Dublin Startup Stories: Pointy

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

Meet Michael Gill of Pointy:

Tell us about your product…
Pointy is a simpler way for small retailers to get online. We’ve developed a small piece of hardware, the Pointy box, which a shop plugs in between their barcode scanner and POS/cash machine. Every time the scanner is used the Pointy box sends the barcode number to us and we find the product information (name, description and image) and then automatically upload it to the shop’s Pointy page. Essentially the shop just plugs in a Pointy box and they get a full website listing all of their products with no effort on their part. We also do all the work to help these sites do well on Google. So shoppers can find the products they are looking for locally via Pointy, and local retailers get more visitors through their door.

What inspired you to start Pointy?
Not being able to find our favourite beer locally! We were drinking this great beer at a party one night and we had a lot of trouble finding it again afterwards. So we set about building Pointy to solve the problem.

How is Pointy different?
The big difference with Pointy is that we do absolutely everything for the retailer. It’s inexpensive, takes five minutes to install, and doesn’t require any integration with existing POS systems. After the Pointy box is plugged in we do all the work of sourcing product information and optimizing the retailer websites for search engines.

On the consumer side, currently there is little to no local product-level data online. People can’t yet simply take out their smartphone and find what they’re looking for locally. You can find the most obscure products on Amazon but might never discover that they’re available in the shop around the corner. Pointy is going to change that.

What market you are targeting and how big is it?
It’s pretty enormous. In the US alone there are just over one million shops, which collectively have about €3 trillion in sales. If you can have a significant impact on how people find things locally, it’s clear that there’s a big market there. We really think of ourselves as a search engine company.

What’s your business model?
Right now we’re focused entirely on growing the network of retailers using Pointy. We have to make sure our retailers have an amazing experience, without that we wouldn’t have a business at all. There’s a small monthly fee for retailers, but we’ve pitched that at a very low level plus a free trial to optimize for growth. In the long term there are multiple attractive business models. We have many ideas, but it’s too early to announce anything yet.

What was the funding process like?
It was probably a lot easier for us than average, but it’s still an intense process. One of our founders had a previous exit, which helped a lot. We could work on the company for quite a while without external funding until it was at the point we had some compelling demos. Once we were ready to start talking to investors we had a good network of people we already knew, but it was still an intense process of pitching and networking to put the final round together. We’re lucky to have ended up with a very strong set of investors, which really helps in multiple ways.

Who are your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised €1.12m from a mix of angels and VCs. We picked that amount to give us the right amount of runway in order to hit the milestones we’ll need for Series A. We’re delighted to have some great investors in the round, among them WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, Bebo founder Michael Birch, Lars Rasmussen who created Google Maps, and Frontline Ventures.

What are the biggest challenges Pointy faces today?
Probably the biggest challenge is developing a scalable way to reach a large number of small retailers. We need to develop a process that works here and can be replicated in other locations.

What do you think motivated your investors to write that check?
We think we have a strong team and a genuinely new approach to a big problem. It’s a good mixture. Also, we think a lot of first-time founders don’t fully understand the constraints imposed on VCs by their own business model. A startup has to have quite a particular mix of characteristics to make it an attractive investment, and we think Pointy has the right shape for that also.Pointy-Box DublinGlobe-com

What milestones do you plan to achieve in the next six months?
It’s all about getting retailers on Pointy at the moment. We’re working to build a network of local shops with good density and coverage of every market sector. To reach our goal we need to expand our sales team, which we are actively recruiting for at the moment.

What advice can you offer companies in Dublin who are just starting out?
At the very early stages, events and meet-ups can be a great way to get calibrated. Spend some time there and learn from people who have been in the startup world for a while. There are some great incubators and co-working spaces in Dublin too, so that can be a good way to learn also. Raising finance in Dublin is harder and takes longer than it does in the Valley, so however long you think it will take, double it and add a month.

Tell us one (or more) things you love about Dublin as a startup community and as a city?
Being generous is part of startup culture everywhere, and Dublin is no exception. A lot of people will give you time, advice and make introductions to help get you started. Relative to some other places it’s probably easier to put together a good engineering and sales team in Dublin at the moment. The talent war in Silicon Valley is particularly intense right now, and Dublin has a deep pool of people who have worked at the larger internet companies. Dublin as a city is a great place to live and work. It’s fun, well connected, and has easy access to the great outdoors.

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