A former waste manager has turned his “lightbulb moment” into a flourishing start-up which is saving office furniture and equipment from landfill across the UK.
Daniel O’Connor launched Warp IT in 2011 after seeing his former employer throw hundreds of surplus chairs into a skip.
The entrepreneur inside him spotted an opportunity to find a home for the chairs, and a number of phone calls to local schools and charities confirmed there was a latent demand.
Mr O’Connor then juggled a full time job and a young family while developing the concept behind Warp IT, which applies the “circular economy” principle to a closed social network.
Using £7,000 funding from Newcastle Science City he built a subscription-based networking software which connects organisations and allows them to search and swap surplus equipment – saving on landfill and procurement costs.
Since launching, Mr O’Connor has attracted hundreds of organisations to the platform, including universities, hospitals and local authorities.
Revenue is drawn from a subscription fee from these organisations while schools and charities are offered access for free.
Mr O’Connor, who runs Warp IT alongside his wife and a small number of contractors, said: “We’ve had a great run since launching in 2011. We now have members right across the UK, and have just started to receive enquiries from abroad – including organisations in Canada and Finland.
“We’ve been heavily involved with The Sunderland Partnership from the start of Warp IT, and in December they were recognised as City and Regions category finalists in The Global Circular Economy awards.”
Since 2011, The Sunderland Partnership has seen 360 schools and over 300 not-for-profit organisations collaborate as Warp It members.
The system is now operating city-wide, diverting 4,550 tonnes of waste from landfill and saving a total of over half a million pounds for the partners involved.
Overall, Mr O’Connor estimates that Warp IT members have collectively saved nearly £3m, avoided 33,000 tonnes of waste and 1,000,000 kg of supply chain carbon via the model.
Speaking about his ambitions for the future, Mr O’Connor said: “My goal, which is an ambitious one, is to make Warp IT the first port of call for organisations when they’re thinking about buying or getting rid of equipment.
“I’m also really keen to grow our membership across the North East. We’ve had some great success here so far, but there’s so much more scope for other organisations to come on board.”
Lee Jackson, a commercial and procurement services manager at Northumberland County Council, has worked with Warp IT. He said “The Warp It portal is easy to use and easily applicable to other organisations – if Northumberland can achieve over £60,000 of savings in such a short period of time, other councils with traditionally higher spend could achieve much more.”