Irish Covid app developer NearForm secures major investment

Waterford-based company looking to grow fivefold in the coming years

NearForm co-founder and chief executive Cian Ó Maidín. The Irish company counts the New York Times, IBM, Microsoft and Condé Nast among its paying customers. Photograph: Maura Hickey

NearForm co-founder and chief executive Cian Ó Maidín. The Irish company counts the New York Times, IBM, Microsoft and Condé Nast among its paying customers. Photograph: Maura Hickey

 

NearForm, the software company that developed the technology used in the HSE’s Covid contact tracing app, has secured a multi-million euro investment.

Co-founder and chief executive Cian Ó Maidín said the funding would be used to grow the company fivefold over the next few years with plans to take on at least 40 people before the end of 2020 “with the possibility of many more jobs than that being added”.

The company currently employs about 160 people, most of them at its headquarters in Tramore.

No figure has been disclosed for the investment but Columbia Capital, which led the funding, typically writes cheques of between $15 million (€12 million) and $40 million (€33 million) for companies it backs.

Industry sources suggested NearForm has likely secured close to the median deal amount of nearly $17 million (€14 million).

This marks the first significant investment in the company – it previously closed a small funding round with backers including Enterprise Ireland in 2015.

Mr Ó Maidín told The Irish Times that NearForm will use the additional capital to scale operations and accelerate recruitment in sales, marketing, engineering and design, across North America and Europe.

“We have big plans and the aim is to grow four or five times the size of where we are at now in terms of revenue and headcount,” he said.

Open-source software

NearForm, which develops enterprise software and uses cloud computing to build business platforms, counts the New York Times, IBM, Microsoft and Condé Nast among its paying customers.

Founded in 2011, the developer has become well known globally for the technology it developed for the HSE, which has more than 1.3 million active users. That technology, which is built on open-source software, has since been adopted for use in several other jurisdictions, including four US states.

The popularity of the technology has led to huge demand from the public sector for its services, an area in which the company did not previously focus on.

“We collaborate with the likes of Netflix, Uber, PayPal and Walmart taking open-source technology and bringing it into the enterprise in a way that is really safe,” said Mr Ó Maidín. “The Covid app has now got us in with the public sector.”

Founded in 1989 in Virginia, Columbia invests in companies in the communications, media and technology space.

“What I liked about Columbia was they immediately got what we do. They know how to scale businesses and have been involved with companies that have done really well so they just felt like the right fit for us,” said Mr Ó Maidín.

“Our business currently is roughly two-third Europe and one-third the US. Our customers over there have told us for years how there are huge opportunities for growth in the US and having someone like Columbia as a partner on the ground there is hugely beneficial in helping us to scale there.”