Buymedia is building a community of what it terms “advertising superheroes” by helping SMEs to grow through more effective advertising.

Buymedia claims to have built a world’s first in terms of an online platform that helps SME advertisers to plan, purchase, manage and monitor their advertising across all media, both traditional and digital, to increase return on investment from advertising.

“We believe that SMEs are the real business superheroes – they work hard, the support their community, their lives are a constant struggle and they have to compete for customers with big brands who have better insights and data, greater resources and expertise,” said co-founder and CEO Fergal O’Connor.

“Our goal is to make marginal improvements to the SME advertising journey by improving planning, purchasing, management and monitoring of all media”

“In the business battlefield for customers the SME is at a distinct disadvantage in many ways.

“None more so than when it comes to advertising. Advertising for SMEs is a manual, time-consuming inefficient process. Not only do they face challenges internally in their own businesses but they have to operate in a hugely inefficient market – where media companies operate in silos – making it really challenging for SMEs to plan, purchase, manage and monitor their advertising in the most efficient and effective way.

“Effective advertising leads to business growth and if big brands are at an advantage when it comes to advertising then the big just keep getting bigger and it is increasingly difficult for SMEs to gain market share and grow revenue.”

According to O’Connor, the market for SME advertising is worth €144bn globally and €7bn in Ireland and the UK alone.

“Our goal is to make marginal improvements to the SME advertising journey by improving planning, purchasing, management and monitoring of all media. Saving time and money but ultimately helping the businesses to grow.”

Combining experience with expertise

Buymedia’s senior team has over 100 years of experience working with SMEs across a variety of media and advertising options.

“We’ve embedded that experience into our SME advertising platform – Buymedia. By combining that experience with 20 years of advertising research and current consumer data and insights we can now provide a powerful advertising tool in the SME armoury to help redress the imbalance and help our community of advertisers compete with bigger businesses and brands.

“As our product’s artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms learn what advertising is working, it can make recommendations for future growth based on both industry insights but also primary data from the business itself.

“There is no other platform globally that can do this across all media – print, radio, out of home, TV, social and digital. We’re very proud to have conceived, developed and grown our business in Ireland with the support of media companies and especially SMEs who have placed their faith in us to help grow their businesses.”

The founder’s journey

“I was originally a solo founder, which has its pros and cons,” says O’Connor.

“I never let the lack of a founding team deter me from my vision as from the start I surrounded myself with genuine and generous people who had great experience and were willing to share their knowledge with me. Following a path of New Frontiers, NDRC Launchpad and now Enterprise Ireland HPSU has helped to guide the business and by taking this route I never felt I was doing this alone. Now as we’ve grown the team and taken on investment it’s brilliant to have the support of that wider team on what we hope is going to be a very exciting journey for Buymedia.

“I don’t know where the entrepreneurial spirit came from I was never one of these people you hear who were selling stuff in school or out of their garage. I’ve always been very competitive and don’t like to see unfairness, so when I do see unfairness for SMEs and it was in an area I had a lot of experience in, then initially I wanted to fix it and secondly wanted to do it better than anyone else.”

Hard graft and entrepreneurship are in O’Connor’s DNA. “My parents are/were very hard workers and my Dad at 81 still runs his own barber shop Jim’s on Patrick’s Street in Dun Laoghaire. That work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit has to have had an impact.”

A regional outlook

O’Connor said that Buymedia intentionally keeps its toes in various regions around Ireland.

“We started in the GMIT Innovation Hubs in Mayo and Galway and still have a presence there, we did the launchpad programme in NDRC in Dublin and spent many months in the Dublin start-up ecosystem.

“I’m spending most of my time between Galway and Dublin at the moment and both have a thriving start up scene. The Western Development commission and the North West Regional Authority are both working hard to create sustainable regional start up strategies. The WDC Hub strategy looks particularly interesting, linking the hubs along the western seaboard to allow people to live and work in the communities and locations that suit them. The Innovation Hub, Portershed and GTC are all in expansion mode adding badly needed space to Galway. There is a very vibrant and supportive ecosystem in the West and the lifestyle can’t be beaten.

“We were lucky to have support from the Local Enterprise Office in Mayo, Enterprise Ireland, GMIT Innovation Hubs, Westbic, NDRC and WDC on our start up journey. We couldn’t have gotten to where we are today without that support.”

Where O’Connor sees a challenge for businesses is in the space between start-up and scale-up.

“It’s particularly challenging for businesses who haven’t raised funding as quickly as they had hoped. There is very little support for that in-between phase and many potentially great future companies fall by the wayside due to lack of support to give them that little push to the next phase of development.”

Scaling is very much top of O’Connor’s mind. “We closed a seed round at the end of 2019 so we have fuel in the tank, but as the CEO I always have to keep a close eye on our cash runway and to where we’ll look for future funding. We have global ambition for future growth and we know to do that we’ll need to raise funds again. Our main focus right now is building our customer base, aligning our technology with our customer’s needs and building a strong team ready to scale.”

Cautious optimism

The key to running a business, O’Connor believes is focus and discipline.

“Everything that you do as a start-up founder will take you longer and cost more than you expect. Founders are naturally optimistic and usually impatient but I’ve learned that we can’t do everything we would like to do for our customers overnight and you have to prioritise the near term while being clear on the long term vision. I’ve also learned to ask for help more and to surround myself with people that are much better than me.”

His advice to fellow founders: “Don’t try to do everything, realise where your weaknesses are and bring people into your business that can help plug the gaps. Focus on what you do really well and become the best in the world at that. Once you have the laser focus to solve small problems first then you can take on the world.”

When it comes to staying agile and growing, the company uses its own technology. “We use Buymedia as our main tool to help SMEs plan, purchase, manage and monitor their ad campaigns across all media.

“We’re a Microsoft for Startups company and we’ve been very thankful to have access to Microsoft Office tools, Teams and Azure to help drive the business forward. We use another West of Ireland SaaS company One Page CRM for our sales and marketing team and Zoom, Meet, Trello, Slack Mailchimp etc to keep everyone aligned and agile which is particularly important now with more of the team working remotely.”

Pictured at top: Buymedia founder and CEO Fergal O’Connor

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 10 August, 2020

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