Thursday 12 December 2019

Pat Phelan's Trustev: The butcher boy takes on the US

Gabrielle Monaghan

At the age of 48, Pat Phelan, the chief executive and co-founder of Trustev, has just moved to Brooklyn, to oversee the technology startup’s rapid expansion in the U.S. But Phelan is no stranger to fresh starts.

He left school early, and trained as a butcher and a chef in his home city of Cork. By his mid-30s, an alcohol dependence rendered Phelan virtually “unemployable” and threatened his marriage.

Yet, some 14 years ago, Phelan overcame all those obstacles. He sobered up and developed an enviable reputation as a no-nonsense serial entrepreneur. After selling Cubic Telecom, a mobile roaming service, he sank the proceeds into Trustev, a fraud protection service he created in late 2012 with partner Chris Kennedy.

Trustev enables online merchants to verify the identity of their customers, such as by scanning patterns of their social networking usage. This allows e-commerce companies scrap costly manual reviews of orders, which takes up 200m employee days a year. Trustev now manages an average one million transactions a month, Phelan estimates.

In just 17 short months, Trustev has already snapped up a slew of accolades, including the top prize in the start-up accelerator competition at the SXSW in Austin, Texas in March. It was also named one of the “hottest global start-ups of 2013" by Forbes magazine. Trustev closed seed funding of $3.5m (EUR2.5m) in the last quarter of 2013 and expects to announce a new international investor “by the end of the summer”, Phelan said.

This financing has helped grow the company from just three people to 21 employees. It has offices in Cork, Dublin, New York, with another planned for San Francisco as soon as the fourth quarter. Phelan spent so much time crossing the Atlantic – at least one week a month – that he moved to New York at the end of April.

Pat Phelan
Pat Phelan
Pat Phelan: The Corkman who co-founded online fraud prevention technology firm Trustev is one of Ireland's best-connected entrepreneurs

He credits his success to having mentors, such as long-time friend Liam Casey, the multi-millionaire founder of PCH International who was Trustev’s first investor, and to working with smart people.

“Everyone, including my partner Chris Kennedy, is smarter than me,” Phelan said. “I’m a great team builder and I think that’s the key to it all.”

Phelan is's first small business ambassador.

He was announced today as a finalist in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards in the emerging categories.

The awards judges include billionaire businessman Denis O'Brien and founder Terry Clune.


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