Wednesday 26 October 2016

My Big Idea: I think I went grey because of the stress but our vote app is now getting politicians' preferences

Published 04/06/2015 | 02:30

Brendan Cunningham and Michelle Lawless of Photo: Pat Moore.
Brendan Cunningham and Michelle Lawless of Photo: Pat Moore.

Kilkenny-based Pin Point Alerts is a messaging and alerts company founded by Brendan Cunningham (36) and Michelle Lawless. Their latest app is iVoter, which helps politicians communicate their message in the run-up to elections.

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"I have always been interested in politics but was frustrated by the methods politicians used to communicate their ideas.

Candidates' information is spread across loads of different mediums, from flyers to websites to apps. Paper forms of communication often end up in the rubbish bin.

Our solution offers one paperless, centralised communication method. Candidates can add YouTube clips, embed social media feeds, post blogs and manifestos and send limited push notifications. It is not subject to any moratorium. The app is free for consumers - all they need to do is select their constituency.

There are a lot of political apps out there but what makes us different is that the candidate has total control over what is sent out; it's not like a Wikipedia model which is open to anyone to add information.

We trialled iVoter at the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election, where all 13 candidates were involved. It was also up and running for the UK elections.

One of the biggest challenges has been changing the mindset of candidates and political parties.

So many still put more emphasis on physical flyers than their online presence. But politicians just can't afford to take that view anymore given how younger voters consumer information. Around a quarter of people who downloaded IVoter are under 21.

Revenue comes from a few different sources. Candidates pay for push notifications and we have limited in-app advertising. Our biggest opportunity is to offer the app as a white-label solution for political parties, so Fine Gael, for example, could use us to build their own app to communicate with followers.

The technology can also be used by universities and industry for internal elections. We want to expand the product internationally.

Michelle and I founded Pin Point Alerts five years ago. After graduating from university with a geography degree I began working at Kilkenny County Council, where I came up with the idea for a notifications service for communities based on their constituency. I taught myself software programming.

We started out selling text message notification products to county councils, making our profit from each text sent, but then text volumes began to sink as online messaging services WhatsApp and Viber grew in popularity.

Several of our competitors gave up but we moved over to a subscription model and expanded beyond texts. It was stressful - I think that's when I went grey - but we survived and thrived."

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