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News : Irish Last Updated: Apr 24, 2009 - 5:31:05 PM

eircom's €100,000 Web Innovation Fund winners announced!
By Finfacts Team
Jul 14, 2008 - 1:34:08 PM

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The folks from HeyStaks rollicking in the hay

eircom today announced details of the four winning companies in the eircom €100,000 Web Innovation Fund. The Fund was launched at the eircom Golden Spider Awards in November last year to promote, mentor and sponsor innovative web applications in the Irish Internet industry.

The four winners have entered into agreements with eircom whereby concepts are developed through to production and, if appropriate, initially launched on the eircom.net platform. Funding will be released on a staged basis throughout the six-month development process, according to needs assessed on a per-case basis. eircom will provide ongoing monthly funding in order to continue development of the product in line with customer feedback, and as part of a standard content agreement.

The winners will also be given business development training and advice by Enterprise Ireland, as well as additional six-month post-launch funding and help with marketing and advertising of the web service.

The four chosen companies are:

HeyStaks- HeyStaks is a new approach to Web search that helps searchers to share their search experiences with friends, colleagues, and other searchers. HeyStaks is a browser plugin that works with Google and provides users with the ability to create so-called "search staks" as a way to organise and share their Google searches. For example, a group of friends planning a holiday abroad might create a "Holiday 2008" search stak. As they individually search for travel, accommodation and entertainment options, their selections will be shared with each other during future searches as specially highlighted search results. In this way all of the friends can see what results have been found to be useful during earlier searches, which may help them during their own searches for that perfect holiday package.

Research shows that HeyStaks can help searchers find information more quickly and in turn allow users to create and share many different types of search staks to reflect different topics of interest. In this way search staks can provide users with access to a form of Web search that is powered by their favourite search engine but customised for a particular topic of interest, based on their own search experiences or the search experiences of others.

The HeyStaks technology has been developed by Prof. Barry Smyth's research group in University College Dublin and is the first spin-out of the new CLARITY research centre, a €16m Science Foundation Ireland research centre combining researchers from University College Dublin, Dublin City University, and the Tyndal National Institute.


Locle- Locle is a social mapping application for mobile phones that combines information from your mobile handset address book with social networks such as Bebo, Facebook and MySpace to create mapping services that show users where their friends are. Locle is an enhanced mobile web experience that facilitates "here's where I am, and here's where my friends are" for social networks and groups.

Locle is a combination of a web service and downloadable mobile phone software. When the Locle mobile client is activated, it identifies the user's location and presents the location of "friends" who also use the application. Friends can be both contacts from your mobile phone address book or contacts from your social networks. As well as letting you know where your "friends" are, Locle can also keep you up to date on relevant information to your location such as local events, news, weather and provide details on local restaurants, cinemas and ATM machines etc.

Locle is a Business Expansion Scheme qualified investment.

TouristR holidaymakers on Dublin's St. Stephen's Green!

Playza - With most popular online games focused squarely at the adult gaming market, Playza is a new social gaming proposition for "Digital Natives" – our 12 to 24 year olds who have grown up in a digital media environment where mobile phones, social networking, multiplayer online gaming, and music downloading have always been the norm.

Playza is made up of a series of connected mini games in which players complete tasks and earn points. Online game players are encouraged to bring their gaming colleagues to Playza and social networkers can invite their online friends to join. The main objective of the game is to form and control player groups. By getting new members into their group, players will increase their standing and capabilities within the games. Playza users can also create their own page to host their game account and mini games. Within their page, users can create their own game groups, receive feedback and messages and post the game to their other sites or blogs such as MySpace or Facebook.

Playza combines the addictive nature of online gaming with the community features of a social networking portal.

TouristR- TouristR is an integrated full-service trip-planning advisor, which cuts out the online information overload and minimises planning problems. It not only helps the traveller to plan a more complex travel itinerary - such as a trip with multiple destinations on a fixed budget and timeline – but it also draws on content submitted by a community of users which will help the traveller to decide on a destination by getting a sense of the type of experience available at their chosen destination.

Termed "a new breed of unique Web 2.0 travel service", TouristR will feature stories, adventures and photographs of destinations submitted by users as well as aid the traveller who needs to factor in multiple elements to their trip such as budgetary, geographical, temporal and other personal preferences and restrictions.

Commenting on today's announcement Mark Taylor, Head of Content and Services Strategy, eircom Online, said: "This is a new departure for eircom and one we are very proud to develop. Ireland has a huge pool of entrepreneurial talent and this was clearly demonstrated by the sheer quality of applications we received for the Fund. eircom is committed to fostering entrepreneurship in the online sector and this Fund provides the ideal platform. We are very much looking forward to working with these four companies in the coming months and we are hugely excited about their potential".

Biographies of Key Company Members

HeyStaks: (http://www.heystaks.com/)
Barry Smyth (
37) is a Professor of Computer Science in University College Dublin. He has more than 16 years experience in the development of artificial intelligence and personalisation technologies. Since 1995 he has led an internationally renowned research group involving more than 30 PhD/MSc students and attracting research funding in excess of €15m. Barry has published widely in scientific literature, authoring in excess of 300 scientific articles.

In 1999 Barry co-founded ChangingWorlds to commercialise personalisation technology in the Mobile Internet sector. Today, ChangingWorlds is a class-leader in the mobile space and employs more than 140 people with offices in Europe, Asia and the US. In 2006 he was a finalist in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (International category) and in the same year was the recipient of the Enterprise Ireland Informatics Commercialisation Award.

Maurice Coyle(29) is a post-doctoral researcher in the School of Computer Science and Informatics, University College Dublin. Maurice graduated with a B.Sc. from UCD in 2002 and was awarded a Ph.D on the topic of community-based Web search personalisation in 2008. During the course of his post-graduate studies, Maurice has published extensively, with 20 papers appearing in both international conferences and journals.

Peter Briggs(29) is a Ph.D. candidate at the School of Computer Science and Informatics, University College Dublin. Having graduated from UCD with a B.Sc. in 2002, Peter is currently conducting research in the area of user modelling and authority in community-based Web search. To date, Peter has had 13 papers published in international conference proceedings and journals.
Both Maurice and Peter have held industry roles at Sun Microsystems, Inc. in the fields of software internationalisation and device compatibility testing respectively, and have developed e-commerce websites for organisations in both commercial and charitable domains.

Locle: (http://www.locle.com/)
Ronan Higgins
joined his first start-up in 1997 developing CD-ROM PC video games. This expanded into production of 1st generation web-based games such as RoboCop Online. In 1999, Ronan joined the management team of the first legal US gambling website Youbet.com, to IPO the company on NASDAQ in the same year. Ronan then started a wireless hotspot (Wi-Fi) network called Café.com in 2001, which grew to be the largest independent hotspot network in Southern California. He sold Café.com in 2005 and moved to Ireland. Most recently Ronan ran Funda Ireland, a property search portal in competition with MyHome.ie and Daft.ie.

Pieter Oonk (32), completed an MA in International Economics specialising in European Telecommunication Deregulation at the University of Amsterdam. He moved to Ireland in 2004 and has been involved in a number of early stage businesses including Artery Solutions (Content Management Software), Overloaded (Mobile gaming), Kinsale Mobile (Mobile Telephony) and TFB (web portal and TV production).

He has also worked as a marketing and marketing development consultant for Serpico Software (CRM Testing Software), Swan Labs (F5 Networks – Security Software), Swarm Teams (mobile messaging) and Power Plate (Health and Fitness).

Pieter currently works in business development for Kinsale Mobile and as acting CEO of Dutch MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) Call4care.

Playza: (http://www.playza.com/)
Peter Lynch:

Peter Lynch is the founder and CEO of EirplayGames. He has a Bachelor of Financial Services degree from UCD and a Diploma in New Business Development from DIT. Over the last 5 years, he has worked on the design and development of over 30 online and mobile games for Eirplay's Irish and international clients. Prior to EirplayGames, Peter worked for Vivendi Universal Games, managing their Games Internationalisation Group and later working as an R&D Manager. In the mid 1990's, he set up the Ludo Computer Games course for the BCFE College, and formed course links with Microsoft, Sony, and IBM. Before his positions in the digital media sector, Peter worked for Bank of Ireland in the consumer lending and investment areas.

TouristR: (http://www.touristr.com/)
Jan Blanchard was born in Lillebonne, France. He has 12 years of sales and marketing experience at a management level across Europe. He is currently MD and founder of Tourist Republic Ltd. Jan has spent the last 6 years living in Co. Clare. He has set up hotel networks and promotions across Europe prior to founding Tourist Republic. His experience has helped to identify a gap in the online tourism market. He also worked as a business analyst with Electricity De France where he led the development of renewable energies schemes in residential new buildings. His first work experience was as a sales manager in a software company selling voice recognition technology. Jan started his first business at the age of 22 when he received the exclusive license to distribute a famous burgundy wine in Switzerland.

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