How one Irish company raised millions from investors and plans to take on the world by gathering data.
For most new firms, just getting through your first couple of years in business and trying to turn a profit is a big enough challenge, never mind raising millions of dollars in investment and rapidly embarking on a global expansion. Remarkably, Dublin-based firm Boxever has done just that.
Since starting in 2011, the company’s software offering – a platform which allows airlines to harvest customer data and target their services at them in a more personalised and efficient manner – has proven popular with some of the biggest names in the aviation business. The firm counts Aer Lingus and Emirates as just two of its clients.
A fistful of dollars
After raising $6 million in 2014, Boxever recently raised a further $12 million in funding from venture capitalists Polaris Partners and Frontline Ventures. Where does an Irish startup go to find that kind of money? “The investment climate stateside is somewhat more favourable than in Ireland, where it can be more of a challenge to raise capital,” explains Dave O’Flanagan, Boxever co-founder and CEO. “We started fundraising in Q3 of 2015, and found that this investment round was relatively easy. Our earlier investors really believe in the product and our team, as well as the market opportunity — there’s a definite appetite for investment in the data science space. Companies have been collecting data on their customers for years and are finally trying to find strategic ways to use it to support both their marketing and customer service efforts.”
Hire the right people
Boxever has grown rapidly in a relatively short period of time. Many entrepreneurs might struggle with managing such levels of growth so early into their venture. O’Flanagan puts his success at overcoming this problem down to his hiring strategy. “Over everything else, hiring great people is the key to our successful growth. Boxever has doubled in size year over year, and having a passionate, driven team has been integral to our success.”
The company intends to create 100 new jobs in its Dublin office. The roles will be primarily for data scientists and software engineers, who will join the existing workforce of 60. “Our people are excited to come to work, and whether they’re building the core product, dealing directly with customers or supporting other areas of our operation, everyone is innovating day to day.”
World domination requires more than just the right team, however. You’ve also got to have the right product. “Whether going global or experiencing rapid growth domestically, it all comes back to having the right team and the right product. To us, that means two things: building a team of dedicated people who believe in the vision and creating a product that delivers real value to our customers.”
The right product in Boxever’s case is its data platform which is changing the way travel providers interact with their clients. In terms of international expansion, O’Flanagan notes that its product offering – aimed at airlines and travel agencies – operates in an inherently global marketplace, but adds, “I think we’re fortunate with customers internationally because we’re solving a universal problem —the inability to understand individual customer needs.”
Not content with the success his company is already enjoying, O’Flanagan is already zoning in on fresh clients, more staff and new ways to expand Boxever’s influence even further afield. “Scaling and innovating will be our key focus areas. We’ll continue to expand internationally and hire across the globe to increase our capacity and reach”, he says. “At the same time, we’re looking for new opportunities and ways we can help travel providers better service their customers. Over the coming year, we’ll be helping another 20+ customers understand, leverage and ultimately activate their data.”
All about the data
Data is the key piece to this story, and something all business owners should take note of. The ability to really know your customer, from their ‘likes’ on Facebook right down to the novel they just ordered on Amazon, has perhaps been one of the most significant retail advances of the digital age. Making the most of this data can be the difference between the big success stories and the also-rans.
“Data science will continue to grow exponentially, and it’s fast becoming a must have, not just a nice to have, for doing business today. The digital footprint of individuals is getting larger every day and companies looking to succeed will find ways to better leverage all that data,” says O’Flanagan.
“And this isn’t just for airlines,” adds O’Flanagan. “Creating better customer interactions using data is industry agnostic.”