‘Shrek’ promo led to creation of digital publishing software firm 3D Issue

3D Issue gives firms ability to turn PDFs into digital flipbooks and create social hubs

Paul McNulty: ‘I don’t employ someone unless I have enough money in the bank to cover their salary for a year.’

Paul McNulty: ‘I don’t employ someone unless I have enough money in the bank to cover their salary for a year.’

 

That grumpy but lovable ogre Shrek may have made kids happy and Disney rich, but indirectly he is also responsible for creating 26 jobs in Donegal.

The movie, or more precisely the manner in which it was being promoted online, gave software developer Paul McNulty the idea for what has become 3D Issue, a Letterkenny-based technology company specialising in software for the digital publishing market.

3D Issue provides those who need to share information with the ability to publish anything anywhere. Its technology facilitates content upload across multiple platforms and can be used to create native apps, turn PDFs into digital flipbooks, convert documents into eReader formats or to create social hubs.

The company has in excess of 10,000 customers and more than 150,000 installations worldwide.

Almost all of its customers are outside Ireland and include Macy’s, CBS, Sony, Google, Nasa, NFL, Yale, Harvard and Microsoft. In October last year the company concluded a deal with the Chicago Sun Times to power hundreds of regional news apps through the United States.

“This was a huge win for us,” McNulty says. “They now use our platform to monitor thousands of news portals and social platforms and then aggregate and deliver that content to their various metropolitan news apps. The system has been a huge success processing millions of articles per month.”

McNulty was selling ad space for a publishing company when the seeds for 3D Issue were sown.

“One of the problems was that advertisers were unaware of us so we had to send out a lot of magazine samples each week and the postage and admin costs in doing so were high,” he says.

“One day I saw a sample of a flipping book on the Disney website (as a promo for Shrek) and instantly understood the benefit of having samples of our publications online in that fashion.

“I started working on creating a solution and it had an instant impact on my ability to reduce lead times and make sales. I knew there must be thousands of businesses with the same problem and in 2006 I quit my job to develop my idea.”

Viable product

3D Issue was very much a bootstrapped start-up. McNulty had little in the way of financial resources so his focus was on getting a viable product to market as fast as possible. He used remote developers to help him design the product and launched the first version in April 2007.

The company used search engine optimisation to get onto potential customers’ radar and a very positive online review from an early customer was enough to start the ball rolling. “We worked continually with key words and blog postings to get to the top of the rankings and we’re still there,” McNulty says.

McNulty took on his first full-time employee in 2008 and takes a prudent approach to hiring. “I don’t employ someone unless I have enough money in the bank to cover their salary for a year,” he says.

McNulty expects the workforce to grow to 40 people within the next 18 months as new products come on stream. The company has not raised any external capital to date but has received support from Enterprise Ireland in the form of R&D grants and mentoring.

3D Issue’s first product was desktop software that allowed print publishers to convert PDFs into online 3D page turning replications.

This product was already available on the market but only as a hosted service. “The price they were charging per issue outweighed any benefit gained from going digital,” McNulty says.

“This left a gap in the market for a desktop solution that publishers could buy outright that would allow them to host on their own site and bring the skill in-house.”

While flipbooks are still an important part of the company, its focus and products have changed to cater for the rapid shift in how audiences consume content.

“Today it’s critical for anyone posting content to be thinking ‘mobile first’, McNulty says.

“Their content must adapt to fit the multitude of different resolutions across desktops, tablets, mobiles and eReader devices. For the last number of years we have been developing tools to assist publishers in creating responsive solutions.

“They ensure that content auto-adjusts to suit the resolution of whatever device their customer/reader is using. We have done this through our new hubs and apps technologies.

Deliver

“We have also moved into the next big area which is aggregated content,” he says. “We provide a content aggregation platform that allows media companies to track, collect and deliver content through thousands of different sources and deliver that content in real time to their native apps or content managements systems.

“This ensures that their audience is receiving the latest news without placing additional strain on company resources. Basically their ‘publication’ becomes self-updating.”

In April, the company will launch a new “build your own app” platform specifically targeted at content marketers who want to create their own content or news-focused apps without any coding.

“The platform is already in beta release with customers such as Lego, Pearsons Education, the London School of Economic and Manchester United so we are very bullish about its prospects. After all there is hardly a company or an organisation out there today that doesn’t have content to communicate,” McNulty says.

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