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Friday 17 January 2020

Pointy jackpot as Google swoops in €150m deal

Local focus: Pointy co-founders Charles Bibby and Mark Cummins. Photo: Colm Mahady / Fennells
Local focus: Pointy co-founders Charles Bibby and Mark Cummins. Photo: Colm Mahady / Fennells

Adrian Weckler, Technology Editor

The Dublin retail technology startup Pointy is to be acquired by Google in a deal reported to be worth in the region of €150m.

It represents a windfall for co-founders Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby, as well as a healthy return for Dublin-based Frontline Ventures and investor Noel Ruane, among others.

Google said it is ‘committed’ to helping small businesses. Photo: Bloomberg
Google said it is ‘committed’ to helping small businesses. Photo: Bloomberg

It is also the second startup that Mr Cummins has sold to the search giant, having seen a previous firm, Plink, snapped up by Google in 2010.

Spokespeople for both Google and Pointy declined to say how much the acquisition figure will be. However, the startup has raised $19m (€17m) from financial backers to date, making it likely it is a multiple of this figure.

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The US tech news service TechCrunch reported that the acquisition would be completed for €147m, citing "a source close to the deal".

It is the fourth Irish startup that Google has acquired, having bought 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 €10.2m in a Series B funding round.

At that time, the main investor was Mr Ruane's Polaris Partners, with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen also investing through his Vulcan Capital firm.

In total, Pointy has raised €16.2m in funding.

Its early investors included Frontline Ventures, as well as the founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, the founder of Bebo, Michael Birch, and the co-founder of Transferwise, Taavet Hinrikus.

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

Pointy now has 15,000 points of presence in the US, up from 10,000 in 2018, when it raised its last funding round.

"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."

Mr Cummins said that the deal was subject to customary closing conditions, and was expected to close in the coming weeks. 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 organising 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."

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."

Irish Independent

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