We spoke to the leaders of Audyo and Lanu about their respective businesses and why they wanted to take part in this year’s Techstars London Accelerator.
We caught up with Lanu’s managing director Shane O’Donnell and Audyo’s co-founder and CEO Colin Ricardo to learn more about their businesses and what they expect to get from the Techstars London Accelerator before they pitch from investors at Demo Day on 3 December.
We asked both O’Donnell and Ricardo what prompted their companies to apply for the accelerator and both had different stories.
Initially, Ricardo and the team had hopes of heading off to Y Combinator in Silicon Valley, but this dream was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“After an interview with Y Combinator, they told me to go and find some co-founders, so I went back to Dublin and recruited my two childhood friends, who are also some of the smartest people I know,” said Ricardo.
“We raised $80,000 from our network and decided to apply to Techstars, since the US was closed to us due to Covid-19. I had previously worked at DataCamp, which is another Techstars company, so I was aware of how strong the network is. We actually applied after the deadline, so we were thankful they let us interview at all, let alone get in!”
For O’Donnell, he was eager to apply after he met Eamonn Carey, managing director of the Techstars London Accelerator. He said that being involved has been “surreal” so far, while praising the environment that Carey and the Techstars team have created for start-ups.
O’Donnell commented: “Eamonn and the team create such a wonderful environment to develop in. Challenging but always respectful. Even in the first week learned so much, it’s crazy.”
Ricardo, who has an MSc in artificial intelligence from the University of Edinburgh, leads an AI start-up that makes any newsletter listenable. His co-founders and friends are Eoghan O’Neill and Éanna Morley.
Morley has an undergraduate degree in mathematics and statistics and an MSc in computational statistics and machine learning from University College London, while O’Neill has an undergraduate degree in architecture and an MSc in computer science from University College Dublin.
Founded in 2020, during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, Audyo has created technology that enables publications to make articles listenable with a single line of code.
The start-up’s goal is to help publications increase revenue and reach, while providing customers with rich data and insights.
Since joining the accelerator, Audyo has been in “numerous, fruitful calls with venture capitalists already” according to Ricardo. He also said that Techstars London MD Carey, has been “a fountain of wisdom” throughout his experience on the accelerator.
O’Donnell grew up in Dublin where he met co-founder Luke Corburn; Lanu’s director of business development, Lorcan Sweetman Fox; and the company’s head of design and operations, Ron Byrne.
Years later, O’Donnell ended up working in the UK as a town planner, before settling in London with his partner and his dog Panchy, who he says has “sabotaged many an investor meeting”.
With his experience in town planning, O’Donnell wants to use Lanu to change the way people look at the development potential within houses by codifying the rules of planning.
He explained: “Planning rules can be difficult to navigate and apply in each case so our technology takes away that pain for a range of stakeholders, from the homeowner, to the designer, to the financier.”
The idea for Lanu began with a phone call between O’Donnell and Coburn, who is a mathematician. Together, they began working on an algorithm that remains at the heart of their business.
O’Donnell said that the mentorship offered on the Techstars programme has been invaluable for Lanu.
“For us, personally, none of us have run a start-up before so we’re trying to soak up that experience in the room from the mentors, but also from the other teams. The diversity of companies in the cohort is also great, from podcast platforms to health game-changers, to Iron Man suits and everything in between,” he said.
How London compares to Dublin
While both Audyo and Lanu are creating vastly different technologies, the founding teams of both companies felt there were significant benefits to participating in the London programme.
O’Donnell said that since joining the Techstars London Accelerator, Lanu has been “thinking and moving quicker, from concept to prototype in days”. Moving at a quicker pace has meant that the company has time to make mistakes while exploring more avenues as the business develops.
As an Irish person living in London, O’Donnell is already well aware of the large community of Irish people living in the city. He joked that “sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference” between Dublin and London, due to the sheer number of Irish people living in the city.
“We have encountered so many Irish people within the London scene. It was a pleasant surprise to have Audyo with us on the programme! They’re a little younger than us but a lot smarter. They’re going to do great things,” said O’Donnell.
For the Audyo team, it’s obvious that there’s more money in London and it’s a much more international scene than in Dublin.
Ricardo believes that Dublin has the potential to catch up with a city like London, in terms of what it can do for start-ups. He said: “Sometimes as Irish people, we have a tendency to undersell ourselves and what we can do, whereas the levels of self-belief in London and especially the US are much higher.
“Ireland definitely punches above its weight in terms of its standing on the world stage, but there’s no reason we couldn’t be even more of a major tech hub than we are right now, assuming the right investments are made in the ecosystem.”