Meet Mark Cummins, Co-Founder at Pointy

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The Pointy POS barcode scanning device in action

 #FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders 

Co-Founders Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby of Pointy.com

I recently caught up again with Mark Cummins, Co-Founder at Pointy, an Irish hardware startup that he co-founded with Charles Bibby in 2014, which is helping retailers to win back the high street. 

Previously I’d visited the team back in August 2015 at their Dublin office find out more about what they were up to and discuss an innovation project I was working on at the time.

Founded in 2014 and already over 500 retailers around Ireland like Donnybrook Bikes below are using the Pointy device to auto generate search engine friendly web pages for over 500,000 unique products with a view to ultimately driving more in store sales for them. In effect Pointy is helping to take back the high street for retail.

NOG: What is the name of your startup, what year was it founded? do you have any co-founders? how did you get the idea?
MC: Pointy, founded 2014. Co-founder Charles Bibby. The idea came from a very ordinary experience – I was drinking some craft beer at a party. I really liked it, but after the party I had trouble finding it in shops. It was definitely available somewhere locally, but I never found it. It seemed so strange that I could search the entire internet in half a second, but it was a struggle to find something in my local shops. The process hadn’t really changed that much from fifty or a hundred years ago.

NOG: This isn’t your first foray into entrepreneurship, what was your previous startup and what happened to it?
MC: That’s correct Niall, the previous startup that I was involved in was Plink. Plink became Google’s first UK acquisition in April 2010. Our visual search engine technology allowed users to simply take a picture of something in order to find out more about it. Our first product, PlinkArt, recognized famous paintings and was a winner of the ADC2 and a featured app on the Android market.

Video: Oxford Entrepreneurs Google Success – Plink Art Interview

NOG: Where is your startup located and how many people work there?MC: We’re based in Dublin, Ireland. We’re 7 people full-time, plus a few additional part time.

NOG: How was your startup originally funded, how are you funded now and how does your startup make money?
MC: We initially worked on the idea unpaid until we had a working demo. We then raised a seed round of $1.2M from some well know angel investors and VC funds. Our revenue comes from a small monthly fee we charge to shops on the system. There are some additional things in pipeline.

NOG: Were you ever close to failure? how close? how did you recover?
MC: I failed my driving test quite a few times :-). But in professional life there’s never been anything really close to failure so far. Perhaps after Pointy I’ll have some stories of hair-raising moments to tell.

NOG: What’s the biggest challenge your startup/business faces today?
MC: Reaching small retailers. Our product has proven very popular with retailers once they learn about it, but reaching small retailers at scale is a hard thing to do. There’s no real shortcuts, just a lot of different channels and lots of hard work.

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Looking for Cocoa Brown 1 Hour Tanning Mouse in Kill? No problem Allcare Pharmacy has you covered. (Allegedly the lads at Pointy buy it by the case)

NOG: What is your background? how did you get your start and what brought you to a life in business/startups?
MC: I studied Engineering and Computer Science at Oxford, and then went on to do a PhD in robotics and computer vision (as did my co-founder Charles). After Oxford I started a previous company (Plink) which Google acquired in 2010. I then spent three years at Google before leaving to start Pointy. I’m actually a little surprised to find myself founding start-ups, it’s not something I ever thought about growing up.

NOG: What gets you up in the morning? and what keeps you up at night?
MC: Honestly, the thing that actually gets me up in the morning is curiosity about what’s happened in the world overnight – normally in the form of checking our dashboards, emails, etc. At night, I often lie awake for an hour or more thinking about what to do next – it’s something I’ve done all my life. So, I guess the answer is: everything.

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NOG: What is your best character trait? what is your worst character trait?
MC: I like playing with ideas and questioning things – if you question enough things sometimes you have an idea for something new and interesting. On the other side, I sometimes over-research and read a lot of background material on things, when a bit of direct trial-and-error or even just focused thought might get me there quicker.

NOG: Are you striking a work / life balance? If so, what’s your secret?
MC: It can be long hours during the week, but I always take the weekends off. That works for me.

NOG: When things are going crazy, how do you unwind?
MC: Cycling in the Wicklow mountains.

Picture taken by Mark while out cycling in Co. Wicklow, Ireland

NOG: You reference Donnybrook bikes on your site, have you ever used Pointy yourself to find and buy parts there yourself?
MC:
Yes, have got plenty of small bits and pieces off Donnybrook Bikes, the guys are great and have a great selection – last thing I think was a new Bontrager bottle cage.
NOG: Ok I just checked on Pointy and they are showing in stock, thats cool!

Bontrager RL Cage (Black) available at Donnybrook Bikes

NOG: 
What’s the last book or movie that you’ve read or seen?
MC: Last movie was Star Wars, in common with half the world! Last book was The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi.

NOG: What’s the most played song in your itunes or spotify playlist?
MC: Bonxie by Stornoway

NOG: What’s your favourite gadget and why?
MC: 
I use a projector at home instead of a screen. I love it.

NOG: What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you created your business/startup?
MC: One of the trickiest things was where to draw the line between business and non-business life. e.g. Friends and family who wanted to invest and/or work in the business, etc. I think we mostly got it right, but more by luck than judgement.

Pointy being interviewed by the folks over at IrishStartup.TV back in July 2015

NOG: So what’s next for Pointy?
MC: We’re just about to launch in a new country, which is very exciting!

NOG: What question would you like me to ask the next founder?
MC: I’d be interested to know how much of their time people spend the different aspects of the job – e.g. working on product, hiring, raising money, sales, media, etc.

NOG: How would you answer your own question? 🙂
MC: Nicely done! The majority of my time is on product – quite a lot of actual coding. There’s also a lot of time on high level decision making – which features should we prioritise, which city should we launch in next, etc. The other major part of it is establishing and maintaining relationships with investors, keys partners, etc. There are periods of a month or more when fund raising is 100% of my time. Hiring is also a big one which happens in short bursts.

NOG: Well Mark, that’s it. Congratulations on the recent funding announcement, continued success in helping retail to take back the high street. by helping them gain traction online in order to drive sales offline in store.
MC: Thanks Niall, really enjoyed the chat.

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Are you an Irish retailer wanting to learn more about Pointy and the opportunity to join them on their mission to help win back the high street for retail? then click here

#FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders that I meet on my travels, have worked with in the past or simply find what they do interesting. These posts do not represent the views of any employer or any business that I am affiliated with.

I hope you enjoy them! Want to be featured?

Other interviews in the series:

Meet Rory O’Connor Founder & CEO of Scurri

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Rory O’Connor Founder of Scurri

 #FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders

I recently caught up with Rory O’Connor, Founder and CEO of Scurri, an Irish startup founded in 2010 which specialises in delivery management for  online merchants. 

HQ’d in Wexford town in Ireland they have 23 people employed. Their platform is used by multi-channel merchants, such as Zara, ASOS, MissGuided to improve their customer delivery propositions via delivery partners like Royal Mail, UPS, Hermes, TNT, DHL, Yodel, DPD and more.

Rory is an entrepreneur who likes to create and build things that make a difference. With @Scurri he’s using technology to make eCommerce delivery awesome for everyone! Loves the outdoors, surfing, triathlon and hillwalking. Lives in Wexford, Ireland.

NOG: What is the name of your business/startup, what year was it founded? do you have any co-founders? how did you get the idea?
ROC: The business name is Scurri, it was founded at the end of 2010, I am a lone founder and the business idea emerged from a slightly different business model that wast the original idea for the company.

NOG: What does your business/startup do? who is your typical customer?
ROC: Scurri removes the friction from managing deliveries for eCommerce Merchants, our typical customers are eCommerce merchants selling physical goods online who want to give their customers the best delivery experience possible.

NOG: Where is your startup located and how many people work there?
ROC: We are HQ’d in Wexford town in Ireland where we have 23 people employed today but entering an expansion phase now which is great.

Better together: start-ups and sponsorship by Adam Pescod @elitebizmag

NOG: How was your startup/business originally funded, how are you funded now and how does your startup/business make money?
ROC: I put up the initial capital to get us going, an ex-colleague soon joined me on the adventure and then we raised investment from a number of angels and a small amount of funding from enterprise Ireland. We then raised funds from VC’s as we got more traction.

NOG: Were you ever close to failure? how close? how did you recover?
ROC: Yes many times, on a couple of occasions we had a few days cash in the bank. Persistence and flexibility with a bit of luck thrown in is key.

NOG: What’s the biggest challenge your startup/business faces today?
ROC: One of the key challenges is finding talent, particularly engineering talent.

Image: Ireland’s entrepreneurial counties and the key challenges for Irish entrepreneurs

NOG: What is your background? how did you get your start and what brought you to a life in business/startups?
ROC: I originally worked in Waterford Crystal when I got a great grounding in business, marketing and sales. I also broadened my education there. I didn’t realise it for a while but I think I always destined to run my own business. I worked as a freelance consultant for a while but I really wanted to create something too.

NOG: What gets you up in the morning? and what keeps you up at night?
ROC: The excitement of what the day will bring gets me up and by the time the day is done (late at night) I sleep soundly.

Image: For the last sixteen years, Rory has been inshore helm for the local RNLI lifeboat (Fethard-on-Sea), ready to save lives at sea at any time in any weather condition.

NOG: What is your best character trait? what is your worst character trait?ROC: My best trait is I am persistent and willing to put the miles in, my worst trait is I can be impatient and unreasonable (don’t take no for an answer)

NOG: 
Are you striking a work / life balance? If so, what’s your secret?
ROC: I don’t see the difference between work and life, I don’t see what I do as a job and I think that is the secret.

NOG: The latest Scurri marketing features Lego, so what’s your figure look like?
ROC: 
Why simple it’s ‘President Business’ of course!

NOG: When things are going crazy, how do you unwind?
ROC: Do a bit more, nothing like the feeling of completing something.

Image: Rory competing in challenge Barcelona 2010

NOG: What’s the last book or movie you’ve read/seen?
ROC: The last book was Venture Deals and the last movie was the new Star wars.

Image: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

NOG: What’s the most played song in your itunes / spotify playlist?
ROC: AC/DC Thunderstruck – my kids love it too!
NOG: We must be of a similar vintage, that’s one of my favourites also!

NOG: What’s your favourite gadget and why?
ROC: My iPhone, what can it not do?

NOG: What’s the one thing you wish you had known before you created your business/startup?
ROC: A lot more about finance, it’s so important.

NOG: So what’s next for Scurri?
ROC: International expansion

NOG: Thank you for taking the time today Rory, congratulations on the progress and best of luck with the expansion plans in 2016 and beyond
ROC: Thank you Niall, it’s been my pleasure.

#FounderStories simply a series of conversations with founders that I meet on my travels, have worked with in the past or simply find what they do interesting. These posts do not represent the views of any employer or any business that I am affiliated with.

I hope you enjoy them!

Originally published at www.linkedin.com.

Congratulations you’ve failed, now what?

 

Congratulations you’ve failed, now what?

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“Hardship often prepares an ordinary person for an extraordinary destiny.”
– C.S. Lewis

fail·ure / noun: failure

  1. lack of success.”an economic policy that is doomed to failure”
  2. the omission of expected or required action.”their failure to comply with the basic rules”
  3. the action or state of not functioning.”symptoms of heart failure”


Failure is a bad thing right?

Failure in many contexts is a terrible thing, with potentially very negative impacts on people’s lives, relationships, careers, business, family and community.

Failure can have a long lasting and devastating impact with ramifications felt in some cases for whole generations. Example’s would be a failed business,  global economic crisis, a marriage breakdown.

Naturally as a result people have a healthy fear of failure and will do whatever’s within their power to avoid it, given the alternative will generally have very negative impacts on them personally, those closest to them or wider community.

There are many ways that the negative associations with failure (not always) reinforced throughout our lives by family, friends, in school, at the workplace, through the media and our own fears.

Accepting that failure can be a very bad thing and something to be avoided at all costs, why would anyone suggest that it could be a good thing?

Failure can be a good thing, how?
In another context failure is an opportunity to learn, to grow, to develop a greater sense of understanding about capabilities and limitations (perceived or real), whether that is related to ourselves, our family, team, product, service, business model, theory, investment, etc.

As a child, assuming you’ve not experienced any major trauma and grow up within your average family environment (regardless of location) then typically you don’t fear what you don’t know, you don’t hold yourself back from attempting something just because you’ve never done it before and this contributes to how you form an opinion about failure.

Whether it’s taking your first steps, learning to ride a bike, trying to pass your exams, taking a driving test, interviewing for a job, trying out your cheesy chat up lines, it’s likely that you’ve encountered failure (potentially lots of it) along the way.

When you try to take your first tentative steps as a baby, you migrate over time from a crawl, to standing against something, then ultimately in a very wobbly and precarious fashion start to actually walk.

Unlikely you remember it but for those of you who have kids or know someone who has kids at this stage of development, even though you kept falling down, were not sure if it was possible to do, something inside of you kept driving you forward try again and again until you could. Part of this is hardwired and part of it was likely all of the positive reinforcement that you received from doting parents, aunts, uncles, grannies and grandads while learning to walk.

They were there to pick you up when you fell, kept giving you positive reinforcement regardless of how many times you failed and when you succeeded (or even partially succeeded) likely celebrated like their team had won the world cup and took lots of photos to document the occasion.

My point which you’ve likely guessed, is that a child is typically getting positive reinforcement when they succeed and lots of support when they fail, this encourages them to keep picking themselves off the ground and try again and again until they succeed.

By the same token, if a child touches something hot and burns their hand, catches their fingers in a door or gets a bump on the head, they typically learn from that experience (or repeated experiences) and adjust how they approach things in the future. They learn that it’s not a good idea to keep doing it because it hurts, they don’t like it, scares them or they get shouted at by concerned parents.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood that sense of fearlessness can be negatively impacted in so many ways which may or may not be within your control through experience, the media, schooling, family situation, work, etc

We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.
— Arianna Huffington

So what am I trying to say?
Some context, I fail all of the time, in fact I fail every day. I fail at home, I fail at work, I fail in my hopes and I fail in realising my dreams. After licking my wounds for a while I generally drag myself up and try again then again and again until I recover from, learn from, pivot, decide to stop or succeed.

When growing up, I thought I was stupid , was not very good at school, carried too much weight, was painfully introverted and struggled to figure out what I ultimately wanted to do in life while everyone else seemed to have it sorted. I did a year of college, left to find a jobs at a time in Ireland when they were not easy to come by including Airport car rental and ‘Would you like fries with that?’ before heading abroad to work in bars for a few years before coming back to Ireland.

I came back to Ireland to do a government backed FAS computer training course (MS Dos, Windows 3.1, Office, etc), got a job at a big American computer company (remember the cow spotted boxes) and finally found something that I was good at and could throw my passion behind. The recipe was simple, I worked hard at something I loved, was rewarded with opportunities to grow at a rapid rate versus traditional careers and for that I will forever be grateful to  Gateway computers.

Since then while I’ve ended up doing a wide range of jobs and roles throughout my career, I can assure you that I’ve had many failures along the way. Failed projects, failed interviews, failed presentations, failed products, failed working relationships, etc but equally from the embers of those failures have risen some great personal and professional learning opportunities.

Failure is relative
Failure to open your parachute can be terminal, failure to take out the bins can get you a scolding, failure to finish a work project can get you in trouble, failure in a relationship can mean the end of that relationship, failing an exam may change the path you take, failure in business can ruin you financially, failure to drive carefully may lead to an accident, failure to learn from failure is guaranteed to lead to more failure.

Typically failure is recoverable
While it might seem like the worst thing in the world at the time, failure is generally recoverable but it might take the passing of time before you see that.

In conclusion
I fail every day, I fail with family, friends, work, projects and in hundreds of other ways. Over time I’m learning that failure while sometimes very painful at the time and might take a long time to get over is something that I have some level of control over and can learn from.

  • If I blindly do what I did before, I will likely fail again.
  • If I modify what I did before I may still fail or I may succeed.
  • If I reflect on why I might have failed I’m more likely to succeed.
  • Failure is an opportunity to learn, failure is not always a bad thing.
  • Typically I can recover from failure, it may hurt, it may take time.
  • There is no shame in admitting that you were wrong and asking for help.

But hey, what do I know, I probably failed to adequately proof read this post before posting it! …

 

Originally posted @Linkedin

By Niall O’Gorman Impulse Innovation & Startups at @MDLZ. Co-Founder @ChannelSight between Zurich and Dublin
#Disruptive #Digital #Innovation #Enterprise #Startups #Lego

Also by Niall O’Gorman

Image Credits:
Header image: CC “Not Yet Another Failure” by Behrooz Nobakht
Image: CC “My First Steps” by Gustavo Devito
Image: CC “Grazed knee” by theirhistory
Image: CC “Batman and Superman” by Peter Lee
Image: “iPhone 5 ” source WeKnowMemes