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Posted 28 October 2010

€1 million investment for web search start-up: HeyStaks

HeyStaks Technologies, the University College Dublin (UCD) social web-search spin-out company, has secured €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 unique product offering, 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 4 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.

Pictured (l-r): Dr Maurice Coyle, Professor Barry Smyth, co-founders, HeyStaks Technologies, Leo Hamill, Partner, NCB Ventures and Dr Peter Briggs, co-founder, HeyStaks Technologies.

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

The company has developed a patent protected, desktop mobile solution that allows users to harness their social graphs as they search on their favourite search engines, and thereby get the benefit of their trusted peers’ searches. HeyStaks delivers community-enhanced search results that are more personalised and more relevant than conventional search engine results.

“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, providing opportunities for both ongoing product development and new customers,” says Professor Barry Smyth, co-founder, HeyStaks.

“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.  The new funding and NCB’s commitment to the business will help us realise our ambition to bring HeyStaks global, and it speaks to the concrete economic benefits arising from Irish government’s investment in science and engineering research.”

Leo Hamill, Partner with NCB Ventures said: “We are delighted to support such an innovative start-up company.  HeyStaks is a great example of the type of company Ireland’s smart economy can produce through exceptionally talented people with strong entrepreneurial flair. 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.” 

Jonathan Dillon, CEO, HeyStaks 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.”

Professor Barry Smyth was a co-founder of the UCD spin-out company ChangingWorlds. ChangingWorlds a provider of personalisation and intelligent portal solutions for mobile service providers was sold to Amdocs for a reported $60 million in November 2008. 

Leo Hamill will represent the Ulster Bank Diageo Venture Fund on the board of HeyStaks.


NCB Ventures, the venture capital arm of NCB Group, manages the €75 million Ulster Bank Diageo Venture Fund established in 2008 under the Enterprise Ireland Seed and Venture Capital Programme 2007-2012. The Ulster Bank Diageo Venture Fund invests €1-€5 million in Irish companies across a range of sectors and all stages of development and, to date, has invested in five companies AMCS, Terminal Four Solutions, Xtra-vision, Zamano and HeyStaks. 

NCB Ventures has €94 million under management and has invested in 31 Irish businesses taking them from early stages of development through to trade sale and IPO.  NCB Group is one of Ireland’s largest independent investment firms focusing on institutional equities, wealth management, corporate finance and venture capital.

HeyStaks is a unique technology that allows searchers to harness their social graphs as they search on their favourite search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing etc), effectively bringing together the content sharing world of the social networks and the query-based search world of mainstream search engines. HeyStaks delivers community-enhanced search results that are more personalised and relevant than conventional search engine results, and is fully integrated with the leading search engines.  HeyStaks Technologies, based in NovaUCD, was founded by Professor Barry Smyth, Dr Maurice Coyle and Dr Peter Briggs.

CLARITY, the Centre for Sensor Web Technologies is a Science Foundation Ireland funded Centre for Science and Engineering Technology and is a joint initiative between University College Dublin, Dublin City University, and The Tyndall National Institute.

NovaUCD, the Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre, is the hub of knowledge transfer activities at University College Dublin. NovaUCD is responsible for the commercialisation of intellectual property arising from UCD research and for the development of co-operation with industry and business. NovaUCD as a purpose-built centre also nurtures new technology and knowledge-intensive enterprises such as HeyStaks Technologies. NovaUCD has been funded through a unique public-private partnership that includes AIB Bank, Arthur Cox, Deloitte, Enterprise Ireland, Ericsson, Goodbody Stockbrokers, UCD and Xilinx.


(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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Pictured far right: Image representing 12 micrometer x 12 micrometer of artificial magnetic metamaterial where monopoles can be seen at each end of the Dirac strings, visible as dark lines. The dark regions correspond to magnetic islands where the magnetization is reversed. (Image courtesy of Paul Scherrer Institute)