Start-up of the week: Cirquit

18 May 2015

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Cirquit founders Ger Meade and Fedoua Errizani

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Our start-up of the week this week is Cirquit, a platform for the entertainment industry targeting film, music and performing arts companies.

Cirquit enables these companies to reach consumers and create a new engagement of their marketing materials directly converting into ticket and merchandise sales, explained co-founder Ger Meade.

“For consumers it makes it easier to find out, get a ticket, organise friends to an event, discover new things, old things and make informed decisions easily and quickly without having to brave the storm of digital overload. Cirquit uses a balanced load and not an overload.”

The platform is delivered via a central website to desktop and mobile and via touchscreens in HMV stores in Dundrum and Henry Street.

The market

“Our market is firmly the film, music and performing arts industries in the entertainment sector,” Meade explained. “Working with entertainment stakeholders and reaching entertainment consumers is the basis for the opportunity. Entertainment as an industry is persistent, has longevity and continues to evolve in response to technology.

“The opportunity is providing a platform that feeds a hunger for engagement and facilitates connections in a market that has a ready appetite for this engagement, connected globally and with such cross-pollination between two distinct environments of live and home entertainment.”

Co-founder Fedoua Errizani said that fragmented information on the Internet has made the content discovery and delivery process cumbersome.

“It has also led to entertainment industries raising their budgets to reach a fragmented audience. Cirquit offers them a one-stop destination optimised for content discovery and delivery process and, most importantly, promotes legitimate content. For entertainment companies, Cirquit creates a new centralised marketplace.

“Cirquit has been built to become a consumer companion and connect them to the entertainment scene of any urban centre. One of the primary drivers of tourism to Dublin and other centres is live entertainment. Tourism is two-way traffic enabling the platform to be used before, during and after a visit and carries awareness from Dublin to other territories organically.

“Discovery offered to consumers by being able to virtually visit a city’s curated live entertainment scene creates an opportunity to engage — that was previously inhibited both by physical space and discovery overload. Cirquit allows a user to look and see what’s going on in a city and without going there to buy product that is not marketed in their own territory.”

The founders

“We both have a background in the entertainment industry and Fedoua has also worked in the business sector,” Meade said.

Meade says he has always been a creative and self-employed in the entertainment industry, so working in technology development felt like a natural progression.

He spent time as part of an academic research team working on the development of an anti-piracy system, creating a path into lecturing on computer evolution. Going from industry to academia and then back to industry has proved beneficial, not least because it enables a problem viewpoint from two disciplines.

“I was always waiting for technology to catch up with what I wanted to do. Finally it has and so Cirquit can work off the backbone of high-speed internet, 4G and web/app development being now open to creative direction.”

After graduating from a business and languages degree, Errizani moved to Berlin to work in a film and media translation company.

“That was where I discovered my passion for movies. From there I continued working on different film projects. I got the great opportunity to work for Bavaria Film Production and as assistant editor to an award-winning editor, and for a couple of film festivals, which enabled me to gain good experience and good insight in the film sector from different angles. Moving from Berlin I explored other capital cities and settled in Dublin, where I came back to my languages and business roots working as operations manager for a Dublin-based company.”

The platform

The platform is all about transforming a well-known static medium — billboards – to a mobile medium, “from mass medium to my medium,” Meade explained.

“The billboard posters are given a new digital life, enabling many features just not possible in print. The design metaphor was to ‘go inside the poster’, and once there to be able to connect to these features of video, info, tickets, merchandise and feed out to social media.”

Errizani said that the interface was created to reflect the physical billboard space and to be ad free so the user can focus on the content. It works by showing an array of posters broken down into concert, film, stage and gig with each section independently scrollable and each poster independently clickable to reveal the features.

The user sees first a homepage of today’s events and can quickly jump in time to tomorrow, the weekend, the next seven days or see what is upcoming for a year. The platform also goes back in time as no events are removed and so builds a cultural archive and is searchable, which connects a user say searching for a film that is no longer in cinema to the home entertainment product – DVD/BluRay for the film.

For films the platform enables you to directly ‘book from the film itself’ – and gives you a dynamic list of cinemas screening that movie in Dublin.

“Today, website developers will work from a principle of mobile first: this is even more important with Google’s recent change in algorithm for mobile search,” Errizani added. “Here at Cirquit it was one step further to be ‘Touch’ first. As we move away from even desktop mouse to complete touch we worked hard to create an environment that would jump straight into this.

“Fundamental was the environment of touch screens in public locations and mobile/tablet usage and ultimately the platforms ability to create an Internet of Things for live entertainment through physical installations. We have developed this side of things using iBeacon technology and native App functionality and will be rolling this out in due course giving connection to unique experiences accessed as it appears through physical posters.

“The technology gives you the ability to communicate from an object to a user’s App but the Cirquit platform connects the physical infrastructure of live entertainment from posters and venues therefore extending and merging digital and physical interaction.”

Connected new experiences

“Cirquit’s ultimate goal can be understood from looking at the architecture we have created,” Meade said.

“In essence the platform is a hub for entertainment where right now film, music and theatre in Dublin are plugging in their event information that gets connected to points of sale and published online and offline to the public. Scaling to another territory is about plugging that city’s entertainment into the Cirquit board.

“There are so many other connections to be made as fundamentally live entertainment becomes home entertainment and there’s a physical link to spaces where live entertainment takes place. Connecting Cirquit’s digital space to these physical locations and bringing home entertainment into Cirquit’s space creates a landscape capable of reaching consumers who are also connecting in this space to deliver a completely new engagement with entertainment.

“So the goal is to create connected new experiences in the live entertainment market and work to deliver home entertainment content in a completely new environment. We have been able from the start to plan the features that will be deployed and that will be very attractive for both our customer and user base,” Meade added.

Connecting to the Cirquit board

“Right now after just launching things are going great,” Errizani said. “You never know how something is going to go until it’s out in the world but engagement through the HMV touch screens and general web traffic is extremely positive. HMV are very supportive and this is leading to being able to build a bigger general Cirquit presence as the utility offered by the platform is very much reciprocal.

“We are engaging positively with new customers, coming from a base of early adopters throughout the industry, plus our presence in HMV facilitates a direct path and we are already looking at imminent new features to be piloted.

“We have from an early stage explored the path to investment and taken steps to understand the options for best positioning and best outcome. While our complete focus has been to get ‘out there’ we will now be looking to achieve that best position for best outcome on investment.”

Become the greatest thing since bread came sliced

Both Meade and Errizani said that the start-up has had to overcome many challenges, in particular finding a development partner.

“While we have skills in this area it was never going to be a simple development because the website was going to be doing something bespoke and not off the shelf. It took time to find a company that we could trust and that got it but once we sat with our development company and went through the spec we knew we were in good hands.”

They both agree that Ireland has always been a thriving place for creativity – ‘The Land of Saints and Scholars’.

“The burgeoning artistic creativity of say the writing community Wilde, Beckett, Heaney is now in the business community, where the converging of affordable computers, open-source code and the internet have created an opportunity in a country with a rich heritage for innovating through the medium of the day,” Meade said.

“The flip side of this of course is that it’s attractive for entrepreneurs and investors and so it gets very competitive. There are many supports inside the scene and navigating your way from start to finish or from the first lightbulb moment to starting up you have to have a plan. Luckily the start-up scene here comes with a map to guide you through all the places of interest and support.”

Errizani added: “I never thought one day to undertake an entrepreneurial adventure. Ireland and Dublin is such a motivating place to be to start something… I know many people that have started a business here. Apart from the assistance that you can get, inspiration is everywhere.”

Meade’s advice for other start-ups is to keep going – even when it hurts – and stay focused.

“It is so easy to get away from your initial thoughts, you want to do/deploy everything at the same time but you need steps, one thing at a time. One door will lead to another and the big idea is composed of lots of smaller and addressable chunks.

“Go back to your early notes and stay acquainted with that moment when you said ‘this is great, this is the best thing since sliced bread’.

“Know that it’s a long road and be comfortable with that and make sure to learn the language of business where you are able to translate ‘best thing since sliced bread’ to a description of your revenue and business model.”

 

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com