Indigenous Dublin tech company TEKenable is achieving rapid growth as a new chapter in the history of software is about to be written. ThinkBusiness talks to co-founder Nick Connors.
There’s a bit of a myth about the tech sector that successful companies have to achieve explosive growth and success from the get-go. In the case of TEKenable that growth has come with the right technology and the right team at the right time.
Born out of the ashes of the collapse of Digital Channel Partners following the tech crash of 2002, Nick Connors and Peter Rose’s Dublin company TEKenable carefully and methodically built up a solid tech business that in only recent years has begun to achieve rapid scale.
“The only reason we could do it confidently was because we already had the fundamentals in place: good customer care. If you get that right, all the rest will follow”
Today they run an innovative tech company focused on delivering digital services through Low Code platforms to medium and large-scale enterprises in Ireland, Spain, the UK and the Middle East.
Last year the company landed a €1.6m investment and announced plans to create 60 jobs. It also acquired Greenfinch to create a cloud player of scale with targeted revenues of more than €10m this year.
Employing 102 people, TEKenable recently revealed a €500,000 investment to build new technology that will accelerate innovation the insurance and retail sectors.
“When Digital Channel Partners closed in 2002 a few customers we spoke to said that if we could keep the team together they’d give us business,” Connors recalls. “We had no money, nothing except the seats of our pants and a small core team and that’s how we started.”
The business grew conservatively for a decade or more, focused on delivering bespoke solutions for banks and insurance companies.
A turning point came several years ago when the CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella pulled technologies like SharePoint and Dynamics into a single technology stack. “We had been doing bespoke for a long time and the risk with that is one bad line of code and you’re in trouble. But we looked at what Microsoft were doing with their platform and we moved into that space and suddenly enjoyed success.
“Because we have those capabilities of bespoke, we are able to go beyond the boundaries of the platform and configuration. You can take a step further for clients and really tailor solutions.”
The sudden growth of TEKenable was given extra lift through the acquisition of Greenfinch, which Connors says was a smaller version of their own company but particularly specialised in mobile technology.
Prior to deciding to combine its bespoke abilities with the reach of the Microsoft Dynamics platform, Connors said the management team decided to do an appraisal of the business.
It had good customers and solid revenues, but was growing very conservatively. “We had an expert examine the business and he said that despite the great work and great customers we weren’t really running it as a business. He was right. We were doing our own accounts and finance in-house ourselves. So, we had to decide to operate as a business, getting in the right people, and that turning point enabled us to go from a €2m or €3m a year business to a €10m a year business today.
“Getting the right people in place helped us to turn the business around and it gave us the confidence to drive the business on. Prior to that we were doing great work with lots of great projects, but it was the work first and the business second. We had to change that.”
Investing in having a CFO and the right business supports freed Connors and Rose up to think clearly and strategically. “For Peter, in particular, it gave him the chance to do his job as CTO properly. It transformed him and gave him the space to do what he should have been doing unhindered from day one. We were able to step back and see the woods for the trees. Instead of trying to fix everything ourselves we were able to stand back and decide what we needed to focus on and the direction to take the business, the customers we needed to look after and all the other things you don’t see when you’re stuck in the weeds or putting out fires.”
The magic of Low Code
If the pandemic has proven anything it is how resilient the cloud actually is, and how it has enabled businesses carry on through remote working, e-commerce and more.
A new chapter in software is about to be written through a movement called Low Code, which effectively allows businesses to put in place the building blocks they need for their digital-first businesses without lengthy or expensive development cycles.
Low Code is a software development approach that requires little to no coding in order to build applications and processes. These platforms use visual interfaces with simple drag-and-drop features instead of extensive coding languages.
“Instead of having to write thousands of lines of code to get systems working with each other, instead you use a small bit of code to join up what you need via the cloud,” Connors explained.
He said that Low Code capabilities allowed TEKenable to build and deploy a track and trace platform for the HSE that joined up call centres around the country at the start of the pandemic within three weeks, while for some other countries it took six months to do the same thing.
“And that’s what Low Code enables you to do. If we had to write the code ourselves it would have taken us six months, instead we had it working and operational in three weeks.”
Reflecting on how TEKenable was able to go from a conservative growth model to a rapid scaling mindset, Connors said the key has been sticking to the basics around customer care. “We have good customers and good processes in place to support those customers. Regardless of the business processes, if you get the customer care side right you can still run a nice business. We operated that way for about 14 years and did so because we looked after our customers and they looked after us.
“And then when we were advised to develop and grow as a proper business, the only reason we could do it confidently was because we already had the fundamentals in place: good customer care. If you get that right, all the rest will follow.”
By John Kennedy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published: 26 March 2021