Plumbing the internet for success
START-UP NATION: Agile Networks:Last year started out as a good year for Darragh Richardson. He was the managing director of the Irish arm of Telindus, a multinational technology company that provided network security, cloud-ready data centres and ICT solutions.
However, in August 2011, the company announced it was pulling out of Ireland.
“They didn’t believe the Irish marketplace was a good place to invest,” Richardson says.
“We felt it had the potential to be a good business here if we were able to do certain things in certain ways.”
In an effort to keep their jobs, Richardson and his co-workers completed a management buy-out, with the aid of an € 80,000 grant from Fingal County Enterprise Board, and founded Agile Networks.
“Because of the buyout they were able to extricate from Ireland without any bad press. We still look after some of their international clients in Ireland for them.”
“It was risky when we started off last year but I’m glad we did. People thought we were mad doing it but we saved our own jobs and created new ones too.”
“We decided to focus on particular areas that we were good at. We also decided there was a market for networking. We had dealt with application development, CCTV video etc, but felt there were other local companies that did them a lot better than us, so we stopped them.”
In simple terms, the company is the plumbing behind the internet.
“It mightn’t sound glamorous, but it is very important. You discover at home just how important your plumbing is when it stops working.”
The company buys in equipment such as routers, puts software configuration on the equipment and then installs it for customers.
“For example, we put virtualisation technology in that allows people to access information when they are working from home. That is software configuration.”
The company has a four-hour service agreement with customers, which it believes sets it apart in the industry.
“The agreement means we will have an engineer in with a spare part within four hours if there is a problem. The agreement is very important as people want problems fixed quickly.
“Furthermore, the engineer who designed and installed the equipment will also be the same engineer that fixes it. This means they are totally clued in to everything and customers like that.
“We have a relatively small number of relatively large companies as customers so we can have a model like that. Each of our engineers has four or five companies to look after.” The company’s clients include the ESB, HSE, Analog Devices, Digiweb and 3mobile.
“3mobile are constantly building and changing their networks because they are adding services or customers so we help them.
“They need real expertise. We’re like tailors for them. We make made-to-measure products especially for them.”
The company is in the process of connecting up all secondary schools to a new broadband network as part of a project it is doing for HEANet. It also recently provided all the on-site support for the OSCE conference in the RDS.
“Each individual delegate party needed its own part of the network which no one else could see, so we did all that.”
Having changed the direction of the company to focus mainly on network integration, Richardson has seen rapid expansion.
The business went from having seven clients to when it first started last year to more than 40 clients now.
“We want to keep growing . . . We also want to build up our reputation to be the leading network integrator in Ireland.”
The company currently has a turnover of more than € 2.3 million and 10 employees, with plans to hire a further five in 2013.
It recently won the Juniper partner of the year, becoming the first Irish company to do so.