Boole start-up of the week: Showtime Analytics

28 Sep 2015330 Shares

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Pictured: Showtime's CTO Paul Lynch, CEO Richie Power and CDO Joe Spurling

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Showtime Analytics has developed a data analytics platform for the global cinema industry giving real-time insights that allow cinemas to increase profitability.

“Showtime is a data analytics platform built for the global cinema industry, enabling our customers across the value chain from exhibitors, distributors and suppliers to maximise the commercial and operational potential of their ever-growing data assets,” explained Showtime’s co-founder Richie Power.

“Our platform and industry data model automatically collects and integrates multiple different data sources in real-time, providing the ability for our customers to visualize and cross analyse their data sets.

‘As our integrations grow Showtime has the ultimate potential to become a data platform for POS systems globally’
– RICHIE POWER, SHOWTIME ANALYTICS

“Clients can use our own pre-built off-the-shelf best practice analytics products or create their own innovative products that can be shared with as many users as necessary using our unique ‘Mass User Consumption’ licence model,” Power explained.

The market

The global cinema exhibition market is worth around US$25bn a year, with huge growth in the international and Chinese markets adding 17 new screens a day, but box office revenue in traditional markets such as the US, Canada and Europe are flat year-on-year.

“The industry now more than ever needs to explore new and innovative ways of maximising the revenue from their existing customer base and find innovative ways of attracting new audiences.

“We see data analytics as being core to this strategy.”

Power explained that from a technology perspective the innovation over the past 10 years has been nearly solely focused on the transition to digital projection providing a new cinema experience for audiences.

“As a result this innovation has also opened up an amazing opportunity to provide the right content at the right time to the right audience, with the industry stakeholders collecting an enormous amount of data to influence these content decisions.

“While there are some big software players in the industry, they tend to operate in silos providing individual point reporting solutions for their own applications such as: point of sale systems (POS) reports on ticket and shop sales, financial systems, staffing systems, marketing databases, online booking engines, mobile applications, loyalty demographic programs and social media programs.

“The opportunity we in Showtime are solving is to eliminate the data silos by treating all software systems as individual data sources by creating our own data collection marketplace, whereby our clients can easily leverage our platform to integrate on-demand any of these data sources into meaningful analytics, all without the need to invest in their own costly analytics resources, infrastructure and software.”

The founders

Showtime’s founders are first and foremost friends and colleagues who have worked together on major software and technology projects here in Ireland, the UK, the US and Canada.

“We all bring different but complementary skills to the table and that brings a trust to divide the workload into areas of expertise,” Power said.

CEO Power has a background as a director in highly-successful Irish consultancy practice SQS.

Traditionally his expertise was in the software quality and test space, but more recently leading consultancy services and building new service lines of business.

Power is responsible for the growth of Showtime, working with our partners and customers to create commercially viable products, services and solutions.

CDO Joe Spurling has a background in business performance improvement methodologies such as Lean and Six Sigma, using data analytics and visualisation to bring business solutions to a technical reality. He has worked in many different industries but in most recent times has successfully lead the analytics consultancy practices and business development activities in Ireland and Canada with both DNM Analytics and Perception Data Consultancy.

Spurling is also has the ace in the pack for Showtime because he has a family link to the cinema business in Ireland with the Movies@Cinema group, enabling the team to understand clearly the demands and requirements of the industry.

CTO Paul Lynch has worked as a both a developer and technical architect with Vision Consultancy and went on to co-found a highly successful classified ad company called Skupenet, which over the past 10 years has specialised in providing technology products and solutions to the motor industry.

The technology

“At its core we have three different layers to our platform,” Power explained.

“Firstly we have our data collection marketplace whereby we have pre-built data collection APIs to all the leading data sources the industry uses, whilst also providing access to other public data sources such as movie critic reviews, weather data, mobile app analytics and the social media firehouse. This list is growing by the month and takes away the complexity for clients to build these complex integrations themselves.

“Secondly we have created an industry data model or data-lake, which integrates all these data sources into their appropriate structures, so that when required users can perform cross data source analytics. This data is securely hosted and managed by Showtime utilizing Amazon Web Services (AWS) environments, with our data model using pioneering search engine techniques to provide high-performing and real-time processing for our clients.

“Thirdly we have then built a data visualisation layer where customers can easily subscribe to products, applications and services we have built on the data contained in our platform. These products are utilising some of the latest and greatest data visualisation and user interface techniques in the market and crucially using our Unique ‘Mass User Consumption’ license model where the outputs can be shared with as many users in an organisation to ensure cultural analytics adoption.”

Goal to become the data platform of choice for the global cinema industry

Power explained that when the team founded the company it was imperative to focus on three core criteria:

  1. Is this an industry we are passionate about?
  2. Does the industry represent a global opportunity?
  3. Will our knowledge and expertise revolutionise the industry?

“The movie industry is most definitely exciting and the main goal is to be become the data platform on which all of the world’s cinema data resides, allowing people to build their own applications and create their own models utilising our technology platform.

“What is becoming even more exciting is that many of our clients are not limited to cinema but also through their POS systems clients have leisure interests in shops, restaurants, exhibitions, theatres and stadiums. As our integrations grow Showtime has the ultimate potential to become a data platform for POS systems globally.”

Power explained that the start-up was officially launched at the annual conference CinemaCon in Vegas in April where its first product aimed at cinema exhibitors was unveiled.

“Since then we have spent the majority of our time in customer acquisition mode. Our first major integration is now complete with our first channel partner Admit-One providing our products to over 200-plus cinema sites in the UK, Ireland and Spain.

“We have a channel partner due to go live in Q4 to 100-plus sites in Central and Latin America and we have some major announcements to be made before the end of the year.

“From a brand perspective, as a result of our launch in Vegas, Joe was asked to speak at CineEurope on data monetisation in Barcelona in June.

“As a result of that we are off to Russia later in the month to speak at the Russian annual cinema convention and will do similar in Norway in November.

“Data is a really hot topic in the cinema industry at the moment, so it’s great to be getting the opportunity to become data evangelists.

Keeping it ‘reel’

Showtime Analytics is self-funded so far.

“It was always our plan to look for investment towards the end of 2015 – which is an active stream of activity — but given that customer acquisition is ahead of our expectations, we will have key decisions to make regarding organic growth vs accelerating through investment,” said Power.

“The next few months will be critical in making these decisions so definitely watch the Showtime space for 2016!”

‘From our perspective, nothing focuses the mind and allows you to hone your proposition more tightly than when you are spending your own hard-earned cash’
– RICHIE POWER

Power said that the biggest challenge the company has had so far has been on the human resources front.

“There is most definitely a skills shortage in the tech space in Dublin at the moment, and as an organisation that is just establishing itself, it can be difficult to compete with some of the tech giants around town. That said, we are lucky that the data opportunity and industry we are working in is super exciting, so that factor has been a big attraction to target and pull together a really great core team of experts in their fields.

“Office space was another challenge – we spent some time bouncing from place to place, but did not find office co-sharing conducive to the creativity required to grow a serious business.

“No different to any other start-up we are competing for a location, size, cost and flexibility of lease that will start small and hopefully needs to scale rapidly.

“Thankfully we have just moved into our new HQ, creating a space that our team can be creative and productive in and ultimately feel at home!”

Picture this

Power explained that the Showtime Analytics team hasn’t really gotten to know the local start-up scene in Ireland because its founders have spent most of their time working in the international technology space.

“But the start-up community is definitely a different ecosystem.

“I guess we’ve been so focused in getting our heads down to build our product and building our profile in the international cinema industry that we’ve probably neglected the local start-up scene a little.

“I’ve never really been cool enough for a scene – hopefully someone in the know might read this and invite us to a party or something!

“The scene itself aside, the one thing that has become clear to us as we’ve been building our business is that more of the right support is required if we want to capitalise on the great ideas that are being generated in this country.

“Traditional organisations like banks and larger government institutions struggle to think quickly, act fast and respond to the ever-changing demands of startups. These organisations still have traditional processes and hurdles to adhere to, which ultimately are not agile enough to meet start-up needs. If this isn’t addressed you are going to see more examples of successful companies like Stripe leaving the country to obtain the requisite support to grow globally with pace.”

For the start-ups that he does know, Power’s main advice would be to get as far as you can on self-funding.

“From our perspective, nothing focuses the mind and allows you to hone your proposition more tightly than when you are spending your own hard-earned cash. The flip of this is the challenge to keep you alive from month to month, and to make your money elsewhere, but this discipline really is a foundation for building a successful company and not burning cash on crazy things like office dogs!

“Showtime has had really great support from Wicklow Local Enterprise Office, first in the form of a Feasibility Study Grant and subsequently a Priming Grant.

“The level of support we have got has been tremendous and really was the enabler for us to be able to get as far as we have to date. I would definitely recommend that anyone looking to get started should speak with his or her local Local Enterprise Office.”

Siliconrepublic.com’s Data Science Week brings you special coverage of this rapidly growing field from 28 September to 2 October 2015. Don’t miss an entry worth your analysis by subscribing to our news alerts or following @siliconrepublic and the hashtag #DataScienceWeek on Twitter.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com