Martin Neill began his working life as a music journalist for the New Musical Express and The Guardian newspaper. He called time on his journalism career when he found himself becoming more fascinated with websites and the potential of the Internet.
He started his own business in 2003 specializing in ecommerce and online selling. It became clear to him that retailers needed to integrate their website activity with their business processes.
The classic model for point-of-sale (POS) operations is that a hardware manufacturer would make the hardware. Then, there would be a software vendor who would piggyback on the hardware. On top of that, there would be a network of dealers that go out, sell and install the POS apparatus.
Martin realized that there had to be a better way of doing this, so he started AirPOS which began originally as a little side project and mushroomed from there.
Timing, as always, was very important. Cloud computing with its advantages of timely updates, real-time backup and freeing the end user from nearly all of the application maintenance chores, was becoming more prevalent and more accessible as a platform.
From day one AirPOS was built in the Cloud. Martin explains further, “What we set out to do was cut out all the middle points in the point-of-sale industry, although we utilize those if we need to.”
“We are creating a disruptive model: on the hardware that you currently have, in 90% of cases you would be able to install AirPOS directly. That is the software suppliers and the dealer network bypassed.”
“Therefore we can provide a very affordable point-of-sale solution to retailers with all the benefits of it being web-based.”
AirPOS is based in Belfast, Northern Ireland which Martin does not necessarily see as being a handicap, “Software as a service (SaaS) can be done anywhere. So being in Ireland, from that point of view, shouldn’t be an impediment when it comes to raising investment.
“When it comes to building something as quickly as possible and scaling as quickly as possible, then there are places where that might happen quicker, but things are getting better.”
He goes on to say that there are a few differences between how things are done in the US and how they are done in Ireland. “Americans are very accustomed to the risks involved when dealing with small software companies.”
“The people in Ireland aren’t so accustomed. They haven’t seen the big successes. But using Silicon Valley as a model for Irish entrepreneurs, it becomes simply a matter of ironing out the kinks and cultural disconnects.”
To help further iron out these kinks and develop better connections, Martin says, “Coming to the awards ceremony is a wonderful PR opportunity.”
“Every time we come across the people that are part of the ITLG (Irish Technology Leadership Group) and the technology leaders that are associated with it, we get rigorously challenged.”
“We certainly learn a lot from these people, even if we spend only two hours with them. You get a good going over in every aspect of the business.”
“For us, the PR opportunity is wonderful, but the feedback and direction from some of the leaders in Silicon Valley is invaluable.”