Google has paid a reported $160 million to acquire Irish retail tech company Pointy.
The takeout means a spectacular return for founders Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby, who established the company in 2014 and will now share over $80 million for their 51 per cent stake in the business.
Pointy gives small retailers a way to make their stock visible online without having to invest in a full ecommerce system. Retailers connect a “Pointy box” to the shop’s barcode scanner and then use their scanner as normal.
The device is pre-paired with Pointy's website. The app directs shoppers to where particular items are available locally, rather than pushing them towards ecommerce giants such as Amazon. Once the retailer starts using the scanner, the system uses algorithms and machine learning to estimate stock levels.
Pointy is expected to continue to operate from its own Dublin offices and develop its product platform.
The deal is set to close in the coming weeks. Neither company disclosed the value of the transaction but London-based Balderton venture capitalist Rob Moffat congratulated the Irish company on its “$160 million exit to Google”, describing it as a “European Xoogler success story”.
In a blog post, announcing the deal, the co-founders said: “The last six years have been an incredible adventure, and today marks the start of a new chapter From small beginnings, we’re very proud to serve local retailers in almost every city and every town in the US and throughout Ireland.”
“By joining forces [with Google], we will be able to help people discover local stores and products on a much larger scale. We think this is the right way to accomplish what we set out to do – to bring the world’s retailers online and give them the tools they need to thrive.”
Pointy has raised $19.2 million (€17.3 million) from investors over a number of years, including a Series B round in 2018 that yielded $12 million. The takeover means that those investors are likely to make a eightfold profit on their initial investment in the business.
The company has previously partnered with Google, including on a "see what's in store" feature to help thousands of local merchants display the data within Google. Other partnerships include point-of-sale firms Lightspeed, Clover and Square.
In a statement on Tuesday, Google said was “excited to share that we’ve entered into an agreement to acquire Pointy . . . that has helped thousands of local retailers bring their product inventory online”.
The company's investors include Frontline Ventures, Polaris Capital, Draper Associates, Wordpress founder Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of Google Maps Lars Rasmussen, Transferwise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus and Bebo co-founder Michael Birch. Former Irish rugby player Jamie Heaslip also backed the company.
“Pointy’s vision is to make the world’s offline products searchable for consumers – and empower merchants to become ‘smart retailers’,” Frontline Ventures partner Will Prendergast said. “Post-acquisition, Google will continue rolling out the Pointy technology to further enhance the local consumer experience – and empower local retailers to be more efficient, and more profitable.”
Speaking last year, Mr Cummins said many shoppers prefer to buy an item in a store after inspecting it and speaking with an expert to buying it online and waiting for delivery.
“Most shopping still happens in brick-and-mortar stores, but consumers expect to be able to pull out their phones and find whatever they need instantly,” he said. “Pointy is helping retailers catch up there.”
Mr Cummins started Pointy in 2014 after selling his previous start-up Plink to Google in 2010. Plink let users search the web using images rather than keywords.
He got the idea for Pointy following a party where he and friends enjoyed craft beer purchased from a nearby supermarket. He wanted to buy the beer but couldn’t remember the name of the store, which got him thinking you can search online for products around the world but you can’t always find out what’s on the shelf at the shop around the corner.