10 hot Irish Startups to watch for in 2013
Dublin might still be struggling with recession, but that does not seem to bother the local startup scene. When the largest companies in the world are choosing Ireland as their European home, local startups are definitely on the rise and we’ve gone to find the hottest ones for you to watch out for.
Unlike many other booming tech scenes around the globe, Ireland’s startup community is still contending with a recession embattled economy, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped the local tech scene from becoming one of the most promising and investment-attractive scenes in all of Europe.
Maybe it’s the pubs that can be found on nearly every street corner (usually also in the middle of the street) or maybe it’s the fact that Ireland’s tech scene has the largest number of developers per capita in the world (albeit still somewhat small in direct one-to-one comparisons) or the somewhat alarming flexible tax rules. Whatever the reason, Dublin has managed to establish itself as the technology capital of all of Europe. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga and others, all have chosen Dublin as their home for their European HQ – and that in-turn has driven the surprising growth behind the city’s vibrant tech scene.
The startup scene in Dublin is still quite young, but there’s plenty of action going on even at this stage. With 4 local VCs, 3 Startup Accelerators (Dogpatch Labs, Wayra and the NDRC’s Launchpad) and large European VCs keeping an eye from afar, the Irish scene currently has a little over $250M worth of warm cash waiting to be invested in new promising startups as they arise. According to the local entrepreneur community, that’s enough for just about a few dozen companies to emerge from the scene each year, but the survival rate for these startups is incredibly low. Furthermore, besides for the Orchestra acquisition by EngineYard a couple of years back, we still haven’t heard of anything “big” coming out of Ireland yet leaving the Gaelic Isle plenty still left to prove before it can be considered to be living up to its full potential.
Keeping all of the above in mind, one short trip to Dublin was all it took to find some pretty interesting companies that are definitely worth keeping an eye on. Here’s the hottest of the bunch:
Founders: Eoghan McCabeand, Des Traynor, Ciaran Lee, and David Barrett
Funding: $7.75M from 500 Startups, Freestyle Capital, The Social+Capital Partnership, David Sacks, Biz Stone, Andy McLoughlin and other angels.
A startup from Polaris Ventures’ Dogpatch Labs in Dublin, Intercom.io is the developer of a customer relations management tool (CRM) designed specifically for web and SaaS businesses. The main attraction of this platform is a one-step integration allowing for all the data within a given database to be automatically updated, tracking everything that goes on in the system from customer registrations, to actions customers perform (or don’t perform) in the system, as well as the monitoring and management of feedback via e-mail and social media.
Just a few months back, Intercom raised an A round valued at $6M from The Social+Capital Partnership alongside Freestyle Capital and David Sakes – the CEO of Yammer – and added Facebook’s Pail Adams to the team to serve as the new head of product design. The company already has over 2500 active businesses using their platform with big names that include the like of Bit.ly, Heroku and Github. With the SaaS market expected to grow to $75B in 2014 and CRM grabbing a whopping 40% chunk of that pie according to globally renowned research firm, Forrester – we’re expecting Intercom.io to be an important player in this space.
Founders: Dan Barry, Martin Gallagher and Mikel Gainza.
The glory days of Guitar Hero might be long gone, but ever since its success many companies have jumped on the the hyped up guitar game bandwagon. Although at first glance, Riffstation does look like just another “Learn-how-to-play guitar” app, one of a dozen others we’ve seen over the last few years, it appears that Barry and the gang have managed to utilize their years of Audio DSP background to bring something completely unique to their solution.
Unlike other guitar platforms on the market, Riffstation is not your basic beginners tool and is mainly used today by professional guitar players to learn new chords, master riffs and create custom jam tracks in any genre of music you can think of. The highlight of the PC/Mac Riffstation app is its ability to import an audio file of pretty much every format known to man (or computer) and auto-detect a song’s chords, display them in real time in an audio waveform graphic and provide diagrams that demonstrate exactly where your fingers should be placed on the guitar, and when. The software even allows for the isolation and removal of guitar sequences from specific songs, affording the user greater control over their music while granting them the ability to grab specific sequences of a songs to create their own custom tracks with.
Although they’re looking at developing a mobile version in the future, Riffstation remains a PC/Mac based software that’s yours for a one-time purchase/download. Barry shared with us that the company already enjoys hundreds of downloads every month and is now currently operating at a profit. With a skilled team and a unique product we see it being only a matter of time until one of the larger guitar manufactures or another big player in the music industry takes a good long look at these guys.
Founders: Brendan O’Driscoll, Aidan Sliney and Craig Watson.
Funding: NDRC Launchpad.
The youngest of the rising stars in the Irish tech scene broke straight out of NDRC’s launchpad accelerator program as the winner of its winter 2013 startup batch. Soundwave’s App (for Android and iOS) is yet another music discovery app, albeit with its own little twist. Soundwave’s app tracks the songs you listen to on your smartphone every time a song is played, factoring in a number of variables including song-based background information (track name, artist, album etc), the location of the user and the time the song was played, before pinging this information to its database in real time. The information is used by Soundwave to create a new music discovery experience for the user based on the latest music trends as filtered by personal listening habits including location to genre based preferences and social network input.
The simple but sound (pun intended) business model behind Soundwave at this point in their life-cycle is affiliation. When users discover new songs through the app and choose to download them from iTunes or the Play store, the company receives a 5-10% commission off the purchase price.
Whether it’s because of their app’s beautiful design or their unique take on music discovery mechanisms, the noise these lads have been making over the last few months has managed to generate over 250K downloads across both iOS and Android platforms while attracting the attention of Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak. According to O’Driscol, Wozniak met with Soundwave earlier this year and has been extremely supportive of the company’s ambitions. With the company’s successful launch on iOS7 and featured by Apple as one of the leading apps for the new version, we believe these guys will be making plenty more waves in the industry in the months to come (once again, pun, very much intended).
Founders: Mark Roden
The truth is we weren’t sure whether including EZETop, Soon to change its name to Ding, in the list is the right thing to do. Not because they’re not a hot prospect, on the contrary, it’s because they’re on fire. The Bootstrapped company has managed to stay under the Irish radar even though it is one of the most successful startups coming out of Ireland in the last few years, mostly due to its founder’s dislike of publicity. Roden, employee no. 1 at eSat (The Irish Cellular provider that was sold to BT back in 2000), used his own money to back the company which enables people living abroad to instantly “recharge’ mobile phone credit banks of family members back home using its money-to-airtime transfer service.
The 7 years old company can hardly call itself a startup, but Roden explains the they are still far away from what he would characterize as an established successful company. EZETop currently offers its services throughout 450,000 store locations as well as directly through mobile operators (phone to phone) across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. The company also operates the largest international online recharge site and offers a white label solution for operators that sees a transfer rate of just under $1M dollars a day.
With the internet and cellular phones continuing to become fixtures of a standard economic banking system, Ezetop’s strategic positioning could lead to this unlikely startup becoming a paradigm of a new breed of “Western Union” like services for the digital age.
Founders: Stephen O’Regan, Tom Millett and Pauline Freeman
Funding: $850K by Polaris Venture Partners, Lere Ventures and Greycroft Partners.
Remember the days when MTV was the address to discover new artists and listen to great music? Well, success breeds change and nowadays MTV has morphed into a network of reality shows and an advertising platform for big-label commercial music. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but three guys from Dublin had an itch to bring back the good o’l days of authentic new music discovery programming by building a place where new artists can take to the stage (or balcony for that matter) and gain exposure to millions around the world. Founding their startup back in 2006 from their own apartment balcony in Dame Street, Dublin – BalconyTV has grown to become one of the largest online video music websites featuring indie bands, musicians and all sorts of acts from balconies worldwide.
The site now hosts over 10K videos from 57 different cities including Dublin, London, Tel-Aviv, Hamburg, New York, Paris and Auckland, to name a few. With hot new talents being discovered every day from all corners of the globe, backing by former MTV network CEO, Judy McGrath – who also happens to sit on the advisory board and 1.3M views a month, the team behind BalconyTV has set a goal of bringing back the golden age of original MTV like programming to mainstream TV. With large TV and Content companies eyeing internet video as the next big thing, it would be a safe to assume that you’ll be seeing a lot more of Balcony on your boob tube in the near future.
Founders: Dr. Viliam Holub and Dr. Trevor Parsons
Funding: $1.1M by Polaris Venture Partners, RRE Ventures and Frontline Ventures
There are about a gazilion management platforms, log-parsers and everything in between being used to monitor and operate systems worldwide, everyday. So why should this one be any different? The guys over at LogEntries started off at UCD, worked their way through the NDRC’s Launchpad program and are now located in the Dogpatch labs space where they’ve managed to come a long way and carve out for themselves a unique-but-no-so-niche angle of monitoring various applications through the gathering and analyzing of log files. LogEntreis’ platform allows almost anyone with only the bare minimum of technical knowledge (you still need to understand what a log file is and what it says) and no prior programming knowledge to gather valuable data and transform it into actionable insights.
LogEntries works out-of-the-box with all the largest operating systems and cloud platforms including Windows, all styles of Linux, Amazon Web Services, EngineYard, Heroku and even PHP and Python based applications. The basic idea is that the platform knows where the logs are and how to parse and analyze them, without you having to any heavy lifting besides for stating the server’s IP address or DNS.
One sure fire way to gauge whether an enterprise oriented company has a chance of making it on its own is to see if they can land an some big name clients early on into their promotional phase. Dell, Macys, Salesforce and the Financial Times are definitely a good start, but we still don’t think these guys will be getting very far on their own. Instead we believe they’ll be acquired by one of the big players in the field sooner rather then later.
Founders: Connor Murphy and Ray Smith.
Funding: $5.5M from Ron Conway, DFJ , Oyster Capital Partners and Salesforce.
It’s no big secret that business networking has become one of the most important aspects for success in the 21st century business. Dublin-based Datahug is taking this notion one step beyond what LinkedIn has done and actually works like a huge BI engine on top of all your organization’s contact. I intentionally draw a distinction here between the word choice of ‘organization’s’ as opposed to ‘organizational’ since what Datahug does is to actually go through each and every contact in all the e-mail accounts and meeting schedules of every company employee, separately. After doing that, the platform can then understand who knows who within your employee pool, at which point the platform generates warm leads for your team to turn them into potential customers.
Although Datahug is playing with a very narrow feature, it offers a great deal of value to a critical part of the business operational structure. So huge, that it raised some of its $5.5M from non other than Salesforce; a company that rarely invests in startups at all, preferring to acquire them instead, if and when they show interest. Add that to the impressive portfolio of large enterprise customers the company has built up over the past year, including Catalyst, Grant Thornton, Plantronics, BDO and other Large VCs – and one can’t help but assume it won’t be long before the company will become just another feature within the vast offering of Salesforce after a successful buyout.
Founders: Paul Campbell and Paddy Cosgrove
Created by the people behind Funconf and the Web Summit, Tito.io is not just another ticketing platform competing in the crowded space along big names like Eventbrite and Amiando. The Tito.io platform offers an out-of-the-box solution that is far simpler, more customizeable and has an interesting pricing model that offers smaller commissions for a yearly subscription.
The fact of the matter is that only a few months after launching their private beta, the platform has managed to snag more than 150 events world wide, among them a few well-known conferences such as Nodeconf, JSConf, Brooklyn Beta, Nordic Ruby, The Realtime Conference and the Dublin Web Summit - all for which speak for itself as to the company’s current success and future prospects. Add that to the more than $2M in ticket sales that have gone through the system since its launch and you definitely have yourself a new player in the ticketing scene, well-worth taking a good look at.
Founders: Pat Phelan and Chris Kennedy
Funding: $300K by Waira Accelrator (Telefonica) and private investors.
It’s been years since eCommerce became mainstream and dealing with online fraud is as common as any other online security problem plaguing the Internet today. No matter how good you build your defenses, there will always be someone who to crack them. Standing against all of those malicious hackers and fraudsters is Cork-based Trustev, who just launched their real time online identity verification system to help combat online eCommerce fraud.
The special thing about Trustev’s solution is its use of a proprietary social fingerprinting technology as a part of the front side checkout process. What it actually does is to use Social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to pre-qualify potential customers through analyzing their social data.
The Online identity management and verification space is getting crowded as the larger players such as Paypal and even Airbnb launch their own online ID verification solutions, but Trustev has a unique approach to the space and has some very smart algorithms behind it.
Founders: Peter Coppinger Daniel Mackey
A good startup is one where the founders put together a team to build something to scratch their own itch. A great startup is one where the founders are the team. TeamworkPM satisfies such a description. They’re a Cork-based startup that started as an app development company and then ran a consultancy working for the likes of Pfizer, Lilly and others. When they saw a need to manage their own workload, they first tried out the various solutions already out there on the market but none of them were a true fit for what they needed, so they decided to build their own themselves.
There are many team project management solutions, but TeamworkPM has proven to be much more efficient in handling the incredibly diverse nature of tasks a project manager has to contend with including task delegation and management, setting milestones and time stamps, uploading relevant files, working with e-mail alerts, and so on. But the icing on the cake with TeamworkPM is their fast, friendly and effective support. Mackey explains that one of the most important things for the company is to ensure that every person in the company participates in the customer support cycle. According to Mackey, if a user would suggest a feature that would benefit over 90% of their other users, the company will most often work to introduce such a feature, not in their next version release, but rather in a matter of hours.
The company currently employs 12 full time team members and enjoys $2.7M in annual income with a 45% profit margin. With an awesome customer base that includes the likes of Microsoft, eBay, Universal Studios, Paypal and Pepsi, the guys from cork are definitely on the right path for achieving big-time success.