Business Irish

Monday 20 August 2018

Founder of Kerry-based tech firm embarks on US adventure with new Boston office

John 'Ogie' Sheehy pictured with his family
John 'Ogie' Sheehy pictured with his family
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

The founder of a Kerry-based tech firm is relocating to Boston - with his family - in a bid to expand the company's US customer base.

John 'Ogie' Sheehy founded ViClarity in 2008, a period of instability where a tool to help manage new regulatory and governance policies was an innovative, and attractive product.

With a background working in a number of US corporate multinationals, including HP, IBM and Dell, Mr Sheehy said it was a move back home from Dublin that helped him realise the opportunity,

"I was commuting up and down to Dell at the time, and I began to meet some Kerry-based entrepreneurs, even getting involved in a TY programme to help mentor students in the art of running a business," he told Independent.ie.

John ‘Ogie’ Sheehy founded ViClarity in 2008
John ‘Ogie’ Sheehy founded ViClarity in 2008

"I met a lot of very inspirational people who were globally successful. And by the end of 2008 I felt there was an opportunity to create a software solution focusing on compliance that could help businesses to manage compliance in a cost effective and simple way."

Mr Sheehy took part in a nine month Enterprise Ireland programme that helped him develop his concept and the ViClarity business. Having already established a strong network in the south west, finding his first customer happened quite quickly.

"I reached back out to people asking for validation about the business concept and met a guy who had worked in Dell. He was working with a nursing home group in Limerick and the big issue for them was around HIQA compliance, something I wasn't familiar with at the time.

"That particular organisation looked at the basic version of the software that I had and said, if you can manage HIQA compliance, we'll be your first customer."

Fast forward ten years, ViClarity's team of nine have a strong foothold across two sectors in Ireland and the UK - in healthcare and financial services compliance.

Their scalable, flexible platform allows the client to track and manage all the necessary policies to comply with in one system, allowing the creation of transparent bespoke reports to present to auditors.  

With credit unions, community banks, investment managers and the insurance sector all looking for a way to decipher and ensure compliance with new regulations post-crash, Mr Sheehy said that, similar to GDPR compliance, this created a good marketing opportunity for the firm.

"We realised it was just a different set of regulations to input into the platform and we expanded in that market very quickly. We went from having two companies to 72 at peak time."

A decade on, Mr Sheehy said that, not only has the software offering matured - responding to market and regulator feedback - but so too has clarity around their market focus, and what is required to expand internationally.

Following a soft introduction to the US market, through a chance encounter with a customer at a trade show in Denver, the company's access to that region grew in true Irish style.

"We met a guy who knew a guy in Chicago who was getting married to an Irish girl. It turns out he worked with a network of credit unions there, and his company had a big customer base, so he acted as our sales agent on the ground," he said.

Their efforts yielded "moderate success" and Mr Sheehy knew that a larger leap needed to be taken for US business to really take off. Winning an place on the Bridge to MassChallenge Cork accelerator competition gave ViClarity that window.

"The winning firms were flown to Boston to understand the market there and be coached in company expansion. When I landed, I immediately realised the opportunity of being on the ground, the concentration of potential customer base for healthcare, the second biggest in the US for fund management.

"The icing on the cake is the Irish community. You'd almost meet your mother."

Sheehy, his wife and two teenage children are due to fly to Boston next week, with an aim to have a team of two set up in a Boston office by summer's end.

"I want to reduce the risk for the kids so initially we're moving out for the summer months and they can come back and enroll for school in September again.

"So there's a clear set objective for me over the next ten weeks. I need to make things happen; no pressure!"

Sheehy's intention is to establish sales, pre-sales, customer support, account management and eventually business analysts at the Boston office.

"Here is where the mothership is though - and where the intellectual property is. The tech side remains here and this expansion is a great opportunity for the future growth of our Irish team."

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