Tech Start-up of the Week: Furious Tribe

19 Feb 2012

Patrick Leddy, founder of Furious Tribes, which is based in Media Cube at IADT

Our featured tech start-up this week is Furious Tribe, a young Dublin-based digital start-up that has created a platform called Apptivate so businesses can build and customise their own apps. The company is also looking for new hires.

In 2011, Furious Tribe sold €0.5m worth of Apptivate licences to companies around the world. And just this week it has integrated a new feature into the platform, which it hopes is going to be a game changer in terms of allowing people to have more control over the styling of their apps.

The company has introduced an IDE (integrated development environment) into its Apptivate platform.

“We have now made our code more ‘open source’ to a degree, as people can edit and customise their own apps,” explains Furious Tribe founder Patrick Leddy.

Fresh from a computer science degree at Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) in Dún Laoghaire, Leddy set up Furious Tribe in 2010 at Media Cube, also based on the IADT campus.

He says he sensed an opportunity to start out with web design focus. However, with the onslaught of the Apple iPhone, Leddy decided to shift his attention to capitalise on the Apple iPhone marketplace.

“It had gotten to a stage where the market for building websites had become very saturated – there were a lot of companies out there building websites. With the launch of the Apple iPhone and the subsequent launch of the App Store we saw an opportunity to move into the area of app development. We started off designing and building iPhone apps but we also work on Android, BlackBerry and, more recently, Windows Phone apps whenever there is a demand,” explains Leddy.

He says that the company’s clients found it was expensive and time consuming to target multiple platforms with their apps because for each platform Furious Tribe needed to create a separate code base.

“Additionally, it was complicated for us as we had to manage all those code bases and the different versions of each app, so we set out to build a solution, and that’s where the idea for Apptivate came from,” adds Leddy.

Nowadays the company works strategically with its clients, which include Citibank, O2, TV3, RTÉ Sport, Royal Sun Alliance and Davy Stockbrokers.

“We build all of our apps on Apptivate and then we can pass their custom apps over to them to manage themselves in house,” says Leddy.

As for the latest Apptivate revamp with IDE, he says the company went down that route so as to give people total control over their apps.

“Using our IDE, our customers now have the power to break free of our pre-built modules and templates and completely customise everything about their app, from the placement of a button to complex user interactions. Now our customers can edit or create code within the Apptivate IDE and make use of web technologies like jQuery mobile, CSS and Javascript to make their mobile apps come to life,” explains Leddy.

Back when we last featured last Furious Tribe in 2011, the company was employing 15 people. So what’s changed since then? “We’ve got 22 people working for Furious Tribe right now, but we’d anticipate that figure will grow by around 10 this year,” explains Leddy. “In fact, we’re hiring at the moment,” he adds.

Furious Tribe is also an inspirational story for other self-starters out there right now who might be struggling to get finance. Leddy grew the company entirely by bootstrapping.

“To be honest, we’ve been able to grow the company organically because we’ve always been profitable. I guess you can put that down to hard work and a little bit of luck. We’ve put that money back into R&D and investing in other resources to help us grow the company without needing to go to outside investors to fund growth. It’s probably taken a little bit longer to do it this way, but we’re reaping the benefits now,” he says.

The company has also expanded its client base, and not just in Ireland. For instance, it is now working with Nedbank in South Africa, AXA and Global Distributors.

So, having sold 0.5m Apptivate licences in 2011, what’s Leddy’s aim for the year ahead?

“Based on the first two months of this year, we’d expect to at least double that figure for licences. We’re also looking to expand the business, take on more clients and more staff.”

Incidentally, Furious Tribe is also a next-door neighbour to another successful Irish start-up that has been in the news of late – Profitero, which won the IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year recently.

“One of our offices is right next door to Profitero, so it is great to see other start-ups with success. We’re growing so fast that we might have to move into our own space soon, but the Media Cube has been great for us so far,” says Leddy.

And, based on his own experience, his concluding words of support for other emerging start-ups are: “Everyone’s situation is different, and you have to do what you think is right for your own company at the time.

“Our advice would probably be to start small, with a good idea, and make yourselves profitable on your own, wherever possible. If you are looking for finance from a VC or investment company, I think it’s important to make sure that they are not only going to be offering financial help, but that they’ll be able to offer something in terms of advice and helping you grow your business as well.”

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic