20 inspiring Irish success stories to motivate aspiring entrepreneurs

9 Nov 2015

For start-ups and entrepreneurs with big dreams, these 20 examples showcase what’s possible. Image via Shutterstock

From acquisitions to investments, securing big funding to signing big clients, these Irish start-up and entrepreneur success stories should provide plenty of motivation.

This list is by no means definitive, just a taste of the great stories from Irish and Irish-led start-ups making significant gains around the world. Our selection serves to highlight the world of opportunities out there for Ireland-based and Irish-led companies and start-ups, and provide a bit of a boost to start the week.

1. Stripe

The biggest Irish-led start-up success story of recent years, Stripe was founded five years ago by Irish brothers Patrick and John Collison when they were just 22 and 19, respectively.

Future Human

Operating out of Silicon Valley, the company, which enables websites to accept credit and debit card payments easily and without friction, was recently valued at $5bn after raising just under $100m from investors.

2. Hostelworld

Founded by Irishman Ray Nolan in 1999, Hostelworld’s rise to the top has been stratospheric.

Hostelworld was the first site to offer online booking for hostels, and filling that niche has been key to the start-up’s success. Nolan is no slouch either – in 2009, he returned $500m on an initial investment of $130,000.

Last month, Hostelworld was valued at €245m ahead of an IPO in Dublin and Ireland.

3. Hassle.com

Hassle.com, a kind of Hailo for cleaners, was founded by Irishwoman Jules Coleman with friends Alex Depledge and Tom Nimmo back in 2011.

The service – which won Start-up of the Year at the Tech City Awards in 2013 – raised $6m a year ago from Silicon Valley venture capital firm Accel Partners, which has also invested in Facebook, Etsy, Spotify, Dropbox and Atlassian. This summer, Berlin-based Helpling acquired the company for around €32m, with Coleman’s scaling plans integral to the deal.

4. FeedHenry

FeedHenry, which is headed by Cathal McGloin, spun out from Waterford Institute of Technology’s Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) in 2010. With offices in Dublin, Waterford, Staines and Massachussets, FeedHenry creates a ‘mobile first’ platform for organisations that include Aer Lingus, Baystate Health and O2 UK.

Last year, open source software giant Red Hat acquired the start-up for €63.5m in cash with the aim of aligning FeedHenry’s technology with its open hybrid cloud strategy.

5. Fenergo

Fenergo is an incredibly successful Irish financial technology start-up, with offices in Dublin, Boston and Sydney.

This summer, Fenergo completed the biggest investment round by an Irish company to date, raising €75m from Insight Venture Partners, with plans to launch an IPO within three years.

A provider of client lifecycle management software solutions for investment banks, the company was listed on the Charts RiskTech100, a global study on the leading tech companies involved in risk management and, just last month, was named a FinTech Forward ‘Company to Watch’ by American Banker and BAI at the BAI Retail Delivery Conference in Las Vegas.

6. Logentries

Originally spun out of UCD, Logentries was a provider of machine data search technology with a HQ in Boston and R&D team in Dublin.

Last month, security analytics giant Rapid7 Inc acquired Logentries for $68m, with its workforce of 70 people largely retained.

Following the announcement, Prof Orla Feely, UCD’s vice-president of research, innovation and impact, said: “Logentries, which emerged from UCD’s research focus on ‘big data’ and the fostering of partnerships by the university with industry, is an excellent example of the quality of the companies emerging from UCD.”

7. Intercom

Intercom, which is headquartered in San Francisco, was founded in 2011 by Eoghan McCabe, Des Traynor, David Barrett and Ciaran Lee. The company recently announced that it had raised $35m in Series C funding, bringing total funds raised by the company to $66m. This new funding was earmarked for investment in R&D and doubling staff numbers in its Dublin and San Francisco offices, including 70 new engineering jobs in Dublin.

Intercom has 7,000 paying customers in more than 85 countries, including start-ups such as General Assembly, ZenPayroll and Invision, and public companies such as Ancestry.com, New Relic and Shopify.

8. Havok

If you’ve seen movies like The Matrix or played games like Call of Duty, then you’ve experienced Emmy Award-winning Irish company Havok’s real-time physics technology. As Christmas approaches, many of the top gaming titles in the shops will be powered by Havok’s technology.

Havok was started up in 1997 by Hugh Reynolds and Steven Collins who were based at the computer science department at Trinity College Dublin. The company was acquired by Intel in 2007 for $100m but continues to operate as a separate entity.

9. NearForm

NearForm was established in Waterford five years ago by Cian O’Maidín and Richard Rodger and is making global waves. The Tramore-based software company earlier this year announced 100 new jobs as part of its expansion and counts companies such as Intel, Qualcomm, Universal, LittleBits, DPD and Condé Nast among its customers.

In recent months, NearForm hired leading Silicon Valley technologist Eran Hammer to guide the company.

10. Ding

Ding, founded by Mark Roden in 2006, employs more than 150 people in Dublin and processes $250m a year worth of payments.

Ding enables people – mostly in emerging markets – to send each other value in the form of phone credit across the world within three seconds. Every day, some 80,000 transactions are made, averaging at amounts of US$1m worth of payments. In July, the company acquired US payments player iSend for an undisclosed sum.

11. Transfermate

Transfermate is a global, Irish-owned foreign exchange broker with offices in the UK, France, Italy, Spain, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. Launched in 2010, it has taken just five years for Transfermate to become one of the world’s largest and well-established foreign exchange brokers, reaching €5bn in transfers processed internationally last summer.

12. Cleverbug

Dublin start-up Cleverbug inked a deal with Vodafone earlier this year whereby the company’s product, CleverCards Complete, allows the mobile network’s users to send physical greeting cards to friends direct from their mobile phone using the CleverCards app.

Led by CEO Kealan Lennon, Cleverbug is targeting a vast $500bn gifting market and the company wants to evolve from providing just greeting cards to also providing gift vouchers and more.

13. Orreco

Orreco is on a mission to transform sports performance throughout the world through data analytics. The Sligo-based start-up secured vital deals with Premier League football clubs in the UK and Major Leagues Baseball teams in the US, starting 2015 off with a bang and €1m in funding.

Headed by Irish Mr Moneyball Brian Moore, Orreco has developed unique biomarker technology that analyses blood and other data in an elite athlete’s body to devise ways of ensuring the athlete achieves peak performance.

14. FormFormForm (Sugru)

Based in London, FormFormForm – the start-up behind global darling Sugru – was founded in 2004 by Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh (an Irishwoman, in case the name didn’t give it away).

For the uninitiated, Sugru – FormFormForm’s big-hitting product – is a mouldable glue that can stick to anything, turning into a strong, flexible rubber overnight. Earlier this year, Sugru raised £3.3m through a crowdfunding campaign while Ní Dhulchaointigh has received worldwide approbation, with CNN naming her one of the seven tech superheroes to watch in 2015.

Not bad for a product dreamed up as a college project.

15. CarTrawler

CarTrawler rolled into business in 2004 as a new online car hire service from brothers Niall and Greg Turley. The company was snapped up by ECI in 2011 only to be sold again last year for €450m. Now backed with private equity from BC Partners and Insight Venture Partners, CarTrawler has also gobbled up Holiday Autos, Argus Car Hire and Cabforce.

The past year has seen expansions at CarTrawler’s Dublin HQ, and in all the company employs 450 people in Dublin, London, Boston and Helsinki.

16. Kainos

Originating from Belfast, IT firm Kainos has continued a rise in stature that culminated in its IPO on the London Stock Exchange this summer, valuing the company at £209m.

Founded all the way back in 1986 as a joint venture between ICL and Qubis, the company now employs 730 staff in its seven offices in Northern Ireland, the UK, Poland and the US, as well as 30 people at Kainos in Dublin.

Specialising in digital technology, software design and agile development, Kainos counts Netflix, Diageo, Travelex and the UK’s NHS as clients.

17. Movidius

In conversation with Siliconrepublic.com at last week’s Web Summit, Movidius CEO Remi El-Ouazzane described how the work that the company is doing will make Dublin an artificial intelligence hub for the world.

Founded in the Irish capital in 2005 by Sean Mitchell and David Moloney, Movidius has risen to establish bases in the US (where it is now headquartered) and Romania, with clients for its semiconductor technology including Google’s Project Tango.

The company recently raised €38m, adding 100 new jobs in Dublin to power further developments in the internet of things sector.

18. Handy

Founded by Irishman Oisin Hanrahan, Handy was the first company at this year’s Web Summit to grab the headlines (for the right reasons) having raised $50m in Series C funding.

Based in New York and originally founded as Handybook just three years ago, the then 19-year-old Hanrahan built up a service that would allow someone to contract out handyman services through an online booking service.

In just a short space of time, Handy will now be expanding its services to include garden work and apartment rental, while the new funding – adding to the $15m raised back in March – will see it grow its portfolio of countries to 28.

19. Mobacar

Founded in Kerry in 2013, Mobacar has made itself a global influencer in a short space of time for its offering of the world’s first intelligent car rental and ground transport platform for airlines and travel agencies.

Just recently, the company was valued at €20m following investment from Auto Europe and Delta Partners, with plans to now expand its Killarney-based workforce of 30 people with roles for data scientists, developers and business development professionals.

Founded by Mike Webster, the company now processes 2.5m bookings per year and has more than 600 people working across three service centres in Maine, Munich and Sydney.

20. Bizimply

Bizimply bounded into the world in 2013, founded by Gerard Forde, Mikey Cannon and Norman Hewson. The shift and personnel management solution company has grown exponentially since launch and its software is in use globally.

Two years later, Bizimply is receiving well-deserved recognition and, at last week’s Web Summit, was named Beta Pitch winner and won the ESB Spark of Genius award.

Bizimply – the one start-up on our list yet to reach astronomical heights – is a nod to the small successes that can lead to bigger and better things. From little acorns, and all that.

Without doubt, Bizimply is one start-up to watch in the near future.

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