When you want to know what other firms are saying about yours

Savvy investing at an early age and an eye for social media has led to start-up success

With an average of 500 million tweets being published on Twitter every day, a user would have to scroll through them at a rate of 521km/h just to get through them all, according to Neil Burns.

With volumes like this, he says it is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to monitor their brand and what is being said about them online.

The founder of social media monitoring start-up Journie, Burns says businesses are spending a lot of time wading through irrelevant information and, for large businesses, the amount of information can be a nightmare.

Journie has built software that analyses the online conversations for brand owners and identifies the most relevant content for them.


“We are the finger on the pulse for brand owners. We provide them with easy-to-digest information. We provide a curated feed of the most pressing conversations. They can dip in and out over the course of the day.”

An avid fan of technology, Burns started building computers at the age of 14. He would source parts to build, fix, improve or refurbish computers and then sell them or charge for work done. He invested the money he made in FTSE 250 shares.

“I got lucky with Electronics Boutique. I bought the shares for 68p and sold them for £2.90.”

Burns studied business and technology at Queens University Belfast and then went to work with Intel for a year. "I always had entrepreneurial ideas. I did that degree as I thought it would leave me with a good skill set to be an entrepreneur. You learn business management and how to code."

He had saved his money from selling shares for a master’s degree, but ultimately decided not to do one and reinvested the money.

"I invested in Facebook, Andor Technology, Lloyds TSB and ARM, which make processors for Apple. I bought Facebook shares when they were only around $32 and got a little worried when they started fluctuating hugely. I sold all my shares to fund the prototype development for Journie."

He willingly went into the construction sector at the height of the recession in 2010, joining flooring contractor Floor Form. The company was involved in flooring projects at Dublin Airport’s Terminal 2, Primark/Penneys stores and Dunnes Stores, with Burns working as a project manager and de facto commercial manager.

“As part of my role, I had to be monitor the web, to see what was being said about the flooring company online.”

Realising the technical aspect of his degree could quickly become obsolete, with the rapid developments in coding, he left the flooring company in 2013 to go it alone.

When he decided to set up Journie, he was offered a place on NDRC's Launchpad accelerator programme and needed another person to help him develop the business. Having attended primary school together and becoming good friends at secondary school, Burns turned to his long-time friend John Donnelly.

Burns says Donnelly, who came first in Ireland and fourth in the world in the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants exams, had strong business and financial experience.

Donnelly handed in his notice at KBC Bank upon the start-up’s acceptance into Launchpad and started with the business four weeks later. “Our goal is to identify the important conversations for brand owners online and save them from information overload.”

With early and concise notification of the developing conversations, businesses can take action to engage with their audience.

Businesses can also opt to have daily reports generated and sent to them, with some opting for reports every three hours.

The start-up went to technology festival South by Southwest in Austin, Texas last year.

“We had only been in the NDRC for four weeks when we went and so still in the very early days of our start-up. We entered an Enterprise Ireland start-up competition at the festival and got some strong criticism. The American judges heavily critiqued us.

“We were competing against companies that had $1.5 million in funding and were working with wearable technologies.”

From a networking point of view, he says the event was excellent.

“I was sending messages to the heads of digital of Hilton Worldwide and Hallmark and they were responding.”

Burns says the area of social media monitoring and analytics is a hugely competitive and crowded space.

“Tweetdeck and Hootsuite provide user-friendly and easy-to-use services but there is still a huge volume of information to sift through.”

Currently in the testing phase, Burns says Journie has users in Ireland, Britain, the US and Singapore. “Ultimately are users will be global. We are already going down that route.”