Eastern promise pays dividends
WILD GEESE:Matthew Connolly, MD, Eire Systems, Japan
A TOKYO-BASED IT company started by two Irishmen employs a new generation of graduate emigrants. Like many from the generation that left Ireland around 1990, Matthew Connolly recalls life then being much tougher than it is today.
“There was no work in Ireland,” says the Dublin native, who graduated from the Institute of Technology on Kevin Street. “I was in a class of 60 electronic engineers and I think that about 55 of them emigrated.”
He still keeps in touch with friends from that class of 1990, now dispersed in Germany, California and Australia.
Connolly dipped his toes in London before arriving in Tokyo as part of the Fás scheme. He worked for camera-maker Minolta as a research engineer and software developer, then for a bank, while carefully testing the local business waters with partner and fellow Kevin Street graduate Paul Timmons.
“We were both working full-time and doing other evening and weekend work, seeing if there was a market for our work,” recalls Connolly. “We would be working late in the evening and early in the morning before our main jobs. Our clients were happy with what we did, but they were saying: ‘We can’t give you any more work unless you dedicate more time to us.’ So we made a decision to set up our own company.”
Eire Systems was born. Seventeen years later, the IT infrastructure services support firm employs 100 full-time staff in Tokyo and another 50 in Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai. Connolly’s start-up has thrived despite being a product of the so-called lost decades in Japan, the post-boom era of deflation and sluggish economic growth.
The recipe for success was a careful, frugal approach to business, says Connolly. “We grew organically, with no external investment; so no debts and slow, steady growth with all profits reinvested.”
Eire Systems serves mainly multinational clients, providing IT support, including building data centres and deploying the latest software. Much of its work for the past 16 months has been helping clients relocate offices or set up business recovery plans following last year’s earthquake/tsunami disaster.
“Our value is our Western mindset combined with the ability to deliver services and solutions locally. So most of our clients are multinationals from the financial, technology and pharmaceutical sectors, or Japanese firms that want to operate in a multinational environment.”
The firm employs about 15 Irish nationals and recruits a graduate every year directly from Ireland. “We have always found Irish graduates to be very good, level-headed people, both from a technical and communication perspective. And we can offer them good opportunities here.”