Tuesday 20 February 2018

Golf nut and computer geek credits local enterprise board for start in business

Golfgraffix: company has secured deal with Jack Niklaus design company

John Ahern of Golfgraffix at Carlton House golf club. 57/12 Picture by Fergal Phillips.
John Ahern of Golfgraffix at Carlton House golf club. 57/12 Picture by Fergal Phillips.

Gabrielle Monaghan

John Aherne reckons he is a “perfect storm” of “golf nut and computer geek”. And after a 16-year career in corporate sales, he finally seized the moment to put those traits to good use.

By 2008, he had grown weary of travelling to and from Ireland from an office at Milton Keynes, where he ran the Irish sales operation of Tesa, a Beiersdorf subsidiary that makes self-adhesive products.

After doing some graphics for local golf courses, Aherne set about creating Golfgraffix in 2009. The technology company supplies 3D graphics and interactive models to golf courses and TV sports broadcasters around the world.

By last Christmas, the company had secured a high-profile licensing and branding deal with Nicklaus Design, the golf course design firm founded by golf legend Jack Nicklaus, to develop interactive digital marketing tools for its clients in the US and China. Aherne set up a separate company for the partnership, called Jack Nicklaus Digital Course Solutions,

The 41-year-old Dubliner credits his local county enterprise board in Fingal with helping to kick-start his business; it provided him with five months’ mentoring for €500 and gave him a grant of €7,500 to attend a trade show in Las Vegas. He returned from that trip with his first big deal, a partnership agreement worth $1.2m (€885,000) over five years with an American golf firm.

Aherne is adept at tapping into business and financial supports. Golfgraffix received a further grant of €27,000 from Fingal County Enterprise Board to help fund its business expansion plans and the company is based at the Guinness Enterprise Centre. Golfgraffix is currently applying to Enterprise Ireland to become a high potential start-up (HPSU) as it strives to raise money from new investors.

“If you’re a tech company with export potential, there are really great supports out there from local enterprise boards,” he said. “You have to understand your business -- when I went into Fingal, it was with a very clear and concise plan of where company was at, where it would be and how I thought it would get there.”

Aherne’s well-oiled sales patter also doesn’t hurt. He says: “There’s not one single company that can compete with us in the market. There are companies that do golf marketing apps but don’t do models for TV broadcast and companies that do TV broadcasts but don’t do marketing apps.”

Golfgraffix does both and is now “trying to really break into the TV market, where our graphics are used in TV broadcasts – that’s really the holy grail for our products,” he said. “Last year, we did it for the coverage of the Ladies Evian event, which was carried by Sky. We’ll do another five events for the Asian tour for broadcast.”

Aherne expects the company to end 2014 with revenue of €660,000 and says turnover for the last two quarters almost tripled since the same period in 2013.


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