Our tech start-up of the week this week is KonnectAgain, a new online platform with the goal of helping both institutions and alumni reconnect.
“Our mission is to tap into the power of the alumni,” said KonnectAgain co-founder and CEO Jayne Ronayne.
“KonnectAgain exposes the hidden value of your alumni base by providing your institution, club, alumni chapter or association with up-to-date, real-time and relevant statistics, contact and career information.”
At present, KonnectAgain is targeting Ireland, the UK and the US.
“With institutions brought on board from each of those countries so far, we’re looking to build on the recent success through ‘sprinting’ and scaling at a quick pace by reaching out and spreading our mission to each association that realises the importance and value of alumni,” Ronayne said.
KonnectAgain founders Jayne Ronayne and Helen Flynn brief Taoiseach Enda Kenny on their start-up KonnectAgain
Ronayne worked on the EY Entrepreneur of the Year programme before taking on the role of University College Cork (UCC)’s first female Auditor of the Entrepreneurial Society, Ireland’s largest student society with more than 8,000 active members.
This is Ronayne’s second start-up company, the first of which was UrYearBook that emerged from the UCC Ignite programme.
Ronayne was recently accepted by the Sandbox community, which describes itself as ‘a mobile society of the world’s most extraordinary millennial game changers’.
Ronayne is also a co-founder of BuiltInCork, as well as graduate founder, alongside Datahug co-founder Connor Murphy.
Helen Flynn, co-founder and CTO of KonnectAgain, is a first-class honours business information systems graduate from UCC.
Flynn spent six months working for Fidelity Investments in Rhode Island as part of a BIS placement.
In her final year, Flynn helped increase engagement and build connections at events through development of a mobile app, CorporateConnect.
As a result of her work and dedication, Flynn won the Student of the Year award and continues to make an impact in the tech community.
“We use a socially integrated platform that utilises the APIs of various social networks, such as LinkedIn and Facebook,” Flynn explained.
“Our system manipulates data on these social networks through data scraping, which allows universities to find deeper details that would otherwise stay buried under the large amount of information out there.”
Ronayne said the goal of KonnectAgain is to be the No 1 provider of alumni relations software, not only in the education market but in the commercial and HR market, as well.
“We currently hold investment from both the UK and Ireland, and we’re planning to raise another round this October, which will be between the states and Ireland,” Ronayne said.
The investment gained to date has been used to grow the team from two to six people.
“We recently spent four weeks in San Francisco with Enterprise Ireland, which found us gaining investment and customers after winning ‘Best Startup’ during the trip.”
Ronayne’s aim for September is to launch Alumni Week, an event dedicated to promoting the value of alumni relations to clubs and societies nationwide, as well as launch an inaugural conference for alumni officers to discuss on an open platform the power that well-connected alumni relations bring to the table.
A modern approach to alumni relations
Ronayne explained that KonnectAgain’s approach to alumni relations is a completely different direction for universities to take in comparison to the traditional method.
“Universities need to take the time to identify with this new approach. We like to compare this situation to convincing someone from switching to an old Nokia phone to a brand new iPhone, it’s daunting at first, but soon after you make the decision to switch you’ll realise it’s the best decision you ever made.”
Both Ronayne and Flynn know the Irish tech start-up scene fairly well and have used every opportunity to engage with the community on an ongoing basis.
“The Irish start-up scene is continuing to grow and thrive, with the community always available to lend a helping hand or share advice,” Flynn said.
“The Irish start-up scene is an exceptional gathering of like-minded people that are always there if you need to call on them.”
Focus on the customers
Ronayne’s advice to fellow start-ups is to prioritise customer acquisition over winning investment.
“We learned this the hard way and found that the money will come to you if the product is good enough. You need to gain validation first.”
She added that a good advisory board is key, and should be assembled early on.
“In recent months, we’ve brought in Connor Murphy from Datahug as our chairman, as well as one of the top executives from Google, and Mark Roberts, the alumni director in Durham University.
“We’d advise start-ups to keep it small in the beginning as it’s pretty easy to get overwhelmed with too much information.”