Founder of Kerry-based tech firm embarks on US adventure with new Boston office
The CEO of a Kerry-based tech firm tells Louise Kelly about why he's moving to America to help his company move to the next level
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 the Irish Independent.
"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," he said.
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," he said.
Fast forward 10 years, ViClarity's team of nine has 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 looking for a way to decipher and ensure compliance with new regulations post-crash, Mr Sheehy said that 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 not only has the software offering matured - responding to market and regulator feedback - but so too has clarity around 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 a larger leap needed to be taken for US business to really take off.
Winning a place on the Bridge to MassChallenge Cork accelerator competition gave ViClarity that window.
"The winning firms were flown to Boston to understand the market 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."
Mr Sheehy, his wife and two teenage children fly to Boston next week, with an aim to have a team of two set up in a Boston office by summer's end.
His 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," he said.