Bill Walsh, Aspire Technology
Aspire Technology enables mobile network operators to deliver advanced services within the finite available network capacity
A proud Kerryman, educated in UCC and living in Wicklow, Bill Walsh founded Aspire in 2010. Prior to Aspire, he spent 25 years working in the telecommunications industry with Ericsson. While at Ericsson, he held many leadership roles in Ireland, UK and Sweden, where he specialised in software development and support.
After a successful career in Ericsson, Bill decided to use his extensive experience and follow his dream to establish his own company. In 2010, he created the telecommunications company Aspire Technology and, four years on, the company employs more than 70 people. Aspire Technology enables mobile network operators to deliver advanced services within the finite available network capacity. The company specialises in software development and support of telecommunications systems, particularly in 3G and 4G radio access technology.
The company’s international headquarters are in Sandyford, Dublin, where more than 60 people are employed. A branch office in Belgrade employs a further 10 people. Aspire works with some of the world’s largest telecommunications equipment vendors such as Ericsson, The Now-Factory/IBM, as well as global mobile network operators such as Vodafone and Three. In excess of 80 per cent of sales are export led.
What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start in business? Not so much a vision, but a necessity. It was through redundancy in 2009 that I decided to take the plunge. I did my first deal with my former employer and hired a marvellous team of people with a passion to build something together.
How did you secure your first investment? To date, the company has been self-funded and organically grown through careful management of cash-flow. But initially we needed a bank to support us and that wasn’t easy in 2009. I didn’t make a good impression with the first two banks I spoke to. I was in last-chance saloon, and, deciding that I needed to make an impression, I introduced myself to the bank manager as “Bill Walsh, entrepreneur of the year 2013”. I’m one year late to the party! Enterprise Ireland have subsequently invested in us, and remain a tremendous supporter of our company.
What is your biggest business achievement to date? Turning adversity into advantage during the financial crisis and building a company from zero to 70 staff in two countries with €6 million turnover without significant external investment, and selling into the world’s leading telecommunications vendors and operators. What were the best & the worst pieces of advice you received when starting out? The best advice was by my business coach to “understand the business problem that our company is solving”. Management of cash-flow was also driven into me. I luckily don’t recall any really bad advice.
What do you believe is your company’s competitive advantage? Our in-depth technology competence, gleaned from several decades of doing R&D for a global vendor of telecommunications systems. This gives us an insight into how the performance of telecoms systems can be optimised. I also consider Aspire as being marvellously innovative. One of our main customers said we bring innovation to a new level.
If you were to invest in a sector, what would you consider the next “big thing”? Investing in only one sector is too risky. I’d look for opportunities in robotics, the Internet of Things, and energy efficiency. I believe that the next generation will all be driving electrically-powered cars. One could look for opportunities in auto-driven cars, where some or all of these technologies could come together.