Success is no fairytale for the latest Irish unicorn

Born just as financial markets went into meltdown, Fenergo has overcome the odds

Achieving unicorn status may not be as rare as it once was but it is still a significant achievement. Fenergo this week became one of only a handful of Irish tech companies to get there with a $1 billion-plus market valuation.

Founded in 2008, just weeks before Lehman Brothers collapsed and financial markets went into meltdown, there are few who would have given the company much chance of lasting the year. After all, Fenergo was set up to help banks implement new account opening systems.

As founder and chief executive Marc Murphy told The Irish Times recently: "A few weeks after I had the business up and running the only thing banks wanted to do was close accounts, not open them."

Nonetheless, despite a few tricky years, the company survived and indeed thrived as it bet on moves into compliance and regulation. It now counts as clients 300 of the largest banks and insurers in the world, including ABN Amro, Aviva, Bank of China, Danske Bank, Credit Suisse, UBS, Santander and State Street.

Mr Murphy recently forecast revenues of about €95 million for the 12 months to the end of March 2021 with an intention to more than double this by 2023.

Fenergo’s success has been good for Ireland, with the company’s headcount rising on a yearly basis. It now has about 1,000 people working for it. More broadly, it has also played a key role in the State being seen as a hothouse for fintechs globally.

For this Irish unicorn, success is no fairytale, it seems.