Irish Times 10th July 2012


DIGITAL CHALLENGE: FIVE COMPANIES have been shortlisted from more than 80 entrants to The Irish Times Digital Challenge.


The challenge aims to help The Irish Times Group build strong and mutually beneficial relationships with emerging digital businesses.

The five start-ups – Getbulb, MyiFli, Picturk, Storyflow and– will now embark on an eight-week incubation in The Irish Times building to refine their products for market, reach customers, develop their business plan and scale their businesses. They will be supported by the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC) LaunchPad, Amárach Research, KPMG, Arthur Cox and Enterprise Ireland.

Gary Leyden, LaunchPad director of the NDRC, said: “We decided to create a mini launchpad within The Irish Times. It’s unique. No one in Ireland has been running mini launchpads within their business.”

He said the exercise was a win-win situation for both the start-up companies and The Irish Times, with the companies benefiting from The Irish Times’s knowledge and experience and The Irish Times benefiting from the finalists’ ideas and creativity.

“Opening the doors of this 153-year-old organisation to MyFli, StoryFlow, GetBulb, PicTurk, and KnockOn.ieis a way of accelerating change within The Irish Times,” said Irish Times chief innovation officer Johnny Ryan. “This may be the first time that any news media organisation has taken such a radical step. And by doing this, we are also helping these start-ups to dramatically grow their businesses.”

The five finalists were selected based on two criteria: revenue potential and potential improvement to the user/reader experience.

A judging panel of entrepreneurs, investors, and Irish Times senior management selected the five finalists from 81 entrants to the competition. The judging panel included Laurence Garrett of Highland Capital Partners; Shay Garvey of Delta Partners; Eamon Leonard of EngineYard; Gary Leyden of NDRC LaunchPad; John O’Sullivan of ACT Venture Capital; Seán O’Sullivan of Rococo; Brian Caulfield of DFJ Esprit; John Collins of The Irish Times, and senior managers at The Irish Times.

Over the next eight weeks, the five shortlisted companies will have access to mentors including veteran entrepreneurs such as DemonWare founder Seán Blanchfield, and marketing experts such as Paul Hayes to help fine-tune their business plan and path to revenue.

Each of the finalists will also be invited to pitch at the 2012 Dublin Web Summit.

At the end of the challenge, an overall winner will be selected by the judges using two criteria: most significant improvement to the reader or user experience, and greatest revenue potential.

DFJ Esprit will give the winner a €50,000 investment prize in the form of a convertible loan note.

Entrepreneur and partner at DFJ Esprit, Brian Caulfield, said: “Everything that can go digital, will go digital. This digital switch is challenging the business models of many industries, from newspapers to record companies to retailers. However, this same disruption is also creating fantastic opportunities for start-up companies to exploit.”