At the Dublin Web Summit, one of the main attractions is the Spark Of Genius competition, where numerous startups compete for the chance to win a prize fund worth over â‚¬100,000. This year, over 1,000 applicants from 36 countries entered and since there are over 100 different startups based at the event, we decided to focus on five startups that caught our eye, including one former winner.
As it's the official networking app for the Dublin Web Summit, Bizzabo has already succeeded in getting itself into the hands of users before the event even started. In the last day alone, the Israeli-based startup saw almost 1,000 attendees signing up to the app and more than 1,000 LinkedIn invites have been sent through it, not bad considering that it was promoted through one email and a few tweets.
Speaking about the benefits of the app, Bizzabo co-founder Alon Alroy said that while creating networking opportunities is its main function, it also develops the relationship between the organisers and those attending an event.
"We make that link between them (organisers and attendees)... organisers can update their event schedule in real-time, and send messages to those attending and it creates a presence of this event on social media."
Alongside the Dublin Web Summit, Bizzabo was also the official app for ad:tech London and will be used for Internet Week Europe next month, which only shows how the app is growing in popularity. Alroy said that Bizzabo is focusing on tech events for now as that's where the early adaptors are, but hopes to become the standard used for all major events.
While networking is its primary function, one of the areas that could generate revenue for the company is its offers section. Currently, setting up offers is free, but given how quickly it's growing, the potential to base a business model around this is high. Alroy said that the company is in no rush to do this, but did highlight how the data it gathers could be leveraged.
"If you think about it, the data we're collecting. I can tell you who all of the CEOs are, who the startups are, and who the marketing people are," explained Alroy. "Sponsors will pay a lot of money to send a targeted message only to CEOs or marketing people."
After finishing as a runner-up in South By Southwest's (SXSW) Music Accelerator section, Irish based startup 45 Sound has gone from strength to strength. The company helps musicians take advantage of the numerous YouTube fan videos out there by replacing the poor audio that normally accompanies such videos, and piecing the footage together to create a brand new music video.
It's no surprise that the year old startup has been a hit with local musicians and according to 45 Sound's co-founder John McAuley, the opportunity was there when the company's other co-founder Cathal Furey noticed it when he was recording a number of live gigs.
"[Cathal] noticed that people were filming gigs more and when he discussed this with the bands, a lot of them said 'we don't mind them videoing, but we hate the audio because it's crap." explained McAuley. "[There's] an opportunity here. One to provide decent audio on the videos and collate those videos into one experience of the gig so everyone can relive it."
The process is made as simple as possible for the musician or promoter. All they have to do is provide a live recording of the band, upload it onto 45 Sound's site and the startup matches and replaces any uploaded videos with perfect audio. Through a mixture of crowdsourcing and deft programming, 45 Sound creates high-quality multi-angle music videos that is worlds apart from the patchy videos it originates from.
The product was originally launched at the Hard Working Class Heroes music festival in Dublin, but it has covered gigs in places such as Russia, Greece, and Slovenia. Overall, the service has been well received by those who have tried out the service. "The feedback has been very good." said McAuley. "The musicians are very keen on it... some of the bands really love it and they see the power to reach out to the audience."
And it's this audience that is its greatest strength. Not only do they provide the clips for these music videos, but bands can have them vote on which clips to include in the final cut.
As for the future, 45 Sound has an eye on growth and expansion, hoping to work with more music festivals and create branded events. The startup has also caught the eye of record label Universal Music, suggesting that there are big things ahead for it.
Probably the one startup that's guaranteed to have the tech community eagerly anticipating its release, SmartThings is one of the many success stories to have come from Kickstarter. Raising over $1.2 million on the site has put it into the limelight, but the company's CEO Alex Hawkinson is taking everything in its stride.
"It's obviously a good feeling," says Hawkinson. "You can't predict the success but for all of us, we've started multiple companies in the past and this is sort of the one. We can feel it in our bones [and] it's the biggest opportunity we've ever worked on."
For those who haven't heard what SmartThings is about, it's a device that adds intelligence to everyday objects. Using the principal of the internet of things, it allows you to monitor, control and automate anything anywhere, be it at home, at the office, or everywhere else in between. While there are a host of functions already available, it's open-ended so developers can add their own capabilities, providing no limit to what it can do.
While it's easy to look at its success with Kickstarter and take it at face value, this wasn't something that happened overnight. The "we" that Hawkinson refers to is the company's seven other co-founders who have worked together for more than twelve years. It was through the success of previous companies that allowed them the luxury of undergoing this project, without having to worry about the financial risks.
It was around July 2012 that they decided to place SmartThings on Kickstarter. Hawkinson says that the decision to do this wasn't about money, but about the community engagement. The result was 25,000 connected devices, 750 developers and thousands of suggested applications, which he described as "pretty crazy."
Pretty crazy is a mild way of putting it as the device has gotten coverage from every major web publication you can think of. It can even count Kevin Rose as one of its admirers. Yet, it's the ability to be both accessible to the average user and provide opportunities for developers to create their own functions, the ultimate vision allowing them to access everything from the one area.
For those interested, you can pre-order SmartThings for spring 2013 at shop.smartthings.com.
One of the themes following the Web Summit this year is solving common problems. SeenBefore tackles a familiar problem: Finding that random web page you came across weeks ago. Considering the amount of content we search for and consume, this happens more often than not, which is where SeenBefore comes in.
By adding a new option to Google's search results via Chrome, users can search their Web archive and get a few results instead of the millions that Google provides. Since 40% of what people search for is for content they've already seen before, the startup's co-founder David Organ said that like all ideas, it started with a problem he and his other co-founder Vincent Glennon had.
[caption id="attachment_67268" align="alignleft" width="450"] Image Via SeenBefore.com
"Fundamentally, it comes down to 'I want to solve a problem I have,'" explained Organ. "People have this problem, they're desperate to have it solved and at the very least, they look at what we're doing and say 'This looks like a way to solve it!' and so that's good for us."
Although its product has only been around for a few weeks in beta, it has still found its way on a number of sites, one of which was Lifehacker saw it being downloaded 4,000 times in the space of 48 hours. "People have this problem, they're desperate to have it solved and at the very least, they look at what we're doing and say 'This looks like a way to solve it!' and so that's good for us."
Perhaps one of the more refreshing aspects of SeenBefore is its stance towards privacy. While Google has been criticised for its data policy, SeenBefore says that any data gathered will be used solely for the purpose of rediscovering old pages. It even offers the option to pay $300 for a private cloud server if the idea of storing data with them doesn't appeal.
"First and foremost, our philosophy as a company is never to do anything with regards to selling data," said Organ. "As far as we're concerned, the user owns all their data and we've no right to do anything [with it]...[With regards to transparency] so long as they (the users) are getting answers about what they should expect and how we're using their data.
While the company has existed for two months, the product itself has been built for roughly nine months, Organ explaining that "once it became an idea that we were really going after, it sped up quite a bit."
Regarding a possible venture towards mobile devices, Organ said that it was a necessity to go down that route, and while there are a lot of technical challenges facing them, the startup would "do everything in its power to see that it happens next." Before then, it has its sights set firmly on desktop with a Firefox version imminent and a Safari version to follow shortly.
Having won The Spark of Genius back in 2010, DataHug has come on in leaps and bounds since then, having expanded in the UK and planning to set up in the U.S. The business relationship company, which identifies and maps all relationships from your contacts and ranks them, was founded by Connor Murphy and Ray Smith and has found itself being used by .
While there's a lot of momentum behind the company, the temptation to expand into other territories is high, but DataHug Software Engineer Kevin Brady says that for now, the company is focused on the U.S., UK and Ireland.
"At the moment, the aim is to build up Ireland, the UK and the U.S. first and get a strong market there," explained Brady. "From an engineering side, there's no point in trying to expand into every market as you'd take on too much when you don't really need to. We're better off having a stronger product in some markets than trying to take over the world."
The company provides a private search engine allowing users to discover who in their company has the best connections to a person or organisation. Designed for enterprise, it reads the email headers and figures out who knows who, if connections are getting stronger or weaker - ranking them with a 'Hugrank' score out of 100 - and builds up a rich set of connections for you. Brady mentioned that they were improving this further by integrating phone calls and calendars into the service.
"We're also building in integration with your phone so as you ring someone, that will get logged into the system as well. That's a stronger, more accurate way of telling who knows who... If there's a calendar meeting or a phone call, that's a stronger connection."
With clients involved in industries like law, banking, private equity, technology and investment spaces. It's also being used by the Dublin Web Summit this year, suggesting that it left a good impression when it won the Spark of Genius award in 2010. So far, it employs 16 people in its headquarters in Dublin, Ireland and all the company is focused on now is "trying to get as many sales in, expand out and just get the customer base up."