Dublin Startup Stories: Birdleaf

Dublin startups tell their stories, powered by DCU Ryan Academy.

Meet Scott Kennedy, Co-Founder at Birdleaf…

Tell us about your product…
Birdleaf is a customer intelligence tool that turns your e-mail addresses into customer profiles. It enables online businesses to get a complete picture on their different customer types, easily segment users based on key insights, and quickly identify key customers. This ultimately enables marketing and sales teams to have a higher ROI on marketing spend.

What inspired you to start Birdleaf?
Prior to Birdleaf, Cian and I had a start-up called CloudDock. We had a few thousand sign-ups and all we had to identify them by was an e-mail address. So we had no idea who the people were, and at the time we looked for a solution that could tell us who these people were but couldn’t find anything that suited our case. Ultimately we wound up CloudDock at the start of the year, looked back on our learnings along the way and out sprung the idea for Birdleaf, which we started in April this year.

How is Birdleaf different?
There’s a lot of activity in the customer intelligence and analytics space at the moment! Our primary differentiator is our machine learning system, which gathers, analyzes and categorises data on each email and is uniquely suited to large-scale email lists.

What market you are targeting and how big is it?
We’re targeting sales and marketing teams worldwide. The annual spend on marketing software is currently just over $22 billion and it’s forecast to increase significantly over the next three years. We’ve been fortunate to have strong demand from a wide range of sectors, but we’ve seen the strongest traction across the e-commerce sector, especially in the US. In the US alone there are over 110,000 ecommerce sites generating significant revenue. Companies like Lyst are using Birdleaf to get a clear picture of different customer demographics, and find VIP customers who they want to contact directly.

What’s your business model?
Our business model is really simple. It’s a typical SaaS-based model – we charge based on the volume of email addresses a company has each month. For small businesses with a low volume of new customers we have an entry-level package, and for our big customers we work with them directly on finding a price point that matches their use case.

What was the funding process like, and who are your investors?
We were fortunate to be accepted onto Telefonica’s (recently closed) Wayra Accelerator in Dublin. When companies are applying to accelerators they are usually at quite an early stage. I think for us it was key to have a really solid story as to the opportunity, and how you as a company can capitalise on that opportunity. Telefonica have invested in us though their Accelerator programme. That is the only investment we’ve had to date and focusing on revenue from day one has allowed us to extend our runway. We got massive value from the guys in Wayra, they worked with us through all the issues at the start of Birdleaf.

What are the biggest challenges that a business like Birdleaf faces today?
In the world of startups it’s hard to strike a balance work-wise. Prioritising and planning ahead is definitely key for small teams! We’ve been putting all our focus on getting new customers and growing revenue. For anyone starting a new company, I’d definitely advise you read this essay by Paul Graham, as it will make you focus on the important things!

What do you think motivated your investors to write that check?
I think team and size of the opportunity is always key for really early stage companies. We had no product or any customers when we got accepted to Wayra’s programme: all we had was a pitch deck and a story of how we were going to get from idea to landing our first ten paying customers. Luckily, they bought into the idea and the company roadmap, wrote us a check and provided amazing support to get us started!

What milestones do you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We’re at a really exciting point with Birdleaf. We have a live product and paying customers in Ireland, the UK, and the US. Over the next six months, the main goal for us as a company is to grow our revenues to a place that we can support ourselves and prove that we have a business model that is scalable.

What advice can you offer companies in Dublin who are just starting out?
It’s really exciting starting out as you have so many ideas, but you have limited resources so it’s really important to focus on the things that matter. Have an initial plan with milestones that you can measure against over time. This allows you to focus on the important things that matter and not get distracted by the things that won’t really have any effect on your business.

Tell us something you love about Dublin as a startup community and as a city?
As a startup community, Dublin is thriving! There are so many experienced entrepreneurs who are very open to helping out other startups. As a city, you can’t beat the abundance of good coffee and burrito places! It’s key to the survival of any start-up.

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