Feeling secure in right environment
BUSINESS INTERVIEW: For the chief executive of safety and security firm Xtralis, which has just opened its global headquarters in Dublin, Ireland offered one thing many other prospective locations did not – support for growth
SAMIR SAMHOURI can pinpoint the exact moment he decided to locate his company’s global headquarters in Ireland. In February, he was invited by Netwatch, one of his Irish clients, to the official opening of their US headquarters in Boston, which was being launched by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
“Now, I’m an outsider, I’m just sitting there as one of the guests,” explains Samhouri intently, in his soft-spoken, American accent. “I know Netwatch. They’re not a huge company. They’re a small company with the potential to become a huge company because they have an excellent service.
“But for the leader of a country to come out in strong support of that potential told me something about the culture of the place. You see a lot of leaders come out in support of big companies and they have to. But to come out in support of a small and medium-sized company is saying something else.”
Within hours, Samhouri was on the phone to his consultants and chief financial officer with instructions to check out Ireland as a location for Xtralis’s global headquarters. The decision was especially significant because Xtralis was weeks away from finalising the establishment of its head office in another European country, a process that had been in train for more than a year.
“We spent more than three years deciding where to locate our global headquarters. Then, when we had chosen a place, we spent another year – and a lot of money, a lot of consultants – going through the process of moving to that country. Literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Samhouri points out that the reason the company didn’t consider Ireland initially was because of the negative press around the country at the time. So, why the change of heart?
“Ultimately, it was the support for business. Of course, there are always certain elements that you look at – the tax structure, workforce, telecommunications structure, proximity to customers – but it’s not as if other countries don’t have those.
“What made Ireland different, as far as I’m concerned, and what I heard that day, was the support for growth. As a private equity-backed company, that’s what we’re focused on. When we followed up, the IDA were very proactive and extremely helpful. My hunch was right.”
IDA Ireland’s work seems to have paid off. Yesterday, Xtralis – without the lure of IDA grant aid – officially opened its global headquarters in Dublin. Its finance, HR and IT division will be based there, with the company’s head of HR relocating from Australia and its chief financial officer also moving to the capital.
While the announcement may not mean much in terms of direct jobs – initially Xtralis will employ 10 people, which it hopes to grow to 50 by end of the year – its impact in terms of tax take and indirect economic effect is significant.
Samhouri believes that small, privately-held companies such as Xtralis are exactly the kind of firms Ireland should target and nurture as it repairs its bruised economy.
Xtralis typifies the kind of small, nimble high-growth tech companies that have emerged from the US over the last couple of decades. The company is a niche player in the security industry, providing a service which detects early-stage threats to security. It operates in three main areas of safety and security – fire prevention, gas-leak prevention and peripheral breaches.