Me & My Money: Niall Kelly, CTO of Netwatch

‘Next generation must understand supporting local has greater impact than they think’

Netwatch CTO Niall Kelly

Netwatch CTO Niall Kelly


Are you a saver or a spender?

I’m afraid I have a history of being a habitual spender. Thankfully, however, as I have matured in age with more family commitments, I have learned to save at regular intervals. Although it doesn’t come naturally, and it’s a bit like the doctor’s advice – I have to be told by someone else before I make the change!

Do you shop around for better value?

Yes, I do, and online has definitely improved my ability to shop for the best bargain. That said, I have two weaknesses in life, and they are high-end bass guitars, which I’ve played for 35 years now, and vintage cars. I have restored about eight of them myself. If I see one I really want, and if funds allow, the heart rules the head.

What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost?

I paid a lot of money for a really top-quality double-bass 20 years ago; I couldn’t break it to my wife, Esther, just how much it cost at the time. Newly married! I still have the double-bass; it’s an appreciating investment, and I play it regularly.

What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?

My cofounder at Netwatch, David Walsh, and I had very limited funds when we were starting up. We were refused a loan (by a bank which has since left the country) even though we both banked with this organisation.

This was absolutely critical to our ability to start the company but they just didn’t believe that the idea for Netwatch was good enough. We then managed to get a start-up loan from another mainstream Irish bank, personally guaranteed by both of us; and that was the seed capital we needed to grow an international business out of small beginnings.

That seemed like a serious “purchase” at the time. Second best value was an engagement ring in Boston many moons ago.

How do you prefer to shop – online or local?

I try to shop local. I do use online, but only for specialist stuff that I can’t get locally. I’m trying to instil this in my teenage kids, also; I see them reaching for the online route much more frequently. The next generation must understand that supporting local has a much greater impact than they think.

Do you haggle over prices?

Yes, I can be stubborn. My mother, who grew up in a shop, taught us the value of driving a bargain. In business, every transaction is about both sides feeling that they have received value, so there’s some give and take in each transaction, no matter what area it’s in.

Has the recession changed your spending habits?

Definitely. Personally, I deferred some spending that wasn’t really critical, and said no to the kids a few more times than usual.

Do you invest in shares?

I don’t personally, but the wise gurus who manage my pension seem to do things with shares from time to time.

Cash or card?

Definitely card. I use a debit card; at least I’m spending money I actually have, as opposed to a credit card.

What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?

I had a four-year-old Macbook Air, but it had given up the ghost. I treated myself to a new one. Macbook Air is quite simply the best machine for travel. I use it a lot, and at weekends it gets bashed by my teenagers, too. Great value for money.

Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?

When I was 15, I worked in a local bar and managed to save for a Grifter bike. It was the coolest bike available at the time. I think it was £60, and it took me 10 weeks of dropping in to the bike shop in Carlow to pay it off.

Have you ever lost money?

Physically? Not that I can remember. I’ve bought several items that depreciated quickly. I got involved in a work syndicate in a previous life that took on a racehorse, but that died a death, literally, very quickly.

Are you a gambler and if so have you ever had a big win?

Who admits to being a gambler! I don’t know anything about horses but I love having a flutter on a good each way bet when the Masters or US Open is on.

Is money important to you?

I suppose, yes, but I don’t live for it. I put family time ahead of everything else - or at least I try to. I’m getting better in terms of personal financial management. I’m much better now than when I was in my twenties.

How much money do you have on you now?

Nothing. I gave my last €20 note to my 16-year-old last night.

In conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea