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How the Business Online Voucher should work

When it is activated the potential for this voucher is significant. 2,000 companies selling online who aren’t doing it today; it will stimulate business for providers of design and marketing, it will increase shipping requirements by SMEs, 3,000 jobs or more could be created – and Ireland will keep more of the €4 billion in online revenue that mostly goes overseas now.



At the end of February the Irish government announced announced the Action Plan for Jobs and as I listened to Minister Richard Bruton it was apparent how integral technology was to the plan, in particular its seven disruptive reform measures,  one of which is the Business Online Voucher scheme. The voucher will be granted to companies who aren’t selling online and is aimed at industries where digital adoption has traditionally been weak and “where the prospect for real gains in competitiveness and growth is established.”  On Down To Business on Newstalk we chatted about this last month and Bobby Kerr put it well, asking me would the voucher ‘become currency’. I think yes, so how will companies get awarded this voucher?  And what can and should they do with their currency? In the last Parliamentary debate on the topic Minister Pat Rabbitte responded to a question from John McGuinness on the position of the introduction of the voucher explaining that:  “Working with Mr. David Puttnam, whom I have appointed as Ireland’s digital champion, I intend to engage with industry service providers with a view to assisting small businesses in realising the full benefit of this initiative. I am aware that the commercial sector has been actively working with the business community on a variety of online initiatives and I look forward to working together to help Irish businesses gain competitive advantage by maximising online opportunities for trade.” When it is activated the potential for this voucher is significant. 2,000 companies selling online who aren’t doing it today; it will stimulate business for providers of design and marketing, it will increase shipping requirements by SMEs, 3,000 jobs or more could be created – and Ireland will keep more of the €4 billion in online revenue that mostly goes overseas now. The fear I have regarding the administration of this scheme though, is that the voucher could be swallowed up by the companies or consultants working with SMEs to get them online. In the same way that the first-time buyers allowance was ‘factored in’ to house prices over the last decade, the starting price for quotations from companies getting you selling online could be inflated by a couple of thousand euros. Cynical perhaps, but I’m thinking of the search and social experts who promised small businesses the world and vaunted social and SEO as saviour of small businesses: “You can compete with best in the world, just give me 10K and I’ll show you how”. There was too much of this – it got the industry a bad name, and it drove me mad. I had my own experience of this, fortunately easily side-stepped, but small businesses new to selling online may not know any better than to fork out for over-priced services. So, quickly some things I’d suggest :

  • Appoint a knowledgeable, respected body to administer the scheme. This may be an industry body but more likely a state or statutory body
  • The body should authorise voucher grants to SMEs who engage with providers from an approved list
  • This approved list of consultants & service providers will consist of tax cleared businesses with proven expertise and solid reputations, ideally in geographical proximity to the SME  getting the voucher
  • The body must define the parameters for charging and publish it – in an a la carte form. An SME needs to know what they should get for a specific investment
  • Don’t pay 100% of the voucher grant at once – 2 stages, commencement and completion
  • Ensure everyone(!) is thinking mobile

Pricing I’ve had a conversations with SME owners about the value of the voucher and a couple of them have said it doesn’t sound a lot, citing quotes they’ve had for €5,000 or more for an e-commerce site. This is part of the why we find ourselves with this problem as the laggards of Europe in regards to online selling. Please, web people stop trying to fleece potential customers! Web developers can get hosting for a few euros a month, an open-scource shopping cart for free and have someone online in a couple of days – many probably do, but still think there’s a fast buck to be made.

“A report commissioned by the European Commission estimated that traditional enterprises with a strong online presence grow twice as fast, export twice as much and employ twice as many people as those who do not. In Ireland, Irish consumers spend almost €4 billion per annum online and yet the proportion of SMEs trading online is estimated to be as low as 23%.”

— Minister Pat Rabbitte : Dail Debates, 30-April-2013

The investment by the state and SMEs for this initiative should be around getting the business working online rather than the technical set-up costs. TWiT Podcast. They have a beautiful way to give you a beautiful website for around $10. They have now partnered with Stripe, who provide payment processing and Squarespace has a built in store that manages shipping, offers and tax information. Unfortunately the payment piece isn’t yet working in Ireland but Stripe is being beta-tested in the UK at the moment – so hopefully we’ll get it here soon. Stripe was co-founded by Irish tech entrepreneur Patrick Collinson and funded by the likes of Facebook investor Peter Thiel and Sequoia. His frank views on why Stripe  couldn’t have been started in Ireland on his personal website, are well worth reading – particularly one of the most interesting start-up event of the year, Start-up Dublin opens tomorrow. So with companies like Squarespace and Stripe and PayPal and others there isn’t a high entry cost for SMEs anymore. And adding the crucial mobile web element isn’t expensive anymore either. I’ve spoken this year on technology for SMEs at some business events for Fingal Enterprise Week and Vodafone and the reaction of SME owners when you plug their site in to Duda Mobile or something like it is remarkable – and I’m struck by how we as an industry can get the message to SME owners that technology is available, it’s cost effective and it’s ready. Paypal, Google and Facebook have all been supportive of start-up programs and Sage have just this week announced a roadshow supported by the Irish Internet Association;  the eCommerce message is eventually being heard and now we have some financial assistance to get it moving. €2,500 of a grant is plenty – we need less moaning and more motivation to make this work, but I think it will.

External links & references

  1. Action Plan for Jobs: 2013 [PDF]
  2. Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation : 2013 Action Plan for Jobs
  3. Single European Payments Area & ireland
  4. Dail Debates : 30-April-2013, Business Online Voucher
  5. Australian Innovation Grants Portal
  6. EU Science & Technology funding @
  7. Action Plan for Jobs 2013 launch :


The Mc Ginn sisters on Newstalk: Down To Business

Grace, Sarah and Jennie Mc Ginn know fashion. They know it inside out and back to front: OPSH.COM then will make sense when you think about it. An aggregation platform for the female shopper, it will launch in September after a years work. A couple of weeks ago, the serial entrepreneurs joined Margaret E. Ward on Newstalk’s Down To Business to talk about how they got here, and where they’re going.



Grace, Sarah and Jennie Mc Ginn know fashion. They know it inside out and back to front: in that context OPSH.COM makes perfect sense. An aggregation platform for the female shopper, it will launch in September after a years work. A couple of weeks ago, the serial entrepreneurs joined Margaret E. Ward on Newstalk’s Down To Business to talk about how they got here, and where they’re going.

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Why I’ll miss Vizify



Build a personal website in seconds, that’s what Vizify’s strap line used to say. It caused a stir when it launched and people started talking about it: Use Vizify to monitor and improve how you use Twitter wrote blogger Brian Thomas Humek, while Andrew Couts wrote about how it knows (well privacy is history) everything about you.

I forget how I found Vizify, but I’m glad I did. I’m really not sure how I used it or how often, but it’s a remarkably simple to use tool thats not so much a personal website like, but a social business card. And when I used it, it honestly made me smile, sort of HootSuite meets WayBack Machine, but in 30 seconds. . The stand out feature is the micro-video it creates from your social posts, adding royalty free music, your top interactions and connections, and to prompt self-reflection if your fitness tracker has failed yet again to go in to sleep mode for a week, a useful little chart of when you Tweet the most.vizify_001

So as a result of the Yahoo! acquisition, Vizify will be ‘sunsetting’ the service, so now new sign-ups or paid plans and the service sill archive your profile until September. On their website, they don’t talk about the specifics of how they’ll bring Vizify to Yahoo!, but it’s fair to assume the service will be reappear at Yahoo! powering part of your Yahoo! account in an animated portrayal of the social elements of your profile encompassing your college details (a la, your blog posts (Tumblr) and your images (Flickr). It’s a good acquisition for Yahoo! giving them a a tool to combine images : aesthetics : social in to a catchy little box that is made for mobile. So no more grim avatar in your friends profile photo, instead a rich, animated informative overview of who they are and who they talk to.

It’s a good day for Yahoo!, more components for the revival of the web’s biggest sleeper, it’s a good day for founders, former Monsoon Commerce colleagues, Eli Tucker, Todd Silverstein <> and Jeff Cutler-Stamm, and investor Jonathan Sposato  but I’m not quite leaping with joy. I’ll miss Vizify; those videos, the quick interaction overview and the shock of seeing when I Tweet most; the sun’s setting one of the coolest, sharpest little tools the web’s served up in a while. Hurry up Yahoo!.

External links & references

  1. Read the announcement at
  2. The state of information visualisation, 2014: Robert Kosara
  3. Yahoo! acquires data visualisation star : InfoWorld

Yahoo timeline image by: Yahoo : Review CC Licence


Vizify statement

As part of our transition to Yahoo, we will no longer be allowing new signups or purchases of paid plans. We will also be sunsetting the Vizify service.

What does this mean for me?

As an existing Vizify account holder, look for an email in the coming weeks with more details. But for now, to make the transition process easier on you, we’re taking a few extra steps:

  • For all bioholders, free and paid, we’ll be providing a way for you to opt-in to “archive” a snapshot of your current bio that will remain live at the same URL through September 4, 2014.
  • For those of you with a current paid plan, we’ll be issuing a full refund for everything you’ve paid Vizify.
  • For Premium customers who registered a domain through Vizify (like your-name .com), we’ll be providing instructions so you can assume ownership of your domain, free of charge.

What do I need to do?

You’ll be getting an additional email from us next week with steps you’ll need to take. In the meantime, see our FAQ.

– Team Vizify

For any bioholders who do not opt-in to archive their bio by April 7, 2014, the Terms of Service will terminate and all licenses granted to you will be revoked on April 7, 2014.

Vizify is a registered trademark. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. 812 Washington St. #800, Portland, OR 97205

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Building Information Modeling, this could be big. Honestly.



Building Information Modeling is not a glamorous phrase that conjures up images of turbo-charged start-ups around the world, full of enthusiastic coders adding another million dollars of shareholder value with every keystroke. It is a sector though, that is attracting the interest of tech investors – and that’s generally a clue as to the importance of an emerging industry. Building Information Modeling isn’t a new sector, the concept has been around for almost forty years, but it was only a decade ago that BIM became an ‘industry’ following a publication by CAD company Autodesk. With BIM software you create models of buildings or facilities – but not just CAD images traditionally used by architects and builders, but models that display other characteristics of buildings, for example the functional characteristics of a site. So you add digital images or files that show the air-conditioning system due to be fitted but what if you could get the manufacturers of various air-con systems to give you digital files for various types and capacities of cooling system?

[funky_quote align=”left”]“Technology companies are becoming the bright spot in the economic outlook based on their increasing role within macro-economic environments, 2013 has demonstrated the sector’s vibrant activity and its contribution to the global economic recovery. ” — Alex Vieux, Chairman, Red Herring.[/funky_quote]The power consumption, physical and aesthetic impact of building facilities can be examined, or ‘modeled.  What if you could add images and accompanying technical information about the walls that will be erected inside the building, and on those walls you could digitally ‘paint’ the exact type of covering or paint to be used. With manufacturer information integrated into the design and modeling process you could end up knowing how a building will look, feel and sound when people are in it.  Data assisted decision making from concept, through design and construction right through the life of a building and how its eventual demolition will impact a landscape and community.

BIMobject®, a leading Swedish BIM software provider has announced it’s been selected as a candidate for Red Herring’s 2013 Top 100 Global award. which recognises the year’s most promising private technology companies and entrepreneurs, which will be awarded on November 20th.The inclusion of

External Links & References

  1. Examine products at
  2. BIMObject : YouTube channel
  3. Red Herring Global 100 Awards
  4. National BIM Library : NBS
  5. BIM Working Groups : Saved Google Search
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