Pointy faces Irish expansion threat from long-term leases

Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby, co-founders of Pointy, which employs 70 in the inner city

Michael Cogley

Irish tech startup Pointy has criticised the rigid nature of commercial leases in Ireland, which its says does not suit startups.

The company currently employs 70 people at its offices on Amiens Street in Dublin's north inner city, more than three times the number of employees it had a year ago.

Co-founder and chief executive Mark Cummins said the company is looking at moving offices but has faced difficulties securing an appropriate lease.

"The inflexibility of leases is actually a huge problem. We're weighing up different options at the moment," he said. "It's a tough problem for a startup because a lot of the leases are 10 years with a five-year break, and for a startup you're either going to definitely be too big or you won't be here."

Cummins said there was "some headroom" in the existing headquarters but that he envisaged hiring hundreds of people in the years to come.

"When we were 10 people I couldn't imagine us being 20 people," he said. "But now that we're at 70 people, it's quite easy seeing us get to hundreds of people. When you're so small, everything is on fire and there's no real structure but at this stage there's a structure in place. Now it feels like it has good foundations." During the year, Pointy, which counts Google Maps founder Lars Rasmussen and Bebo founder Michael Birch among its backers, agreed a deal with Google to display its ads in the search engine's "knowledge panel".

The panel runs alongside the search results processed for a product and allows users to see if the item they're looking for is locally available in stores that have signed up to Pointy.

"We see it as a massively under-served market. People pull out their phones out for everything but they may not want to buy online. If it's five minutes' walk away they might be keen to just go and get it straight away," he said.

"Google approached us - we spent a long time working with that product, almost two years. They approached us very soon after we launched and at the time we said that we couldn't deal with you because we didn't have the scale."

The company meets with Google's sales team each week. When asked about it becoming a potential acquisition target, Cummins said that "anything can happen, but you can't predict these things". Pointy also partnered with a number of significant point-of-sale partners during the year including Clover, Lightspeed and Square. The connected tills allows users to download the Pointy app for free, making it easier for it to connect with retailers.