27 Oct 2010   |   News

University College Dublin spin-out HeyStaks raises €1M

HeyStaks Technologies, a University College Dublin (UCD) social web-search spin-out company, has raised €1 million of equity funding from the Ulster Bank Diageo Venture Fund, which is managed by NCB Ventures.

The funding will be used to develop the company’s products, expand its existing operations and open an office in San Francisco, California, the heart of one of the company’s target markets. HeyStaks currently employs four people and now aims to increase staff numbers to 14 by the end of year one, and to over 40 by the end of 2013.

HeyStaks, based in NovaUCD, the Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre, was established in 2007 by Peter Briggs, Maurice Coyle and Barry Smyth, as a spin-out company from the Science Foundation Ireland-funded Clarity Centre for Sensor Web Technologies at UCD.

The company has developed a desktop computer and mobile application that allow users to harness their social networks as they search on their favourite search engines, and thereby get the benefit of searches carried out by trusted peers. HeyStaks says such “community-enhanced” search results are more personalised and relevant than conventional search engine results.

Users can create “search staks” or folders that contain all the online searches they have conducted in relation to a certain topic. These “staks” can be made public and shared with colleagues and friends via email, Facebook and Twitter, or kept private on an invite-only basis. The product provides an effective solution for users who share a common goal or shared interest, allowing them to search the web in a collaborative fashion using mainstream search engines, to make their searches much more productive and effective.

Smyth said, “This investment by The Ulster Bank Diageo Venture Fund is a very significant milestone in the development of HeyStaks and will facilitate our expansion into the US, which we envisage will be a core market for our technology.” He added, “HeyStaks combines two of the most pervasive online activities, web search and social networking. It has the potential to transform the existing search engine eco-system by allowing users to influence mainstream search engine rankings.”

Leo Hamill, Partner with NCB Ventures said, “We believe HeyStaks has the potential to change the consumer web search experience for the better, and develop a new model of online advertising. The company will leverage the considerable experience and knowledge of Jonathan Dillon, a former VP of Corporate Development at Yahoo! in Silicon Valley, who has joined the company as CEO, and will be based in the San Francisco office.”

Dillon said relevance is a key driver in search engine quality and in the past it has been based largely on the content of web pages and the links between them. “HeyStaks introduces a unique model of relevance for web search, one that is informed by your social connections in a way that adds value to existing mainstream search engine rankings helping both consumer and enterprise searchers to get the right information at the right time, across all search engines.”

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