The Irish start-up ecosystem is gaining pace and more and more start-ups are entering the fray. Here is our selection of 30 to keep an eye on in 2017.
Ireland has a thriving start-up community that is getting stronger every year.
We selected this year’s crop of ones to watch on the basis of recent achievements such as funding as well as industry recognition and most importantly, technological relevance.
The 30 start-ups that follow straddle the whole gamut of technology including wearables, internet of things (IoT), mobility, robotics, e-commerce, cleantech, apps, hardware and data management, to name just a few.
With offices in Dublin, London and Silicon Valley, OpenBack is an on-device messaging engine that operates locally within third-party apps, and remembers activities undertaken by users for targeted notifications.
Launched in 2015 by Irish pair David Shackleton and Christian Ryder, the company took the €25,000 grand prize and the ESB Spark of Genius Award at the first Lisbon Web Summit this year.
According to Shackleton: “When it comes to delivering notifications for users, every app does push in the same way as it was invented for email. We think that is crazy.”
Invizbox, which was recently named winner of the annual JumpStart competition at the Learning and Innovation Centre at the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown, was co-founded by Chris Monks, and husband and wife Paul and Elizabeth Canavan.
The company has manufactured a plug-and-play hardware device that allows users to bring their own personal VPN anywhere, enabling them to use the internet through public Wi-Fi hotspots without prying eyes or fraudsters intervening.
Glissed, previously known as Pucker, is an online marketplace where freelance beauty professionals offer their services, and consumers make appointments in their homes, offices or hotels.
The beauty professional goes direct to the client and payment is made securely online.
Company founders Louise Dunne and Niamh McHugh participated in the NDRC Female Founders programme and emerged as a winner at the recent NDRC Investor Day, with €20,000 in follow-on investment.
Firmwave is an innovative product and solution design company that specialises in designing ultra-low power hardware and firmware for IoT and wearable devices.
Based at GEC in Dublin, Firmwave is targeting the emerging IoT sensors market that is predicted to reach $34.75bn by 2023.
“Firmwave is already working with some great partners here such as Asavie, Nimbus, Emutex, Davra Networks, Vodafone, Intel and IBM to rapidly create secure IoT solutions for our customers,” said co-founder and CEO Fintan McGovern.
Vizlegal converts fragmented pieces of legal information, such as court judgments and filings from multiple jurisdictions, into structured data. There are tens of millions of such documents online and tens of thousands published daily.
On top of this data, they build tools and services for legal and other industries, which helps them to use this information.
The company’s founders are Gavin Sheridan (CEO) and Jose Alberto Suarez Lopez (CTO). Sheridan is a former director of Storyful.
The company was the recent overall winner at the NDRC Investor Day, where it secured €30,000 in follow-on funding.
Founded in 2015 by Conall Laverty, Wia is an IoT start-up that aims to fuel and transform the maker revolution with readily accessible tools.
“Wia provides developers with a cloud infrastructure for building real-time sensor and location applications,” explained Laverty to Siliconrepublic.com earlier this year.
Winner of the Best Start-up category at the Irish Internet Association awards ceremony held in the RDS in October, Laverty’s business also finished as a finalist in the ESB Spark of Genius competition at the 2016 Web Summit in Lisbon.
— Startup Europe (@StartUpEU) December 9, 2016
Recognised at this year’s prestigious Startup Europe Awards, energy services company UrbanVolt is spearheading what it describes as ‘light as a service’.
Headed by CEO Kevin Maughan, the company in just one year of being in business has become the biggest lighting company in Ireland. Its premise is that it can truly delivery on carbon footprint reduction by being business friendly.
The company, which was also named Bank of Ireland Start-up of the Year, signed a €30m funding arrangement with SUSI Energy Efficiency Fund earlier this year.
A finalist in the Virgin Media Voom accelerator, CleverBooks is a creative company that creates personalised children’s books with clever stories, as well as books with 3D augmented reality.
“We are targeting parents and grandparents; everyone who wants to make a kid happy with an educational book,” founder Darya Yegorina said.
“This is a massive billion-dollar market, especially in the niche we have selected: personalised and educative fairy tales.”
Parkpnp is a parking marketplace app that allows users to generate additional revenue by renting their unused or underutilised parking space. It has been described as the Airbnb for parking.
The company is the brainchild of founder and CEO Garret Flower, who spent the last five years building Krüst Bakery, distributing specialty baked goods nationwide and exporting to the UK and Canada.
Parkpnp was recently a finalist in the ESB Spark of Genius start-up competition at the Web Summit in Lisbon.
OCREX offers intelligent, automated software solutions to enable accountants and bookkeepers to reduce time and cost while processing paper documents.
“We wanted to help address the significant challenges incurred from manual data entry, by developing a highly functional, yet cost-effective solution for the industry” said founder Brendan Woods.
Serving in excess of 2,000 accounting firms worldwide and having secured seed funding from Enterprise Ireland and investment group Signature Capital, OCREX is expecting to close a new funding round in the first half of 2017 to support continued expansion.
— EntAnonSociety (@EntAnon) December 14, 2016
Dublin and New York-based WeSavvy’s disruptive fintech ambition is to transform how insurance products are distributed by creating a new industry model with the customer at its heart. To do this, WeSavvy integrates with another growing tech sector, mobile health.
With the WeSavvy mobile app, insurance clients are encouraged to increase their lifestyle activity in order to personalise their insurance policies.
Founder Hesus Inoma describes himself as a ‘finhealth evangelist’ and his experience comes from Irish and European insurance markets.
Cortechs is focused on using brainwaves and digital tools, such as gameplay, to improve attention in kids, especially those with ADHD.
Founded by former research lecturer Áine Behan, Cortechs has created a platform that uses a brainwave-sensing headset that reads brainwaves with advanced algorithms and uses gameplay to regulate your focus levels.
Cortechs uses this platform to create games, dashboards, and collect brainwave data so children can improve their behaviour and build a more resilient mind.
“Cortechs’ opportunity is selling to the half million UK/Ireland market with attention deficit issues worth around €60m that can scale to €600m when pushed out to the European and US markets and to a further €1.2bn if we move both vertically into the adult market,” Behan explained.
MamaBud is an Irish e-commerce and logistics company selling Irish-sourced baby foods directly to homes in China.
The company is moving to capitalise on an opportunity that will arise in 2018 when the Chinese government moves to close down an informal grey market for baby food worth €1.5bn, after various safety scandals arose. MamaBud aims to fill the gap with quality and safe produce sourced in Ireland.
“MamaBud is a legitimised, encrypted version of this grey market, delivering premium products direct to Chinese mothers, and perfectly poised to scoop up that value,” said CEO and founder Sarah Martin.
Dublin-based start-up Foreign Exchange Clearing House (FXCH) is turning to crowdfunding to raise €8.5m, to expand its operation that uses blockchain and overhaul how currency is exchanged between financial institutions.
The founders have worked together for over 20 years, beginning in the FX futures markets when the NYBOT-FINEX set up shop in Dublin in in 1995. Their experience in futures is where the central clearing concept took shape. A few attempts were made to partner with established exchanges to offer a Cleared Spot-FX service. But for budget reasons or just cultural differences, it never took off.
“When we traded on the futures pits in France many years ago, we did not realise how advanced the central counterparty model was, the hidden gem behind the exchange’s open outcry system,” said Marc Despallieres, director of APAC at FXCH.
“What we are bringing to the OTC world of Spot-FX with FXCH is this streamlined simplicity of a clearing house. Our usage of the blockchain reinforces that simplicity with transparency.”
Co-founded in 2015 by Charles Seadon (CTO) and Fiona Levie (CEO), Gigliotti serves the hospitality sector with its current in-room Smartdrinx System minibar.
The system is an IoT automated dispenser which offers up to 60 products that the company believes will put it in a prominent position, in a market worth €10bn globally.
With operations in Clare and Frankfurt, the company has already agreed a sales and distribution deal in Dubai worth an estimated $1bn over the next five years, as well as a $3.5bn deal over the next five years with its associates, Hospitality Future Labs in San Francisco.
Gecko Governance is a Dundalk and Dublin-based start-up that makes regulation technology (regtech) for the global finance industry.
“Gecko Governance is a new regtech solution that easily allows fund managers to monitor and manage their regulation and compliance requirements,” explained founder CEO Shane Brett.
Brett has worked in hedge funds and asset management for 20 years all over the world and previously wrote two books on fund management.
Gecko Governance works by providing fund managers with a live oversight of all their funds regulation and compliance requirements.
It helps them to determine which funds are on schedule and which are behind, which compliance tasks are outstanding and which have been completed.
PlayTank is a social collaboration platform that enables staff at organisations of all sizes to be a part of the innovation journey. Think of it as Slack for idea creation.
“PlayTank is a social collaboration platform, aimed at facilitating large-scale innovation-fostering activities both inside large organisations and through on-platform partnerships between multiple organisations,” explained its founder and CEO Toby Farren.
“Our platform takes advantage of the collective wisdom of the crowd, allowing large groups of stakeholders to come together and design potential new innovations; including new products, processes and business models, bypassing the political and bureaucratic barriers inherent in larger enterprises.”
Founded by Gavin Hayes and Richard Whelan, Dublin-based Popdeem is a social rewards platform. It gives brands the ability to identify their most influential customers on social networks and to reward them for sharing their brand experiences online.
This year, the company raised €500,000 of funding, following an identical return in 2014. The latest capital is helping the company open a New York office, pilot a new version of its software and hire engineers in Dublin.
Its solution is now live in more than 10 countries, including Ireland, the UK, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand and the US.
— Cyc-Lok (@cyclokglobal) May 31, 2016
Cyc-Lok has begun rolling out its secure smart lockers for bicycles and bicycle equipment that can be accessed via a smartphone app.
Founded by Stephen and Louise Murphy, the company’s first unit was installed at Pearse Station in Dublin.
The Carlow-based company made it to the final two of the pitch battle at the recent Uprise Festival, but just missed out on the top prize.
Glistrr is an event software platform founded in 2012.
“Glistrr allows event organisers to identify and engage influencers within their customer base, to boost event attendances and ultimately increase revenues,” explained Matthew Large, CEO of the company.
Glistrr has just completed the inaugural StartPlanetNI accelerator, which is the only equity-backed accelerator programme currently available in Northern Ireland. The company was voted the ‘Most Investible Company’ at the recent Demo Day in Hillsborough Castle, Co Down by the assembled investor audience from across the island of Ireland, UK and further afield.
Founded in 2014 by Oliver Hynes, Hub Controls brings customers the Hub Controller, which is a smart thermostat you can control from your smartphone.
The Hub Controller can also learn your heating habits and optimise itself to save you money.
Hynes has worked extensively in the heating industry throughout Europe for the past 20 years. He came up with the idea when a family member had difficulty paying an electricity bill and was offered a prepaid meter, which Hynes worked out would be more expensive than the standard bill-pay supply.
In March, Aylien secured a round of international funding worth €580,000, with eight new jobs to be added before 2017.
Aylien’s technology is focused on developing a text and image analysis API that allows developers and data scientists to filter and make sense of massive amounts of textual data. The company was founded by Parsa Ghaffari, its current CEO, and has thousands of customers worldwide.
“The data and reports generated can be used by authorities to rebuild and repair pedestrian areas to ensure accessibility, such as wheelchair access and safety for everybody, regardless of age, ability and circumstances,” said Pavanu’s CEO Natalia Shiel.
“Our objective is to disrupt the way pedestrian areas are built, repaired and maintained.”
Cogni is a disruptive young fintech player based in Dublin that aims to act as a smartphone bank for businesses.
Previously known as Bizbaze, Cogni is a collaborative commerce platform with digital banking to help SMEs and micro-enterprises find new markets and customers with evidence-based insights, through the use of collaborative commerce and artificial intelligence (AI).
The company was one of six young start-ups to take part in the recent showcase of ones to watch for the future of Irish fintech at the Accenture FinTech Innovation Lab in Dublin’s NDRC in March.
Founder and CEO Archie Ravishankar said that Cogni provides businesses with multi-currency business accounts with AI-driven financial tools.
“99pc of European businesses are micro and small businesses and they are growing 15pc each year. Cogni aims to address the market needs of this segment.”
AI research start-up Yedup was founded by Dr Martin Spollen and Paul McWilliams in 2015. Yedup uses social media analytics to detect trends and gain valuable customer information.
Earlier this year, it launched its SodaBread API to monitor “global social media content continually in real time” for hedge fund clients as well as high-frequency traders and algorithmic trading.
Last month, Yedup was named the best New Start company in the regional NI category at the InterTrade Ireland Seedcorn awards, securing a €20,000 cash prize to finance its future ventures.
Effy is a tool for businesses that makes smart scheduling simpler – effortless, even.
Effy, which was co-founded by Norma O’Mahony and Owen McCabe, uses existing in-store data to ensure retailers have the right staff, in the right place, at the right time.
“This allows lean retailing, sales optimisation, and ultimately gives control back to the manager over their resources. Effy does all this in a manner that is effective, efficient and effortless – all in the name,” says O’Mahony.
Effy is targeted towards those in retail, predominantly fashion and footwear multiples that have more than 10 employees.
Johnson Hana International (JHI) is a disruptive new legal process outsourcing company that is combining legal services with big data.
“We aim to drive efficiency into legal services to save our clients time, energy and money by outsourcing their legal process work to us,” explained Dan Fox, JHI founder and CEO.
Lawyers operating out of JHI use technological platforms to review and code documentation.
Fresh from major contract wins with the ESB, for example, the company has plans to hire 200 people in the coming years.
Founded by Irishman Peter Johnston in 2014, SaaS start-up Lystable is behind a piece of software that allows large companies to more effectively manage a freelance workforce and its vendors.
Lystable has enjoyed a successful first two years of operation since its launch in early 2015.
The start-up raised $3.5m in its first year, and recently closed out an $11m Series A, led by investment from Peter Thiel, Goldcrest Capital and Spring Partners.
Dublin and Berlin-based Smartfrog is an IoT security camera player with users in 130 countries worldwide, and recently raised €20m in a new funding round.
Smartfrog is just one year old, and the latest funding round brings the figure raised by the company so far to €28m. This was achieved with the help of existing investors E.ventures, Target Global and a number of unnamed family offices.
Smartfrog has developed a universal IoT platform designed to build dedicated solutions across product areas. With 60 staff, the company has established several partnerships with leading e-tailers and retailers such as Amazon, Otto, Media Markt and Saturn, as well as leading utilities and consumer electronics distributors in Europe.
Cog & Axle
Cog & Axle is the Irish company behind the design and manufacture of the Lévó. This wooden teaching resource uses levers, inclined planes, wheels, axles and pulleys to teach students the science behind simple machines, along with the associated mathematics and vocabulary.
Using the Lévó in conjunction with the storybook Henry’s Piano, young students from five to 15 years old can learn through the challenge of delivering Henry’s new piano to his house.
To facilitate teachers as well as students, Cog & Axle also provides a comprehensive illustrated 200-page teacher’s manual with lesson plans, activities and investigations. Lessons are laid out so that each year-level builds on previous experience, going from simple concrete activities to more abstract theories involving physics and mathematics.
Updated, 9.15am, 19 December 2016: This article was updated to replace ExerWise with JHI as a start-up to watch, as the former is no longer trading.
Updated, 2.20pm, 19 December 2016: This article was amended to clarify that WeSavvy does not partner with the insurance companies Aviva, Zurich, Allianz and Irish Life.
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