The launch of Google Maps 15 years ago proved a decisive turning point for Gamma, the Dublin-based location intelligence company which has been in business since 1993.
Gamma had launched Bizmaps in 2000, intent on cornering the market for online geo-location services in Ireland.
“Nobody else was really offering maps and directions on the internet at that stage. We saw an opportunity there,” Feargal O’Neill, chief executive at Gamma, said. “Then a little American company called Google came along with Google Maps, and our own technology looked a bit limited after that.”
Bizmaps would go on to become Gamma’s fist spin-out, however, and laid the foundations for the company’s transition from desktop to cloud-based applications.
“We took the best parts of the technology we’d developed – the address matching, routing systems and APIs that could help companies to capture and validate addresses online – and Bizmaps became AutoAddress,” O’Neill said.
AutoAddress was part of the Capita Consortium appointed by the government in 2014 to implement Eircode.
“They're now a completely separate entity and our focus at Gamma is entirely on the cloud,” O’Neill said. “All of our location intelligence solutions now are cloud-hosted. We have developed solutions for both the insurance sector and for retail.”
Gamma has also established its own in-house R&D unit called Gamma Labs. Its purpose is to develop new location-intelligent technologies for other sectors.
“I suppose we see Gamma now as being a sort of incubator of location-intelligent technology and companies,” O’Neill said. “We've already spun out AutoAddress. Perilfinder is another sector-specific technology we’ve developed that's close to potentially becoming a company in its own right.”
Gamma launched Perilfinder in 2017. The software allows insurers to reduce risk by better managing policy accumulation. A second product called Storecast is used by multi-outlet retailers such as Mace, SuperValu and Hansgrohe in Britain to target direct marketing campaigns at customers in specific locations.
“We’ve developed new versions of both Perilfinder and Storecast now for the British market and we’re very close to announcing our first insurance client over there, which will give us important leverage in the market,” O’Neill said. “Once we’ve proven ourselves in Britain, our ambition is to go into other European markets and then on to North America.”
O’Neill is not unduly concerned about the impact Brexit could have on his plans for Gamma in Britain.
“How exactly it will play out is, as yet, unclear, but my own feeling is that if you're providing a good innovative product and you don’t have really tight margins, which isn’t typically the case in technology, you will be okay,” he said.
Gamma is a client company of Enterprise Ireland, the state agency.
“They've helped us a lot with market research in Britain,” O’Neill said. “We've observed the market over there, we've identified weaknesses, we’ve identified what we think the problems are, we've quantified them and we've identified potential 'sweet spot' customers.”
The 51-year-old, who grew up in Howth, also has other plans for Gamma. He is a shareholder in BERwow, a Dublin start-up that has developed an app that helps homeowners to calculate their Building Energy Rating (BER).
“We’re combining BERwow’s technology with Gamma’s location intelligence to help homeowners work out how much different retrofitting projects will cost and how much they could save over the longer term,” O’Neill said.
For O’Neill, the BERwow partnership is another example of Gamma’s “innovation focus”.
“Building technologies that can stand up in the market is really our strategy,” he said. “We see ourselves as specialists in cloud-hosted location intelligence technology. Our preference is to sort of incubate these applications until they get to a certain scale, spin them out and then move on to the next one.”