Archive for May, 2011

Before the Pivot, the ‘Jazz’

One of the constant comments that I heard at the Propeller Demo Day last week, particularly from mentors, was how many of the startups had performed a significant ‘pivot’ in their business plan since joining the Propeller Venture Accelerator only 14 weeks early. In some cases this was very true.

The crowds start to arrive at Demo Day

I know some commentators in Silicon Valley don’t like the term ‘pivot’ feeling it is too overused and perhaps on the West Coast it is, but terms like ‘pivot’ or ‘pracademic’ (which I am fond of as it sums up what we do in the Ryan Academy) sure do sum up what happens.

The Calm before the Storm at Demo Day

The only issue I have with the term is that it is almost too smooth. It sounds like there is a point where the pivot happens. Discussing their own pivot with one of the founders recently, I suggested that in reality what happens before the pivot is really like jazz. It may seem a bit crazy with different instruments playing out of sync but if you listen closely there is a logic to it. Startup chaos theory if you like!

There is no doubt that a key part to being a founder in an accelerator is that you have to listen to your instinct, and to your mentors!


After Demo Day? More of the same…

A journalist from a reputable newspaper called me today to talk about Demo Day, which happened (in a blur) last Friday. He seemed to surprised that the startups were back at the same workload that they had been on before the event last week. Yes, they took a bit of break over the weekend (the first in many months) but I walked through the Propeller Collaboration space this morning, and behold the companies were working away on product.

Yes, there is no doubt there are deals going on in the background, after all that was the whole idea of getting 70+ investors in that room on Friday, but venture funding does not a successful company make. This is the tricky bit, where doing a deal with a syndicate or venture fund becomes almost a distraction to the companies, as they strive to bring their vision to the world.

Of course some are under a little less pressure. Associate Mobile agreed terms for an initial 200K last week before the event, and are just dotting the ‘i’s now, but they are already thinking about their next funding move. And the corporates they are being courted by. And the telecoms players that are in contact. Heady days for a startup.

The Fantom team outside the Ryan Academy on Demo Day

In my introduction to the event last week, I told the audience that we need to believe that Ireland can produce the next generation of technology companies. This is true across Europe. It is fitting to say that on the day that is looks like one of the few really successful Web 2.0 companies to have come out of Europe, Skype, is being sold on again, this time to Microsoft (for what seems to be a very high price, but we will see).

The founders of Vendorshop being interviewed by RTE television

It was great to see the enthusiasm (and in some cases shock) of the investors on Friday. Wow, these companies did actually ‘accelerate’ a lot in three months?!?! Yes, it did what it said on the tin. As the founder of Fantom said recently in a radio interview about the acceleration process “it is like getting off the bus, and getting on the bullet train.” Indeed.

The heart and soul of a successful accelerator are, on the one hand, a good group of founders: who can build teams, who are working to work their @ss off, and who will take advice when it is given to them, no matter what their own experience and background. On the other hand, you need a core group of mentors with the right experience who are willing to row in and support the founders the best they can.

We were perhaps lucky with the first cohort, we got both in spades. Here’s hoping that the next group later in the year will show the same level of grit and determination to make it happen.

Six Startups Pitch at Propeller Accelerator Demo Day in Dublin

May 6, 2011 1 comment

Propeller Startups to Fly High at Investor Event in Dublin

Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship ‘Propeller’ Accelerator first Demo/Investor Day will see Six Technology Startups Pitch for Funding

The Propeller Venture Accelerator, part of the DCU Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship, has its first Demo/Investor Day in Citywest on the 6th of May. Over seventy investors, from Ireland, the US, the UK and Italy are due to see pitches from the six technology companies on the mentor-led incubation programme. Grant Thornton have been confirmed as sponsors of the Demo Day.

These startups, five from Ireland and one from the UK, cover key technologies such as mobile applications, cleantech, online gaming, health informatics, and internet applications. The Propeller Venture Accelerator was established in 2010 with the funding of €1 million from Irelandia Investments. The aim is to accelerate early stage technology startup companies, both Irish and international, in Dublin. The Propeller Accelerator has taken the successful US accelerator model and adapted it to the Irish context.

The Propeller Accelerator is funded by Irelandia Investments and Declan Ryan (Ryanair), a leading global investor and developer of low cost airlines, who have invested in a number of Low Cost Carriers (LCC’s) since 2004 including the recent announcement of a new airline in Columbia called Viva Columbia.

Over forty high corporate mentors from a range of high technology companies as well as serial entrepreneurs have been working with the Propeller companies over the last three months.

“The two key parts of Propeller worked in perfect harmony together,” said Gordon McConnell, Deputy-CEO of the Ryan Academy and Director of the Propeller Venture Accelerator. “A fantastic group of founders and the teams they have been building, and a small army of mentors, both serial entrepreneurs and senior corporate figures.”

“Bringing together both national and international funders at events like these are vital to Ireland’s progression towards a true Smart Economy” he added.

The six technology companies that are presenting are:

Associate Mobile:

associate mobile is improving lives through mobility.  Through their persistent locationing analytics technology (PLAT) they develop easy to use platforms that weave into people’s everyday lives both professional and personal.


Fantom takes the energy of the schoolyard trading cards game into a new social media dimension, with an added twist of a virtual and actual rewards system. It promises to be next big obsession for tweens, teens and young adults.

GreenEgg Technologies:

GreenEgg Technologies are a cleantech product development company.  They have developed a customer engagement platform for Energy Providers, which allows them to reach out to and engage with their customers as well as enabling their customers to connect with their Smart Home.


Healthcomms, who specialise in ‘In Home’ care communications, have developed a groundbreaking product to make it even easier for the older person at home to maintain communication with their Social care network. Their simple-to-use image based software product, called MyHomeReach, allows two- way visual communication between the elderly, their career, family or medical personnel with nothing more than a touch. MyHomeReach can be used by families or home care professionals and provides additional functions such as inbuilt calendar medication reminders and tracking of care with sign-in and sign- out capability.

Simple LifeForms:

We allow people in real-world locations to play games. M Simple Lifeforms develop game content that make location pages on Facebook, smart phones and the Internet playable, engaging and rewarding and takes this content into the real-world. This unique combination of game and location content within the real-world has the potential to change the way people play games forever whilst creating a highly profitable and sustainable business supporting users who desire this new experience.


VendorShop provides the tools a business needs to make social e-commerce happen. Our Facebook shopping cart enables a business to open a store on Facebook and our social e-commerce tool’s to leverage it’s viral nature to

attract more customers, lower acquisition costs and increase sales.  We are live on Facebook, have thousands of stores and 75,000 monthly active Facebook users.

The Propeller Accelerator was announced as a charter member of the Techstars Network earlier in the year, as well as having agreed partnerships with the Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN) and the Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG).

A number of Irish-based companies have also signed-up to support the Propeller Accelerator programme including software company Sage Ireland, legal company Arthur Cox, marketing and sales company Publicis D and legal intellectual property company Tomkins IP and Deloitte. National Irish organisations such as the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises (ISME) organisation and State agency Enterprise Ireland are also partners. Propeller is also linked to the Venture Catalyst at Arizona State University.