Selling the next big tech idea to America
Wild Geese: Cathal McGloin, CEO of FeedHenry, Massachusetts:Apps for business is the latest area of operations for Irish entrepreneur
Serial entrepreneur Cathal McGloin moved to America to be close to its huge tech market, something he says is vital for anyone in the cloud computing space.
His latest venture, FeedHenry, allows businesses to quickly and easily make their mobile apps work with their IT systems and a range of mobile devices. Rapidly expanding, FeedHenry boasts a long list of clients in Ireland, Britain and the US.
“You need to be in the US when it comes to major partnerships and big US customers,” said McGloin. “You have to be here from a sales perspective. The software is delivered from Ireland. We have about 35 employees and, of them, 25 are in Ireland.
“So you can have engineering and research and development in Europe, and Ireland is a good place because they speak English and the time difference is not too bad. But you always have to have your sales and management people locally. It’s easier to raise capital in the US if you have a strong presence here.”
A UCD graduate with an MBA from Smurfit, McGloin has a history of successful tech enterprises.
In 1998, he set up Performix Technologies, a system for managing employee performance, which was sold seven years later for an estimated €30 million.
Having survived the dotcom bust, he moved to the US, choosing Lexington, Massachusetts, as it was close to the Enterprise Ireland offices. He continued to work on performance software until 2005 when he joined Aran Technologies. With McGloin running the business in America, Aran grew until it was sold in 2009 for a rumoured €75 million.
“I left the company about nine months after that acquisition and, in 2010, I went looking for the next idea,” he said.
He scouted the universities and research institutes of Ireland and found FeedHenry, a research project in Waterford IT that helped to develop internet widgets for media and telecommunications companies.
McGloin and a group of partners and staff raised funding in Ireland and, with help from Enterprise Ireland, developed it into a platform that focuses on mobile apps for business. A developer can write one piece of software and FeedHenry takes it and makes it work on mobile phones, laptops, iPads and Android systems.
“It’s in a very exciting area in mobile apps, in cloud computing,” said McGloin. “In terms of our customers, it is ideally suited to Irish development and engineering because, building mobile apps, you can be anywhere in the world. The distribution is through the app stores.”
FeedHenry was set up without a need for huge investment and continues to grow. Since last year, the workforce and revenue have tripled and McGloin expects future growth to be just as dramatic.
“We’re still in a growth phase,” he added. “We started in Ireland and expanded to the UK, and we have some big partnerships there. We are trading in the US and growing into Germany and Spain at the moment. We’re still funding the growth of the company.”
Many in Ireland are familiar with the Aer Lingus app, which was developed using FeedHenry’s software. Downloaded about 300,000 times, it allows Aer Lingus passengers to look up flight times and check in simply and quickly on mobile phones, tablets or a PC.
Customers, such as Aer Lingus, pay anything from €750 per month to €5,000 for heavy users, and the client base is growing.
McGloin believes there is great potential in Ireland to exploit the growth of cloud computing.
“Ireland has a great record in certain industries that enables it to compete on the world stage. One is in telecoms messaging and computer-based training. Another one could be the whole area of mobile and social media and we’re seeing some really smart companies coming out of Ireland.
“Social and mobile and cloud offer great opportunities for Irish companies to compete because we have above average expertise in this area. Ireland has huge expertise in cloud because of all the companies moving to Ireland.”
He urged starting companies to connect with Enterprise Ireland if they are looking to expand into foreign markets.
“I think they’re very good abroad, at helping in the different markets,” he said. “They’re very good in the seed funding stage and at forcing through a project.”