Monday 11 December 2017

How three pals built a viable product from web searching

My Big Idea

Dr Maurice Coyle, Prof Barry Smyth and Dr Peter Briggs
Dr Maurice Coyle, Prof Barry Smyth and Dr Peter Briggs
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

HEYSTAKS is the brainchild of three computer science graduates from UCD, who turned their research into a business. Having secured close to €2m in funding in just over three years, the company now counts a major US mobile operator among its clientele. Sarah McCabe spoke to chief executive Maurice Coyle (35), from Stillorgan in Dublin.

"The company grew from a research group three of us were involved in as part of a computer science PhD programme at UCD. Our focus was on internet searches.

"Web searching is a really collaborative activity when you think about it – people are often hunting for the same thing and can learn from each others' results – but two people searching for the same thing on Google had no other option but to duplicate each others' work.

"Collectively we've put in 30 years of research into the idea. Our product has evolved – we realised the technology was more lucrative when used to help companies tailor their advertising, than it was by signing up thousands of users.

"Now our main focus is on mobile operators. We aim to help them generate new revenues from the vast amount of web activity they process every day.

"These companies are losing out to organisations like Skype, which use their networks but take most of the advertising revenue for themselves.

"We've now signed a major US mobile operator.

"We've secured a lot of funding – €1.8m so far.

"About €1m of that came from NCB Ventures in 2010, before NCB was bought by Investec, while another €800,000 was secured from Investec, then AIB Seed Capital and Enterprise Ireland later on.

"We're close to profitable and have seven people working on the business. Now the product is honed, we're focused on building up scale and bringing more clients on board.

"The company is still based at NovaUCD. The biggest challenge was moving from a research environment to a commercial sphere.

"In a university setting it's all about experimentation and expanding on your idea – running a business is a very different activity."

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