Tech start-up of the week: Storymap

27 Jan 2013

Andy Flaherty and Tom Rowley, co-founders of Storymap

Our tech start-up of the week is, a new platform that has been developed by filmmakers Tom Rowley and Andy Flaherty to allow people to engage with Dublin City via stories and film. And they have just created a new app for people to tap into the city’s literary and historical side while on the move.

Rowley and Flaherty first met while they were studying film and English at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). After university, they both went their separate ways to pursue careers in camera work and film editing, but it was two years ago that the duo decided to pool their creative energies to create

“We both arrived back from working abroad and were really frustrated with the way the city was being represented. We couldn’t find work and so we began Storymap as a way to use our skills to showcase the real cultural wealth of Dublin,” says Rowley.

Future Human

He describes the online platform as a new way to see and explore the city.

“We find the most interesting stories from around Dublin, film them being told where they happened and then map them online,” he explains. The stories are presented either in audio or high-definition video.

New app

So far, the duo have collected 88 stories concerning Dublin. The stories are available on the online platform, as well as on their new app for iPhone and Android.

“We capture any and every type of story, be it personal, historical or literary – once it’s a good story. Our idea is that, in any city, you’re walking on layers upon layers of stories, and our package lets you dive down into those stories,” says Rowley.

The aim is to add one story a week, with both Rowley and Flaherty shooting the short films themselves for Storymap.

“For locals, it’s a chance to see the city with fresh eyes, and explore streets they may have passed a hundred times. For tourists, they can explore the city through the authentic stories of locals – to unearth hidden gems of history, and to get a sense of the real life of a city,” says Rowley.

He points to some of the stories that feature on the app and website, such as the story of ‘Bang Bang’ in the Liberties, a street character who became convinced he was a cowboy, and the tale behind the Fr Noise plaque on O’Connell Bridge.

Once they had developed the website, Flaherty and Rowley set their sights on creating an app, which would allow people to group stories into ‘rambles’ across the city.

“The app has a lot of innovations. As well as letting you tap into the stories as you explore the city, it also groups those stories into rambles – themed walking routes that criss-cross the city. It’s like having walking tours in your pocket,” explains Rowley.

Raising funds

The duo raised initial funding via the crowdfunding platform a year ago.

“With Fundit, we were overwhelmed by the response from everyone and we surpassed our target of €5,000,” says Rowley.

They then received some help from Enterprise Ireland via its Innovation Voucher scheme.

“We developed the app in DIT with the help of two final-year computing students, Jamie Osler and Eoin Rogers. Bryan Duggan, a lecturer from DIT’s School of Computing, was really supportive of the project,” explains Rowley.

Latest projects

So what is the next plan for Storymap following the launch of the app?

“Storymap is a simple idea, but has endless possibilities and we’re really just at the start of it. We’re pushing Storymap as a new way for tourists to interact with Dublin,” he says.

“The idea is that with the app and website we can use those basic engines to create smaller versions of Storymap tailored to different cultural events or tourism entities,” he adds. For instance, Dublin UNESCO City of Literature has given Storymap backing to create 20 stories capturing literary Dublin.

“Those stories are part of our website at the moment and they will be made into a smaller, separate app for people who just want to explore literary Dublin. We will be launching that app within the next two months,’ says Rowley.

Storymap is also working with Fáilte Ireland with respect to the Dubline project – the route between Trinity College Dublin and Kilmainham as a central spine of the city for tourists to connect with major attractions.

“We come on board with Fáilte Ireland to find 20 stories along that route to film and make into a separate app,” says Rowley.

Branching out to other cities

Flaherty and Rowley are also on a mission to expand the Storymap platform to other cities.

“We’ve started talks with cities, such as London, about bringing Storymap to the area around the Thames.

“As well as London, we’ve already been in talks with people to bring it to Galway, Derry, and have even been approached from some Indian, South American and African organisations who see a lot of potential in the idea. So, we hope to bring Storymap worldwide in the long run,” explains Rowley.

While at the moment Flaherty and Rowley are just monetising from sales of the app, their aim is to expand the platform to start with, using European and national funds for cultural projects. However, at a certain point, Rowley says the aim is to get private investment to establish Storymap as a brand.

“The idea is that instead of picking up a Lonely Planet book you would use the Storymap app to explore each city in a more flexible and authentic way.”

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic