Tech start-up of the week: BizTweet

5 Jan 2015

Pictured: BizTweet won second prize at the Passenger Innovation Awards in San Diego in October. Pictured is CEO and founder Paul Brugger receiving his cheque from Aleks Popovich, IATA

Our tech start-up of the week and the first one to watch for 2015 is BizTweet, a company that helps businesses communicate with customers in real-time via Twitter.

BizTweet is a social decision software that currently uses Twitter to increase a corporation’s ability to communicate automatically with their customers in real-time,” explained founder and CEO Paul Brugger.

“Thus substantially reducing the manpower required, and freeing up staff to concentrate on providing a more individual social media experience for the customer.”

The market

Initially BizTweet is targeting airlines and airports, although most large corporations could benefit from this technology.

“There are 1120 passenger airlines and 49,000 passenger airports that currently communicate manually to their passengers over Twitter or have decided they do not have the resource to communicate at all.

“Some of the more advanced corporations with large teams working 24/7 interact to less than 2pc of their customers that are on Twitter. We help them communicate effectively to the remaining 98pc.”

The founder

Brugger’s background is in decisioning technology, which involves using data to make millions of automated decisions.

“My experience was around implementing decisioning software to major financial institutes around the world, after meeting my now Irish wife, we decided to move to Ireland in 2008. I decided the best solution for me work-wise was to look to an IT-based franchise, as it was my first venture into running a business.

“It quickly came apparent that my perception of a franchise knowing all the answers and having a viable technical/business model was wrong. So in 2010 when I was offered consultancy work from a global financial institute to implement their decisioning technology across three countries in Southern Europe I jumped at the opportunity.

“This position brought me back to what I knew best but I also knew it was for a finite period so I used the financial support the consultancy gave me to develop BizTweet.

“The consultancy came to a natural end at the start of 2014 by which time BizTweet was developed so it was the right time to dedicate my time to bringing the software to market.

“It also coincided with our second feature on the world renowned technology programme BBC Click. Early in 2014 I attended the New Frontiers phase I based at the Rubicon and was extremely fortunate to be selected onto the New Frontiers phase 2 programme during the summer of 2014 where I was able to gain a great balance of support and practical advice and the programme has really accelerated the business development to where we are now,” Brugger explained.

The technology

By using individual data BizTweet allows the message(s) to be relevant and personal to the receiver which in turn enhances the experience and effectiveness of the communication. “As an example, our software will allow corporations to communicate in up to 43 different languages based on the person’s Twitter language settings, that communication is within 60seconds.

“Ultimately we are looking to bring our technology to multiple sectors and we already have had positive talks in the logistics sector and would see potential in utilities, banking or indeed any sector where consumers are looking for information/updates in real-time.”

Brugger said that the main challenge has been around bringing something totally new to the market.

“I talked to numerous companies about three years ago about this solution and I believe we were way ahead of the curve, the timing was just wrong. Since then companies have had to adapt to social media and have built teams around this function. These teams have grown due to demand which causes pain points.

“Put very simply, communicating manually to many customers just isn’t scalable. Companies are starting to see that now and know they need to look for alternatives. Being ahead of the curve brings its own challenges such as cash-flow while you’re waiting for the market to be ready,” Brugger explained.

Brugger said the company will soon be in a position to announce its first customers. “These are all international and combined they transit in excess of 100 Million passengers on four different continents.

“We are looking to scale and certainly investment would be an option for us to gain rapid growth as there is a fantastic opportunity in this space at the moment.”

Agents of growth

Brugger said that the start-up scene in Ireland is thriving but it is results that speak for themselves.

“I’m on the New Frontiers Phase II programme, in the Rubicon Centre which is a large incubation centre, so the start-up scene in this environment is very vibrant. Outside of this environment there is lots going on with some amazing innovations and start-ups with great potential.”

He said that currently there is a lot of help out there from organisations such as Enterprise Ireland and Local Enterprise Boards but also individuals will commit time to something they believe in.

“The individual help was something I didn’t think would be possible, why would someone give me their time for nothing? I have a network of international informal advisors who are tremendously experienced who are willing to give me their time on a weekly basis.

“They have been able to provide me with invaluable insight and opened doors at the drop of an email.

Brugger’s advice for any start-up would be to think about the type of person that could really help your business and go and find them.

“Some will say no or the timing won’t be right for them, but if you get the right person they can help transform your business overnight. Also, sign up to a programme like New Frontiers and you won’t go wrong.”

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