In 2009, the US was careering toward a global depression when President Barack Obama named Rahm Emanuel as his first chief of staff. In those dark days for the US economy and businesses, he uttered a phrase that has followed him ever since: "Never allow a good crisis go to waste. It's an opportunity to do the things you once thought were impossible."
Recently, Emanuel reiterated that phrase, calling on politicians and businesses to seize the opportunity and think about how we can come out of the Covid-19 crisis stronger.
Covid-19 has paralysed many Irish businesses and they are now in a struggle for their very survival. But for others it has been an opportunity to do new things, to refine their products and to think about how they can come out the other side of this crisis stronger.
The wider economy may be in crisis with rising unemployment, growing debt and hard choices ahead. But a new generation of Irish SMEs are a resourceful bunch and have found themselves in the right place at the right time. Here are 11 of the firms set to thrive post-Covid-19.
One of Ireland's breakout stars of the Covid-19 crisis, Workvivo has taken its employee communication platform and grown it as working from home becomes the new normal for many across the 40 countries it serves.
Having secured $16m in its Series A funding round, Workvivo is hoping to capitalise on the growth it is experiencing in Ireland, the UK and the US by expanding and accelerating its product development plans. The company, founded by John Goulding and Joe Lennon, is currently looking at scaling up its translation capabilities, making the platform's interface available in any language required.
According to Peter Rawlinson, the chief management officer at Workvivo, the company, which is targeting a million users by 2021, can become a global leader in employee communications.
"The future of internal communication is changing, and we plan to be leading the way over the next few years," he said.
Garret Flower, chief executive officer of ParkOffice, a software company providing solutions for office parking, had his "world turned upside down overnight" when Covid-19 hit.
Flower watched as offices closed across the world due to the fast spread of the virus. With a team of innovators behind him, the CEO switched his firm's focus toward employee safety, pushing his solution as a means of helping businesses get their staff back to the office as they think twice about using crowded public transport systems.
ParkOffice optimises parking availability for businesses, describing it as "hot-desking but for parking spaces". The company has also developed a new "revenue" feature which will allow tenants in shared offices to rent parking spaces to other tenants in real-time.
Over the past 18 months, ParkOffice has secured business with firms such as Indeed, Colliers and CBRE as well as six Fortune 500 companies. Since returning to the market after things quietened down, it has increased the number of demo calls for its solution by 55pc. "We've built the right product, the right team and it's the right time for us to really grow a global company," said Flower.
If you are one of the many people who have been enjoying a takeaway meal from a local restaurant, pub, café or chipper which didn't previously offer its own online ordering, you may well have made your purchase through one of Flipdish's systems.
The company, founded a little over five years ago, offers food service companies the technology to help them develop online ordering systems as well as self-service kiosks. With Covid-19 meaning many food service companies have been unable to bring customers into their establishments, everything from Michelin star restaurants, including Cordo in Germany and El Lagar x Gofio in Spain, to Irish brands such as Eddie Rockets, have come to Flipdish for the technology to help to continue serving customers as a takeaway.
Flipdish was walloped at the outset of Covid-19, particularly in Ireland - 47pc of its customers that were open pre-Covid closed, with 67pc of those now reopening and other new customers coming on board. It currently serves 2,500 stores.
According to Conor McCarthy, co-founder and CEO of Flipdish, the business has never been busier. He is also set to launch a new table ordering service, allowing customers to order and pay from their phones while sitting at their table. He is ambitious about the company's future across Europe, describing the potential as "infinite".
The focus on employee well-being has created an opportunity for Dublin-based Peptalk, co-founded by James Brogan, his GAA star brother Bernard and Michelle Fogarty. It is focusing on addressing company concerns through the well-being platform by helping organisations connect with employees better and also understand the wellbeing needs of staff.
James Brogan said the company has closed out contracts with AIB, Paypal, A&L Goodbody and Pallas Food, and on-boarded more than 10,000 users in the last six weeks.
It is now planning for international expansion to help support those working from home, especially in the UK, Europe and the US. It is looking to establish a presence in both the UK and Europe, hiring several business development roles.
"We are seeing a level of engagement and interest from leaders that we haven't seen before," said Brogan.
News Over Audio
Demand for quality news has surged as a result of Covid-19, with online subscriptions for quality news resources growing - but will the trend last?
Irish firm News Over Audio, founded by Gareth Hickey in 2015, offers news articles over audio and works with publishers such as the New York Times, Financial Times and Independent. Audio articles are served in topic-specific series.
Since the beginning of the lockdown, the company has experienced a surge in subscribers, with numbers growing by 20pc every month. Hickey said the number of hours listened on the platform had doubled, with demand now "stronger than ever".
Over the next few years, Hickey is hoping to cross the 100,000, 500,000 and then million mark in terms of subscribers, with the base concentrated between the US and the UK. News Over Audio is due to launch with a major publisher from the UK soon, with another from the US set to follow.
The company is considering a Series A funding round, with a target raise of just over the €5m mark. However, Covid-19 has delayed this prospect, with Hickey saying it likely won't take place until next year.
Testing times caused by Covid-19 have led to a surging demand for testing equipment.
Enter HiberGene. The Dublin-based SME, which typically develops, manufactures and sells diagnostic kits for infectious diseases such as meningitis and chlamydia, has developed a lab-based Covid-19 test that has attracted keen interest globally.
Since announcing its new Covid-19 product to the world last week, Seamus Gorman, chief executive of HiberGene, said the company had added four new distributors across the EU, Middle East and South America. It is also in the negotiation stage with several others.
Gorman is hopeful the company can double its market over the next year as a result of the opportunity for infectious disease testing. It is looking at strategic partnerships in the US to further its commercial expansion.
Covid-19 may have cast a long shadow over summer plans for a stay at a hotel, but when the industry gets back on its feet, there is a hope holiday-hungry punters will follow.
P3 Hotels, a hotel technology company which provides online booking engines, has developed an online check-in and check-out solution which will help hotels reduce the interaction between staff and guests.
At the onset of Covid-19, the company took the view that the pandemic would affect it severely. The online product put paid to those fears, with the company now experiencing demand from hotel groups it had long tried to attract.
According to Phelim Pekaar, chief executive of P3, the company has signed up nearly 100 hotels for the solution across brands such as Dalata, Jurys Inn, State City and Sarova with a further 80 hotels close to signing up. It hopes to gain traction in the EU and US markets and is in talks about raising capital to achieve its plans.
The demand for data has exploded and is estimated to reach 175 zettabytes (175 trillion gigabytes) by 2025, from 33 zettabytes in 2018.
With Ireland home to 60 data centres and considered one of the central locations for data centre development worldwide, Irish developer Echelon has entered the fray. Formed in 2019, it has announced ambitious plans to develop 500 megawatts worth of data centre capacity by 2025 and is currently working toward sites in Clondalkin, Arklow and London. It hopes to have its first tranche of capacity ready next year.
Last week, Echelon announced it had reached a funding agreement with Pioneer Point Partners and Davidson Kempner, allowing it to progress the programme.
Damien Gaynor, chief marketing officer of Echelon, said the company was ready for the ever-growing demand for data in Ireland.
"We're extremely positive," he said. "Given the growth of the dataverse, and people's reliance on technology, the global demand is there, and delivery of large-scale data centre infrastructure is imperative. Echelon has the projects, the team, and the funding to deliver on this demand."
Like it or not, remote working in some capacity is here to stay. Abodoo, an Irish company which has developed a technology platform that matches workers with companies, is set to benefit as more shift focus to hiring staff from home.
Abodoo, which also has a subscription service for companies which helps them plan the ability to roll out the tech required to support remote working, has thrived since Covid-19 hit Europe in February. It has experienced a daily increase of more than 220pc in new members.
Vanessa Tierney, chief executive of Abodoo, doesn't expect the level of remote working to stay the same as it is currently. Her firm has forecast 80pc of companies will embrace "smart working" which will be a model of working across home, hub and hybrid, which best fits the organisation.
Tierney said Abodoo had experienced great interest internationally, with the company considering the US market as an "exciting prospect".
An on-demand lawyer company and managed legal services consultancy, Johnson Hana has benefited from moves toward cost-saving efficiencies and flexible working arrangements around the world, two areas that have been part and parcel of the company since its inception.
Established in 2016 by former barrister Dan Fox, Johnson Hana began trading in 2018 with the aim to provide a more efficient way of performing legal tasks that can be repetitive, process-driven and are often out-sourced. This includes reviewing commercial contracts, data access requests and compulsory purchase orders for public bodies. The company claims it can help clients reduce legal spend by upwards of 50pc.
The firm, backed by Voxpro founder Dan Kiely, has grown its presence in the UK and US, counting clients such as Twitter, ESB and Tesco.
In 2019, it worked with 150 smart-working lawyers, while more than 700 people joined the platform. It forecasts growth of 150pc this year.
Alex Fox, the chief commercial officer, said the company had ambitious plans and is continuing to hire consultant lawyers and 10 new staff this year, both in Ireland and the UK.
E-commerce has helped keep the retail economy moving as shops pulled the shutters down as a result of social distancing.
Scurri, a cloud-based logistics platform founded in 2010 by Rory O'Connor, is helping power millions of parcel deliveries for Irish and UK-based companies. The software includes functions such as allowing firms to select the most effective delivery option for packages as well as providing tracking from dispatch to delivery.
The Wexford-based company has experienced a 74pc increase in delivery volumes since March and is now experiencing increased interest from smaller retailers looking to enter the world of e-commerce.
O'Connor said the company, which counts eBay, Butlers and 3FE Coffee as clients, is hoping to expand into the German market next year. He has big ambitions for the company's progress in the future.
"What's driving our future is an unstoppable growth trend that shows no signs of stopping," he said. "As long as customers flock online to do their shopping, there are growth prospects for Scurri.
"There is a huge sense of excitement among our team and the feeling that the sky's the limit."