Dublin Startup Stories: Popdeem

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

Meet Richie Whelan, CEO of Popdeem…

Tell us about your service…
Popdeem is a mobile rewards platform that allows brands to reward their customers for sharing local experiences on social networks. It has been designed as a plug-in for location-based brands such as restaurants, loyalty apps and sports teams. By rewarding customers for sharing these experiences online, brands drive mobile app acquisition and word-of-mouth marketing. The platform is complimented by a social CRM that allows brands to tailor rewards based on social data such as influence and demographics. So for example, a restaurant can target influential male students that are interested in rugby and tailor rewards to them during the rugby world cup! It’s an effective way to personalise your social marketing efforts.

What inspired you to start the company?

We have always been looking at problems associated with social networks. Our first start-up StudyBuddy was an application to block students off of Facebook when it was coming up to exam time. The next problem we identified was how brands were advertising to a young audience on social networks. Banner and text ads are not as effective as they once were – it’s like an old form of marketing put into a new world of media. It simply doesn’t resonate with millenials – people care a lot more about what their friends are doing online. We wanted to create a new way for brands to engage customers on social networks and get people talking about them online without annoying people and disrupting their online experience.

How is Popdeem different?
So there is a lot of amazing activity going on in both the mobile rewards space and influence marketing industries. We see ourselves in the intersection of these two industries. Right now, we feel that Popdeem is the best social marketing platform that’s available for location-based apps globally.

What market are Popdeem targeting and how big is it?
We’re targeting the mobile marketing industry which is worth about $4 billion right now and is expected to grow to about $15 billion by 2019. Specifically, we’re focused on location-based social marketing within this industry. By focusing in on this vertical, we’re also tapping into all of the activity that’s going on in mobile payments, location services and mobile loyalty. Our social rewards platform is an excellent complement to any existing payments or loyalty solution. We’ve just done our first major loyalty integration, and we’ve plans to do more very soon.

What’s your business model?
It’s a typical SaaS based business model – brands pay a monthly subscription based on how many active app users they have. We also do some custom integration and design that brands can pay a once-off fee for.

Who were Popdeem’s investors and how much did you raise?
Our investors include Wayra, Enterprise Ireland and Delta VC. Delta are our most recent investor and led a seed round of €500,000 in May last year. They’ve been hugely supportive of us from day one – they understand our product and our vision, which is hugely important to us. We also have a group of incredible angel investors, who we often tap into for advice in all areas of the business.

What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
At the very beginning, we didn’t really understand the different fundraising instruments and terms involved. If you’re considering investment I recommend reading Venture Deals by Brad Feld so you understand best practices and common pitfalls to watch out for. It’s good to understand the situation from your investors’ perspective, and using a language they’re familiar with.

What factors about your business led your investors to write that check?

We launched Popdeem in beta as a closed trial for social influencers in Trinity College Dublin. We built up some powerful case studies and established that there was a huge opportunity to develop this is a platform for larger brands. Our investors were involved from an early stage and we were able to show them this traction as it developed. When it came to fundraising, we had already proved we had the ability to execute and that there was value for businesses using Popdeem. This made fundraising a much smoother process than if we had just gone in cold.

A killer presentation deck always helps too… 🙂

What are the milestones that Popdeem plan to achieve in the next six months?

We’re at a really exciting point in our development – we’ve now got paying customers all over the world. Over the next 6 months, we want to streamline how we do things – operations, sales, customer on-boarding, training, account management. We’re creating a playbook to put ourselves in a position to scale.

What advice can you offer companies in Dublin that don’t have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
I would say focus on your product and customers as much as possible. The more you understand your customers and their needs – the closer you are to finding your fit, and the easier it will be for you to raise money.

Where do you see Popdeem going over the near term?
We see ourselves becoming one of the most powerful forces in social marketing worldwide. The mobile marketing space is very exciting right now, so it’s a great time to be working on a platform like Popdeem.

What is something that you love about Dublin?
The people! There’s a friendly buzz about Dublin that you don’t see in most other cities. Nothing beats the people in Dublin – friendly and always willing to lend a hand!

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