Business Technology

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Dublin-based retailing app attracts cash from tech titans

Pointy app
Pointy app
Mark Cummins of Pointy app (on right).
Michael Cogley

Michael Cogley

Dublin-based startup Pointy is looking to expand beyond the Irish market after signing up over 500 shops in six months.

Pointy is an app that helps local shops show customers what they have in stock. The startup is being backed by some high-profile investors, including Google Maps founder Lars Rasmussen, Wordpress founder Matt Mullenweg, Bebo founder Michael Birch and Frontline Ventures.

The company's founder, Mark Cummins, is an ex-Google employee. He said the product has had a "great response".

"There are 500 signed up now and we only started in June," the 32-year-old said.

Cummins said his startup background helped the company raise €1.2m in seed capital. "This is my second startup. My first was called Plink, which I sold to Google in 2010. Then I spent three years in Google."

Despite knowing key investors from his work at Google in California, Cummins said there was still quite a bit of work in getting people on board.

"It wasn't easy at all," he said. "We spent a lot of time talking to a lot of investors to get people into it, but we were very lucky to have a really high-profile set of investors.

These included, said Cummins, "one of the guys who was the original founder of Google Maps, another from Wordpress, another from Bebo and a bunch of other people we haven't announced yet but who are of a similar calibre".

Pointy's business model is simple. It charges an installation fee of €100 to retailers to install an Irish-manufactured device which will monitor its sales through the shop's barcode scanner. From then on shops will be given the first three months free. A subscription payment of €10 per month then begins.

Pointy's business model appears to go up against a perceived trend of more sales heading online. However, its founder strongly refutes that.

"It's a little bit of a contrarian thing but I think that people get a bit caught up on that. More than 90pc of all commerce is still offline and that's even in markets like the US, which might be more online than Ireland. Most people are still buying things in actual shops."

Lars Rasmussen, one of the founders of Google Maps, is an advocate of the app and one of the investors in the company's seed funding round.

Mr Cummins said that once he had told Rasmussen about the app, he was greeted with relief and eagerness. Pointy is the brainchild of Cummins who thought of the idea just after leaving Google.

Cummins' first startup, Plink, which was a search-by-image technology, is now used as part of Google Image Search.

"We took what we were working on in Plink, the visual search technology, and sort of folded it into Google's existing efforts in the same direction.

"So I left Google after three years without any clear idea of what I was going to do. I had a few ideas I was playing around with," said Cummins.

He remains tight-lipped about both the market in which Pointy looks to take on next and the latest features it will bring out. However he did allude to a new browsing feature that is set to appear in the app in the near future.

"Something we're going to release very soon will be around browse," he said. "We're going to make it interesting to explore products near you."

Cummins said Pointy was born out of his own personal frustration. "We were at this party and there was this craft beer that we really liked that we couldn't find after that night. We thought, 'how is it that this is in a shop probably 500 metres from us and we can't find it?'"

Cummins said that Pointy is funded for the foreseeable future and is optimistic about the app going forward.

"If you're tackling something big and meaningful in a unique way then I think that gets people excited," he said.

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