Tech Start-up of the Week: Brandalism

26 Feb 2012

Andreea Wade and Colum Ryan of Brandalism, pictured with some street art near the start-up's offices in Ranelagh, Co Dublin

This week’s featured technology start-up is Brandalism, a Dublin-based venture that was set up in 2010 to help companies with their online business strategies.

Andreea Wade, a former journalist, is the founder of Brandalism. As she says herself, when she set up the company, she just had an idea and knowledge of the digital space.

“I am not a designer, nor a developer. I was a journalist, turned into the editor of an advertising magazine and then went into a few start-ups, from creating a music magazine to setting up a new venture for a business that employed about 120 people,” explains Wade.

Brandalism started small, she says, by first helping its first client, a friend, bring his business Commercial Business Products into the digital age, rebranding it as OfficeThings. That friend was Colum Ryan who subsequently joined Brandalism last October.

The name Brandalism is quite a catchy one, so how did Wade come up with it? “It comes from the love/hate relationship I have with advertising and marketing. This is a business that is based on layers and layers of manipulation. We manipulate forms and text to convey a message that is designed to bring certain results, project a certain image or provoke certain thoughts.”

She says that the company tends to question both methods and people.

“We work with amazing designers who are featured in the Design Museum in London. We are lucky enough to work with an information architect who has been doing SEO jobs for large media trusts or social networks.”

So what’s Brandalism’s main focus? “We primarily do business strategy. We focus on reshaping business but then we have all these tools to make that shift possible and easily accessible. So we develop platforms. We do design, branding, SEO and information architecture, online advertising, print design,” explains Wade.

The start-up’s main clients are curently based in Ireland and the UK. “Right now we are putting together a partnership with a UK software company that is rebranding and moving everything onto the cloud. We have an initial six-month contract, where we are working with one of their most important clients. At the same time, we’re fine-tuning procedures and creating packages that can then be offered to the rest of their clients.”

Taking on new hires

Nine people currently work at Brandalism, while the company also employs about seven contractors. Wade says the plan is to take on between five to seven people in the next four years.

“But it starts with 2012, and we will be hiring in the next few months, in fact, we are now considering an internship,” she explains.

Wade is also planning to run a few courses this year around social media, online business strategy and Adwords. “As well as this, we want to create a social type of event for creatives later this year. It will bring together the techie world and the creative world.”

Organic growth

The company has been growing organically and hasn’t received any mentoring or funding.

“We have approached a few entities regarding funding but we recently took a step back as we are changing a few things, reshaping Brandalism and then adding to it something that could be considered a start-up in its own rights. But we have some avenues to pursue, and contacts who can provide mentoring and a push in the right direction. There is a lot of that going on in Ireland and it is pretty exciting,” explains Wade.

Social and responsive design

So what’s Wade’s ultimate goal for 2012? “We will be repositioning ourselves. We will keep our eyes on social design, responsive design and reinforce our business consultancy side of the company. We are rebranding. Our motto is ‘With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine’,” she says.

And companies are starting to understand the importance of social, according to Wade. “Some, not all of them. There are entire industries out there stuck in the Nineties with both design and development tools, so the relevance of being social has yet to reach them.”

Advice for start-ups

And her advice for other start-ups in Ireland right now? “Whatever you create, create a clearly defined purpose for it. Don’t just create technology, know where to apply it. And if you come up with something that works, package it in such ways that its benefits and uses become apparent instantly to anyone considering your product or service.

“Create and learn how to sell. Sometimes that is a problem with techie crowds,” she says. “They focus on their product but not on what happens after they’ve developed it and then they are stuck and they fall into another trap: focusing on the dead end rather than on getting out. Like we horsed around outside our offices where that smart little piece of street art greets us every morning, reminding us to keep doing what we are doing, move forward and just … create.”


Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic