Saturday 15 December 2018

Irish tech firm hits €1bn valuation as four founders join country's rich list

Eoghan McCabe, Des Traynor, David Barret and Ciaran Lee of Intercom
Eoghan McCabe, Des Traynor, David Barret and Ciaran Lee of Intercom
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Ireland has its first ‘unicorn’ tech company worth more than €1bn.

Four Dubliners - Ciaran Lee, David Barrett, Des Traynor and Eoghan McCabe are now sitting on the country’s biggest home-grown private technology firm courtesy of a massive $125m (€101m) funding round that sees the firm officially valued at $1.275bn (€1.03bn).

In Silicone Valley jargon, that makes the company a “unicorn,” so called because tech companies that make it to that level of value are so relatively rare that they take on a mythical status.

Intercom’s main business is delivering a customer messaging platform online. Typically, this can be through dialogue boxes, pop-up customer service chat bubbles on websites and other techniques.

Many Irish and international companies use its services, which are seen as quick and easy to operate for companies that want to deal online with customer queries and sales.

After the new mammoth funding round, the four young Dublin founders are likely to own up to half the company.

This would give them each a nine-figure valuation and instantly catapult them into the realms of some of Ireland’s richest people.

Stripe, the online payments firm created and run by 20-something Limerick brothers Patrick and John Collision, has been a ‘unicorn’ for several years but it is not classed as an Irish company, as the two siblings started and operate it primarily from San Francisco.

Both brothers are among Ireland’s richest people with John Collision described as the world’s youngest self-made billionaire.

Intercom’s products are designed and developed in Dublin, not Silicon Valley, even if its headquarters is now technically in San Francisco for sales and marketing purposes.

The company has over 400 employees divided between offices in Dublin, San Francisco, London, Chicago and Sydney.

The move makes Intercom the most valuable Irish tech company.

Previous financial backers of the firm include the likes of Twitter cofounder Biz Stone, the Collison brothers and other top tech entrepreneurs, either through investment firms or through social capital.

Unicorn tech companies, while still rare, have become more common in recent years as investors sought alternative options to shares, banking interest rates and other traditional repositories or capital.

A small number of so-called “decacorns” have emerged in tech. These are companies that have not yet floated on the stock market but are worth in excess of $10bn.

Companies such as US taxi ride company Uber are examples of this new business phonomenon.

However with its new funding Intercom “will invest aggressively” in the development of its customer platform.

The company currently has more than 25,000 paying customers in sales, marketing, and support teams. It claims to power 500m conversations a month and that this figure is doubling every year.

Intercom also claims to have helped businesses connect with over one billion unique people to date.

“We’re excited to put this new capital to work for our customers to rapidly mature our existing products, with a special focus on functionality for larger organisations,” said Intercom co-founder and CEO, Eoghan McCabe.

“This year, we’re also investing in new machine learning technologies to launch some powerful, market-first smart automation features to help accelerate growth for our customers.”

Internet analyst Mary Meeker, general partner at Kleiner Perkins and noted for her annual reports, has joined the board of the company.

“The Internet has changed the way businesses connect with customers. Businesses must increasingly be customer-centric and serve users wherever they are, whenever they want,” said Ms Meekerr.

“Intercom enables businesses to have a strong relationship with their customers from first touchpoint to repeat purchase. Its platform unifies customer data and allows sales, marketing, and support teams to have consistently high-quality interactions with the people that use their products.”

The move comes on a busy day for tech launches, with Apple releasing a new student-friendly budget iPad (€369) and Huawei unveiling its 40-megapixel P20 Pro, a new level camera for phones.

Online Editors

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