How LiveTiles is setting itself up for success in Sligo

LiveTiles in Sligo is very much in scale-up mode and attributes its “setting up for success” strategy to becoming a key member of the community and driving initiatives like Tech Northwest.

Apparently, the story about how LiveTiles – a creator of workplace intranets that boost collaboration and productivity – came to Sligo began on the side-lines during a football match in America. In a very convivial Irish way, the conversation continued over pints and today the company is one of a growing coterie of big name digital companies who are clued-in on the Sligo region’s potential, especially in terms of talent from talented graduates to experienced engineers who are appreciative of the lifestyle benefits of locating or returning there.

Two year ago, LiveTiles announced 50 new jobs for Sligo. The new roles include AI developers, marketing, management, presales and a new product solutions team that will help create industry-specific digital platforms that incorporate AI. LiveTiles’ tech allows workers to elegantly craft dashboards, portals and corporate intranets that can be customised with AI and analytics capabilities.

We’re scaling this in a very staggered and deliberate way. We set ourselves completely up for success

LiveTiles, a New York-based software company founded in 2014 by Australians Karl Redenbach and Peter Nguyen-Brown, was also one of the reasons why the AI for Good conference, a UN event, had planned to hold its first event outside of Geneva in Sligo toward the end of March. The event would have brought hundreds of artificial intelligence experts to Sligo and certainly would have put it on the global map for AI.

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing Coronavirus/Covid-19 situation the event, like many others, had to be postponed for now.

Passion for progress

Either way, when I meet Elaine Murphy and Paul Conneally at LiveTiles’ offices in the centre of Sligo town on a blustery Friday afternoon, the enthusiasm and passion for growing in the north-west was palpable.

“When our founders visited Sligo they got a feel for Ireland and the potential we as a company could bring to the region,” Murphy explained.

Murphy explained that the company, which is headquartered in Rochester in upper State New York, sees the benefits of regional locations and quality of life as a way to grow the business and attract development talent.

“Karl and Peter had a conversation with the IDA and when they showed them Sligo they fell in love. While the co-founders are both Aussies and you’d think maybe the surfing aspect of the Wild Atlantic Way would be appealing, actually what was really influential was not just the lifestyle but very much the community ecosystem, Sligo IT and the prevalence of other IT companies that are here such as Overstock. It was the collaborative and welcoming experience and that they could fit in and also enhance the community.

“We initially announced 50 jobs for the region and currently we are up at 10 with two more about to come onboard. We focused on direct hiring of people instead of contractors. We’re scaling this in a very staggered and deliberate way. We set ourselves completely up for success.”

The growth of LiveTiles’ European footprint has been accelerated by the acquisition last year of Danish software company Wizdom for $48m, which Paul Conneally said fits into the company’s strategy for 2030 and beyond. The company has also struck a major deal to introduce Canva’s design software to its subscription platform.

“It gives you an idea of how forward-thinking the company is and its ability to scale. One of the reasons for this is we hire direct and we build the IP ourselves.

“The company’s values are also what attracted me to the company because they live and breath those values. It isn’t just about cutting edge tech and innovative AI, it is about being decent humans and creating amazing experiences.

“What we are about is accentuating human qualities through human-centric collaboration. AI offers the ability to take away menial tasks and replace them with more room for creativity and collaboration. And that’s very much what is in the DNA of the company,” said Conneally.

Lake AI-isle of Innisfree

While the AI for Good conference may be on hold for the moment, it speaks volumes for LiveTiles’ passion for Sligo that it worked so hard to bring it there. Conneally said that local support for the project was fantastic when you consider the support it received from IT Sligo, Sligo County Council, the Western Development Commission as well as IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, to name but a few.

“To have a huge global Software company relocate to Sligo says so much about Sligo,” said Tara Rodgers, head of Bank of Ireland for Sligo, Leitrim and Roscommon. “We have the workforce ,talent and the accessibility of a good work life balance . People in the tech industry are realising that they can still have their well-paid, challenging job but also family life and personal time. We are grateful to have people like Elaine Murphy, general manager of Live Tiles Ireland for thinking outside the box and having the influencing skills to bring high calibre company like LiveTiles to Sligo.”

As our conversation wound down Murphy and Conneally told me about the ongoing work with Tech Northwest, an alliance of companies, educators, business owners and employees working in the technology sector in the northwest of Ireland. The goal is to promote Sligo-Leitrim as a unique and thriving location for businesses and employees.

Murphy said that a blueprint for success is in the works, initially focused on recruitment and helping newer brands coming to Sligo, attracted not only by the lifestyle and affordability benefits but by the sheer weight of tech talent available in the region.

“It isn’t just about recruiting graduates but also encouraging mid- to senior-level developers who may be either returning to the region or moving from elsewhere in Ireland or overseas.

“We held an event before Christmas aimed at diaspora from the region who were coming home and that has already resulted in some really strong data science hires for companies,” said Murphy.

The next step, said Conneally, is to foster greater collaboration between the companies. “The network is established and we’re looking at ways of harnessing the power of our community and our expertise to find ways of using technology to tackle issues such as rural isolation and loneliness.”

As we navigate our way through these uncertain times, it is good to know that the march of regions like Sligo are underpinned by tech firms like LiveTiles that are passionate about their communities and very much want to be the change they want to see in the world.

If that’s not using AI for good, I don’t know what is.

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 17 March, 2020