Kwayga: The non-stop online trade show connecting buyers and suppliers

16 May 2022

Martin Fitzgerald, co-founder and CEO, Kwayga. Image: Gerard McCarthy

Cork start-up Kwayga uses translation services and some AI-led matchmaking to connect buyers and suppliers across the world’s food and beverage sector.

Kwayga is like a 24/7 trade show,” said Martin Fitzgerald, CEO and co-founder of the Cork-headquartered start-up.

“[It] allows buyers and suppliers to continually build relationships with the right people within relevant organisations, but also has a marketplace where live deals get posted and negotiated,” he explained.

Founded just last year, Kwayga is a subscription-based service connecting buyers and suppliers across Europe’s food and beverage sector.

Its key selling points are its verification process and a messaging centre that helps businesses overcome language barriers. This is done through text translation and live interpreters to support multilingual conversations. Kwayga also does a bit of matchmaking, recommending new business relationships on an ongoing basis.

‘This technology grows with the buyer and supplier’

“Kwayga saves buyers a lot of resources, time and expense while giving them hugely improved results when they search for new suppliers,” said Fitzgerald.

According to the founder, more than 70pc of businesses start with Google when looking for new suppliers. “This can be a time-consuming process and, with Kwayga, we make that process much more efficient.”

Fitzgerald has noted forecasts that 80pc of B2B transactions will move online within the next five years, and he wants to ensure Kwayga is well placed to facilitate those connections for the food and beverage sector.

It has already attracted members from 37 countries and users can start out with a ‘freemium’ entry-level subscription.

Kwayga’s deal centre allows buyers to post deals and suppliers to preview and express interest. Machine learning and AI then underpin the matchmaking, which Fitzgerald says is running around the clock.

“This technology grows with the buyer and supplier,” he said. To ensure harmonious matches, the Kwayga engine analyses company profiles for its suggestions.

“Additionally we carry out a rigorous verification processes on companies who use the platform on a premium basis,” Fitzgerald added. “This ensures that trust is established between buyers and suppliers.”

Those on the free plan are flagged as unverified but are still welcome to input their credentials for potential partners to make their own judgement.

‘We hope that no matter where a business is located in the world, Kwayga can show the world to them and show them to the world’

Kwayga has identified a potential market of 50m businesses worldwide that could use the platform to trade internationally – hence the name, a homophone of the Irish word for 50, caoga.

“Kwayga’s main target market are B2B buyers and suppliers in the food and beverage sector in Europe,” said Fitzgerald. “Our first vertical within this is buyers for supermarket chains and suppliers for private label products.”

Fitzgerald, a qualified financial adviser, founded the company along with Mike McGrath, who previously founded and led, which set out to help businesses find suppliers across all kinds of sectors.

Fitzgerald is also not a first-time founder, having previously founded Clashrock Capital in 2014, through which he advised mature businesses on funding requirements and structures.

Kwayga now has six full-time employees and three interns, with plans to have a team of 12 by year end.

“Most will be working full-time in our base in Cork,” said Fitzgerald, though long-term plans are to grow the team both in Ireland and abroad.

“Making sure we only bring in the best people to join Kwayga is key for us, and in the current market is also a significant challenge – one we have thankfully met to date and will continue to meet,” he added.

Fitzgerald’s advice for other entrepreneurs is focused on the core team build. “Don’t compromise on the people you surround yourself with,” he said. “Whether that is co-founders, early team members, investors etc. Spend your time only with great people who share your vision. Make decisions on others that might waste you or your business’s time quickly and move on.”

‘Businesses who use Kwayga are less likely to use planes and other means of transport to attend trade shows’

As Kwayga seeks investment to support this year’s growth plans, Fitzgerald is encouraged by the amount of international investment now feeding into Irish start-ups.

“This is hugely important to the Irish start-up scene to encourage different types of business models to grow and to have the Irish market reflect what is happening internationally in terms of defining the funding size and risk profile of what is an angel round, a pre-seed round, a seed round etc.”

As with all entrepreneurs, Fitzgerald has big ambitions. Through Kwayga’s success he hopes to bring business to suppliers who might otherwise go overlooked by international buyers.

“In five years’ time we hope that no matter where a business is located in the world, if they are great at what they do, Kwayga can show the world to them and show them to the world,” he said.

He also sees Kwayga supporting a more environmentally conscious supply chain.

“Businesses who use Kwayga are less likely to use planes and other means of transport to attend trade shows as they will not need to leave their office or home office to trade,” he said. “Kwayga helps to minimise the amount of time businesses use transport, to reduce their carbon footprint.”

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.