Skills shortage may force Openet to seek 50 software staff abroad


IRISH SOFTWARE company Openet is having difficulty finding enough competent software engineers and other skilled workers for a further 50 jobs it intends to fill this year.

The company, which is believed to be considering a flotation on the US stock exchange, has already created 27 full-time jobs since January and the same number again of contract positions.

However, it is having difficulty finding suitable candidates for a further 50 positions it wants to create before the end of this year and is looking at opening a new office in Galway or Belfast as part of its efforts to attract suitable new employees.

The company may create the positions in Ukraine or Estonia if it cannot find suitable candidates in Ireland, said founder and chief technology officer Joe Hogan.

“We would prefer to do it in Ireland. We have the money to do it in Ireland. There should be no unemployed competent software engineers in the city of Dublin at the moment.”

Openet has recently raised €21 million, which will provide it with funding for the coming year to 18 months. A Japanese partner, NS Solutions, has become a 5 per cent shareholder.

Not all of the funding came from NS. The funding will be used for a number of investments and other activities over the coming period.

Chief executive Niall Norton said that in their discussions with potential venture capital investors, they found the cheques being offered were too large. “We were facing a dilution threat,” he said.

Both Mr Norton and Mr Hogan, winners of the Ernst Young Irish entrepreneur of the year award, said the Government should look at ways to encourage Irish entrepreneurs not to sell their companies as early as they themselves had done.

“Ireland needs a culture that doesn’t reward the early exit,” said Mr Norton. “We’ve had too many of them.”

Mr Hogan said the Government should look at how the Irish tax system operates when it comes to Irish companies floating on public markets.

“If you have share options and the company floats, you have a massive tax bill to pay within 30 days.” This acts as an impediment to owners holding onto stakes in their companies.

He suggested that the Government look at some way to allow people “open the valve a little” and take some money off the table, but stay involved in the business they created and built.

“There needs to be some government incentive to get guys to hold the company for longer,” he said. The two men said they could not discuss whether the company was going to have a public offering of shares.

The company has grown at an annual rate of about 39 per cent over the past four years. In 2010 it had a turnover of €76 million. About 60 per cent of the turnover comes from the US.

The recent raising of funds was the first such operation since 2003. Growth over the period since then has been funded from operating profits. The fundraising brings total historical shareholder funds invested to €65 million.

The two men own 10 per cent of the company between them, with employees owning a further 15 per cent.

Barry Maloney’s Balderton Capital is the largest shareholder, with Cross Atlantic Capital being another large investor.

The company employs 850 people in Dublin, Malaysia, North America and Brazil.