Events and brand experience agency not shy about putting on a show
EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award finalists: Jane Gallagher and Róisín Callaghan of Cogs & Marvel
Jane Gallagher and Róisín Callaghan of Cogs&Marvel: “We have been on an amazing expansion path over the past few years and we want this to continue.”
Established in Dublin in 2006 by Róisín Callaghan and Jane Gallagher, Cogs& Marvel is a fast-growing creative events and brand experience agency. The company, formerly known as Green Light Events, aims to deliver a big, bold wow for its clients, which may explain why it has become particularly popular with companies in the technology sector.
Róisín and Jane began by operating out of Google’s Dublin office to manage the tech giant’s 2006 EMEA sales conference in Berlin. Since then, the company has grown to the point that it now employs 44 people across Dublin and San Francisco, where it recently opened an office. Clients of the company include Uber, Indeed, Facebook, Dropbox and LinkedIn.
Cogs&Marvel more than doubled its workforce last year, as revenues climbed to almost €18 million from €10 million. During 2016, the company ran events in 22 countries across four continents.
The company recently brought in Dave Smyth, former managing director of Ogilvy & Mather Ireland, as chief executive to lead the company in this period of accelerated growth.
Describe your business model and what makes you so unique.
We create and organise events from desk to destination. We have in-house departments to deal with all elements of events and recently set up a travel agency to ensure we could get our delegates the best travel service.
What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?
Successfully running our first event for over 800 people in Seville, Spain, in 2007. It was our first event for our new company, for which we worked 16 hours a day for months trying to pull it together. When all 800 people had arrived safe and sound and on time from 17 countries, we celebrated (quietly) at the back of the conference room! The event was a massive success and was the true announcement of our arrival into the market.
What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?
We spent the first six years working flat-out and struggling to cope with the workload that we had. We had no personal lives. To overcome this we forced ourselves to stand back and look at the business as a whole. We changed focus in order to progress, tactically expanded the operation and scaled up our workforce by 200 per cent.
What is the best piece of advice you received when starting out?
The greatest advice we received was scale, scale, scale. Grow the team and hire the best people you can. Don’t be scared to hire people better than you – you’ll learn from them and they will help your company be the best it can.
Describe your growth funding path.
We are very lucky to be self-funded. We set up the company with capital of €20,000, using our personal credit cards to pay for some of the elements for our first event. Today, we are paid in advance for most of our events which allows us to pay deposits to suppliers and for expenses incurred in the event planning stages.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
We have been on an amazing expansion path over the past few years and we want this to continue.Our short-term plan is to grow our brand in San Francisco and then expand to the east coast and APAC region (Asia-Pacific). We already work there so having a base makes strategic and financial sense. Longer-term, we are hoping to create our own events that we own. We recently acquired Social Media Summit, a conference aimed at agency digital marketers and SME owners, with plans to grow it in Dublin and abroad. We are also looking at a number of other large events.