Gruupy.com is an online retail company with a difference. They sell a different electronic product every day, and that’s only if a minimum quota of people buy it. The idea is that buyers become part of a community, and their combined buying power allows Gruupy to buy these gadgets cheaper, and pass these savings on to the consumer.
Irish online gaming entrepreneur Dylan Collins is the Chairman of Gruupy. Given the fact that he has enjoyed considerable success in the gaming sector, Demonware was acquired by Activision Blizzard, while Jolt was bought by Gamestop; surely starting another gaming company was the logical next step?
“Yeah, I suppose that’s what a sensible person would do!” However as Dylan explains, “To me there are huge growth opportunities in e-commerce. I know there has been a huge wave of it over the last ten years, but if you look at what the global economic situation is doing, it’s pushing people online to try and find the best price.
“Gruupy is a site which is really dedicated to giving people products at the cheapest price humanly possible and it does it in a way that is quite community-focused. I’m a big believer in that and I think you’re going to see a lot more growth in the future.”
Dylan is not concerned that the idea of the success of your purchase being dependant on others will deter online consumers. “We are extremely transparent in terms of whether something is selling or not. That’s the reality of the community, sometimes they like things, and sometimes they don’t like things. But the beauty of our business model is that we have no balance sheet risk, so we only buy the stuff once our community buys it.
“I think people are pretty well socialised to the notion of looking at stuff, realising that it might not be for them, but not taking it personally, and coming back the next day anyway.”
Dylan has been particularly vocal in his view that start up companies should be cherished and supported in Ireland, and tries to do so himself through a number of avenues.
“More and more what we’re seeing is companies approaching us, particularly start up hardware companies, or small gadget makers who are trying to break into the market and they want to sell stuff to our community. And that’s really very cool, because the ability to help small tech start ups around the world actually get traction in the market, but at the same time providing something very exclusive to our customers, I mean, that’s great, that’s a double win.”
“I try to help out with or mentor several companies. I act as an informal advisor to a range of them. Generally, I try and limit myself, because it’s very easy to get involved with everything and then all of a sudden you run out of time to do anything at all productively.”
Ireland is, as Dylan himself describes it, “One of the biggest online gaming hubs in the world.”
However, not many people are aware of the country’s stature in this sector. Much of this is to do with a lack of awareness from politicians.
“They don’t come from the same generation that grew up with the Internet, or that understands things like online gaming, so a lot of this stuff just goes beneath their radar.”
Dylan acknowledges that Ireland has not marketed itself particularly well in this regard, “I think one of the things that Ireland is quite bad at is really looking closely at what we’re good at and shouting about it unashamedly.”
However the Internet entrepreneurs should not be expected to shoulder this burden alone, he says, “I don’t think it’s particularly realistic to expect them to be out trying to represent the country as well as their own companies. I mean, there’s only so much they can do.”
He does think that Internet entrepreneurs could play some representative role in marketing Ireland as a tech hub, but only as part of an integrated government strategy.
“The government, needs to come to all the senior figures in the Internet industry and say, ‘OK guys, we want to hire you as ambassadors, we want you to go out and on your travels around the world, talk to people and when you talk to people, do so under this quasi-diplomatic ambassadorial status. Because the impact of an actual business person walking in to a Zynga or an Amazon or someone like that and saying ‘you know what? I run a company just like you guys, I know what the ups and downs are like, and I’m telling you, this is a fairly sensible place to do business, you should come to Ireland’ carries a lot of weight.”
In the meantime, Dylan welcomes the announcement by Fine Gael, the political party most likely to form Ireland’s next government, of a strategy, “Which is extremely focused on online gaming” as a positive start, “It bodes well for the future.”
And what does the future hold for Dylan Collins? “I’m always looking at things, and I think that there’s enough there to keep me busy for the time being, but I would be very bullish in general on the e-commerce space, I would be very bullish on online gaming. I think they’re both very, very strong sectors and will be well into the future.”