Google buys Irish retail startup for north of $80m

Edmund Heaphy
·Finance and news reporter
Pointy helps consumers find out what products are in stock in stores near them. Photo: Pointy
Pointy helps consumers find out what products are in stock in stores near them. Photo: Pointy

Google (GOOG) on Tuesday announced that it is acquiring Pointy, an Irish start-up that helps local retailers compete with Amazon (AMZN), for an undisclosed sum.

The company was valued at more than $80m (£60.8m) following its most recent funding round in July 2018, and sold for a higher sum, according to a person with knowledge of the deal.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the acquisition price.

Pointy’s device allows consumers to see what products are available in stores near them, and is used by thousands of independent retailers across the world.

“Google has long been committed to helping small businesses grow and thrive in the online world,” said Google’s Peter Chane on Tuesday, noting that displaying inventory information was one of the challenges faced by small merchants.

READ MORE: How an Irish startup is helping local retailers tackle Amazon

“Today, we’re excited to share that we’ve entered into an agreement to acquire Pointy, a company based in Dublin, Ireland that has helped thousands of local retailers bring their product inventory online. The deal is subject to customary closing conditions, and is expected to close in the coming weeks,” he said.

Frontline Ventures, a Dublin-based venture capital firm, was the earliest investor in the start-up, which was founded by CEO Mark Cummins and Charles Bibby.

The start-up has raised more than $18m in total since it was founded, including from other firms such as Polaris Partners and Vulcan Ventures.

A series of angel investors, including Wordpress co-founder Matt Mullenweg and former Irish rugby player Jamie Heaslip, also invested in the company.

Retailers plug Pointy’s device, which costs $899 in the US, into their existing point-of-sale system. Pointy automatically creates a website for retailers that lists all of the products that they sell.

This ensures that search results for local retailers are shown alongside those from e-commerce giants like Amazon.

“We felt that it was crazy that you could find basically nearly any product online, but more often than not you wouldn’t know what’s in a store down the road from you,” co-founder Charles Bibby told Yahoo Finance in 2018.

Other solutions typically centre around helping retailers actually sell goods online.

“But the reality of selling stuff online is that it can actually be pretty tough, and brick-and-mortar retailers more often than not don’t have the resources or time to do that properly,” Bibby said.

READ MORE: The start-up helping local retailers tackle Amazon is now in 1% of US stores

“The simplest idea in our eyes was to get them found online for the product searches but then to drive that consumer into the local store.”

The service works with point-of-sale systems from new operators such as Clover and Square, and Pointy also supports several other systems.

The company said in 2018 that it hoped to be in 6% of US retailers by the end of 2019, and noted it had consistently seen month-on-month growth of 15%.

But Pointy announced in September 2019 that, while it had reached 10% of retailers within certain sectors, it was only in around 1% of US stores overall.

This is the second company that Cummins, the CEO, has sold to Google, following the 2010 acquisition of his visual search engine, Plink, by the tech giant.