Vish Gain speaks to three start-ups to find out how tech innovation from Ireland is making a global impact.
When the founders of Irish tech start-up Intouch welcomed former Coca-Cola senior executive Francisco Crespo onto their board, little did they know that two years later Mexico would emerge as one of the company’s most important markets.
Intouch is part of a growing list of Irish start-ups that are going global – not just plotting a European expansion or crossing the pond over to the US.
While the UK and the Eurozone remain the big export markets for growing Irish companies, some are looking beyond the usual suspects to expand their business in new regions such as Africa, east Asia and the Middle East.
Intouch with the Mexican market
On a mission to help retailers build shops of the future by digitising the in-store experience, Intouch was founded in 2015 by Dr Sameh Abdalla, Doychin Doychev and Tim Arits.
Today, it has more than 40 employees spread across Ireland, the US, Egypt and the Netherlands, and plans to hire more in Mexico.
Crespo, a Coca-Cola veteran who served as president of its Mexican business, proved to be an invaluable resource to Intouch after he invested in the company and joined its board.
“It was through Francisco’s contacts in the Latin America region that we got speaking to a number of high-profile retailers and brands in Mexico,” Seamus McHugh, retail sales director at Intouch, told SiliconRepublic.com.
In June, Intouch signed a deal with Mexican retailer Kiosko to provide machine learning and AI-powered retail tech that customises recommendations for shoppers by analysing various data points. These include the location of the store, the demographic of customers, time of the year and weather, among other things.
The multi-year contract will see Kiosko eventually deploy the novel technology in many of its 600-odd stores across Mexico.
“Kiosko will help us to deliver our solution and expand into a new market, fulfilling our mission of making physical spaces more interactive and rewarding than online ones to all parties: retailers, brands and customers,” Artis said at the time.
Beyond to Japan
Thousands of miles away from Mexico, another Irish start-up has been making inroads to bring its tech to a big market: Japan.
Dublin-based GridBeyond, which announced this week that it secured €6m in debt financing for growth, found a golden opportunity to bring its energy resource management tech to one of the world’s most energy consuming countries per capita.
When Taoiseach Micheál Martin visited Japan in July, he met local GridBeyond representative Shunsuke Amanai to discuss the global energy crisis and to share lessons learned on how island markets can best manage volatility in a high renewables future.
“Japan is the biggest deregulated market in the world,” GridBeyond CEO and co-founder Michael Phelan told SiliconRepublic.com.
“It’s a fairly volatile market as an island, and they’re starting to add some renewables. They’re probably a bit nervous with nuclear as to how much of it they really want to have.”
According to Phelan, because of Japan’s relative lack of natural resources, the country is now increasingly looking towards renewables as a source of energy. “If they can harvest the wind and harvest the sun, that makes a lot of sense. If they start doing that, then they have more of a need for these flexibility and storage services.”
And that’s where GridBeyond comes in. Commercially trading since 2010, when it was called Endeco Technologies, the company is using AI and data science to optimise energy generation and storage.
Working with local partners such as Chiyoda and Mitsubishi, GridBeyond is helping Japanese businesses manage their energy resources and make significant cost savings, with an office planned in the island nation by the end of this year.
As well as Japan, GridBeyond has also expanded into other international markets in recent years, including the US and Australia. In response to the energy crisis, it has developed a new hedging and trading product that can be offered alongside its funded energy storage offering.
An Offr in South Africa
One part of the world that often gets overlooked by Irish start-ups going global is the continent of Africa – which is home to some of the fastest growing economies and populations on Earth.
Offr, an Irish start-up that is bringing digital transformation to the way properties are bought and sold, tapped into this region’s potential by striking a deal with South African real estate group Pam Golding Properties in June.
Launched in 2019, just months before the pandemic started, Enterprise Ireland-supported Offr has developed transparent bidding and transaction technology for residential and commercial properties.
CEO and founder Robert Hoban told SiliconRepublic.com that Offr digitises what is an “extraordinarily old school and old-fashioned process” that has remained unchanged for over 100 years in most countries.
“Consumers can use their smartphone to quickly see offers that are on a property, submit their own offers with proof of funds and photo ID, and close out sales. So, it reduces the time from when a property goes live to when it actually completes by over 50pc.”
A previous SiliconRepublic.com Start-up of the Week, Offr is now making inroads in South Africa with other partnerships, including home loan experts Ooba, and auction companies Claremart and BidStream.
Offr’s business in Africa and the Middle East is headed by David Murphy, who is based in Cape Town. “The fact that Offr is a technology solution rather than a property company is a key factor to its success in the region,” Murphy said in June.
“Offr is not a competitor to real estate agents, instead it is a white label industry solution that enables real estate agents to be better at what they do and create huge efficiencies within their day-to-day business.”
Hoban told SiliconRepublic.com that while Offr has played within its comfort zone, targeting English-speaking countries in similar time zones to Ireland, it is now venturing out as it expands to other parts of the world.
In the pipeline are further expansions into the Italian and Hong Kong markets, where language is a barrier.
“We’re also looking at Spanish language translation, particularly in the US where there’s a huge Hispanic population and many of them are buying or renting properties,” he added.
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