Getting to the Pointy
New Dublin start-up Pointy, explains how their technology is helping small retailers become more visible online in order to grow both local and online purchases
18 May 2015 | 0
As consumers increasingly turn to their smartphones to help with every aspect of life, many local retailers remain invisible online. Even where retailers have invested in creating websites, it can be difficult to match the sophistication of the large online retailers. This is where Pointy comes in. The company has created a small electronic device that plugs into a shop’s barcode scanner.
The service allows people to use their smartphone to see where a product they’re looking for is available locally. While the internet has made it much easier to access most kinds of information, it has remained curiously difficult to find things in shops around the corner.
The company was founded in 2014 by Dubliner Mark Cummins and friend Charles Bibby. Cummins is a repeat entrepreneur, having run a start-up called Plink which sold to Google in 2010, and subsequently worked at Google in California. Bibby did a PhD in robotics at Oxford and went on to design security systems for the London 2012 Olympics. Both quit their jobs and moved to Ireland in the past year to launch the company, aiming to give local retailers a bigger presence on the internet.
According to Cummins: “Our aim was to make it incredibly easy. We’ve had shops set up and go live with thousands of products with less than five minutes’ work. Once the shops are using Pointy, consumers can find the product they want quickly and easily via the website and our app. Local retailers get shoppers through the door, and consumers find what they’re looking for. It’s a nice business, because it’s good for everyone.”
ShelfLife had some questions about how it all works:
What exactly is Pointy and how can it help retailers to drive their business?
Pointy is a way to get local retailers online fast. We have designed a little piece of hardware, the Pointy box, that plugs in between a shop’s barcode scanner and their cash machine. Once a product is scanned it is automatically uploaded to that shop’s Pointy page. We source all the product information too – there’s no need for the retailer to manually enter product names and images. The uploaded product can then be found by shoppers by simply looking for it on Google.
Which type of businesses are most suited to using this technology?
The fantastic thing about Pointy is that it works in nearly every market sector. We currently have a bike shop, pharmacies, hair salons and a toy store using Pointy. Since our launch we have received orders from hardware stores, book shops, electronic, convenience and pet shops. We hope that Pointy boxes will soon be found in every kind of local shop.
Will it work in the FMCG space?
Most definitely! The first version of the Pointy box was developed in one of our co-founder’s homes so FMCG items were the first to be tested for the service. From those humble beginnings we have tested the Pointy box on thousands of FMCG items. Our software should recognise all original manufacturers’ barcodes.
What are the start-up costs for a retailer?
The Pointy box will cost approximately €200 when it goes on sale. However we are currently giving away a limited number for free to build a network of reference customers. To reserve a free box just sign up at www.pointy.com. The offer includes all the hosting and maintenance of the website, so it’s a really good deal for retailers who get in early.
Do you think there is a huge amount of potential to grow online sales?
There’s a lot of room for growth in online sales, but a shop doesn’t necessarily need to sell online to benefit from the internet. Just being visible online and using the web to drive in-store sales can be a very effective strategy. Pointy is an ideal way for retailers to get started simply on that path, and grow into more sophisticated e-commerce or a “click and collect” over time.
What has the initial response been from the retail community?
We announced the product in early April after testing it privately with some test customers over several months. We started with a single radio interview, and we were simply blown away by the huge response from retailers all over the country. The size and enthusiasm of the reaction really took us by surprise, it just confirms that we’re solving a big pain point for a lot of retailers. Shop owners from every sector and area have already signed up, it’s quite incredible to be honest. Right now we’re just catching up with the initial demand.
Where did the funding come from for such a project?
We were selected to be part of the AIB Discovery Fund by Frontline Ventures which invested €100,000 in Pointy in late 2014. After receiving this initial funding we closed a substantially larger funding round from international venture capitalists and angel investors that should give us ample time to develop the business into 2016 and beyond.
What are the future plans for growing the business?
We plan to concentrate on Dublin initially, and move our focus to the rest of Ireland as quickly as possible thereafter (we have already committed to installing a large number of boxes all over the country). Once we have established a network we will work closely with retailers to see what other features we can build that will add the greatest value to their businesses. Shops all over the world have the same problems, so if we can demonstrate the benefits of Pointy clearly in Ireland we will move to other cities across Europe and the USA.