Internet start-ups generate cheap, fast return – Collins

3 Mar 2010

Dylan Collins, the young entrepreneur who by the age of 30 had sold three successful technology firms, says Ireland needs to focus more on generating a larger number of internet start-ups.

“We need to focus more on internet start-ups – they are the cheapest to build and the most scalable. Investors will always get a greater return on investment,” Collins told this morning’s Digital Landscapes event at UCD.

Collins should know. The Trinity graduate who three years ago, at the age of 26, sold his Dublin-based technology company, DemonWare, to the world’s biggest computer-game firm, Activision, for $15 million, has built up JOLT Online to be one of the most pioneering free-to-play browser games firms on the planet.

In November, was first to report that global games-store franchise GameStop had made a major undisclosed investment in his internet games company, JOLT.

About JOLT

JOLT, which employs 25 people in Dublin, Belfast, Germany and Bulgaria – last year received international acclaim for striking a deal with Hugh Hefner’s Playboy empire to bring out an online game called Playboy Manager that allows players to manage the careers of the magazine’s hottest models. This earned JOLT coverage in prestigious titles such as the The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, San José’s Mercury News and TechCrunch.

Collins said this morning that Ireland is one of the biggest online games hubs in Europe, yet the country fails to promote this fact.

“The great thing about Ireland as a location and as someone hiring is there is great indigenous talent and we also have access to the UK market for talent.”

Another thing that needs to change, Collins said, is Ireland’s attitude to business failure and its punishing bankruptcy rules. “We have to be able to learn from our mistakes. In reality, in the States it’s more of a west coast Silicon Valley thing because as you go east people are more conservative. But in reality I make mistakes all the time and that’s how I learn.

“In the digital business if you don’t have a consistent level of mistake-making then you’re probably doing something wrong.”

In terms of infrastructure investment around digital technology, Collins argues that location is king. “People are critical to digital so put initiatives in a sensible location, for the love of God.

Collins pulls for maths and science

He said that the country’s attitude towards STEM subjects needs to change. “Currently, the most popular subject in the Leaving Cert is home economics. We should have more maths and science taught at primary and secondary level.”

He said that the internet is an opportunity that established brands and not just new start-ups and big names like Google and Facebook can thrive from. “The internet is a flat playing field where people can get access to the highest quality at the lowest price. If you have a quality product or service you can definitely grow your business significantly.”

The keys to success in the internet business going forward, Collins argues, are analysis, management and technology planning.

He says analysing every aspect of a website’s performance reveals amazing insights into a company. But also having people keeping a constant eye on social media relationships and community building is also key. “If you are going into this space and you’re transitioning your brand, have dedicated people who can manage communities and strategies. One of the biggest mistakes I made was setting up channels and not having people working full-time on it.”

Collins argues also that digital entrepreneurs dare not overlook offline mediums to promote their businesses. “GameStop are the biggest games retailer in the world and we are in the position of scaling offline traffic to online traffic that will involve a campaign.

“The amount of traffic that will come online is scaring the crap out of our engineers. We are having to scale quickly, it is all about architecture. If you are in a position where traffic is coming at you, make sure it works otherwise, if things fall down, you’ll miss out on a huge revenue opportunity.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years