international web apps, I bring you a sample of all that the emerald isle has to offer. 20 years ago Ireland was a sleepy backwater with high unemployment and mass emigration. Jobs were rare and the only new startups were farms. But all of that changed when the 'celtic tiger' came along. No one can agree what kick started it - low corporate tax rates or our involvement in the EU. I reckon it was Ray Houghton's goal against England in the 1988 European championships. Either way, things have changed forever.Continuing Read/WriteWeb's series on
Today Google, Microsoft, Intel, Dell and IBM all have various european head quarters in Ireland. With a population of over 5 million north and south, we are considered in some circles to be the largest exporter of software in the world. We have no shortage of bigco investment and job creation in Ireland, but what's happening in the indigenous startup scene?
The old timers
Pigsback.com has been running since 2000 and is endeared to the hearts of a large number of internet users in Ireland (and the UK as of last year). In their own words, it's an 'online club of consumers and brands'. You sign up for an account and then receive targeted offers, competitions and surveys from the Pigsback network of advertisers. As you interact with these events you build up 'piggy points', which you can exchange for goods and services.
Pigsback works, simply because the 'piggy points' you collect are really worth something. In little time you can build up enough for a free CD or a discounted holiday, for example. Their advertiser network includes Ford, EBay, Nestle, and Betfair to name but a few.
StatCounter provides web tracking services for millions of websites around the world. Similar to Google Analytics, but around a lot longer, you can sign up for free and start tracking immediately. They also have paid accounts which include more reports and options.
StatCounter is one of the few websites around with a pagerank of 10. They have more back links to their site than anyone else on the web, apart from Google.com!
HostelWorld is one of the most successful Irish startup stories. It was started back in 1999 with the goal of streamlining the booking of hostels anywhere in the world. They take bookings from travelers and backpackers for over 50,000 hostels worldwide. They now have over 70 staff, and by some reports take in excess of $1 million worth of booking on any given day. This contributes to their self proclaimed valuation of anywhere up to $1 billion for their parent company.
The new guys
AllFreeCalls is more of a mobile/telco play, but worthy of inclusion all the same. On their website they provide you with details of how to make international calls from the US, Ireland and the UK for the price of a local call. They are able to do this by exploiting various loopholes in legislation governing the way money is divided between bigger telcos.
I don't think they are up and running in the US at the moment, due to a confrontation with AT&T - which is claiming that Allfreecalls cost them almost $2 million in subsidies for one month alone!
Nooked have been in the RSS marketing business now for a while, but they recently announced a forthcoming product codenamed 'feedshop' - which is all about "Really Simple Shopping (RSS)". They are also about to launch a new widget marketing service, which will allow e-tailers to advertise their products through nooked's network of blogs, widget partners and social networks. It's all part of their strategy for a feedcommerce platform.
Nooked was listed just this week as a RedHerring 100 Europe winner and a company to watch in 2007. Expect to hear a lot more from them very soon.
[disclosure: R/WW editor Richard MacManus is an advisor to nooked]
Pixenate is a handy free online photo editor. No accounts necessary, just upload your photo and start editing. It's ad supported, AJAX based and runs smoothly. But the free version of pixenate you see on their website is just a demonstration of a customizable and rebrandable white label version of the application, that you can buy for use on your own website. They even have a widgetized version that you can add to your site or blog and let your users edit photos there and then.
They claim over 100,000 visitors/month to the site and will also be providing a YahooUI-based theme in a forthcoming release.
PutPlace.com is still in private beta at the moment, but it looks like it could be a winner. They have raised a six figure sum from angel investors, to build an online application to help manage your digital media. We all have many different files scattered across our mobiles, pcs, laptops and various other gadgets. Putplace gives all of your files a 'digital fingerprint' and helps you to manage and locate them. You can also publish your files to flickr, youtube and a host of other media sharing services.
You can also share your files between sites, so for instance with one click you can pull all your photos off flickr and publish them to your photobucket account. And of course all of these files can be backed up on PutPlace secure server, in case you lose them. Their public beta is coming in April, so keep an eye out.
Loudervoice.com.... I will let their CEO explain this one to you: "LouderVoice harnesses the distributed expertise in blogs to provide quality rated reviews for us all instead of spam, product placements and search results noise. Our site enables bloggers to publish structured reviews to their blogs and in turn aggregates structured multi-lingual review content from those blogs. Users can search for reviews, rate them, relate them and collect them in ways that are useful to themselves and others."
They are currently in private beta and hope to launch in April. I have seen this app and it's pretty cool. If they get traction, it could be big.
Some Other Interesting Apps
PollDaddy.com, which I developed, has been around for 6 months now. You can create a free poll and place it as a widget on your website, blog, mySpace etc. Disclosure: it's also where I work, so please feel free to drop by if you need a poll for your site. Also note that Read/WriteWeb uses our service.
zinadoo.com lets you create a free mobile site with their online flash based editor. You can create pages, add text and pictures. This will be a very handy tool for people who just want to get some kind of presence online for mobile visitors to their site. Zinadoo creators Nubiq are also about to launch a mobile site search, discovery and personalisation engine called Mobiseer, where users can search, tag and bookmark their favourite mobile sites.
MySay.com is still in private beta but should be coming online any day now. It's a sort of social networking app, but through the phone. Once your friends are in, you can all keep in touch, hearing each other's updates and stories, jokes or whatever - on the phone, on the web, or through the mySay desktop widget. It's social communication using your phone, with no need to download any software - just use your voice! Should be interesting to see how they get on.
Ireland is a happening place. There have been a lot of big success stories, such as a few of the 'old timers' we have mentioned here. But there is also a healthy environment of innovation amongst younger startups. I would like to thank Fergus Burns from Nooked for helping me put this article together. Fergus is also the administrator of web2ireland.org, a blog where you can track the progress of many of the companies mentioned in this article.
This post is part of Read/WriteWeb's continuing coverage of international Web markets. Other countries profiled so far have been Germany, Holland, Poland, Korea, United Kingdom, Russia, Spain, China, Turkey, Italy, Brazil, France, Japan, India, Austria, Sweden, Australia, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia and Latvia.