The Irish Times FUSION programme is down to the final 10 start-ups. FUSION is an experimental initiative to explore the future of advertising, an area of core concern to the newspaper as it grows its digital business.
The final 10 start-ups were selected by a panel of Ireland's leading media buyers, including Tyson Pearcey of Mindshare, Shenda Loughnane of Aegis, Paul Farrell of Initiative, Patrick McConville of ICAN, Garret O'Beirne of OMD, and Jason Nebenzahl of PHD.
This week we profile five of the finalists, four of which have mobile-focused offerings.
ParkYa is a mobile app that shows drivers the easiest place to find parking.
The company's founder, Jason Roe, noticed cars were being clamped every day outside his office. What drivers needed, he believed, was an app that showed them the best places to park, took payment for the parking space and reminded them of when they needed to feed the meter.
Until the authorities released parking meter data, however, this was impossible.
An open data challenge in late 2011 gave Roe access to the data and enabled Roe to start ParkYa. According to Roe, “open data creates the framework for commercial projects. The availability of the data for the first time enabled us to create a new service for users.”
He started working on ParkYa full-time in September 2012, and entered Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers Programme in the Blanchardstown Institute of Technology.
There he met Kirk Donohoe, a former project manager at a pharma company, who joined him as a partner. According to Donohoe, drivers in many cities are inconvenienced by fragmented parking payment systems.
In London there are six different payment systems and in Dublin there are currently three. ParkYa helps people to find parking locations and pay through one single app. The team is currently running a beta test with 200 users, and will launch in June.
Loylap is a group loyalty scheme that allows a customer to gain and spend rewards between different types of local business.
In 2012 co-founders Patrick Garry and Conor O'Toole noticed that small and local retailers were not using technology to improve their engagement with customers. The major retail chains were leaving them behind.
They decided to build an ecosystem for smaller retailers in which a customer loyal to one local business in a local area would also reward their customer’s relationship with every other business. For example, someone attending a dental practice could redeem loyalty points at the local grocer. The Loylap system is active in beta form in a number of retailers in Dublin city centre, Ranelagh and the IFSC.
Garry and O'Toole had met at school, and the idea for the start-up came as Garry was completing a masters and O'Toole was working as a tech consultant at Accenture. Dublin City Enterprise Board supported initial development of Loylap, and their plan now is to attract local business groups to join the platform. This should include local market stalls and small businesses, so that any business of any size can accept payments and redeem loyalty points earned at other local businesses.
According to Garry, Loylap's ambition is to "help small businesses compete with large multinationals on a technological level and keep people shopping local".
Fonesense rewards people for using a brand's jingle as their mobile ringtone. The user earns credit or other rewards in return for each jingle played.
The idea came to Fonesense founder Christian Ryder some years ago en route to his final exam as a software development student at Waterford Institute of Technology.
Trying to cram last minute study on the bus, he was distracted by a ring tone nearby and he thought “I hope they are getting paid for that.” The idea festered in his mind, and he started building a prototype in 2006.
Returning to work at a major payments company after a period of illness, Ryder realised that he no longer wanted to work for anyone else. He quit his job and joined the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers at WIT. A feasibility grant from Enterprise Ireland supported initial development, Fonesense secured investment from an angel investor in late 2012, and funding from the New Frontiers has supported the company for the past six months.
Now the challenge is “getting in touch with media buyers”. Fonesense plans a national trial and pilot, before bringing Fonesense to other countries.
Buzzoo is a new take on the jukebox, allowing the crowd at a pub to control the music being played by voting on their phones.
Co-founders David Pearse and Dave Byrne met as MBA students at the Smurfit School of Business in UCD. The idea that became Buzzoo emerged from an entrepreneurship class project. They noticed that while new start-ups such as Spotify were making music a mobile and social experience for personal users, publicly played music was not changing at all. Speaking to bar owners the founders decided that is was a missed opportunity.
According to Pearse, the secret was to "move the jukebox onto the smartphone so the crowd becomes the DJ". He and Byrne established Buzzoo in October 2012, and built the beta version of the product. Buzzoo won a place at NDRC LaunchPad, the start-up incubator, and won funding from Enterprise Ireland's Competitive Start-up Fund.
D2E is a garden landscaping website.
Landscape designer Terry McEneaney designed a garden for Pat O’Sullivan Greene and the two decided to form a tech start-up.
McEneaney was eager to better engage with his clients, and O’Sullivan Greene was exploring opportunities in mobile and cloud technology.
The co-founders spoke with garden centres and decided to build a service allowing homeowners to work online with garden designers. The site allows a homeowner to use Google Maps to quickly survey their gardens, and connects with the garden centres to find relevant items to populate the garden. A community of landscape designers can provide individual designs for each garden.
Both are from Kerry, which is a boon according to O’Sullivan Greene. “There are a number of local examples that prove that you can build an innovative, successful, international business from Ireland.”