‘A one- to two-year adventure is now an 11-year stint’

Wild Geese:Niall O’Gorman, ChannelSight, Geneva, Switzerland

Some people struggle to hold down one job, so spare a thought for Niall O’Gorman, a Dubliner living in Geneva for the past 11 years. Until a few weeks ago, he was working for one of the biggest multinationals in the world but was also helping to turn a start-up he co-founded into a success.

O'Gorman has spent the past few years combining a high-profile job as global director of ecommerce strategy and innovation with Mondelez, the multinational giant that owns the Cadbury and Oreo brands, with directing the fortunes of ChannelSight.

Given that ChannelSight, a Dublin-based firm he set up with John Beckett and Kieran Dundon in 2013, operates in more than 40 countries and has posted seven-figure annual revenues since its foundation, it seems the hard work is paying off.

The ecommerce firm allows brands to add “buy it now” buttons to their product pages, social media video advertising and other online campaigns. It recently raised €3.3 million in a funding round to allow it to expand its sales and marketing efforts and to invest in building the firm’s partner network in Europe and the US.


Product roadmap

O’Gorman admits that looking after the two companies has been tricky, particularly as he is based in Switzerland, while many of his ChannelSight colleagues are back in Ireland.

“I’ve generally not been involved on a day-to-day basis with ChannelSight: it is more on the strategy side, in setting out a product roadmap and so on. I’ve generally taken time off from Mondelez when necessary to catch up with the guys, but I’m not the guy who’s out making the phone calls to drum up sales or to support customers,” he said.

That is about to change with O’Gorman having recently decided to leave his role with Mondelez to focus full-time on the start-up, although he will remain living in Geneva.

O’Gorman’s recent day job was helping Mondelez fulfil its ambition of growing online indirect ecommerce revenues from $100 million to $1 billion by 2020.

“That’s not an easy ask when you’re trying to figure out how to sell chocolate, biscuits, gum and candy profitably online and at scale indirectly via great retail partnerships like Tesco, Carrefour, Walmart, Amazon and Alibaba,” he says.

Nonetheless, O’Gorman’s ability to revitalise a company’s operations is a key reason Mondelez sought him out.

“I ended up at Mondelez looking after their direct Tassimo coffee ecommerce business in 18 markets across Europe. Between 2013 and 2015, we transformed it from a top-line business primarily driven by registration offer cards and losing money on the backend into a retention and campaign-based business,” he says.

“During that period we grew by 20 per cent year-on-year to be the third biggest market for Tassimo, with over 7 per cent of all revenues in Europe.”

This was not the first time O’Gorman was brought in to rescue a business performing below expectations.

“I tend to be involved in start-up operations or get parachuted into do a turnaround in more established businesses that are struggling,” he says.

Initial break

O’Gorman’s initial break came when he worked as an ecommerce manager for


, firstly in Dublin and then in San Diego after the Irish operations closed down in 2001.

He later got an ecommerce-related job with Iomega, the maker of zip drives, at its facility in Swords and moved to Geneva with the firm when, like Gateway, took the decision to end operations here.

“What was thought of at the time as a one- to two-year adventure has now stretched into an 11-year stint in Switzerland,” says O’Gorman, who lives in Geneva with his partner.

He left Iomega in 2007 and joined Channel Intelligence, a US start-up that was later acquired by Google. The company, which had developed technology that made it easier for consumers to find and buy products online, was just starting out in Europe and O’Gorman was its first employee.

“My job was to build up the team and the business, and it was very much a baptism by fire and very different to what I had been used to while working within a big enterprise like Iomega. I was on a plane every other day visiting prospects, clients and potential partners while also trying to build a good team. I travelled so much in fact that the stress of it led to a double hernia operation at the ripe age of 34,” he says.

Having recovered, he ended up at CNET Content Solutions, a business unit with CBS Interactive, that provided content on technology products. O’Gorman’s role was to do a turnaround operation on their Swiss-based acquisitions and syndication business, which he duly did.

‘Suitcase town’

After this he left to mentor a number of start-ups before setting up ChannelSight and joining Mondelez.

As someone who enjoys skiing, hiking and stand-up paddleboarding, Switzerland is a good place to reside, although he says the transitory nature of life can be difficult.

“Geneva is a strange place. It’s easy to get around with excellent public transport, the lake and, of course, lots of outdoor activities. It’s a good, but very expensive standard of living because of its positioning as a suitcase town,” he says.

“There are people here from everywhere due to all of the expat, UN-related organisations and thousands of day workers coming over from France. There is a constant turnover of people and you’re always saying goodbye to people.”

Nonetheless, while a move back to Ireland is something he considers now and then, there are no immediate plans for him and his partner to come home.