Tech start-up of the week: DisplayNote Technologies

24 Nov 2014

Paul Brown, CEO, DisplayNote Technologies

Our tech start-up of the week is DisplayNote Technologies, a Belfast tech company that is planning to disrupt the world of productivity and collaboration with its new app called Swoodle.

DisplayNote builds technologies that are designed to make it easier for people to present, share, connect and collaborate in real-time across large-format displays, desktop and mobile devices.

Last month we reported how the company raised €1.25m in Series A funding from the Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital Venture Fund.

With a current team of 24 people, this investment will enable further growth in employment.

The company has partnered with some of the world’s largest manufacturers of display technology including NEC, BENQ and Sahara. DisplayNote’s products are now available in 22 languages, distributed globally and there are sales to date of almost 1 million devices incorporating Displaynote’s software products.

The market

“We have a few products covering different markets,” explained DisplayNote CEO Paul Brown.

“With our DisplayNote product we are targeting display hardware manufacturers and teachers or presenters.  The potential here is huge with over 1.5 million interactive displays sold last year and millions of classrooms and meeting rooms worldwide.

“We have already secured deals with some of the major players in the interactive display market, such as NEC. 

“For our new app Swoodle, which is launching in early 2015, we are targeting the professionals- team leaders and the creative industries as well as university students.  We are tapping into the messaging and call app market and bringing in our collaboration slant for sharing and editing files.”

The founders

Brown has a background in technology and education technology. “Prior to founding DisplayNote Technologies I was involved in both software and hardware product management for over 15 years and was managing sirector at Qwizdom which was grown to be market leader in the UK student response sector.

“My co-founder and CTO, Andy Bell is the developer of the partnership and was previously CTO for J2K Video and consulted at Cisco, IBM and GE.  Our paths first crossed at Qwizdom and we formed DisplayNote Technologies in January 2012.”

The technology

The DisplayNote product works by allowing the presenter to share their presentations, in any format, from their display or their tablet, out to different devices in the class. 

The class can take screen grabs and make notes and the presenter can choose to have them share these back to the rest of the group. 

“Our new app, Swoodle, is more peer to peer and allows you to share and co-edit files with your friends and colleagues, at the same time as running a video call or messaging chat.”

Brown said that the ultimate goal is to put DisplayNote’s solutions in the hands of every teacher, presenter and person who wants to connect with their friends, peers and colleagues on their content.

“Our inaugural product, DisplayNote has seen great success.  Within our first year we had signed up three large manufacturer partners and last year we had around 1 million licenses shipped. 

“We have since signed around eight manufacturer partners and a have over 100 educational institutions across the UK, USA and worldwide using the software.  We closed out on Series A investment over the summer, this will help us push the product development of DisplayNote and our new app, Swoodle and grow the team.”

Solve problems for your customers

Brown said that the challenge for DisplayNote it is definitely managing the balance of expectations between manufacturing partners and end users in terms of feature requests for example. 

“We have learned a lot about the challenges of making technology work across a wide range of networks and devices.”

He said that the support network in the North and in the Republic of Ireland is transforming at a rapid pace.

“A few years ago, growing a start-up was a real challenge but today in Ireland, specifically in the North, there is great support, mentoring and an angel community.

“We are based in the Northern Ireland Science Park which is a great hub of activity and there are some really exciting companies doing cool things. 

“We are recently back from our first stint at the Web Summit in Dublin which was a great place to get a better idea of the Irish start-up scene.  I think the entrepreneurial spirit is inherent in Ireland- that and great links with the US make it in exciting place to start a business.”

His advice to other start-ups is to understand the pulse of the market opportunity they are targeting.

“Make sure you are solving the problems for your customers.  Don’t wait until your product is finished before you get out there to sell it, sell your story and get people on the journey with you, they will become your most committed customers. 

“Make good contacts and ask for advice.  There are so many different platforms to tap into insider knowledge and people are willing to help you and share their experiences.” 

Interview with DisplayNote CEO Paul Brown at the recent Web Summit

The Web Summit 2014: Interview with Paul Brown of DisplayNote

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