Intercom CEO Eoghan McCabe has had a transformative year.
The online customer messaging company he co-founded with Des Traynor, Ciaran Lee and David Barrett 10 years ago is now considering an IPO after a steady rise in revenue and customers.
Having expanded into London and San Francisco, Ireland's only 'unicorn' tech firm is also about to move to a new Dublin office with room for 800 people, putting it on course to be the biggest Irish tech company since Iona Technologies in the dotcom boom two decades ago.
And it has released a number of new online products and services using artificial intelligence which may solidify its position of being considered a 'category creation' entity.
At the same time, Mr McCabe was at the centre of an HR issue last year involving a female worker which caused a company investigation and external counsel and blew up into press headlines.
I asked him about each of these issues.
Since your last fundraising round in 2018, where you raised $125m, there hasn't been much by way of your financial performance. Where's the company at now?
We beat our annual target at the end of last year. We've now passed $150m in annual revenue and have more than 30,000 customers globally. When we look forward, we see that we'll be profitable next year. We're at a point now where we get to think longer term, so things like an IPO are conversations that are actively happening now.
How active or how deep is that IPO conversation?
They are real, meaningful, practical conversations internally. We don't have fixed timelines. We don't have fixed outcomes. It's on the menu for us. Before, it was something we aspired to. But now we have the scale and the business in terms of revenue.
Have you hired an investment bank for that?
We're not at that stage yet. It's all on the menu as a set of options for us.
The last valuation in 2018 was $1.275bn. Is that still a proper guide?
Those financial statements are moments in time to show the world where we're at. But we're now at a point where we've moved beyond that kind of private financing and those types of milestones.
We can now dream way bigger about building a very long-term, sustainable profitable business with milestones like an IPO. We now power over half a billion conversations a month and help four billion unique people connect, both inside and outside businesses.
We can see validation in big public companies like HubSpot and Zendesk now building their Intercom-killers behind the scenes, trying to build messengers just like ours.
While we still have brands like Atlassian and Shopify using us, we have crossed a tipping point where big businesses are adopting it. Those are businesses like Aer Lingus and Scottish Power, old organisations that wouldn't classically be described as quick-moving. A lot of our revenue growth is coming from that kind of business.
The revenue we get from customers who pay us more than $100,000 a year has tripled in the last year. These are not small numbers, these are many millions.
Last year, you were the subject of a significant HR and legal issue involving a female employee. Do you have anything to say about that?
There was a concern brought up regarding the early days of the company. Whenever something like this comes up, the most important thing is that everyone is listened to and all perspectives are considered.
You have to get the truth. The truth has to be brought to bear. So I asked the board to investigate. And they ran an independent investigation. They got the truth. And on the back of that they voted to unanimously support me as CEO.
I'm really proud of how we dealt with this. It was an important moment in time for us to show our values.
Is that issue completely resolved?
Very much so.
It led to a lot of commentary about a tech bro culture. What's your response to that?
Technology at large has an opportunity to be ever more inclusive. I think we've made great strides in the last couple of years.
I think we're headed in a better direction.
So you don't think that this has damaged you or Intercom going forward?
You just signed a lease for a bigger Dublin office off Stephen's Green. How many people will that take?
It can take 800. We've taken the whole building. We have a little shy of 300 people in Dublin now [out of 600 worldwide]. So that has been a way to put our money where our mouth is.
Dublin is our biggest office and our cultural home. It's where we built all of our technology until recently, when we expanded into London and San Francisco. It's still where we build the bulk of everything. The new office is not just an iteration on what's happened in the past, it's another big bet.
In Dublin, tech companies are currently engaged in containment efforts around the coronavirus. Is Intercom doing anything on this front?
It's a topic of conversation. We'll be making some hard decisions over the next few weeks. The long-term implications are unclear.
It requires responsibility and careful consideration. That said, I think remote working will prove a viable option for more companies than they realised. But you don't want to overdo it and cause panic.
Other than a possible IPO, what are your other expectations for Intercom in the near future?
It's now about long-term sustainability and profitability. In the first few years, a lot of it was about potential. Now we're thinking long-term about what we want to do. That's why these bigger milestones like an IPO are getting discussed.
So we can start to flex our muscles a little bit more. We opened up our London office about two years ago and we started to invest in bots. You're going to see us do a lot more on the technology side.
We're not slowing down at all on inventing things. It can get quite easy at this stage to just sell what we've already built. But a key part of us, the founders and the company, the reason we're here, is to make cool things.
And so you're going to see us do that a lot more.