Ciaran Hynes

COSIMO helps Irish tech companies to explosive growth

By Tony Swift

COSIMO Venture Partners came into existence two years ago with an aim of advising, connecting and amplifying the best emerging technology companies in the US, Ireland and the UK. With offices in Boston and Dublin, COSIMO have quickly gained traction in the US market, and have a track record of $235 raised in capital funds, 125 products brought to market and 20 companies founded. The Irish Emigrant caught up with Ciaran Hynes, Managing Partner of COSIMO, to learn more about the company and its future plans.

Originally from Dublin, Ciaran has been working in Boston for over four years. The former Dublin senior hurler has strong family connections to Massachusetts with his grandfather’s brother having emigrated from Kilkenny to Beverly in the 1920s. Before arriving in the US, Ciaran already had great success in Ireland as a serial entrepreneur and CEO. He first came to Boston to raise funds for an Irish technology company in the distracted driving space. That initial foray proved fruitful, with $4.5 million raised and it wasn’t long before he started being approached by other Irish tech companies wishing to break into the US. Realizing that this market was being underserved, Ciaran eventually established COSIMO with Co-Managing Partner Robert Frasca.

While continuing to help companies grow in the technology space, COSIMO is also in the process of raising a $60 million venture fund. Ciaran says this will include companies from Ireland, the UK, parts of Europe and also the US, with the majority of the fund focused on Irish companies. “The fund will invest in the very best of the companies we work with. We’re trying to ensure that it’s a true transatlantic fund, so in addition to raising money in Ireland, we are looking to raise money from high net worth Irish-American individuals here in the US,” said Ciaran.

Two Irish companies of note that COSIMO are currently working with are iTagged and GoParkit. iTagged uses augmented reality combined with location-based services, image capturing and social sharing to digitize real world experiences. “Augmented reality is going to be the next big thing to disrupt mobile and that’s why a lot of companies are investing hugely in this area,” said Ciaran. The second Irish company that is beginning to gain traction in the US is GoParkit, who recently secured Beverly as their first US city. The company has developed an app that helps drivers find and pay for parking spaces using their smart phone. Ciaran was also keen to mention another company that will be launching in the social media space in September. “All I can say is that this could be the next Snapchat. It’s a new social messaging app that was developed by two young guys here in Boston. We have worked with them on building the app, ensuring their patents are in place and working on their go to market strategy. We think it’s going to be absolutely huge!”

What advice would Ciaran give to Irish companies looking to break into the US market? “It’s very important for them firstly to have market validation. They need to be tech proven, bug tested as much as possible and then have their product validated by a small market. You need to have customers, a user base, even if it’s only small before branching out to the U.S., I think that’s the primary thing. The second thing is to get a good team here around you, in terms of legal, tax, visas and insurance etc. That’s what we do for companies, but it’s important whether they work with us or not that they get that support structure around them quickly. And then the third thing I would say is to think very carefully about your capital raising strategy and make sure that the amount of money that you are raising is going to get you to a value point that will then allow you to raise a higher amount of money, and be realistic about your valuation when you come here. So that allows companies to do two things: not to give away too much equity early on, but also to have a realistic valuation and secondly to go for a higher valuation when they reach critical milestones."

Ciaran also mentioned the great support that is available to Irish companies through Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government agency responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets. “An incredible stat is that they rank in the top five investors worldwide in the VC community for number of deals done. When I talk to start-ups here in the U.S or the UK, we are the envy of a lot of places because of the amount of the funding that is available through Enterprise Ireland and the support structure that they offer,” commented Ciaran.