Our tech start-up of the week is InForFree, a new iOS and Android app to help people track down and see what events they can get into for free – including nightclubs and bars – be they in Dublin, Ibiza, Belfast or Las Vegas, for example.
There are free events across Ireland listed every night of the week, and the entrance to such events is completely free for users of the app, says Dubliner Rafiq Maniar, the founder and CEO of InForFree.
"We’re based in Dublin city centre, but also have people on the ground in Ibiza and Las Vegas," he explains.
"InForFree has been going great. We’re over 250,000 sign-ups now with 2,400 events."
So what is InForFree about in a nutshell?
Maniar says that he came up with the very first version of the app about two ago, launching InForFree as a Facebook app in 2012.
The mobile app is new and just launched in September 2013.
He says that the app seems to particularly appeal to students.
"Students are our biggest market and they absolutely love it! In fact, a survey done in Dublin universities late last year showed that 85pc of students have used the app.
"And, interestingly, our stats show that 75pc of users are iOS which is the opposite to global trends where Android leads significantly."
And the start-up’s monetisation strategy?
Maniar says that venues are happy to pay for the service, as it is steadily increasing their customer base.
From Ireland to Ibiza and Las Vegas
Already, InForFree is available for people to look up free events that are happening any night of the week all over the island of Ireland, but the app has also branched out.
It launched in Ibiza this summer.
It was a "massive win for us because we got to work with one of the best nightclubs in the world".
And while the party season may be over in Ibiza for now, Maniar says that the plan is to be back in action there next year.
"We’re also making progress on expanding to Manchester, but the most exciting opportunity for us that’s finally coming to fruition is Las Vegas, which we’ll be launching in on a limited trial by the end of the year."
And this particular start-up has also been getting plenty of attention of late, at home here on Irish soil.
For instance, InForFree was one of nine start-ups that pitched at Dublin Beta in early September, and it came away with the top prize on the night.
Then, just this past week, Maniar managed to woo the crowds at Pitchify, a networking event for US and Irish students and self-starters that was sponsored by the Dublin Web Summit in order to give start-ups a platform to show off their tech-led ideas.
As one of six start-ups that pitched to the crowds on the evening – investors, representatives from Enterprise Ireland, the tech community in general, and digital media strategists – InForFree came away with the prize for best pitch.
Where it’s at …
The start-up, he says, has never been in stealth mode but Maniar counts Dublin Beta and Pitchify as being "great events" to connect up with people.
"They were the first time we spoke publicly about the business and it was amazing to get such a great response from the attendees and the judges."
And he recounts a meeting at Google Ireland’s offices in Dublin just this past week.
"I attended an event in Google the morning after Pitchify and had people I never met come up and tell me the app was great and they loved it, which was an amazing feeling and something I was entirely unprepared for, especially amongst so many great start-ups who were also at the event."
As for Maniar’s own background, he studied computer science at Griffith College Dublin.
" I was lucky enough to join my first start-up straight after finishing my Leaving Cert at 16, and they supported me going to do my degree at night-time."
On the jobs front …
So, down to the nitty-gritty, is InForFree planning to take on new hires anytime soon?
"Definitely! In particular we’re looking for ‘outstanding’ people with sales and marketing experience, to help us take on the US and UK markets," says Maniar.
At the minute, InForFree self-funds its development, as the venues pay to get their events advertised on the app, but will Maniar be targeting investors down the line?
"I believe the right time to bring on investors is when you’re ready to scale fast. We’re not far from that point, so raising at least a seed round is a distinct probability in 2014. We just want prove the product in the larger US and UK markets first."
And the ultimate goal?
"Our goal is twofold: Help good venues fill their events, and help people find good venues to have a great night out. We’re already doing this in Ireland, and believe we can achieve this worldwide."