Sunday 21 December 2014

From Trustev to Boxfish: Ten Irish start-ups raising big money

These 10 Irish technology start-ups have banked €90m over the last 12 months and are carving out a lead against their main business rivals

John Reynolds

Published 13/04/2014 | 02:30

Pat Phelan
Trustev presents onstage at the TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 at The Manhattan Center in April
Kevin Abosch of Kwikdesk
FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH: Kealan Lennon of Cleverbug. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Fear the Gaul: France rugby star Sebastian Chabal
SMART TV: Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Victoria Smurfit in ‘Dracula’, which was recently shown on Sky TV. Start-up firms like BoxFish are transforming the way people watch TV

FROM a firm whose technology weighs bins and plans bin collection routes to the designers of the next generation of smartphone chips, the 10 Irish technology start-ups that raised the most money over the past 12 months banked over €90m.

The cash is helping them grow rapidly, conquer new markets and look at new business opportunities, as they create jobs and carve out a lead against competitors and would-be rivals, as the short profiles below reveal.

Trustev

Corkman Pat Phelan's online identity verification and payment fraud prevention firm raised €2.1m last October.

The money has helped grow the company from three to 21 employees including salespeople, engineers and behavioural biometrics specialists and open new offices in Dublin, Cork – where they started out "in a room in a waxing clinic" – and New York, where five employees including Phelan will be based by the end of the year.

"We expect to raise series A funding soon and to open more new offices. We're also trialling with three mobile phone networks in the area of identity-related retail decisioning, which is a new area for us.

"We're collecting billions of data points every month and are talking to our first customers in Russia, in addition to the UK and Europe and the US where we're growing very fast," Phelan said.

AMCS

 Limerick-based waste and recycling software technology firm AMCS claims to be a world leader in its field and raised €23.5m in January.

"We will use this funding to continue driving growth in existing markets and new developing markets including South America. Our vision for the next 12 months is to focus on entering the Polish, Australian and New Zealand markets," a spokeswoman said, adding that it will also be used for product development to help its customers become more efficient and profitable.

It is also eyeing acquisitions and recently bought a US software company for an undisclosed sum, as well as aiming to double its employees from 130 to 260, including 40 new jobs in Ireland, over the next three years.

Intercom

Initially backed by former Twitter founder Biz Stone, this online business communications software company founded in 2011 by four Irishmen bagged €17m in January from Bessemer Venture Partners, which previously invested in well-known web firms including LinkedIn, Skype and Pinterest.

The money is being used mainly to expand its Irish operation to 100 staff and increase its product development and software engineering functions in its Dublin and San Francisco offices.

With revenue in the millions, it has about 2,000 paying customers including larger web firms, but it declined to say anything further about future plans.

Kwikdesk

This anonymous messaging start-up is understood to have raised €15m recently, only four months after it launched in China and Hong Kong, and is attracting the interest of mobile phone network operators who see potential in its underlying technology.

Established by world-renowned artist Kevin Abosch; Connor Murphy, a founder of Kerry-based Datahug; and Dublin data scientist David Coallier, the firm is hiring engineers and other specialists who are expected to improve its product and look at developing new ones from a new Dublin headquarters.

Movidius

This Dublin-based designer of ultra high-power smartphone chips raised €12.3m last July and recently teamed up with Google to bring smarter vision and camera-based functions such as immersive gaming, 3D-scanning and indoor navigation to the next generation of Android-based phones.

"Our chip is a vision-processing unit and we're developing it so it's sophisticated enough to understand depth and clarity to the extent that it's as good as the human eye," said chief executive Remi El-Ouazzane, speaking to the Sunday Independent at their Dublin office.

"We're using the money to accelerate the development of our software infrastructure, add to our engineering team and hire new product management and marketing people.

"Over the next 12 months, we expect to take on 15 new recruits, mainly in Dublin, in addition to the 50 people we already employ here and in the US and Romania, to support our plans to sell multiple millions of our chips. The first ones will be in a major phone manufacturer's phone early next year, and you can assume we're talking to all the main ones [Apple, Sony, Nokia and Samsung].

"We may also raise additional funding – at least $10m (€7.2m) – while examining how we can diversify into other electronic devices and wearable technology, as well as robotics, industrial machines and technology and cars and other vehicles, which we will help to make smarter," he added.

Logentries

Trevor Parsons and Viliam Holub, the co-founders of this award-winning UCD spinout that makes it easier for software developers to debug and test their programs, raised €7.5m from US and Irish investors last September.

Since December, the company has been filling 20 positions for data scientists, software developers and engineers in Dublin and it now has offices in Prague and Boston. The company recently announced a 500 per cent growth rate and that it now has 25,000 global users.

"We see rapid growth in the next year, and expect to heavily invest in both R&D, and sales and marketing," added CEO Andrew Burton.

Boxfish

Eoin Dowling's Dublin and California-based start-up will make your TV and your Sky or cable box a lot smarter in the next year or so.

Having raised €5m last month from technology veteran Brian Long's firm Atlantic Bridge and electronics giant Samsung, the company, which employs 20 people, processes every spoken word on over 1,000 US channels and has recently expanded to include those here, in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Not only will this bring searchability to TV – it will be able to suggest relevant YouTube videos, for example – it will also make it easier for advertisers to target viewers with more relevant ads. Hard-pressed TV companies may pay handsomely for this service as it should enable them to increase and better target their ad sales.

With customers including Tivo and AT&T, Boxfish is now also processing real-time social media feeds alongside TV and doing further R&D in this area, Dowling said, adding that the funding will enable it to expand into new markets and hire 12 new Dublin staff over the next 18 months, mainly in R&D.

Cleverbug

Former corporate financier Kealan Lennon's Dublin and Silicon Valley-based personalised greeting card and print app firm raised €4.5m last November and is eyeing a move into the social gifting market that could see it selling personalised smartphone cases and canvas prints, as well as being a convenient way of sending Easter and Communion cards in minutes from your iPad.

With customers in 150 countries, it has taken on five new social media, customer research, PR and design recruits and plans to hire another 20 in functions such as analytics, customer services and finance as it continues to take on industry giants Hallmark and American Greetings.

"We're doing a lot of exciting R&D and we might look at more significant funding later this year following some expressions of interest in scaling out our first mover advantage," Lennon said.

Boxever

Founded by three former employees of Irish airline ticket sales giant Datalex, airline and travel data analytics firm Boxever raised €4m last month from Polaris Partners and aviation veteran Declan Ryan-backed Frontline Ventures.

"We recently took on 20 new hires and we hope to add 20 more. Most of these people will be in software engineering, data science, sales and marketing, and all based in Dublin.

"We already have leading Asian airline TigerAir as a customer and we'll soon be working with three more global airline and travel brands; we help them better understand their customers and offer them better deals," said co-founder Dave O'Flanagan.

CurrencyFair

Having raised €1.9m last November, the Dublin-based currency transfer start-up has taken on 10 new employees. An ad featuring famous French rugby player Sebastian Chabal and other marketing is helping the firm win new customers in addition to the success it's had with word-of-mouth referrals.

The company recently passed the milestone of $1bn (€730m) in total currency exchanged and also plans to add new features to its service, new countries and transfer currencies.

It is also looking at how it might use its marketplace technology in new business areas and plans to raise at least €5m in new funding within the next 12 months to boost its marketing, according to co-founder Brett Meyers.

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