Four Exciting Tech Startups Flying The Flag For Ireland

Ireland's tech startup scene is flourishing

Ireland's tech startup scene is flourishing

NurPhoto via Getty Images

Famous for its stunning coastlines, friendly people, rich culture, and great food and beer, Ireland also boasts a vibrant startup scene.

As home to the European headquarters of tech giants such as Apple, Facebook, and Google, its capital Dublin has proved hugely attractive to entrepreneurs. Even more international brands could relocate post-Brexit, further boosting Ireland’s appeal as a place to begin the startup journey. Here are four that are already well on their way.

Idea 2 Scale

Entrepreneur Danny O’Brien spent a year travelling the world to understand entrepreneurship in emerging markets before returning to Kildare in 2018 to launch Idea 2 Scale, a platform that gives entrepreneurs and founders the resources they need to get their businesses off the ground.

Having worked with startups and investors for a number of years O’Brien’s goal for Idea 2 Scale was twofold: to reinvent the startup screening process for VCs, saving both parties time, while better connecting entrepreneurs outside traditional tech hubs who are often overlooked.

Thanks to partnerships with big tech names such as Stripe, HubSpot, Saatchi and Techstars, Idea 2 Scale’s network of founders are able to scale quickly through mentorship, content and in-kind resources.

The Idea 2 Scale team uses a data-driven approach to identify talented teams who fit investors’ theses and facilitate deals. Giving investors more data helps them make more informed decisions at the pre-seed and seed stage, which helps them increase portfolio performance and reduce overheads.

O’Brien purposely chose to bootstrap the business to avoid any conflict of interest with investors, some of whom are its clients. The current team of four is expected to double over the coming year as it expands its operations to New York and London. The next cohort, dedicated to Food and AgTech, is set to launch with 500 founders.

&Open

Founded in Dublin in 2017 by brothers Jonathan and Mark Legge, and Ciara Flood, &Open is a gift-giving platform for the business world. Prior to this, the Legges had founded Makers and Brothers in 2011, an international destination for contemporary design and craft, selling objects that were ‘useful, beautiful and sometimes nicely odd’.

“When we were looking at our turnover we found that more than 30% was coming from corporate gifting and so we decided to focus on this industry, and launch &Open,” says Jonathan Legge.

The business uses gift curation experts to create bespoke, contextualized gift catalogues for companies that want to gift their customers with beautiful, thoughtful gifts.

The bootstrapped business turned over €3.5 million ($3.9 million) in 2018, and is forecasting revenue in excess of €10 million ($11 million) in the next 18 months. The company is currently trading in 52 countries, distributing 3,500 gifts per month, and has 25 employees, most of who are based in Dublin.

CitySwift

This tech startup is helping to make bus routes more efficient by using AI and machine learning to accurately predict journey times and passenger demand, creating optimized timetables that take into account traffic, events and other external factors.

CitySwift was founded in 2016 by Alan Farrelly and Brian O’Rourke, lifelong friends who’d attended school together in rural Ireland. Farrelly’s family had grown two successful bus companies so he had worked in everything, from driving and customer service to scheduling and operations. O’Rourke had worked as a Citibank analyst, leading big data and complex optimization projects specifically for the mobility sector.

Between them they had spotted an opportunity to digitally transform the current system of planning, scheduling and operating public transport and improve the industry for the millions of passengers that use buses on a daily basis.

“Most urban bus networks operate with a passenger load factor of just 35%, compared to over 80% in the airline industry,” says Farrelly. “Also, 20% of bus operating hours are non-revenue generating and increased congestion means that average speeds drop 12% year-on-year.”

Their data indicated that a one-minute bus journey time reduction resulted in a 1.3% average increase in passenger demand. “Deploying CitySwift can lead to a shift back from private car journeys to bus networks, allowing cities to become less congested and more environmentally-friendly,” he adds.

The business has 18 employees, primarily based in Galway City on the west coast of Ireland, but also regionally across the U.K., and has recorded more than 33% growth per quarter throughout the year. The CitySwift platform is used by three of the U.K.’s five listed bus companies, and by regional bus operators and local authorities across the U.K. and Europe. Earlier this year the company secured €1.5m ($1.7 million) in an equity investment funding round led by Ryanair cofounder Declan Ryan’s Irelandia Investments.

Manna Aero

In 2018 former CarTrawler CTO and aviation expert Bobby Healy founded Dublin-based Manna Aero to bring faster and safer food deliveries to the suburban populations of cities in the U.S. and Europe. The food delivery drone service is using custom-developed aerospace grade drones to deliver food directly from restaurants and centralized kitchens to consumers’ homes.

Healy says: “The current traditional delivery model is inefficient and cost prohibitive. For companies like Deliveroo, JustEat, Uber Eats and many more, each delivery costs at least €5. With Manna, the final cost of operating drone food deliveries will be a fraction of that and Manna can guarantee a three-minute maximum delivery time.”

Manna partners with restaurants, restaurant chains and third party delivery companies, lease their drones to them for free. Manna will charge the outlet a standard delivery fee, but this will be cheaper for outlets than current delivery costs.

When a customer orders food online they have an option to select ‘drone delivery’ on their food-ordering app of choice. Manna’s drone will then autonomously deliver their meal, flying at 80 km per hour, completing deliveries in less than three minutes.

Manna has raised just under €6 million ($6.7 million) from VCs, including ffVC, Atlantic Bridge, Frontline, Founders Fund, and a recent round led by Tennessee-based logistics fund Dynamo.

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Famous for its stunning coastlines, friendly people, rich culture, and great food and beer, Ireland also boasts a vibrant startup scene.

As home to the European headquarters of tech giants such as Apple, Facebook, and Google, its capital Dublin has proved hugely attractive to entrepreneurs. Even more international brands could relocate post-Brexit, further boosting Ireland’s appeal as a place to begin the startup journey. Here are four that are already well on their way.

Idea 2 Scale

Entrepreneur Danny O’Brien spent a year travelling the world to understand entrepreneurship in emerging markets before returning to Kildare in 2018 to launch Idea 2 Scale, a platform that gives entrepreneurs and founders the resources they need to get their businesses off the ground.

Having worked with startups and investors for a number of years O’Brien’s goal for Idea 2 Scale was twofold: to reinvent the startup screening process for VCs, saving both parties time, while better connecting entrepreneurs outside traditional tech hubs who are often overlooked.

Thanks to partnerships with big tech names such as Stripe, HubSpot, Saatchi and Techstars, Idea 2 Scale’s network of founders are able to scale quickly through mentorship, content and in-kind resources.

The Idea 2 Scale team uses a data-driven approach to identify talented teams who fit investors’ theses and facilitate deals. Giving investors more data helps them make more informed decisions at the pre-seed and seed stage, which helps them increase portfolio performance and reduce overheads.

O’Brien purposely chose to bootstrap the business to avoid any conflict of interest with investors, some of whom are its clients. The current team of four is expected to double over the coming year as it expands its operations to New York and London. The next cohort, dedicated to Food and AgTech, is set to launch with 500 founders.

&Open

Founded in Dublin in 2017 by brothers Jonathan and Mark Legge, and Ciara Flood, &Open is a gift-giving platform for the business world. Prior to this, the Legges had founded Makers and Brothers in 2011, an international destination for contemporary design and craft, selling objects that were ‘useful, beautiful and sometimes nicely odd’.

“When we were looking at our turnover we found that more than 30% was coming from corporate gifting and so we decided to focus on this industry, and launch &Open,” says Jonathan Legge.

The business uses gift curation experts to create bespoke, contextualized gift catalogues for companies that want to gift their customers with beautiful, thoughtful gifts.

The bootstrapped business turned over €3.5 million ($3.9 million) in 2018, and is forecasting revenue in excess of €10 million ($11 million) in the next 18 months. The company is currently trading in 52 countries, distributing 3,500 gifts per month, and has 25 employees, most of who are based in Dublin.

CitySwift

This tech startup is helping to make bus routes more efficient by using AI and machine learning to accurately predict journey times and passenger demand, creating optimized timetables that take into account traffic, events and other external factors.

CitySwift was founded in 2016 by Alan Farrelly and Brian O’Rourke, lifelong friends who’d attended school together in rural Ireland. Farrelly’s family had grown two successful bus companies so he had worked in everything, from driving and customer service to scheduling and operations. O’Rourke had worked as a Citibank analyst, leading big data and complex optimization projects specifically for the mobility sector.

Between them they had spotted an opportunity to digitally transform the current system of planning, scheduling and operating public transport and improve the industry for the millions of passengers that use buses on a daily basis.

“Most urban bus networks operate with a passenger load factor of just 35%, compared to over 80% in the airline industry,” says Farrelly. “Also, 20% of bus operating hours are non-revenue generating and increased congestion means that average speeds drop 12% year-on-year.”

Their data indicated that a one-minute bus journey time reduction resulted in a 1.3% average increase in passenger demand. “Deploying CitySwift can lead to a shift back from private car journeys to bus networks, allowing cities to become less congested and more environmentally-friendly,” he adds.

The business has 18 employees, primarily based in Galway City on the west coast of Ireland, but also regionally across the U.K., and has recorded more than 33% growth per quarter throughout the year. The CitySwift platform is used by three of the U.K.’s five listed bus companies, and by regional bus operators and local authorities across the U.K. and Europe. Earlier this year the company secured €1.5m ($1.7 million) in an equity investment funding round led by Ryanair cofounder Declan Ryan’s Irelandia Investments.

Manna Aero

In 2018 former CarTrawler CTO and aviation expert Bobby Healy founded Dublin-based Manna Aero to bring faster and safer food deliveries to the suburban populations of cities in the U.S. and Europe. The food delivery drone service is using custom-developed aerospace grade drones to deliver food directly from restaurants and centralized kitchens to consumers’ homes.

Healy says: “The current traditional delivery model is inefficient and cost prohibitive. For companies like Deliveroo, JustEat, Uber Eats and many more, each delivery costs at least €5. With Manna, the final cost of operating drone food deliveries will be a fraction of that and Manna can guarantee a three-minute maximum delivery time.”

Manna partners with restaurants, restaurant chains and third party delivery companies, lease their drones to them for free. Manna will charge the outlet a standard delivery fee, but this will be cheaper for outlets than current delivery costs.

When a customer orders food online they have an option to select ‘drone delivery’ on their food-ordering app of choice. Manna’s drone will then autonomously deliver their meal, flying at 80 km per hour, completing deliveries in less than three minutes.

Manna has raised just under €6 million ($6.7 million) from VCs, including ffVC, Atlantic Bridge, Frontline, Founders Fund, and a recent round led by Tennessee-based logistics fund Dynamo.

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I'm a freelance journalist, founder of Coleman Media. For the last 20 years I’ve covered business stories for national and international online and print publications,

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