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The Times interviews Poppulo founder and CEO Andrew O’Shaughnessy

Tim VaughanTim Vaughan·
Poppulo CEO Andrew O'Shaughnessy

Rebrand is in keeping with a drive to put people first

Formerly known as Newsweaver, Poppulo has found a profitable new niche, its founder tells Peter O’Dwyer.

The Times, June 24, 2017.

Visitors to the website of Poppulo, an internal communications company based in Cork, Ireland, are met with a message on its homepage: “Companies evolve, and so have we.”

The evolution referred to is the company’s recent rebranding from Newsweaver to its new name derived from the Latin for people.

Andrew O’Shaughnessy, the founder and chief executive of Poppulo, decided on the change partly because the Newsweaver brand had led to some confusion among people who thought it was a media company rather than an email marketing one, but also because it had grown into something altogether different since it was founded in 2002.

The Newsweaver brand will continue to be used for the company’s email marketing business, but Poppulo is focused on the less well-known but equally lucrative internal communications market.

“The rebrand came about because our business is all about empowering workforces; it’s about the people not the communications themselves or the channels. It’s about understanding the workforce, motivating it and giving people the tools to enable them to do that,” Mr O’Shaughnessy says.

“I think this space will get very busy in the coming years and there will be lots of different competitors doing lots of different things but we wanted to have a clear focus on what we’re all about.”

Poppulo helps companies communicate with their employees across a range of platforms and tracks workers’ engagement with the content.

Research conducted by Tower Watson, a professional services firm, in 2013 found that companies that handled internal change effectively, largely through internal communications, were three and a half times more likely to outperform their peers.

Remarkably, no one had thought to build specialist internal communications software until Poppulo came along, Mr O’Shaughnessy says.

“Nobody had focused on the internal comms people so when they got a company that showed commitment to internal comms, that was building something specific for them and seemed to know what they were talking about, then you got people who were willing to take a chance because they had a real need that wasn’t being addressed, and that’s the basis of any business: can you solve their problem?”

So far the company’s approach has proven effective, with an enviable list of clients on both sides of the Atlantic.

The big names using Poppulo’s software include McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Nike — the “triumvirate of US culture”, as Mr O’Shaughnessy puts it — as well as global giants such as Unilever, Shell and Nestlé.

In Ireland, companies including Kerry Group, Paddy Power and AIB are among its clients.

Poppulo recorded a 40 per cent increase in revenue last year and will grow at an even faster pace in 2017, its founder says. The company has doubled in size over the past 18 months to a workforce of 160 employees, most of whom are based at its headquarters in Cork with the rest in Boston.

Its next expansion will likely involve another US office, while Asia is also an attractive prospect, although it is the market that is “furthest behind” in appreciating the value of internal comms.

“We’ll bide our time. If you’re too early you can put a lot of money into something when you could be getting more immediate growth in the US market,” Mr O’Shaughnessy says.

That growth has been achieved without any venture capital funding to date, something the company’s founder doesn’t see changing in the short-term.

“Every penny we make is reinvested in the business. We’re ambitious for growth and we reinvest everything we make; we have the foot to the floor in that regard.

“I think when you are led by customer sales — when that’s what drives you — that helps to focus the mind and get the right product because you’re proving that it works, whereas sometimes when you raise money you can do an awful lot and go very wide very quickly before you’ve cracked that real market.”

For Poppulo, it really is all about the people — particularly its clients.


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