Irish technology firms pitch their wares in Texas at SXSW technology event
Businesses take opportunity to learn from Texas
Brendan O'Driscoll co-founder of Soundwave, pitches at SXSW in Austin Texas.
It’s a gruelling experience. The business people, mostly young founders of companies not accustomed to Dragon s’ Den -style scrutiny, stand alone in front of a crowd and tell a panel of industry experts what they do. The experts then probe the businesses identifying weaknesses.
The questions range from who the competition is (“Who is gouging your eye out?”) to what is unique about the business that will attract investment and funding (“What’s the IP [intellectual property] here?”)
South By South West Interactive – or “SXSW Interactive” for short – draws social media and technology companies from around the world to Austin, Texas, for five days of intensive networking and showing off new products, services and mobile apps. It’s part of a wider music, film and comedy festival that is one of America’s best-known celebrations of the arts.
Among the participants at the technology festival are 13 Irish companies pitching to industry figures such as Jeff Ragovin, co-founder of Buddy Media that was sold to Salesforce last year for $745 million (¤550 million), and Bob McCooey, senior vice-president for new listings at Nasdaq, the New York market for technology stocks.
At one point, David Kidder, author of The Start-up Playbook , asked why one Irish start-up was “a painkiller, not a vitamin”.
The festival allows companies to hone their pitches and see what the money men of venture capital and technology finance are looking for in businesses. The showcase of companies, organised by Enterprise Ireland, helps to blood company founders.
“It is about innovative, disruptive companies and start-ups, about the community and about people trying to help each other. We are not trying to scare these companies but give them advice,” said McCooey.
StoryToys, the Dublin company that creates interactive apps and pop-up books for children, is represented at the festival to try to land deals with big children’s brands, similar to the deal it landed with Chuggington , the children’s television programme. “We are going to be looking for more investment later this year as we scale up our team. Speaking here is going to raise our profile,” said Gavin Barrett, the commercial director. “The festival is also great crossover for us with film and television here too.”
Another Irish company, Soundwave, founded by Brendan O’Driscoll, is at SXSW to talk about its mobile app, which allows users to see what other users are listening to anywhere in the world – you simply zoom in on a particular area and the app shows the user the most popular tunes on playlists.
O’Driscoll doesn’t see as much value in the six cent the company will make on every 99 cent sale of a song on the app as on the analysis the company can provide bands, record labels and companies wondering what people are listing to.