There was plenty to tantalise one’s taste buds for digital start-ups at Dublin Beta last night. The quarterly event, which runs as a platform for start-ups to network with the Irish tech community, had everything on offer – from a social enterprise that is aiming to ramp up blood donations around the globe, to a new digital platform to help people get their fashion fix, and a web app called AdMe for third-level students that is set to launch during the imminent Freshers Week at Trinity College Dublin (TCD).
Dublin Beta is an event that is run by Russell Banks, co-founder of the Dublin-based digital start-up Conker, and social-media marketer John O’Rourke. The duo set up the event series last year in order to give Irish start-ups a voice and a window to the tech community so they could get constructive feedback and grow their early-stage ventures.
The events are usually held in the Lost Society bar and club, which is based on South William Street, in the heart of Dublin City.
At each Dublin Beta, the crowd is given blackjack coins, or raffle tickets, so it can vote for their favourite start-ups. Last night, Dublin Beta hosted nine start-ups.
The second floor of Lost Society was packed with people picking the brains of each of the representatives from the nine ventures.
Among the hoards, Banks said that there were around 15 Googlers, including some senior people from Google Ireland, as well as four representatives from Enterprise Ireland, a couple of angel investors, and even two people from the corporate finance space.
It was not possible for Siliconrepublic.com to talk to all of the start-ups, because of the crowds there, but here’s a flavour of the type of digital start-ups that are coming to fruition in Ireland at the minute.
Éanna and Emily Shortt, co-founders of Oddball.ie
New betting start-up
Oddball.ie is a new type of betting venture that has been set up by Éanna and Emily Short. The duo are basing their start-up out of Glasnevin in north Dublin, and they’re hoping to officially launch Oddball.ie in November or December.
According to Emily, who has a background in psychology, Oddball.ie is a new type of betting that is based on mathematical algorithms her husband Éanna has pioneered.
The whole idea of Oddball is that betters will be able to place their bets based on what Éanna described as "fluid odds", as a result of the algorithms.
"We’re not out to get the hardcore betters," explained Emily, adding that the goal of Oddball.ie is to reach out to "smart betters". She said people will not be able to place enormous bets on the platform, but there will be a cut-off point, €50 at most.
At the minute Oddball.ie is in beta testing, with around 380 users based in Ireland dabbling with it using virtual bets. And the Shortts are analysing user behaviour so they can tweak the platform. So what will people be able to bet on, once Oddball comes out of beta?
Think weather patterns, the GAA, horseracing, F1, soccer, and golfing.
Working on Quotefish since 2009
Qaseem Alam, developer at the Wicklow-based start-up QuoteFish.com
Next up was Quotefish.com, a digital start-up based in Wicklow Town.
Simon Chapman, who originally hails from Sydney, Australia, has been working away on Quotefish since 2009.
Having been a past participant on an Enterprise Ireland programme for start-ups, Champan said QuoteFish will be soon ready for soft launch.
Developer Qaseem Alam, who has been working at Quotefish for the past few months, said the idea of the platform is to help businesses put their work in the cloud.
The whole premise is to help promote local businesses on the net – be it a florist, a carpenter, a graphic designer or a dress-maker – and help them get a digital presence when people are using their smartphones or web-enabled devices to seek out the best deals in their local environs.
Chapman said he met Qaseem at a DubStarts event earlier this year, so that’s how they duo started working on Chapman’s start-up.
Social enterprise to help give blood donating methods an overhaul around the globe
Fair and Square has just spun out of the LaunchPad accelerator at the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC). Founded by David Curran, the idea of Fair and Square is to revamp the way blood donations – or lack thereof – are given in the world.
Curran, who describes Fair and Square as more of a "social enterprise", started off by giving some statistics about blood donations. Of the 30pc of people around the world who can donate blood, only 3pc actually do so, he claimed.
At the moment, Curran said there are 73 countries around the planet where the majority of blood donations come from non-World Health Organization (WHO) approved methods.
"We are building a system that can be used as a genuine tool in order to increase blood donations that are WHO-approved," explained Curran.
He said Fair and Square is working with a country to give its blood-donating percentages an overhaul.
"They [this country, which cannot be named at the moment] want four times the amount of blood donations that they are getting at the moment. They want to send out the right message."
He said that if this model that Fair and Square is working on proves to be a success, it has the scope to be rolled out in other countries. And how will the start-up aim to reach out to people about donating blood ethically? Via the social-media giant that is Facebook.
Skip the store – prêt-à-porter online
Mark Flanagan, founder and CEO, StyleFinch.com
One start-up that was a little bit different than the others was StyleFinch.com, founded by Mark Flanagan.
What’s different about StyleFinch is that this digital start-up has already garnered an investment, from Lucey Technology.
StyleFinch is based at the Synergy Centre at IT Tallaght, while it also uses Lucey Technology’s new office space in Blackrock, Co Dublin. The start-up also has a London, UK, office.
Flanagan, now CEO, describes StyleFinch as a way for retailers and wholesalers in the fashion space to connect and to save people having to go into a store to browse for a fashion item. The idea is also to give small boutiques, independent retailers, designers and small retailers a digital platform so that people can check out their fashion wares online.
Instead of heading into a shop to find that the dress you like is not in the colour you want, Flanagan says the idea of StyleFinch is that one will be able to browse the StyleFinch platform to check out if that dress can be purchased in that particular colour there and then by collating all of the stock that a wholesaler will have for a particular brand – think the Darling brand, for instance.
He said the platform could be a win-win for wholesalers and retailers, also. Instead of having to wait for up to 100 days to get paid, the platform will aim to help businesses in the fashion world increase their cash flow by making sure they get paid within 20 days.
"We will handle all of the logistics," Flanagan said.
The start-up currently has 100 salespeople working in the UK, as the company wants to hit the UK fashion market big time.
Galway duo demo cloud-based start-up
Cian Brassil and Scott Kennedy who travelled from Galway to share their start-up CloudDock with the crowd at Dublin Beta last night
Finally, Cian Brassil and Scott Kennedy, two recent graduates, travelled to Dublin from Galway so they could showcase their new venture, called CloudDock.
Brassil, who has just graduated in IT from NUI Galway, said the idea of CloudDock is to integrate one’s Calendar and storage services such as DropBox, into the cloud.
In other words, he said this means people will be able to have "cloud compatibility" with people that they are sharing information, images and the like. So if one person is using Google Drive and the other person is using, say, Microsoft SkyDrive, they will be able to see each other’s information, without having to migrate to the other’s service.
The other start-ups that were there on the night were FoodTribe, the aforementioned AdMe, InForFree, and LikeWhere. The latter three ventures won the People’s Choice Awards on the night.
Banks said the Dublin Beta crew was delighted with the turnout, both in terms of the start-ups involved and the crowd.
"The start-up teams told us afterwards that they got really good, relevant feedback. They were very happy, and that is the key thing for us, as organisers. That’s the goal of Dublin Beta."