Pat Phelan, Trustev
Headquartered in Cork, identity verification start-up Trustev has offices in Dublin and New York
Pat Phelan originally trained as a butcher and then as a chef in his home city of Cork.
He went on to build a number of successful global businesses in the internet, mobile and telecoms sectors including mobile roaming service Cubic Telecom, before setting up Trustev.
Trustev is an identity verification platform focused on delivering real-time information to combat e-commerce fraud. The start-up verifies the identity of online shoppers by generating a digital fingerprint through various social media accounts which prove you are who you claim to be.
Headquartered in Cork, Trustev has offices in Dublin and New York and has grown its team to 22 people across its technology, business and data team functions, drawing talent from companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Telefonica, Symantec and Wonga to name a few.
Launched to the market in May 2013, Trustev was awarded the coveted title as Europe’s Top Technology Start-up by the EU Commission and, in December 2013, Trustev was named one of the Top 10 Hottest Global Start-ups by Forbes magazine. In April 2014, Trustev took top prize at SXSW, the world’s largest technology festival.
What vision prompted you to start-up in business? Trustev started as a solution to a problem that I had experienced in many of my previous businesses and was starting to hear more and more people in the industry complain about – the need to have a better understanding of who exactly you were selling to or transacting with online.
When my co-founder Chris Kennedy, who’s the technical brains of our operation, started to look into it he noticed how outdated much of the technology was and how it was failing to keep up with the times, the idea for Trustev materialised out of that.
How did you secure your first investment? Our first investment was from our old friend, Liam Casey of PCH International. Liam showed a lot of faith in an early idea but as someone deeply involved at the heart of international trade he understood where we were coming from and the effect that Trustev would have on the industry. Having the ear and advice of Liam has been hugely beneficial to me. He understands the global environment better than anyone I’ve ever met.
What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company? Even though we had been around a while, we publicly launched the product at a big technology event, Techcrunch Disrupt, in NYC in May 2013. We had applied at the urging of a friend, never imagining that out of 2,500 entrants from all over the globe, a small start-up from Cork would be picked. We got a genuine shock the day we were told we’d be one of the 30 finalists presenting on stage in New York.
What tips would you give entrepreneurs starting out today?
Think about the international market from day one. Ireland is a great country to do business in but for many businesses the market size will just be too small. There are cities in the UK that would provide a larger market opportunity.
Selling online these days has become extremely cost effective so most SMEs can afford to make their products available outside of their home country.
If you were to invest in a sector, what would you consider the next “big thing”? Digital currencies – as more and more business move online and geographic borders become irrelevant, you’ll see a lot of innovation in how we pay for goods and services.