Irish Times learns from its start-up incubator winner, finalists

Back in August, we reported how the 153-year-old The Irish Times was endeavouring to get closer to tech companies by hosting five start-ups for eight weeks.

Now the publishers says GetBulb, a web service that lets users make data-driven infographics, has won its Irish Times Digital Challenge.

GetBulb wins a €50,000 convertible loan note from DFJ Esprit, but each of the other four finalists are also now working with the publisher, have already received free accounting services from KPMG and will get marketing via the publisher valued at €10,000.

  1. – a simple mobile website creator
  2. Storyflow – visualises news story events
  3. PicTurk – amateur photography contest platform
  4. – grassroots rugby community
  5. GetBulb – data graphics creator

The Irish Times Digital Challenge is one of the ways in which some established media companies are now trying to work alongside start-ups. The BBC this summer also launched BBC Worldwide Labs, helping to mentor six tech start-ups in London – Flooved, Foodity, KO-SU, Krowd 9, MiniMonos and wireWax. The newspaper’s bosses have described their learnings…

Irish Times editor Kevin O’Sullivan (via release):

“The Irish Times Digital Challenge has shown that media organisations can, and I think should, work with early stage digital companies. We have a lot to offer each other. Other media organisations can, and I expect will, embrace this model. Newspapers talk about adapting to the new realities, but if they are going to fully change and engage their core audiences they must open up to the most disruptive external influences and endure all that this entails”.

Irish Times managing director Liam Kavanagh (via release):

“There were risks. Serious ones. We have been a very heavily print dominated and very traditional news organization. This project required us to come out of our comfort zone. I was conscious that the organization could have rejected the digital disruptors when they arrived, which would have posed serious difficulties. If we did not embrace this Challenge then it would have said serious things about whether the organization could change. I took the risk. My faith paid off”.

“I think, knowing what we know now, that the incubator inside the media organization model is something that others need to consider. And we would like to help them with that”.

Irish Times chief innovation officer Johnny Ryan (via release):

“The next Challenge, when we announce it, will be more focused. That’s a key lesson: select startups that can work on one common area of the organisation so that their impact is maximised”.

Incentivising staff to work with startups is key. We are going to build in measures that make it easier for our staff to buy-in and feel attached to the startups’ projects”.