Technology firm Norkom Technologies will invest over e25 million in research and development (R&D) over the next four years, according to chief executive Paul Kerley.
Kerley believes that R&D is critical to long-term success in the technology field. He estimates that the company, which sells anti-crime and compliance solutions to the financial industry, has spent over e40 million on R&D in its 11-year history.
“There are a lot of start-up companies that are stillborn because they try to start out on a shoestring and they underestimate what it costs to get into certain markets,” said Kerley. “It is important to have a decent funding strategy. Particularly in the early stages, companies suffer from under-funding.” This approach has paid off for Norkom, which employs 340 staff and has revenues of e48 million last year.
Norkom has a global reach with overseas offices in Contintental Europe, the US, Australia and Singapore. It has worked with banks and financial institutions in over 100 countries.
Kerley established the company in 1998 with co-founders Colm Crossan, Ray O’Donnell and Kilian Colleran.
“The idea was to bring technology to the market that would automate white collar decision-making,” he said.
“We started building a global business from the first day. Anybody setting up a business is going to give 10 or 15 years of their life to growing it. That’s an exacting toll.
“If you are going to put in all the effort, you might as well do something big as small.
“Anybody making that decision shouldn’t do it so they can build the biggest company in Ireland.
“They should be thinking of building the world’s best business in whatever sphere they are in. It doesn’t cost a whole lot more to think bigger.”
Kerley identifies three key phases to building a global company. The first is the entrepreneurial stage, where the chief executive often also takes on the role of chief financial officer.
The second phase involves replicating existing success in new markets — ensuring that the concept is as relevant to the market in Tokyo or San Francisco, for example, as it is to Dublin.
The third stage is all about scaling. This is where you must learn to run a business even though you have little or no daily contact with many of the people that work for you.
An adaptable management team is vital. Without a flexible approach from the top-down, Kerley believes that companies cannot evolve and grow effectively.
“You seldom end up with the company you imagined you would have at the start. If you don’t build a team that is adaptable and entrepreneurial, then it does not matter what idea you have in the beginning — you won’t be successful,” he said.