$9.5m for Irish site with a view to skill


SOCIAL MEDIA company SkillPages has secured second-round investor funding of $9.5 million, founder and chief executive Iain MacDonald announced at a technology conference in New York yesterday.

Mr MacDonald, who sold broadband company Perlico to Vodafone for $100 million in 2007, made the announcement at the opening of the F.ounders conference for tech start-ups, which takes place at the Nasdaq on Times Square today.

The social-networking site, where users can “find skilled people for anything you need done”, also said it had surpassed five million registered users across 160 countries.

Contributors to this latest round of funding include ACT Venture Capital, a number of angel investors and the company’s founders. Paul McGuinness, the manager of U2 is also an investor.

“We don’t disclose individual amounts, as a courtesy to our investors,” said Mr MacDonald when asked how much he and cofounder Michael Gallagher contributed to the $9.5 million. “Our contribution was relatively significant but not the majority.”

SkillPages employs 32 people between its offices in Dublin and Palo Alto, California. Mr MacDonald said the latest funding would be used to grow their user base and expand the company’s workforce.

“We’d expect to go to 42 [staff] by the end of the year and 50 by next year,” he said. “We’re looking for consumer tech professionals – computer scientists, mathematicians, engineers – and we have one or two linguistics roles.”

He said the company expects to have to look abroad to fill many of the positions. “There’s little or no recession in the tech sector,” he said, adding that the skills shortage was as bad, if not greater, in California. “We have an advantage in that we can source staff from central and eastern Europe. Silicon Valley would envy our access to talent.”

Mr MacDonald is one of more than 150 founders of tech start-ups attending the F.ounders conference, organised by Dublin Web Summit founder Paddy Cosgrave.

F.ounders is aimed at companies “on track to IPO or for acquisition”, but Mr MacDonald says SkillPages has a “medium- to long-term plan” to float on the Nasdaq.

“We would do so in order to get capital to grow the business, not as an endgame in itself,” he said. “Our ambition is to grow a large, profitable company that is not out of place beside eBay or Amazon in terms of its scale or ubiquity.”

Total investment in Skillpages, which was launched in January 2011 but had a previous incarnation as Weedle, stands at $18 million and the company says it is already generating revenue, primarily through standard advertising.

SkillPages says it expects to have in excess of 10 million users by the end of 2012 if growth continues at its current pace.