exists!” He adds, “I’m always looking for routes to market, whether that’s access to customers directly, or via distributors or other less traditional market places. So if anyone has any expertise in this area that would be superb! [You can contact Tristan here] Social media and online marketing are still a bit of a mystery to me so I’d love to be taught by an expert!”

Tuffscreen device charging system
 

Tuffscreen’s latest product is a range of cases that combine their protection technology with additional battery capacity (pictured above). Life-saving tech, huh!

If you are interested in finding out more about Tuffscreen products for business you can visit the Tuffscreen website. You can also keep up with Tuffscreen by following them on Twitter