Lottie Doll maker Arklu wins Google Adopt A Startup

13 Jul 2016

Ian Harkin, Kaitriona McBride from Arklu with Paddy Flynn, Director and Head of Google Ireland’s Startup Programme. Image via Shane O'Neill Photography.

Having already seen one of its Lottie Dolls make it aboard the International Space Station (ISS), Donegal-based Arklu has now been named the winner of the Google Adopt a Startup 2016 spring programme.

Arklu has had a literal cosmic rise in recent years, as a start-up that creates dolls based on characters who are nine-years-old and created to be positive role models for children, stimulate their imaginations, and inspire learning and fun through play.

No doubt the highlight of the company’s success to-date has been the fact that one of its creations became the first doll to head into space aboard the ISS with British astronaut Tim Peake, where it still currently resides.

This wasn’t just any Lottie Doll either, as its designer was a six-year-old girl called Abigail, who dreams of going into space one day.

Given it was such a heartwarming story, filmmaker Elena Rossini, who was introduced to Lottie Dolls when they were presented to all speakers at Inspirefest 2015, decided to create a short-film about Abigail, which she screened at this year’s Inspirefest, where Lottie Dolls were, once again, the most coveted swag for speakers.

Now, to cap all this off, the company has been named the winner of the Google Adopt a Startup 2016 spring programme following a Dragons’ Den-style final held in the Foundry at Google’s EMEA headquarters in Dublin.

Eight finalists were left to pitch their companies to the panel of judges, which included Patrick Walsh from Dogpatch Labs and David Grunwald, EMEA head of Global Partnerships for Google for Entrepreneurs.

‘They made a lot of progress’

Arklu proved to have the edge over the seven other competitors and won €10,000 in Adwords credit. It will also become eligible for the Google Cloud Platform for Startup programme, which comes with $20,000 Google Cloud credits.

This is the fourth year and eighth winner of the competition, with its most recent winner, in autumn 2015, being Beats Medical, whose CEO is former Inspirefest speaker Ciara Clancy.

Speaking at the final, Paddy Flynn, head of Google Ireland’s start-up programme, said: “Arklu was selected by the judges because they made a lot of progress throughout the programme and committed 150pc to the process, investing a lot of time and effort to develop their business strategy.”

Meanwhile, Mayo-based TruckScience – which provides software to people who sell, build and use trucks – was awarded second place, receiving €5,000 in Adwords credit; while Dublin’s Beutifi.com – a marketplace for hair and beauty salons – placed third and accepted a cheque for €3,000 in Adwords credit.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic