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Sunday Business Post: 10 to Watch in 2015

by Philip Connolly and Róisín Burke (Sunday Business Post – 4 January 2015)

GameGolf

Not everyone finds their product endorsed by the president of the United States. But GameGolf inventor and chief executive John McGuire can boast this high-level product endorsement for his golf performance tracker gadget, which Barack Obama was spotted using during a round of golf at Martha’s Vineyard during the summer.

GameGolf is also endorsed by golf stars, including Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood, and backed by funding from Yahoo founder Jerry Yang’s start-up fund and former PayPal boss David Marcus.

GameGolf has rapidly grown in sales since Apple and professional golf stores in North America began stocking it. McGuire, a native of Corofin, Co Clare, who worked for ten years with Nortel in Ireland, has relocated to Silicon Valley to build the business further.

The plan is to add millions in funding to expand into more markets in 2015.

Further down the line McGuire has ambitions to apply the same social media linked performance technology to other sports.

Rohan Holdings

It’s not a new up-and-coming company, but it’s one that is priming itself to be a key player in the property recovery. Rohan Holdings is now run by property magnate Ken Rohan’s son Jamie.

As well as building homes at the higher end of the market, particularly in south Dublin, it has significant commercial property opportunities in its sights and there’s potential for joint ventures with major international partners.

One of the country’s biggest commercial property companies, it escaped the worst of the crash and has a sizeable cash pile to work with now that there’s an uptick in development and acquisitions.

The business has €100 million plus worth of well-placed industrial park and office blocks in north Dublin and Britain, and the company is in the process of completing a state-of-the-art refit of a Silicon Docks building with big-tech tenant potential.

With an estimated 1.5 million square feet of office space a year needed in Dublin, and rising demand for housing, 2015 should be a busy year.

OneView Healthcare

Operating in the hot health tech space, Dublin-based OneView has just raised $7 million to help finance new international contracts, bringing its total funding to $20 million.

The innovative company is chaired by Ryanair director and former A&L Goodbody lawyer James Osborne, with James Fitter as chief executive. It has attracted dozens of wealthy investors taking small stakes for their pension pots, but its major backers are Australian.

It views North America as its “critical” market and so far has installed its systems across 850 devices at almost 300 beds in three multibillion dollar Californian hospitals due to open in February 2015.

It has hired a “patient engagement” specialist in San Francisco to develop that business.

Next year it wants to expand much further, targeting nine new contracts in the US and six in Australia and aiming to win new business in the Middle East.

OneView’s technology works with hospitals’ IT systems, supplying information on patient care and entertainment services for patients on nifty bedside terminals and doctors’ smartphones and tablets.

Vizlegal

Vizlegal is the brainchild of Gavin Sheridan – a long-time challenger of the Freedom of Information Act’s limitations and the secrecy of state agencies – and his legal eagle business partner Fred Logue.

The pair aim to set up an information service that gives access, in a systematic way, to legal decisions, judgments and other case details, moving that data beyond box files and paper documents.

Initially, it will target the legal market in Europe, competing with information giants Lexis and Thomson Reuters.

Logue is an intellectual property lawyer who previously worked in the tech sector, while Sheridan is a former director of media site Storyful.

Sheridan has blogged about how he views the future of news lying in the development of information gathering software. The plan is to launch a beta (late stage testing version) in the New Year and to get a fundraising mission underway.

Drop

Liam Casey, who heads up Apple accessories maker PCH, spotted the potential of Drop from very early on, enlisting it in his hardware start-up development programme in San Francisco.

Co-founder and industrial designer Ben Harris, along with Jack Phelan, Jonny McCauley and Tim Redfern, developed iPad-connected kitchen scales (shaped like a drop) and a highly interactive and adaptive recipe platform.

Based in Dublin and San Francisco, it has developer and other technical roles based at its IFSC offices here.

The device is being manufactured at Casey’s production facility in China, which started delivering its first Drops in recent months.

Android and Windows versions are next and new innovations that will “move the whole way around the kitchen”, according to Harris.

Ding

Reigning EY entrepreneur of the year Mark Roden showed remarkable foresight in 2014 when his company acquired a Cuban firm just months before that country’s relationship with the US thawed.

Set up by Roden, a former Esat executive, in 2006, Ding employs more than 200 people in Dublin and is now processing transfers in excess of $1 million every day to mobile phones in emerging markets.

Formerly known as Ezetop, Ding allows people to send money in the form of a mobile phone top-up to anywhere in the world and is set for a big push into international markets over the next 12 months.

Last year, Roden told this newspaper that the deal to acquire RecargasaCuba could be the first of a number of acquisitions as the company seeks to grow in emerging markets, where mobile phone top-ups are still massively popular.

Intercom

It took software firm Intercom just 30 months to go from an unknown Dublin-based start-up to the talk of Silicon Valley when the company managed to raise more than $23 million last January – bringing its total funding to a massive $30 million.

The round was led by US venture capital giant Bessemer, and the investment puts Intercom in good company alongside Bessemer portfolio companies LinkedIn, Skype and Pinterest.

One year on and the firm’s investors are expecting big things.

The deal allowed Intercom to expand rapidly, with Eoghan McCabe, who is the firm’s chief executive, putting in place a plan to create 100 jobs in Dublin over the next 18 months.

Already employing 30 people in Dublin, the company also has a large presence at its San Francisco headquarters.

WhatClinic

Employing more than 50 people in Dublin, WhatClinic is tapping into the €8 trillion global private healthcare market with a system which helps people find and compare clinics and healthcare services in more than 200 countries

Founder and chief executive Caelen King hit on the idea after unexpectedly needing surgery while travelling in South East Asia and realising there were few ways of researching the best place to seek care.

Years later, in an era of medical migration that sees many people routinely travel to Hungary for dental work, South Africa for laser eye operations, or the US for facelifts, King’s brainwave seems to have been prescient.

CurrencyFair

Given the move away from cash as technology increasingly replaces traditional banking, the timing of CurrencyFair’s entry into the market could not have been much better.

CurrencyFair is the brainchild of Brett Meyers, an Australian expatriate living in Ireland who had a bad experience with international money transfers costing him hundreds of euro in fees.

His idea was simple – set up an online service that allows people who need to exchange currency to do so without a middleman. By cutting out the middleman, a lot of the cost was cut out too.

So far, the company has been a runaway success and is now processing millions of dollars of transactions.

Backed by Frontline Ventures, with a multimillion-dollar investment deal, it is on a major growth curve.

Handy

It has been a big year for Irish businessman Oisin Hanrahan as his company, rebranded from Handybook to just Handy, secured a massive funding round and increased its international reach.

The New York-headquartered Handy, which has been described as a “Hailo for handymen and cleaners” succeeded in raising €22 million in venture capital funding last summer. On the back of that deal, Hanrahan and his team have been expanding rapidly.

In an effort to grow quickly in the British market the firm acquired local competitor Mopp, which also provides home cleaning services, for an undisclosed sum thought to be in the millions.

The deal was not the first strategic acquisition of its kind for Handy, which acquired San Francisco-based Exec to gain additional market share in some cities where it didn’t have as strong a presence in early 2014.

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