Wednesday 22 January 2020

Google buys Irish start-up Pointy

Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby, co-founders of Pointy. Photo: Colm Mahad
Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby, co-founders of Pointy. Photo: Colm Mahad
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

The Dublin retail technology startup Pointy is to be acquired by Google, the second time co-founder Mark Cummins has sold a company to the tech giant.

Spokespeople for both Google and Pointy declined to say how much the acquisition figure will be. However, the startup had raised $19m to date, making it likely that it’s a multiple of this figure.

In 2010, Mr Cummins sold a separate startup, Plink, to Google.

It is the fourth Irish startup that the search giant has acquired, having snapped up TCD campus companies Thrive in 2015 and Green Parrot Pictures in 2011.

Pointy makes technology that connects the inventory of local shops to online e-commerce channels. It makes a ‘Pointy Box’ that connects to a shop’s barcode scanner and automatically lists the shop’s products online, optimising them for search engines. The idea is that when people search for products, they find results from local stores instead of simply on Amazon or other giant online specialists.

In 2018, Pointy raised $12m (€10.2m) in a Series B funding round. At that time, the main investor was Noel Ruane’s Polaris Partners, with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen also investing through his Vulcan Capital firm.

In total, Pointy raised €16.2m in funding. Its early investors included the founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, the founder of Bebo, Michael Birch and the co-founder of Transferwise, Taavet Hinrikus.

Dublin-based Frontline Ventures is also a prominent investor.

Google swooped when it saw that Pointy was starting to gain traction in US retailers.

“For all the hype around e-commerce and the media narrative of ‘retail apocalypse’, people still make the vast majority of their purchases in local stores,” Mr Cummins said when describing Pointy. “But local retailers have lost out in not having their products visible online and we solve that problem for them. We help stores to be more visible online. It seemed crazy to us that people had to wait two days for Amazon to deliver a product that could be 100 yards away in a local store.”

A spokeswoman for Google said: “Google has long been committed to helping small businesses grow and thrive in the online world. One of the challenges small merchants face is getting their in-store inventory information online in a way that is easy to manage and reliably up to date. Since organizing the world's information is core to what we do, we've been working to make it easier for local merchants to better showcase their products to interested shoppers on Google. “

“Today, we’re excited to share that we’ve entered into an agreement to acquire Pointy, a company based in Dublin, Ireland that has helped thousands of local retailers bring their product inventory online. The deal is subject to customary closing conditions, and is expected to close in the coming weeks.”

“With Pointy, merchants simply plug a small box into their barcode scanner or install the Pointy app on their point of sale system, which surfaces the products that they sell directly into the ‘see what’s in store’ section of their business profile on Google Search. Since we introduced this functionality a few years ago, Pointy has been one of our key partners, helping thousands of local merchants display this data within Google. We’re looking forward to working with Pointy to help even more local retailers bring their product inventory online.”

Pointy co-founders Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby said that the company would continue with its current projects.

“Over the past several years we’ve developed a very close partnership with Google,” the founders said in a blog post. “It became clear that we shared the same vision of how technology can improve local retail businesses. So today is a natural next step in our journey. By joining forces, we will be able to help people discover local stores and products on a much larger scale. We think this is the right way to accomplish what we set out to do - to bring the world’s retailers online and give them the tools they need to thrive.”

Speaking about the acquisition, Frontline Ventures Partner, Will Prendergast said: “Pointy's vision is to make the world's offline products searchable for consumers and empower merchants to become smart retailers. Post acquisition, Google will continue rolling out the Pointy technology, to further enhance the local consumer experience and empower local retailers to be more efficient, and more profitable.”

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