Dublin start-up creates a website of all of your products in five minutes
Pointy is hoping to keep €3.6 billion in online sales in Ireland
Pointy cofounders Charles Bibby and Mark Cummins say shops worldwide have similar problems to the Irish retailers, which means their start-up can be scaled globally. Photograph: Colm Mahady/Fennells
Cummins had studied engineering and computer science at Oxford University before going on to do a PhD in robotics and computer vision, and it was there he met Bibby.
The Irishman had a business idea for a product to help small, local retailers improve their online presence and wondered if Bibby knew anyone who could help him.
What was supposed to be an 18-month sailing trip for Bibby and his fiancée Helena quickly turned into a working holiday.
“I rang Charles as I thought he might know someone to help me. I was surprised when he said he’d help,” Cummins says.
It was perfect timing for Bibby, who had been trying to think of a start-up idea himself. That was July 2014, and Bibby spent the next month developing the first prototype for the business while anchored off Ibiza and Majorca.
“I cleared off on what was going to be an 18-month sailing trip around the Mediterranean. I proposed to my girlfriend on the day I left for the trip. I got to Ibiza when Mark called. I sailed back across the Bay of Biscay in October. I struggled to even get insurance to do that as the weather is unpredictable at that time of year.”
Less than 12 months later, the start-up is now based in Dublin, and recently secured funding of €1.12 million from a number of high-profile investors including Wordpress founder Matt Mullenweg, Bebo founder Michael Birch and Google Maps cofounder Lars Rasmussen.
The start-up, called Pointy (Pointy.com), enables retailers to create a website listing all of their products in just five minutes, and is hoping to keep €3.6 billion in online sales in Ireland by doing so.
Pointy’s small electronic device, which Bibby created a version of on his boat, plugs into a shop’s barcode scanner and point-of-sale system.
Whenever a product is scanned, the device automatically recognises it and uses the information to build up a website for the shop. The start-up also helps retailers to come up on search engines so that customers can more easily find them.
“The shop just plugs the Pointy device in and we take care of the rest. We’ve had shops set up and go live with thousands of products in less than five minutes,” Cummins says.
“One of the first big retailers to try Pointy was Banba Toymaster on Henry St. They have almost 20,000 products. They had only a minimal website with very little on it, but after a short time on Pointy they’ve now got thousands of products visible online and are doing really well on Google.”
Pointy offers retailers based in Dublin a free one-year trial of Pointy, which includes the free plug-in device and free installation. Thereafter, if the retailer wants to stay on Pointy the charge is €10 per month.
Cummins previously cofounded a visual search start-up which he sold to Google in 2010. The start-up’s app – called Plink – was a visual recognition app for mobile that analysed paintings or pictures of well-known artworks and identified them.
The app won the public vote for the best reference app on Android, at the Android Develop Challenge II in December 2009, with Cummins and his cofounder James Philbin taking home a cash prize of $100,000. Several months later Google purchased the start-up for an undisclosed sum.
“A condition of Google’s purchase of the company, was that we had to move to LA and work for Google in LA. I then spent a while in Google’s Sydney office before quitting the company and deciding to return home to Ireland to think about start-up ideas.”
Cummins says the experience of starting Plink made it easier to set up Pointy, especially when it came to meetings with potential investors.
“I had absolutely no idea what I was doing first time round. I had no idea what the parameters were, what I could ask investors for, etc. I’ve done a lot of angel investing on the back of selling my last company. Thus I have sat at both sides of the investment table.”
But it’s still no easy feat.
“Setting up a small company is overwhelming. The legal structure was phenomenal. We had documents as thick as a phone book. It took months to sort out the legal structure. We wanted to be ready for a Series A funding round. We know that a lot of things you don’t get right at the beginning are hard to fix after, especially legal problems.”
He spent several years following the sale working for Google in California, before the entrepreneurial life called him again.
Bibby, meanwhile, completed his PhD in robotics at Oxford and went on to design security systems for the London 2012 Olympics. The system he designed was a maritime security system for tracking all surface crafts in the Olympic sailing events. “I was on site 24/7 for the whole of the Olympics.”
He did some consultancy work before embarking on a sailing trip to the Mediterranean. “We spent six months sailing down and came back in six weeks, arriving in Malahide on November 1st.”
He says a huge amount of design for the Pointy device is based on lessons he has learned from the past. “I want to have as little human input as possible. Human input adds to cost and mistakes.”
Despite having living on the west coast of the US, Cummins opted to base Pointy in Dublin, saying it’s a better location to get staff.
“The war for talent in Silicon Valley is absolutely insane. People are being paid hundreds of thousands in salaries and then they leave after a few months as they get a better offer.”
Before securing funding from high-profile investors such as Matt Mullenweg, Pointy initially received an investment of €100,000 from AIB and Frontline Ventures.
“Even with experience as an angel investor I had wildly unrealistic expectations about how long it would take to raise the investment,” Cummins says.
The company plans to focus on Dublin to begin with, and then expand to the rest of Ireland.
The two cofounders say shops worldwide have similar problems to the Irish retailers, which means their start-up can be scaled globally. Once they can demonstrate the benefits of Pointy in Ireland, they can move on to other cities in the US and Europe.