Dublin tech firm founders reap $80m in Google deal

Ma­jor re­turn for founders and early stage in­vestors who put $19.2m into busi­ness Com­pany gives small re­tail­ers a way to go on­line with­out full ecom­merce sys­tem

The Irish Times - - Front Page - CIARA O’BRIEN and CHAR­LIE TAY­LOR

Google has paid a re­ported $160 mil­lion (¤144 mil­lion) for Dublin tech firm Pointy that will de­liver an $80 mil­lion-plus pay­day for the com­pany’s founders.

For­mer Ire­land rugby star Jamie Heaslip will also see a sparkling re­turn on his in­vest­ment – one of sev­eral tech in­vest­ments Mr Heaslip has made since re­tir­ing from sport. Mr Heaslip, who had a 0.21 per cent in­ter­est in the re­tail tech­nol­ogy busi­ness will re­ceive $336,000 – many times the sum he orig­i­nally in­vested.

Small re­tail­ers

Pointy helps small re­tail­ers get their mer­chan­dise in front of on­line au­di­ences with­out hav­ing to in­vest in the sort of sys­tems the likes of Ama­zon and Wal­mart use to at­tract busi­ness. The $750 kit is at­tached to the re­tailer’s bar­code scan­ner and prod­ucts are up­loaded to the Pointy app as they are scanned, al­low­ing peo­ple to find what they are look­ing for lo­cally rather than forc­ing them to or­der on­line.

Founders Mark Cum­mins and Charles Bibby hold just over 51 per cent of the busi­ness, de­spite rais­ing more than $19 mil­lion from out­side in­vestors in re­cent years.

Mr Cum­mins holds 26.3 per cent of the busi­ness and will re­ceive just over $42 mil­lion. Mr Bibby, who holds his 24.8 per cent stake through a com­pany in which his wife is also a share­holder, will get $39.7 mil­lion.

Early-stage in­vestors

Among other early-stage in­vestors were long-time sup­porter of Ir­ish tech start-ups Noel Ruane as well as Word­press founder Matt Mul­len­weg and Lars

Ras­mussen, one of the founders of Google Maps.

A num­ber of ven­ture cap­i­tal firms held stakes of close to 10 per cent in the busi­ness, in­clud­ing Front­line Ven­ture, Po­laris and Draper As­so­ci­ates.

Pointy is Google’s fourth ac­qui­si­tion in Ire­land over the past decade.

Google has paid a re­ported $160 mil­lion (¤144 mil­lion) to ac­quire Ir­ish re­tail tech com­pany Pointy.

The take­out means a spec­tac­u­lar re­turn for founders Mark Cum­mins and Charles Bibby, who es­tab­lished the com­pany in 2014 and will now share over $80 mil­lion for their 51 per cent stake in the busi­ness.

Pointy gives small re­tail­ers a way to make their stock vis­i­ble on­line with­out hav­ing to in­vest in a full ecom­merce sys­tem. Re­tail­ers con­nect a “Pointy box” to the shop’s bar­code scan­ner and then use their scan­ner as nor­mal.

The de­vice is pre-paired with Pointy’s web­site. The app di­rects shop­pers to where par­tic­u­lar items are avail­able lo­cally, rather than push­ing them to­wards ecom­merce gi­ants such as Ama­zon. Once the re­tailer starts us­ing the scan­ner, the sys­tem uses al­go­rithms and ma­chine learn­ing to es­ti­mate stock lev­els.

Pointy is ex­pected to con­tinue to op­er­ate from its own Dublin of­fices and de­velop its prod­uct plat­form.

The deal is set to close in the com­ing weeks. Nei­ther com­pany dis­closed the value of the trans­ac­tion but Lon­don-based Balder­ton ven­ture cap­i­tal­ist Rob Mof­fat con­grat­u­lated the Ir­ish com­pany on its “$160 mil­lion exit to Google”, de­scrib­ing it as a “Euro­pean Xoogler suc­cess story”.

In a blog post, an­nounc­ing the deal, the co-founders said: “The last six years have been an in­cred­i­ble ad­ven­ture, and to­day marks the start of a new chap­ter From small be­gin­nings, we’re very proud to serve lo­cal re­tail­ers in al­most ev­ery city and ev­ery town in the US and through­out Ire­land.”

“By join­ing forces [with Google], we will be able to help peo­ple dis­cover lo­cal stores and prod­ucts on a much larger scale. We think this is the right way to ac­com­plish what we set out to do – to bring the world’s re­tail­ers on­line and give them the tools they need to thrive.”

Lo­cal mer­chants

Pointy has raised $19.2 mil­lion (¤17.3 mil­lion) from in­vestors over a num­ber of years, in­clud­ing a Se­ries B round in 2018 that yielded $12 mil­lion. The takeover means that those in­vestors are likely to make a eight­fold profit on their ini­tial in­vest­ment in the busi­ness.

The com­pany has pre­vi­ously part­nered with Google, in­clud­ing on a “see what’s in store” fea­ture to help thou­sands of lo­cal mer­chants dis­play the data within Google. Other part­ner­ships in­clude point-of-sale firms Light­speed,

Clover and Square.

In a state­ment, Google said was “ex­cited to share that we’ve en­tered into an agree­ment to ac­quire Pointy . . . that has helped thou­sands of lo­cal re­tail­ers bring their prod­uct in­ven­tory on­line”.

The com­pany’s in­vestors in­clude Front­line Ven­tures, Po­laris Cap­i­tal, Draper As­so­ci­ates, Word­press founder Matt Mul­len­weg, co-founder of Google Maps Lars Ras­mussen, Trans­fer­wise co-founder Taavet Hin­rikus and Bebo co-founder Michael Birch. For­mer Ir­ish rugby player Jamie Heaslip also backed the com­pany.

Speak­ing last year, Mr Cum­mins said many shop­pers pre­fer to buy an item in a store af­ter in­spect­ing it and speak­ing with an ex­pert to buy­ing it on­line and wait­ing for de­liv­ery.

Mr Cum­mins started Pointy in 2014 af­ter sell­ing his pre­vi­ous start-up Plink to Google in 2010. Plink let users search the web us­ing images rather than key words.

He got the idea for Pointy fol­low­ing a party where he and friends en­joyed craft beer pur­chased from a nearby su­per­mar­ket. He wanted to buy the beer but couldn’t re­mem­ber the name of the store, which got him think­ing you can search on­line for prod­ucts around the world but you can’t al­ways find out what’s on the shelf at the shop around the cor­ner.

Mark Cum­mins and Charles Bibby: founded Pointy in 2014

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