Wednesday April 1, 2020

Putting down a marker for the future

Ireland’s best-known technology growth index, the Deloitte Technology Fast 50, has returned - and this year it has a new winner, and a new lead

11th November, 2018
David Shanahan, partner, Deloitte, at the 2018 Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Awards which took place on November 2 Jason Clarke

A new leader, a new winner and plenty of new entrants: it’s all change in the Fast 50 this year. Except for one thing: the Irish technology sector just keeps on growing.

The Deloitte Technology Fast 50, now in its 19th year, ranks Ireland’s fastest growing technology companies and is designed to recognise indigenous technology companies that have demonstrated exceptional growth in turnover in the past four years.

This year, the Fast 50 has a new leader in the form of Deloitte Ireland partner David Shanahan.

“It’s certainly exciting,” he said. “I’ve been involved in it [the Fast 50] for the best part of ten years, in some shape or form, but this year I’ve led the programme for the first time.”

Deloitte Ireland’s Fast 50 programme recognises something particular about the Irish technology sector too: Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has been central to Irish economic development for some years, but the headlines tend to be grabbed by the foreign direct investment (FDI) players – in other words, by giant multinationals such as Apple, Facebook, HP, Microsoft and Google.

This may be for good reason – after all, they are massive organisations, have huge brand recognition and often make the news pages, whether for good reasons or bad – but it also obscures a lot of the work that is actually going on in Ireland, particularly in indigenous companies. The Fast 50, however, is different.

“Day to day, even in my tax role, I deal with a lot of indigenous technology firms,” said Shanahan.

“With Fast 50 we get to recognise the companies that don’t get the exposure they should. Many are exporting, and they’re business to business, so they don’t get the exposure locally.”

“The export focus is essential for indigenous tech companies, and the Fast 50 is a celebration of the indigenous tech sector that helps to rebalance what can be seen as too great a focus on the multinationals.

“They’re household names [and] to be fair they add a lot to the economy in terms of job creation, but the backbone is still the indigenous companies,” he said.

“The domestic market here is quite small, but [with the Fast 50] they get exposure here with the Deloitte brand. If you are a small Irish tech company and go to Malaysia, they will know the name Deloitte, and it’s giving the Deloitte imprimatur to them,” he said.

Measuring success

The calibre has always been high with the Fast 50, primarily because of how the judgments are made: numbers are what matters, not subjective opinions.

This year, however, the overall winner is not only a change from previous years, it is a company founded by a well-known Irish entrepreneur.

E-commerce software company xSellco secured the top spot. The company, which was second in last year’s ranking, got the top spot in 2018 with a growth rate of 2,874 per cent over the past four years. xSellco provides innovative products that allow e-commerce businesses of all sizes to fulfil their potential.

“xSellco is the new brain child of Ray Nolan,” said Shanahan.

“It provides software solutions to companies selling online. It gives them a help desk, but it also has software that requests feedback from people who are likely to give positive feedback. That’s really important as that increases the seller’s rating.”

Other innovations in xSellco’s software are also designed to take advantage of the functionality of the popular e-commerce platforms while, at the same time, minimising labour.

“It also has an automated re-pricer for Amazon,” said Shanahan.

“You can set parameters, and if someone undercuts you, you can automatically update your price according to those parameters. It takes the manual work out of the process,” he said.

eShopWorld, having topped the list in the previous three years, continued its impressive run by achieving second position in the 2018 ranking. It is a leader in global e-commerce and logistics management with a world-class modular solution that gives online retailers control over the end-to-end customer journey – from global checkout to returns.

mAdme Technologies, which revolutionises mobile advertising and engagement by seamlessly connecting mobile operators and brands to customers, achieved third place.

Fintech futures

For the second year running, Deloitte and Silicon Valley Bank partnered for the fintech award category.

The category reflects the significance of financial services to Ireland’s future economic growth and how companies in the fintech sector are influencing the space with their technology and innovation.

The winner of the award this year was Fenergo, the leading supplier of client lifecycle management, AML/KYC (anti-money laundering and know-your-customer) compliance and client data management solutions for investment, corporate, commercial and private banks.

As fintech category winner, Fenergo will be brought to Silicon Valley on a trip tailored to suit its growth trajectory, to meet with key investors, potential strategic partners and prospects.

Cumulatively, 2018’s Fast 50 winners generated approximately €2.5 billion in total annual revenues in 2017. The average revenue of companies featured in the ranking was approximately €50 million, while the average growth rate of the companies over the past four years was 373 per cent.

Compared with last year, there are 17 new companies on the ranking, 12 of whom were first-time entrants, while five companies have re-entered the list, having featured in previous years.

All four provinces are featured in this year’s awards. Twenty-seven of the winners are Leinster-based, 14 are based in Ulster, followed by Munster with eight companies, and Connacht with one company. Overall, 12 counties are represented in the 2018 listing.

Shanahan said the awards recognise something about Ireland that should be kept in mind: the tech sector here has always been, by necessity, export focussed.

“They have to go overseas early on and that’s a positive for us, even in the face of Brexit.

“In many ways we’ve become over reliant on the UK, and many of the companies on the list are pivoting to the US,” he said.

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