Tech start-up of the week: Localmint

28 Jun 2014

Pictured: Localmint founders Oisin Ryan and Ranga Vadhineni

Our tech start-up of the week is Localmint, a start-up that helps nearly 1m consumers discover retailers each month across Ireland, the UK and Australia.

NDRC-based Localmint does this by providing the leading retailers store details like opening hours and geo locations to consumers quickly and easily from any device.

The company’s iOS app (Android coming soon) or mobile/desktop website provide users with an efficient centralised store locator for all the leading retailers, with location based functionality and other handy features built in.

“We are currently developing social features that will enable our users to interact with each other and share elements of their shopping experiences,” explains co-founder Oisin Ryan.

The market

“Localmint offers value to most consumers,” Ryan says. “However, we are focused on frequent shoppers such as time pressed mothers doing the weekly grocery shop, or young professionals with high disposable income.

“Initially our target customers are large retail chains in categories such as supermarkets and electronics. These companies present the biggest opportunity and we are already generating tens of thousands of pageviews per month in relation to some retailers’ data.”

Ryan says the company’s ambition is to become a Yelp-type service focused on retailers.

“The opportunity is enormous, as consumers visit retail outlets many times a week and spend much more money than they do at restaurants.

“In the local search market there is no leading global brand addressing retail, while retailers are trying to use the likes of Twitter and Facebook to interact with their customer base.

“These platforms were not designed with this purpose in mind and the retailer’s message is getting lost in the noise. We want to be the consumer’s go-to source of information on retailers and to provide retailers with a platform where they can effectively interact with their customer base.”

The founders

Ranga Vadhineni, founder and CEO, graduated with a Masters in Computer Science from Griffith College Dublin back in 2007 and has worked as a senior software consultant for the likes of Dell and Microsoft since graduating.

Oisin Ryan, co-founder and COO, has over 13 years financial services experience and left a senior consultant role with Aon in order to join Localmint in December 2013.

“Ranga has actually been working on Localmint on a hobby basis for around 2 years, but it was only after he met me at a ‘Meet a Co-Founder’ event held in Dublin’s T-Cube in August 2013 that the decision was made to go full time.

“We actually met in the lift on the way up to the event and exchanged a few words. After I had pitched my idea Ranga approached we and we chatted about my idea for a while before Ranga mentioned what he had already achieved with Localmint.

“When I heard where he was at I immediately saw the potential and I think that was what Ranga was waiting for (i.e. someone who had a similar vision). We applied for the NDRC in December, the same month Localmint hit 1m monthly unique users for the first time and we were lucky enough to be accepted onto LaunchPad in January.”

The technology

“Efficiently providing store information is a core function, as we strive to provide a service that places usefulness at the top of the list of priorities,” Ryan explains.

Localmint ensures the optimum user experience by:

·       Publishing accurate geo locations, opening hours and other details for our listed stores

·       Developing extremely efficient UI interfaces for our users

·       Building on a reliable, quick and scalable platform like Azure (complements of Microsoft Bizspark), and

·       By implementing cutting edge technologies like Elastic Search to ensure maximum search efficiency

“This level of technology is simply not affordable for most retailers,” Ryan points out. “But even if funds are not an issue, there is a huge usability issue in terms of customers having to download multiple apps or go searching for data for different retailers each time they need it. Centralising this function in one app or website certainly offers the consumer the best experience.

“70pc of our traffic is mobile traffic, so many of the social features we are developing will leverage location based services. The mobile generated data we collect will be of considerable interest to retailers, as we will be able to generate reports like user demand heat maps for particular types of stores. “

The future is social

As Ryan pointed out the vision is for Localmint to become a Yelp-type serive focused on retilers and users’ shopping experiences.

“We plan to roll out the social features and engage with retailers in Ireland and the UK initially. Once we have refined the business model and figured out what works best, we will launch it in Australia and the US, where we are already publishing data and building traffic.

“We have built out the platform on technology that is readily scalable, so we are very much driven to be successful on a global basis,” Ryan said.

The laws of traction

While Localmint is already enjoying good traction among users, Ryan says the business will need to show compelling month on month growth to attract investment.

“So we watch our metrics closely to determine what is working and what is not.”

“In the three or four months since we started LaunchPad we managed to increase the number of listed stores from 50,000 to 300,000, which should bear fruit in the next few months. We just went live in the US in May and there is a mountain of work to do to make an impact there.

“We are looking for investment, as speed of development and rollout is crucial in our sector. We are looking for €750,000 to build out our development and data teams, as well as to give us the bandwidth to spend more time developing relationships with key retailers.”

Ryan admits managing data is a huge challenge. “Our community help curate the data by reporting errors and we also have many retailers who update their data whenever it changes, but with around 300k stores listed worldwide this is a challenge that gets harder the more successful we get.

“Getting access to retailers has not been as easy as we would like, given our listings are free and we already have strong traction, so if there are any retailers reading this please do get in touch.”

What qualifies as innovation

Localmint has just completed NDRC LaunchPad. “The other companies on that programme, as well as the alumni companies and the NDRC itself, have provided so much help, support and encouragement. That kind of environment is invaluable and is definitely a big help, especially when taking those first few steps.

“On top of that you have great events like Dublin Beta and Silicon Drinkabout where you can demo your product and meet like-minded people, or maybe even find a new recruit.

“According to many seasoned entrepreneurs this strong community network is something that marks Dublin out from many of the other international start-up hubs.”

Ryan’s advice to fellow or budding entrepreneurs is always strive to build something useful.

“It shouldn’t need to be said, but we think usefulness is the key element in any application or business.

“There is a lot of focus on innovation and that is a good thing, as long as it does not become the main objective.

|You can spend a lot of time working on an amazing idea that never goes anywhere; it is a lot easier to find something that is being done badly (in our case the store locator) and do it really well. It still qualifies as innovation.”

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