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THE SUNDAY BUSINESS POST AUGUST 11 2013

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START-UP stories Email: eoregan@sbpost.ie

BizTweet is flying high Brush up real language skills Businesspost.ie start-up of the week

By Tina-Marie O’Neill

By Philip Connolly For many people, US social network giant Twitter is now the first port of call for news and information. While the social network provides endless information at unprecedented speed, it can be difficult to wade through the noise and find relevant information. For companies either looking to market themselves or provide customer service, the difficulty is cutting through the noise to reach an individual. A new start-up has developed a system which allows companies to communicate in a more ef fe c tive m an ne r throughTwitter. Set up by Paul Brugger three years ago, Cork-based BizTweet has developed a system that recognises data within a tweet and sends an automated response back to the user. T h e Tw i t t e r a c c o u n t @Flightstatus is the perfect showcase for the firm’s product. A user can tweet the account with their flight number and will receive a series of tweets providing bespoke realtime information and updates on their flight. ‘‘It was a logical starting place for us,’’ said Brugger. ‘‘A passenger has to go to a website and look up information, we can push that data to them.’’

Paul Brugger set up Cork-based BizTweet three years ago

BizTweet What it does: Twitter communication tool Why it works: ‘‘The business model for us it that an airline would purchase our software and use it to provide a customer service. An airline can control the message within a tweet, some of the information will be common to all of them such as the flight info.’’ ^ Paul Brugger, founder A veteran of US multinational FICO, a public company

that provides analytics and decision making services, Brugger saw an opportunity to use similar software with one of the world’s top social networks. Having showcased the product on Twitter, the company is looking to market the system to airlines. ‘‘The business model for us is that an airline would purchase our software and use it to provide a customer service,’’ said Brugger. ‘‘An airline can control the message within a tweet, some of the information will be common to all of them such as the flight info. ‘‘There are also unique bits of information that some passengers may want depending on their data, some might tweet about car hire or hotels;

PROVISION

passengers also might want tweets in a different language. We can use data to define the content of the tweets and make it very specific to a passenger.’’ He is planning to broaden the scope of the company by looking at hotels and restaurants as potential customers. ‘‘It is the same concept, but used over a longer period,’’ said Brugger. ‘‘A couple of months before someone is due to arrive they may be interested in car hire, a week before they could be interested in a spa treatment or golf booking.’’ The company, which employs four people, has been in discussions with airports and airlines in Europe, the United States and the Middle East.

D|two, the late night bar and club on Dublin’s Harcourt Street, is turned into a veritable Tower of Babel each Monday from 6.30pm as up to 100 or more people gather to chat to each other in a choice of eight foreign languages. They’re attending Language Exchange Ireland, an event set up by 20-something sports management graduate Brian Heavey to allow people to socialise while brushing up on their language skills and networking in a relaxed atmosphere. ‘‘It’s set up sort of like speeddating where you are assigned a table number on arrival and sit opposite a native speaker of the language you’re learning. You speak English for five minutes and then the other language for another five minutes and then you move on to the next table,’’ said Heavey, who came up with the idea while backpacking in South America for six months two years ago. ‘‘The cost is e5 to participate, which includes food, and we cater for all levels of linguistic ability. It’s essential when learning a language to actually speak it with native speakers and this is not represented well enough in language schools in Dublin. ‘‘The English lang uag e schools are very busy, so we match their students with other language students in Irish universities and language schools and then we also get a lot of

Brian Heavey, founder of Language Exchange Ireland

Language Exchange Ireland What it does: weekly language exchanges Why it works: ‘‘We get people from all over the world who want to practice speaking the language they’re learning with natives and to meet new people. It’s a great way to improve your language in an organised and easy going manner.’’ ^ Brian Heavey, founder

people generally interested in languages that may not be studying but are interested in the keeping their foreign language fresh.’’ The weekly event is just one of a number of ventures Heavey organises via his event management business RealEvents. It has proved so successful that he’s looking for a second venue to host additional evenings on the city’s northside and has employed a friend in Brazil to set up a similar event there. ‘‘I’ve had emails from people who met at a Language Ex-

change event a year ago and are now planning to get married,’’ he said. Another venture Heavey is launching at the end of the month, under the name Languages2Go, is a series of situational based language courses in Spanish and Portuguese held in classrooms on Poolbeg Street in Dublin over a sevenweek period. ‘‘They will be run similarly to a number of Back Packer Spanish courses I ran last year, in which people travelling to Spanish-speaking countries learn colloquial phrases, terms and words that they will typically use in everyday situations while they’re away,’’ he said. ‘‘For example, one week the room will be decorated like a hotel lobby and the tutor will role play as a hotel receptionist, porter, room service waiter and so on. The next week, the room could be decked out like a restaurant or various means of transport, and so on.’’ That course is priced at e100 for the seven weeks and includes free entry to Language Exchange Ireland for the duration of the course. Heavey has also tapped into the growing Hispanic communities in the country by organising a series of parties, such as an annual Brazil Day and Brazilian Independence Day parties, which are also held at D|two. ‘‘Over 2,000 Brazilians attend the parties and I’ve flown in Brazilian DJ’s, rappers and samba bands for the events. The next Brazilian Independence Party is on September 8 in D|two.’’

Commercial Profile: Deloitte Best Managed Companies

The pick of the Irish enterprise crop Companies which want to fast-track their business success should register for the Deloitte Best Managed Companies awards, writes Caroline Allen

O

rganisations keen to join the elite network of Ireland’s fastest-growing enterprises ^ the Deloitte Best Managed Companies, run in association with Barclays ^ have until Friday, August 16 to register for this year’s awards programme. Frank Ryan, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, will chair the judging panel of this year’s awards programme, which recognises companies of outstanding quality across Ireland. Successful applicants will be required to demonstrate superior management practices, business performance, and their ability to achieve growth in today’s challenging marketplace. Feedback from companies that have been recognised as Ireland’s Best Managed by Deloitte over the last five years, shows that they continue to buck the wider e conom ic trend, ac cording to Kevin Sheehan, partner, Deloitte. The indigenous Irish companies awarded Best Managed status, created 400 jobs in the past year in Ireland, Sheehan said. Many have reported significant investment in new technologies and production facilities, domestic and overseas expansion, and securing new contracts. In the past month, 300 new jobs have been announced by Deloitte Best Managed Companies. Noonan increased its workforce by 250 people, on foot of several new contracts wins. John O’Donoghue, Noonan’s group chief executive, said its recognition as a Deloitte Best Managed Company was down to its desire to grow and embrace change.

His company, Noonan said, strove to deliver innovative solutions to clients had ‘‘people first’’ as a core value, and shared its future vision with all stakeholders in the business. Another Deloitte Best Managed Company, Musgrave, created 50 new jobs with the recent opening of its 197th SuperValu store in Milltown Malbay. Phar macy g roup Sa m McCauley has opened three new stores in Cavan, Carlow and Clonmel, increasing its workforce by 50 to 550 in the past year. A further ten people were recruited through its new wholesale division, Continental Pharmaceuticals. Topaz will take on 120 people to build and staff a new e3 million service station at Dublin Airport. Past winners have reported g rowth both at home and abroad, said Sheehan, including: & Southwestern, which is expanding its operations into Poland & L i f e s2 g oo d, wh i ch is launching new products in Canada, Mexico and Australia and & PM Group, which has expanded its offices in Shanghai and Bangalore and has also established a presence into Turkey. Dave Murphy, PM Group’s chief executive, attributed the company’s success in Deloitte Best Managed Companies, to its ability to adapt quickly to a rapidly changing environment, with excellent people committed to meeting clients’ needs. & Ace Express has extended its services intoTurkey and Portugal, while The Now Factory has opened a new office in Seattle, Washington. Mash Di-

Kevin Sheehan, partner, Deloitte: ‘The innovation and determination that is present is to be commended’ JASON CLARKE

rect has started exporting to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. & Silverhill Foods is planning the launch of new retail products in this country as well as in Germany, France, Holland, Sweden and Denmark. & Campion Insurance opened new offices in Ennis and Naas within the past eight months, and recently acquired part of the Aviva Direct Life and Pensions business. D eloitte B est Manag ed Companies have also recorded significant deals and new contracts in the last 12 months.

One example is Southwestern, which secured a »7 million contract with the Department of Agriculture in Britain, and a e6 million contract with Fa¤ilte Ireland. ‘‘S outhWe st e r n i s ve r y proud of its success with the Deloitte Best Managed Companies awards,’’ said David Kelly, chief commercial officer. ‘‘The growth of our business in recent years, our successful entry into foreign markets and our sustained profitability are the primary drivers of our success with BMC.The SouthWes-

tern team has welcomed the rigorous analysis of our business that the programme offers.’’ The Now Factory has won two major contracts with me mb ers of the Vodafone Group, and TVM were host broadcasters for the recent G8 Summit in Fermanagh, providing coverage to more than 120 news organisations. Kevin Sheehan said that investment and expansion were top of the agenda for indigenous Irish companies. ‘‘The innovation and determination

that is present is to be commended and I hope it acts as encouragement for other companies to showcase their own successes by applying for this year’s awards programme.’’ This is the sixth year of the Deloitte Best Managed Companies awards programme and the initiative is proving increasingly attractive to Irish businesses, according to Sheehan. ‘‘There is no doubt that in the last couple of years, more companies have applied. Businesses see the value and the opportunities in the awards.

When the programme was launched in 2008, it was at the start of a very serious recession and a lot of companies were just focused on survival,’’ he said. ‘‘Now, people believe we are over the worst. Our surveys show that Irish organisations are optimistic about the future of the Irish economy and see it as coming back to growth. ‘‘While conditions are still very tough, there is a greater willingness now to invest in Irish enterprise. Businesses want to recognise what their teams have gone through and to position them to be ready for the next phase of growth.’’ In the past,the Deloitte partner said, organisations were optimistic about recruitment. ‘‘What is different this year, is that there is evidence that they are recruiting,’’ he said. Sheehan welcomed the appointment of Frank Ryan, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, as chairperson of the Best Managed Companies judging panel. Ryan’s experience with Enterprise Ireland and his previous work with IDA Ireland would bring valuable insights into how companies should grow and organise themselves, particularly in their management development, Sheehan said. ‘‘Through Enterprise Ireland, he has been involved in bringing many training programmes to indigenous Irish companies to assist them in becoming world class. His knowle dg e of s e ctors su ch as software, engineering, medical devices, and internationally traded services make him a great asset both to the awards and to the individual companies.’’ The involvement of Barclays as key sponsor will also bring vital energy and commitment to the programme, said Sheehan. ‘‘The company is very keen to share its insights with participants and to work very closely with them.’’ Competing companies will be put through a stringent judging process, measuring performance with a wide range of criteria, including strategy, capability, commitment, financials and management perfor-

mance across all key functions of the business. This year, of special interest to the independent judging panel will be the pioneering ways in which companies are pursuing and achieving growth in a testing economic environment. Twenty companies that demonstrate superior business performance will be recognised at the end of the Best Managed Companies process next March. Three will be singled out for high-quality submissions in the areas of strategy, capability and commitment, the cornerstones of Best Managed Companies’ assessment criteria. Participants would be part of a network of successful, growing indigenous Irish companies that could work with each other, with the overall mandate of increasing profitability for their shareholders and creating jobs, Sheehan said. All entrants benefit from feedback in the first year, and the successful companies invited to attend the Irish Manag e m e nt I n st it u t e ( I MI ) symposium and gala awards ceremony in March, will have the opportunity to take part in networking events, and avail of media opportunities, opening doors at home and abroad. The majority of past winners are still involved in the Deloitte Best Managed Companies network. Sheehan said the idea was to encourage organisations, not just to see their involvement as a once-off event, but as part of a long-term process. Companies can apply to retain the accolade in the two years after their initial win, by taking part in a requalification process. In the fourth year, busi ness es re -apply from scratch. If successful, they are awarded Best Managed Gold Status. They can then re-apply for a further two years. Year seven involvement requires companies to start the qualification process from scratch. Winners are then awarded Platinum Status, giving them permanent membership of the network, once they uphold the required standards of a Deloitte Best Managed Company.

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