Limerick start-up Huggnote wins $50,000 prize on US TV show

9 Aug 2021

Huggnote co-founders Perry and Jacqui Meskell. Image: Huggnote

Founded by sisters Jacqui and Perry Meskell, the musical ‘virtual hug’ app will now receive investment and mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs.

Huggnote, the start-up founded by Limerick sisters Jacqui and Perry Meskell, has won the top prize of €50,000 on US TV show 2 Minute Drill.

The Huggnote app allows users to send songs to friends, family and loved ones as ‘virtual hugs’.

Jacqui Meskell said she was inspired to create the app after she wanted to comfort a friend who was going through a tragedy, but was unable to physically be with her due to working abroad. The idea predates the pandemic, but the co-founders said it has particularly resonated with people over the last 18 months.

2 Minute Drill, which airs on Bloomberg TV and Amazon Prime, is hosted by author and businessman David Meltzer and sees five contestants given two minutes each to pitch their business idea to a panel of four judges. Winners of each episode receive prize money as well as mentorship from the panel of judges.

Giving feedback on the show after Jacqui Meskell’s pitch, Meltzer said: “You had me at hello and 250,000 beta users, nobody has that.”

Speaking after the show, he added: “Huggnote is one of those ideas that seems so obvious you wonder why nobody else has done it before. When I first heard Jacqui speak about her passion for Huggnote’s mission, it resonated with me immediately.

“I’ve long understood the power of music to motivate and energise athletes, and now Huggnote is harnessing that same power for everyone. With users in every country in the world, Huggnote’s potential to create a happier and more connected world is clear.”

Limerick-based Huggnote has attracted investment from Enterprise Ireland and participated in start-up programmes at the NDRC and Cork’s Rubicon Centre. The app won awards at Google’s Adopt A Startup programme in 2018 and at the National Startup Awards last December.

Huggnote has users in more than 200 countries and in a January interview with the Irish Independent, the co-founders said that the app’s most popular song is I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston.

“We’re absolutely delighted,” said Jacqui Meskell about the recent prize in the US. “We were honoured to just be selected as it is such great exposure for Huggnote in the US – a key market of ours. But to be chosen as the winner by such an elite entrepreneurial panel is a great confidence boost because these guys really know what it takes to build and scale nine-figure companies.”

Co-founder Perry Meskell added: “I’m so proud of Jacqui and delighted the judges were so impressed with Huggnote. It’s the best possible introduction not only to new audiences of users across the US and indeed globally, but the start-up ecosystem at large in the States.”

Jack Kennedy is a freelance journalist based in Dublin