THE BLOG

The Ten Startups in The Irish Times' Advertising Experiment

04/06/2013 00:10 BST | Updated 25/10/2013 12:42 BST

10 startups have made it through to the final stage of The Irish Times FUSION programme. FUSION puts startups with no prior experience of the advertising industry into contact with advertising mad men in an experiment to define the next wave of digital advertising experiences.

We are more than half way through, and over the past few weeks over 100 startups have been reduced to a shortlist of twenty, which have now been whittled down to a final 10.

The final 10 start-ups were selected by a panel of Ireland's leading media buyers, including Tyson Pearcey of Mindshare, Shenda Loughnane of Aegis, Paul Farrell of Initiative, Patrick McConville of ICAN, Garret O'Beirne of OMD, Jason Nebenzahl of PHD, and Steve Latham of The Cannes Lions (the premier event for the global advertising industry).

The ten startups will pitch global media and advertising leaders at an invitation-only grand finale in Dublin on 14 June.

The Ten startups in Irish Times FUSION

Fonesense

Fonesense rewards people for using a brand's jingle as their mobile ringtone. The user earns credit or other rewards in return for each jingle played.

The idea came to Fonesense founder Christian Ryder some years ago en route to his final exam as a software development student at Waterford Institute of Technology.

Trying to cram last minute study on the bus, he was distracted by a ring tone nearby and he thought "I hope they are getting paid for that." The idea festered in his mind, and he started building a prototype in 2006.

Returning to work at a major payments company after a period of illness, Ryder realised that he no longer wanted to work for anyone else. He quit his job and joined the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers at WIT. A feasibility grant from Enterprise Ireland supported initial development, Fonesense secured investment from an angel investor in late 2012, and funding from the New Frontiers has supported the company for the past six months.

Now the challenge is "getting in touch with media buyers". Fonesense plans a national trial and pilot, before bringing Fonesense to other countries.

Sian's Plan

Sian's Plan is a healthy food planner, recipe, and grocery system founded by mother and son team Sian and Vincent Breslin.

Sian Breslin, who runs a cookery school in Donegal, noticed her students abandoned the fine dining of the economic boom for a budget diet that they found difficult to keep balanced. So she developed a colour coded recipe plan to balance diets through the week.

At the same time her son Vincent came up with the idea of building a grocery planning system to show nutritional values and complete online purchases for the user. They combined their ideas in 2011, and in November a year later Vincent quit his job to pursue Sian's Plan full time.

Now, the service has 5,000 beta users, and has integrated in the UK with an online grocer. According to Vincent Breslin, they intend "to grow Sian's Plan into a portal that simplifies how families create healthy diets that take account of the budget and of each person's tastes".

GetHealth

GetHealth is a healthy lifestyle app and system that tracks the user's health, diet, fitness, and social life.

GetHealth was founded by Liam Ryan and Chris Rooney, who became friends while playing in a brass band. After an initial start-up, founded while still at college, the duo decided to create a lifestyle app that would function as a game of health, with the objective of helping a user improve their own wellness. In the summer of 2011 they entered LaunchPad, and began to secure commitments from HR managers at large companies to pay for the service once it was built.

A test version was built in four weeks but it took a further nine months to complete an app ready for the market. Now, GetHealth is being used in large companies such as Aer Lingus and VHI, and has been accepted on to GE's Start-up Health programme in New York.

Ryan says "GetHealth is not an app company, we are a health and a wellness company". It plans to broaden its offering over time, finding new ways to work as a catalyst for healthier living.

LimeTree

LimeTree gives parents a safe, private space to chronicle moments from their child's life.

A year and a half ago co-founders Jaime Quintas and Pedro Veloso compared notes on their attempts to chronicle their happiest moments with their children. They discovered a shared need for a safe repository to store those memories.

Maintaining their previous project managing software business in the background, Quintas and Veloso made LimeTree their full-time activity upon launching in the summer of 2012.

The founders are Portuguese, and most of LimeTree's current 10,000 users are based in Brazil. But Quintas says they decided to set up in Ireland because "it has a good start-up scene, and is a bridge to the US and other English markets".

They won a place at the Ryan Academy's Propeller Incubator in DCU.

Prowlster

Prowlster is a fashion magazine and community. The startup builds on the three founding McGinn sisters' experience with their blog, What Will I Wear Today. The blog, much like the start up, brought an irreverent voice to fashion coverage.

Last year the three quit their jobs and started to brainstorm ideas for a new kind of online lifestyle magazine. The resulting pitch for Prowlster won them a three month spot at LaunchPad, the start-up incubator based in the NDRC at the Digital Hub.

The team has built up a community around Prowlster, and has an initial group of emerging designers who want to use the start-up as their e-commerce channel. Now, the McGinns are implementing the technology to power a "buy now" feature, through which an item that appears in a fashion shoots can be instantly purchased online.

According to Jennie McGinn, the ultimate objective is to have "every single item that appears in a shoot purchasable" from any supplier.

FrockAdvisor

FrockAdvisor is a fashion community that allows fashion fans to share their interest in garments, and allows boutique retailers to converse with them.

The start-up is the brain child of veteran RTÉ fashion broadcasters Brendan Courtney and Sonya Lennon. They came up with the idea two years ago when they noticed that viewers were consuming their TV show, Off The Rails , online instead of via broadcast. At the same time, consumers were increasingly researching and buying online.

Courtney and Lennon, who run a fashion label together too, initially conceived of an online fashion TV channel that would serve niche audiences. They won a place on LauchPad and started working full time of their startup, changing the idea in the process.

The crux of the change was to transition from a viewing experience to a conversational one that would engage fashion fans more deeply.

According to Courtney, it became clear "fashion boutiques want a channel they can participate in, which is run by people they trust".

ParkYa

ParkYa is a mobile app that shows drivers the easiest place to find parking.

The company's founder, Jason Roe, noticed cars were being clamped every day outside his office. What drivers needed, he believed, was an app that showed them the best places to park, took payment for the parking space and reminded them of when they needed to feed the meter.

Until the authorities released parking meter data, however, this was impossible.

An open data challenge in late 2011 gave Roe access to the data and enabled Roe to start ParkYa. According to Roe, "open data creates the framework for commercial projects. The availability of the data for the first time enabled us to create a new service for users."

He started working on ParkYa full-time in September 2012, and entered Enterprise Ireland's New Frontiers Programme in the Blanchardstown Institute of Technology.

There he met Kirk Donohoe, a former project manager at a pharma company, who joined him as a partner. According to Donohoe, drivers in many cities are inconvenienced by fragmented parking payment systems.

In London there are six different payment systems and in Dublin there are currently three. ParkYa helps people to find parking locations and pay through one single app. The team is currently running a beta test with 200 users, and will launch in June.

Loylap

Loylap is a group loyalty scheme that allows a customer to gain and spend rewards between different types of local business.

In 2012 co-founders Patrick Garry and Conor O'Toole noticed that small and local retailers were not using technology to improve their engagement with customers. The major retail chains were leaving them behind.

They decided to build an ecosystem for smaller retailers in which a customer loyal to one local business in a local area would also reward their customer's relationship with every other business. For example, someone attending a dental practice could redeem loyalty points at the local grocer. The Loylap system is active in beta form in a number of retailers in Dublin city centre, Ranelagh and the IFSC.

Garry and O'Toole had met at school, and the idea for the start-up came as Garry was completing a masters and O'Toole was working as a tech consultant at Accenture. Dublin City Enterprise Board supported initial development of Loylap, and their plan now is to attract local business groups to join the platform. This should include local market stalls and small businesses, so that any business of any size can accept payments and redeem loyalty points earned at other local businesses.

According to Garry, Loylap's ambition is to "help small businesses compete with large multinationals on a technological level and keep people shopping local".

Buzzoo

Buzzoo is a new take on the jukebox, allowing the crowd at a pub to control the music being played by voting on their phones.

Co-founders David Pearse and Dave Byrne met as MBA students at the Smurfit School of Business in UCD. The idea that became Buzzoo emerged from an entrepreneurship class project. They noticed that while new start-ups such as Spotify were making music a mobile and social experience for personal users, publicly played music was not changing at all. Speaking to bar owners the founders decided that is was a missed opportunity.

According to Pearse, the secret was to "move the jukebox onto the smartphone so the crowd becomes the DJ". He and Byrne established Buzzoo in October 2012, and built the beta version of the product. Buzzoo won a place at NDRC LaunchPad, the start-up incubator, and won funding from Enterprise Ireland's Competitive Start-up Fund.

D2E

D2E is a garden landscaping website.

Landscape designer Terry McEneaney designed a garden for Pat O'Sullivan Greene and the two decided to form a tech start-up.

McEneaney was eager to better engage with his clients, and O'Sullivan Greene was exploring opportunities in mobile and cloud technology.

The co-founders spoke with garden centres and decided to build a service allowing homeowners to work online with garden designers. The site allows a homeowner to use Google Maps to quickly survey their gardens, and connects with the garden centres to find relevant items to populate the garden. A community of landscape designers can provide individual designs for each garden.

Both are from Kerry, which is a boon according to O'Sullivan Greene. "There are a number of local examples that prove that you can build an innovative, successful, international business from Ireland."