Ciara Sheahan CEO and Co-Founder of Orb Media says we are revolutionising the brand-consumer relationship.We create 360 immersive advertising experiences that are invitational, rather than intrusive.
We elevate the brand experience with interactive 360 content that drives 28X more brand recall, 8 X more content recall and 3X higher purchase intent. Our innovation enables brands and publishers to embed their branding into the online lifestyle of their customers, creating enhanced consumer loyalty, new revenue and data insights.
You can visit the Orb Media website here www.orbmedia.ie
Here’s a live demonstration of our innovation. http://www.orbmedia360.com/gin360/
We are launching a boutique gin in Q1. This experience highlights the potential to keep consumers engaged for longer. The average thumb scroll on social media is 1.7 seconds, three seconds on general scrolling with an attention span of eight seconds. We tested this experience on two focus groups with truly amazing results. Age 30-50 engaged with the brand for four minutes. Age 20-30 averaged three minutes, several ladies wanted a gin at the end. Compare this to 1.7 seconds average thumb scroll. This is the way forward for brands and publishers.
Take a look and see for yourself. It works on IOS and android from the Samsung S7 upwards. As you engage in the brand, we are collecting the data of your customer journey and delivering that data back to the brand. (All GDPR compliant)
How did you get the idea/ concept for Orb Media?
My co-founder Ian Walsh and I discovered 360 Tech in 2016 in emerging markets. With my Degree in Journalism, experience in media and property background I could see the potential for 360 content across all lifestyle sectors. We began creating content in conjunction with Samsung and quickly realised revenue from hospitality, venues, festivals etc. Our customers loved the content, we used Google Pages and Facebook stats to prove the ROI. We then took it to the next level by designing immersive experiences, with branded hotspots and added advanced data insight.
Give a brief account of your education background.
Professional Development – Economics of the Property Market – Trinity. Degree in Journalism – University of Sheffield. Old Bawn Community School Tallaght. Honours Leaving Cert.
Did you always know/ever think you would become an entrepreneur when you were younger?
I had a paper round at 13. I quickly learned the value of convenience retail when I doubled my margin by selling newspapers to men who forgot to buy one on the way home. I outsourced delivery of several estates to younger kids, making margin on their daily rate. At 18, engaged with UCI Cinemas to launch a publishing house. Unfortunately, the UK area manager rejected it, but It was a great learning curve. Writing business plans, recruiting advertisers, working out publishing schedules, content creation etc. I blazed my way through university selling all kinds of electrical goods and high -end audio products. Selling gave me a great student lifestyle. I always wanted more than corporate Ireland. I wanted to build something, do things better, disrupt I suppose. Also I am unemployable!
Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?
Sales is in my DNA. My Dad was an award-winning salesman, my mother was a disruptive successful saleswoman in the male dominated construction industry.
Did you have prior knowledge of the industry before setting up your company?
I had worked in events, media and property. I am ultra passionate about news and well informed about the struggle of online versus traditional media. My industry knowledge drove me towards the innovation into online publishing as a way to increase traffic, engagement and advertising rates. When I drilled down into the revenue loss, advertising click bait and brand decline it became clear that immersive experiences were a solution for both publishers and brands. We have been generating revenue from immersive content since 2016, so we knew we had a product market fit before we launched as Orb Media. We also had a live customer base we could upsell immersive innovation to.
What was your previous work experience (if any)? Do you think this gave you an advantage when setting up your business?
I’ve been in sales all of my working life. I always say everything in life is a sale and that has certainly proved to be the case. I worked for Xerox, Canon, Dr. Solomon’s Security Software in corporate roles. I set up my property company with my co-founder Ian Walsh in 2005. Running our own small business in a stormy market tested our skills and brought out our survival skills. My sales skills funded my student life in the UK. I managed to hit full time targets in a part time role, selling all sorts of brown and white goods, computers, jeans and even AA membership. (Which was ironic as I didn’t drive).
Having cross sector experience, sharp communication skills, a sense of humour and an eye for innovation has really contributed the growth of Orb Media. Having direct experience of the fundamentals of actually running a business, taking risk and managing that risk have already paid off. Our partnership is solid because we have been through the wars and made it out the other side, with just one heart attack to report.
How did you initially fund your business? (self-funded, government funding, etc)
We had revenue from making 360 content and video. We used this to fund our developers to build out our hotspot and data offering. We got some funding from the LEO office in 2019 via New Frontiers.
Looking back, would you have changed the method of funding you chose?
Nope. Cutting invoices is a great way to build your business. It validates your product, helps build your team, proves your business model. When we go looking for funding it will be with 100% ownership, which will put us in a stronger position to negotiate (I hope!)
What difficulties, if any, did you encounter when securing funding?
I pitched to Enterprise Ireland for CSF which is €50K for 10% equity. Disappointingly the panel did not share my vision.
Did you encounter any financial difficulties in the first year of operation? If yes, what did you do to surpass them?
We had a live customer base from our 360 content creation, so we used that funding to help hit the milestones in the first year. We put all the profits back in, invested in our tech team and pushed on through.
What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business?
Resilience is key to starting anything that disrupts or changes. I tell my two daughters that there’s two ‘i’’s in resilience and you have got to be both of them. We have heard more No’s than the DUP, got shot down, dismissed and told “This will never work in the real world”.
Every day those words inspire me to move forward and change the way we see the world with 360. Grit, determination and the ability to qualify opinions is also key to not giving up.
To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth to?
When we started this journey we were about four years ahead of the curve.
We had a vision, a team and limited tech. Our developers are outstanding creatives, often developing functionality that was even further ahead of the market. We were designing apps that worked phenomenally well on high end pcs, but they were not commercial enough to cross the chasm of mass adaption. Since 2016 phone tech has evolved, network delivery and the availability of 5G has enabled us to plan our fast track scale.
The evolution of human online behaviour has threatened the life of brands and publishers. Average thumb scrolls of 1.7 seconds and eight second attention spans now mean that brands and publishers need our product if they want to be seen and heard online. Consumers love 360 experiences. They actively engage with brands who offer them. We are a very tight team, all striving for growth and disruption. That chemistry and commitment is rare. We have mentors who challenge and support us and customers who trust us. So, it’s a combination of timing, human behaviour, trust and technology.
What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur?
The importance of networking is paramount to building a business. Especially for entrepreneurs who often face their desk and phone alone most mornings.
I had the privilege of being accepted into the Ryan Academy Female High-Fliers programme in 2018. That was a networking goldmine. I met investors, mentors (who I am still very close to), clients, outstanding industry experts. The fact that it was a supportive female forum with women who had talked the talk and walked the high heed walk gave me even more inspiration and determination.
I’m taking part in the Going For Growth programme run by Paula Fitzsimons and KPMG. This programme is a round table mentoring and networking for female led companies who are preparing to scale and export internationally. The mentors are formidable, passionate supportive women who have started and scaled their own companies.
Ian is a Director Consultant of BNI Ireland and runs the Croke Park Chapter. He is engaged with building several other chapters and networks constantly.
We were delighted to be invited into the IIBN network. The level of networking and connecting is a relaxed, yet focused avenue for meeting like-minded, relevant, responsive professionals.
Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years?
I think the crash has changed the way entrepreneurship has been perceived.
Up till then people were content, financially, personally and mostly professionally. Risk was not as risky, money was flowing and sure if it didn’t work out you could always get another job. The recession and it’s aftermath really separated the dreamers from the doers. The hangover forced a lot of people to get up and do it for themselves and almost dared others to try it out but this time with real risk.
If you can innovate and sell in a recession, you can do it anytime. When people start at their kitchen table with nothing and grow a business in spite and despite the challenges it shows a different DNA of entrepreneur. The word “entrepreneur” is misused when things are good, underrated until it the economy falters. At the moment there is a flourishing field of entrepreneurs, which is great. The energy of change and disruption is infectious and uplifting. The challenge is now competing for funding and mindshare in this flourishing field of founders.
Would you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new start-ups again?
Absolutely. I would love to work within the HBAN network, build innovation programs for second level students and students from disadvantaged areas. I recently did a panel with DCU on Innovation for kids from DEIS schools. They were outstanding, both in their ideas and their commercial strategy. Their view on the world was intriguing and inspiring. They all had huge potential to contribute to change and invention, I would love to contribute by giving them the chance to fulfill that potential.
If you had one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
If you have something to sell, sell it. Get out and start talking to customers as soon as you can. Understand their need. Listen more than you talk. Every no brings you closer to a yes. Customer validation is everything. Be prepared to fail. Remember when you get rejected, it’s not rejection. It’s redirection. Finally, never ever give up.