NewsWhip could easily have been a flash in the pan. Founded by lawyer Paul Quigley and technical consultant Andrew Mullaney in Dublin in 2011, it was originally a consumer app for trending news. Within a few months, they realised that having built a decent user base meant nothing when NewsWhip wasn't generating revenue. They needed a new "big idea". Luckily for them, they found it. They decided to focus on meeting the needs of business customers rather than consumers. NewsWhip now has more than 320 clients globally, including: media companies such as the Associated Press (which also invested in the company), the BBC, Buzzfeed and the Guardian; brands including Reebok, Intel and Mastercard; government agencies; and charities.
Every day, NewsWhip’s technology tracks millions of news stories in more than 60 countries and predicts which will be most popular. Its subscribers use this predictive data to spot the stories that matter in specific places or in categories. Its analytics product enables customers to identify which content is most effective for them. NewsWhip employs 28 in Dublin and 13 in New York, and expects to grow further this year.
What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start up in business?
Paul hated wasting time. He was desperate to find a way to ferret out the most interesting stories online each day, but without digging about on the internet for hours.
What was your “backs-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?
We were in danger of crashing when we were advised to focus on what people will pay for. Once we had a few paying customers, we started sharpening and improving.
What moment/deal would you cite as the game-changer or turning point for the company?
A real turning point was becoming cash flow positive in early 2015. Some tech companies take forever to turn a profit, and just chase growth. But when you can pay for your technology, offices and team, and you can continue fast growth, you feel you have really taken back control of your destiny.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
Monthly recurring revenue is hugely important for us. We also look at daily sign-ups for trials and demos of our products, so we can ensure there’s a healthy pipeline for business development. And our product team monitors our active users to ensure we are sustaining our momentum.
Describe your growth funding path.
We raised a $1.1 million seed round in 2013, and a growth round of $1.3 million in 2015. We believe in building a sustainable company with strong revenue and great unit economics, so we have not been chasing massive fundraises.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
NewsWhip will be the defining signalling technology for executives and professionals around the world, serving them exactly the information they need, when they need it.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to Government to stimulate the economy?
Incentivise greater employee ownership of companies – it’s a fantastic stimulant when companies can issue shares to their staff.
How will your market look in three years?
Artificial intelligence will creep into editorial and business decision-making. Editors and businesspeople will spend less time researching as intelligent bots and services such as ours will serve them answers.
What would make you better leaders?
Becoming more clever storytellers. We never realised how much building a business is a storytelling exercise and how much disciplined, clever founders can control and time the narrative and hype around their business.