Start-ups specialising in digital technologies must be prepared to retrain and upskill on an ongoing basis to stay ahead of the game, according to Ronan Murphy, chief executive of Smarttech, a provider of outsourced IT services.
‘‘Due to the pace of change in the technology sector, keeping our services as close to the cutting edge as possible is always a challenge,’’ said Murphy. ‘‘We address this by being a certified partner of all the major IT hardware and software vendors. All our technicians regularly attend training courses with Microsoft, HP, Acron is and other strategic vendors.’’
Murphy established Smarttech with business partner Con Lehane in 2005.
‘‘Con and I had worked in the telecoms and IT space in the US and Europe in multinationals Verio, Worldcom and Worldport,’’ said Murphy. ‘‘We conducted surveys in the SME sectors in Dublin and Cork to see if companies were open to cost reviews of their IT support contracts. The feedback was very positive. Our initial clients were acquired through local chamber of commerce networking functions, cold calling and using existing client relationships to generate leads.’’
Smarttech employs 35 people at operations in Dublin, Cork and Kerry, but one of the biggest challenges the company faced in the early days was finding staff with the right technical skills.
‘‘Finding the people with the right skill set to help develop the business was difficult at first,’’ Murphy said. ‘‘In IT service management, a myriad of specialist skills is needed. My best investment has been in good people in Smarttech, who I continually learn from on a daily basis.’’
The company manages the corporate networks of about 100 Irish companies and had revenues of €1.5 million in 2010.
‘‘The development of the business was all organically funded through personal savings,’’ Murphy said. ‘‘However, with any new company, cashflow is always a challenge. Bank of Ireland was very helpful in the early days in providing us with an overdraft facility that allowed us to extend credit terms to our clients, hire new skill sets and maintain payroll.’’
He advised other IT entrepreneurs to invest in emerging technologies that did not require a big upfront investment.
‘‘When we initially started, we purchased a lot of our hardware and software upfront, as we believed we needed to own our infrastructure assets,’’ he said. ‘This is no longer the case, due to the numerous advancements in open source software and cloud computing. Entrepreneurs should seek to do more with less.’’
Smarttech continues to invest in areas where it sees strategic advantage.
‘‘We have invested a lot in developing our remote server monitoring capabilities and help desk capabilities,’’ said Murphy. ‘‘Our new platform proactively monitors our clients’ servers and applications and preemptively alerts our help desk and generates a trouble ticket if there is a problem. This new proactive level of management has allowed us to target a wide range of business where 100 per cent server continuity is critical.’’