We never stop being amazed by all the cool start ups in Dublin. There's such an energy and excitement in the city around new technology companies and the start-up scene is incredible. One company we keep seeing more and more of is Popdeem, a social rewards company. We decided to sit down with Popdeem's CEO and co-founder, Richard Whelan, to get the full scoop.
So Richard, can you explain in a nutshell what does Popdeem do?
Popdeem is a social rewards platform. We help brands reward their customers for sharing local experiences. It’s all out driving peer to peer and word of mouth engagement online. Brands are using social media more and more as a marketing tool, but the way they connect with users can be quite disruptive, like using banner ads etc. We wanted to create a way that brands can join in on the conversation where it is people talking to people. People do share experiences, so it’s about leveraging that and finding out who are your biggest brand advocates. Then tailor rewards specifically for them.
What kind of clients do you have?
Last year we launched our product with local businesses. We created an app that you could use when you walk into local businesses, by sharing your experiences. So we worked with businesses such as Staple Foods and Tuzo’s Mexican Kitchen. If you checked in you could, for example, get a half priced meal. If you are an influencer and have a bigger social network, you could get a bigger reward. We launched it with local businesses but then we went to bigger brands and agencies and they’re going to adopt the technology as a white label solution.
So the rewards themselves, do they differ much?
Now that we are working with bigger brands who are white labelling our product, it’s up to them to decided on the rewards they give out. For example a drinks company could give free pints to influencers at a certain time if they wanted football during the world cup.
What has the best reward been?
We got free burritos in Tuzos, I don’t want to say that we hacked our own scores to get them but lets just say we were obviously the biggest testers of our own product!
Good burritos I hope?
The best burritos!
What was your background?
Myself and my friends set up Study Buddy in our final year in UCD. It was a desktop app to block students from internet distractions like Facebook. After we graduated we got accepted to NDRC launchpad which was an intensive 3 month course, it introduced us to the amazing start up community in Dublin. From there the idea evolved into Popdeem. We then got accepted into the Wayra academy. We were always identifying problems with social media. It started with distractions like we addressed on Study Buddy, we then noticed engagement problems and the idea evolved to where we are today.
Do you find you have some people using it all the time? Have you created a new breed of coupon queens?
Definitely. It definitely hits the millennial standard social psychology. There are some people who really love the idea of sharing their experiences and getting a reward in return. In fact Geraldine who started as our community manager was one of our biggest advocates, she used the Popdeem app in places like Bell and Pot and was raving about the product. That’s how we got to know her and now she’s on board as our community manager.
Is there a serial entrepreneur in you? Could you be on to another idea in a few years?
We definitely have a lot of ambition with Popdeem and have a clear idea of where we want to be. So I think we still have a long way to go yet. I love what I’m doing, I always wanted to get into building products and this is where I see my future.
Have you always wanted to work for yourself?
I think so, my dad has had his own business for over 25 years. I think I’ve always wanted to have my own company too, even from a young age I always into doing my own thing.
A lot of people want to work themselves but are too afraid to take the risk, any advice?
Times have definitely changed and there’s a lot more support, seed funds and start-up funds. There are so many different avenues to go down to get started. There’s a great support network so talk to someone who has went out on their own and see what they’ve done, get their advice, learn what support systems exist. There’s such a great network of start-ups in Dublin so definitely just reach out to people.
What one company would you love to sign up to Popdeem?
Now that we’re targeting bigger brands I think one of the larger restaurant chains like Milanos would be great. But we still love our local businesses.
Will Popdeem always continue to be focussed on food or will brands like Champion sports or other retail chains be potential clients?
Yes the direction we’re going now is larger consumer brands so say for example Adidas could target consumers during the world cup final.
What is the Popdeem long term goal?
We think we’re on the very start of a long term shift in advertising. It’s more human now. It’s more about people to people. That’s a massive shift considering how large the advertising industry is, and we believe we’re at the forefront of that. We have a long way to go to get to where our big ambition lies….
Which is world domination?
Yes world domination!
What's your favourite place to eat in Dublin?
I went to Pitt Bros last week and I've been there a few times before, I like to get the €20 deal where you get three meats. I nearly had to be carted out of there, but at the same time I really enjoyed it.
And the best place for a drink?
Well our office just moved besides Searsons so I’d have to say there. We went there for the world cup games a couple of times, it was great.
Okay and lastly... Favourite thing to do in Dublin?
I love more than anything when it’s rugby season around the Aviva. Going for a pint locally and then heading in to a game. There’s a banter around those big sporting events that you don’t get many other places. I love a good game. In fact I went to the Super Bowl this year on my own, it was like a big adventure. My friends thought I was mad but I was determined I would get a ticket, it was definitely the best thing I’ve ever done. I went with such energy, met loads of new friends and had the best time ever.