Start-up of the week: Dobiquity

23 Mar 2015

Dobiquity is a cloud-based platform that helps hospitality and tourism enterprises, particularly SMEs, to improve business performance.

Dobiquity does so by replacing inefficient manual processes with user-friendly web and mobile apps, explains managing director Enda Larkin.

“We will offer a growing suite of apps that help operators to digitise important tasks; everything from managing the customer experience to on-the-job training to stocktaking, plus many more. “By using the apps operators will generate immediate efficiencies and cost savings, but will also improve the quality and scope of management information available to guide decision-making,” Larkin explained.

The market

According to research by McCann Fitzgerald in 2014, only a fifth of Irish SMEs have invested in cloud computing solutions and 60pc of micro-firms haven’t invested in any digital infrastructure.

“From my long experience in hospitality and tourism here and overseas, I have seen this tech lag at first hand across the industry.

“As a result, SMEs in the industry are potentially losing out on many opportunities to increase efficiency, reduce costs and grow profitability. This creates an opportunity to help such enterprises to make greater use of web and mobile apps to drive business improvement.

“Our initial target market are SMEs in hospitality and tourism on the island of Ireland, then we will quickly move into the UK, and internationally.”

The founder

Enda Larkin, managing director of Dobiquity

Like most entrepreneurs today Larkin doesn’t really have a typical profile for a tech start-up entrepreneur. But this could play to his advantage.

“First off, I’m approaching 50 but I have found that although the tech learning curve has been a steep one for me, I bring other useful traits to the business – like good business experience for starters, plus a very clear understanding of our potential customers and their fear of the unknown when it comes to technology.

“Briefly, my background is that I am an experienced hotel manager and hospitality consultant with over 25 years’ experience in the industry, in Ireland and abroad.

“I am joined in the business by Helen Daly, our Business Development Manager, and she has extensive operational and sales experience in the hospitality industry.

“We have partnered with Robert Carpenter and the team at Granite Digital, one of Ireland’s leading web designers and app developers, to help us develop the platform and apps.

The technology

Dobiquity will provide a growing suite of apps that subscribers can pick and choose from to integrate into their businesses.

“That’s a key differentiator for Dobiquity – we don’t only do ‘one thing’ but provide a variety of apps that cover a spectrum of business activities,” Larkin explains.

“Nobody else is doing exactly what we are doing. In one sense, we’re a ‘One-Stop-App-Shop’ for hospitality and tourism.

Larkin explains that Dobiquity functions in the following five steps:

  1. Operators sign up for their annual Dobiquity subscription at very competitive rates and gain access to all available apps and knowledge resources.
  2. Via their online dashboard, operators can then select those web and mobile apps they wish to use in their business and customise them to their specific needs.
  3. Operators then integrate the apps into their business to streamline a key business activity.
  4. Each app offers comprehensive reporting features, and via their online dashboard operators can then access that data to guide decision-making.
  5. A Dobiquity subscription also provides access to our Knowledge Hub which provides advice and guidance on a variety of management topics.

Making the move to digital

“Our vision at Dobiquity is to become the leading business improvement platform for SMEs in hospitality and tourism, both here and abroad, providing a growing suite of apps and other resources that help SMEs to ‘make the move to digital.’

“We have only just launched the business, so are in the very early stages of making ourselves known, but initial feedback on our offering has been extremely positive. As stated, we’re focusing on the island of Ireland for now, but will quickly move into the UK and beyond.

“As it’s a cloud-based offering, international sales are possible from the outset, and thanks to our strong focus on SEO during the development phase, we are already seeing that about 50pc of those who have signed up for the free trial option are from overseas; everywhere from the UK to further afield in the US, France and New Zealand, so potentially this is a global business. We are close to signing up some well-known Irish hotels too, so watch this space as they say.”

We will be actively seeking an investor once we have established a revenue track record to give us better bargaining power in negotiations.

Be brutally realistic

Larkin says there have been many challenges just to get Dobiquity to the point it is at.

“Like all start-ups, financing is of course a significant hurdle, but innovations from people like the Collison brothers with Stripe have made it infinitely more easy to get trading online. Enterprise Ireland and the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Local Enterprise Office have also been extremely helpful and supportive.

“The start-up scene here is very buoyant at present and there’s lots of interesting stuff happening – the mood is confident but not over-exuberant, people are much more realistic about what growth is achievable and sustainable than they were during the boom years.

“There are good supports available now for start-ups, and a real community spirit particularly in Dublin, so you can easily pick up the phone and get advice when required.”

Larkin’s advice to other start-ups is to be realistic and anticipate dangers.

“Be brutally realistic – and honest with yourself – when planning ahead. Apply what I call the double-half rule: Double the time you think it will take to develop your products, the start-up expenses, the time and costs required to acquire a customer etc. – and half your revenue projections.

“There is a temptation to work out the cost side of the equation first and then try to force the revenue side to fit.

“The second point I’d make is don’t try to be all things to all people – define clearly what your target customer is, what their needs are – how you can meet those needs with a value proposition that is better than anybody else – and then focus obsessively on design and delivery.”

Digital hospitality image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years