The country is getting better at producing tech companies that can expand quickly, like the latest investment in Flipdish offerings. The digital food ordering platform, founded in 2015 by brothers Connor and James McCarthy, has achieved so-called “unicorn” status after having a surplus value of $1 billion (€871,920). Not bad for a company that was worth $25 million just over three years ago.
Flipdish has become the fifth official domestic tech company to receive the Medal of Rhino, although there have been rumors that some companies averse to publicity may have reached the milestone previously. With Stripe, Silicon Valley’s most valuable privately owned company now headquartered in Dublin, Ireland appears to be currently a hotbed of entrepreneurial tech talent.
What is also impressive is the kind of supporters who are lining up to invest in Irish companies. Chinese conglomerate Tencent, owner of the hugely popular messaging platform WeChat, is ahead of the company in its latest investment. It has previously supported the likes of Uber and Tesla. US investment firm Tiger Global, another backer, has a portfolio that includes Stripe, Peleton, LinkedIn, Facebook and Airbnb.
Al McCarthy, who are now millionaires on paper after this funding round, showed their entrepreneurial mind long before the idea of Flipdish came into being. Connor, who turned 40 last year, has previously designed successful online poker games, while James, 37, has had success with e-commerce site christmasshirts.com, which sells in more than 40 countries.
Connor came up with the idea for Flipdish after experiencing first-hand how difficult it is to order takeaway online. But while the company has a smart proposition, it has also faced stiff competition, with the likes of Just Eat dominating. The competition has since intensified with the likes of Deliveroo and Uber Eats entering the market.
But Flipdish’s proposal, which would allow restaurants more control over their deliveries and costs less than competitors, won plaudits at a time when takeaway wasn’t popular at all. Moving into areas like digital order kiosks, which may have seemed high-risk at the time, now seems prescient in an era where Covid still dominated.
Despite the dilution of the stock, it is believed that the McCarthy family still owns a large part of the business. Obviously, the new investment is good news for them, but other shareholders are also profitable. Angel investor Gianni Matera is one such proponent. The Italian invested in the start-up phase through his investment company Growing Capital in partnership with European Angel Fund Ireland.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Matera said the company’s success provides strong evidence of a thriving tech ecosystem.
Alan Merriman, co-founder of Elkstone, an Irish multi-family office engaged in wealth management, venture capital and real estate, was an early supporter of Flipdish.
“I saw that there was a huge opportunity in the market and I thought guys could get there with the proposal they had… I wasn’t thinking at that point from a rhino perspective, but the Covid crisis has speeded things up dramatically,” he said.
Merriman said it was disappointing that no well-established Irish venture capital firms or institutional investors had directly invested at the Seed or Series A level in Flipdish or LetsGetChecked, another Irish unicorn that Elkstone has backed.
Both companies tried hard to get Irish money but were unsuccessful. This is unfortunate because the more Irish companies the Irish people support, the more everyone will benefit.”
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