5 Irish Apps: How They Face Off Against Their International Counterparts
Do Irish app developers have what it takes to compete toe to toe with the tech deity of Silicon Valley and beyond? Are Irish based startups simply emulating, or are they ameliorating upon ideas from abroad? Read on as we investigate how 5 of Ireland most promising apps compare withtheir international equivalents across 5 categories.
Coming to a new city where you know no real people means your smart phone is going to be your best friend. Yes, forever alone. The Visit Dublin app is the flagship of a new digital strategy to bring 1 million extra visitors to the city by 2015. It boasts a collection of handy features such as location recognition via the camera on your device, GPS directions to the door of surrounding tourist attractions and discounts at the location upon arrival. On the other side of the water, Sōsh is one of the freshest startups attempting to curate the finest SF has to offer to tourists and residents. The fact that you are even using Sōsh makes you feel like you are already in the know. It is inherently social, so when you eventually find friends, you can see what upcoming parties and events they plan to attend. There are plenty of discounts and exclusive offers up for grabs and the interface is polished and intuitive. As the official app of Dublin City, Visit Dublin can be disappointingly glitchy, not surprising since it has rarely been updated since its launch. Sōsh comes out on top here as it immediately makes the user, even if just a tourist, feel trendy and in the know, while Visit Dublin succeeds only in exemplifying your uncoolness, making you stand out as the clueless tourist you are, as you stand at The Spire in the lashing rain blaring out the tinny voice-over feature.
Ok so Hailo isn’t strictly an Irish company, but since it went live in July 2012, the app, with a 9 strong team here in its Dublin offices, has stolen our hearts. A taxi to your feet within 2 taps of your smart phone is what the app aims to provide, and is doing so quite well. Enter Lyft. If ever there was an example of a company disrupting an industry, it would be Lyft. Operating in the city of SF alone, Lyft is a peer reviewed, voluntary donation based lift service that is causing uproar amongst the old fashioned taxi folk of SF. Drivers do not have to be registered taxi drivers, are identifiable by the soft pink moustache on the grill of their car and are required to “fist-pump” customers upon picking them up, as a gesture of trust and general chill-ness. No cash passes hands in the vehicle, the app which measures the distance of the journey, suggests a donation after you’ve said goodbye(departing fist-pump optional), which you can improve upon or simply ignore, with customers and drivers able to rate each other in real time to weed out scammers. In this case, it can be fair to call it a draw. Lyft is certainly disruptive, but runs the risk of being shut down very soon. Hailo may be less “rad” than lyft, but it is arguably a more reliable and sustainable alternative, that is set to hit the streets of SF in the coming months. On the other hand, if Lyft was ever to reach Ireland’s shores, it’s certain that they wouldn’t get beyond the sizeable contingent of surly taxi drivers awaiting them at Dublin Airport.
Buzzoo, who are currently one of 15 participants enrolled in the NDRC LaunchPad accelerator programme, aim to bring a social layer to the music being played at venues and events, by allowing customers to interact with each other and influence the music using smart devices. The system requires no extra hardware for the venue and is fully licenced, meaning it’s easy to set up or get rid of, with easy opt-out via the contract-free monthly subscription. Roqbot are slightly ahead of Buzzoo, backed by Google Ventures and Detroit Venture Partners, the company has raised $1.2 million in contrast to the €20,000 Buzzoo receive for participating in NDRC LaunchPad. Roqbot is installed in an undisclosed number of venues across the states. Having tried it with friends in Bar Basic in SOMA, SF, we were impressed by the our instance presence, including a profile pic, on the bars TV displays but were a little peeved by having to purchase credits to request additional songs or “up-vote” our song choices. It is hard to award Buzzoo the victory here since they are still in Beta. Roqbot steal the prize provisionally, but this may be revisited when we see the UI and customer pay-to-play features of Buzzoo in the near future.
Gamification, in the last 2 years or so, has moved beyond a simple buzzword or fad, and on to a legitimate concept to base your product around, with summits and conferences such as GSummit held annually to discuss and showcase best practice in this emerging field.
There are more startup hubs out there than just the US and Ireland, so our next Irish app GetHealth, faces off against a fellow European, Foodzy, from Amsterdam. GetHealth is still in closed beta but has been making waves in the Irish startup scene over the last few months. Boasting impressive metrics, multiple categories of improving one’s health, and a motivational leader boards to compete with peers, it certainly ticks all the boxes that Foodzy and other health and wellbeing apps offer, but with a more rounded focus. Foodzy for example has an obvious focus on diet, and is a self-proclaimed “Food Journal”. The winners in this face-off are GetHealth, if not only for its impressive batch of features, than also on the grounds that Foodzy charge a $15 Pro-user fee to use ANY useful features of their “free” mobile app.
Social Video apps such as Viddy and SocialCam, which facilitate the capturing and sharing of experience through collaborative video shooting on smart devices, have taken Silicon Valley by storm in the last year. 45 Sound, an Irish based startup in this area specialising in music events, gives bands and fans the opportunity to pool together their footage of a gig, overlay a better soundtrack and experience the performance from the multiple perspectives shot by individuals at the event. The app has been used globally and was officially launched in the Music Accelerator Final of SXSW in 2012. L.A. based startup, Vyclone, began in the same field as 45 Sound with a focus on music event, which is unsurprising really since the co-founder, Joe Sumner is Sting’s son. They have since however moved beyond music, setting their sights on anything and everything from weddings to uprisings. 45 sound is not only a promising, but a proven tool for musician and music lovers in Ireland and internationally. It pips Vyclone to the post by a nose, as Vyclone may be diluting the value they have to offer by expanding beyond their niche ad spreading themselves too thin.
And so another comparison piece ends in a frustrating draw. You may be slumped over your keyboard asking why you even bother futilely hoping for an outright winner. But despair not, for it is you, the users of all the wonderful apps mentioned above, that are the real winners here today.