Making It Work: Galway firm is an early mover on cyber security

TitanHQ has spent more than 20 years protecting the networks of clients such as Virgin and Pepsi from online attacks

Ronan Kavanagh, chief executive of TinanHQ, which employs 80 people in Galway, Canada and the US. Photo:Andrew Downes, Xposure

If Irish businesses weren’t aware of the dangers of cyber attacks before this year, they certainly are now, after the HSE was struck down by a ransomware strike that drew global attention.

One Irish company, however, has long been acutely aware of the risks posed by cyber attacks. Founded more than 20 years ago, TitanHQ, a Galway-based network security firm, helps thousands of businesses around the world to keep their systems safe.

The business now has more than 8,000 clients including Virgin, O2 and Pepsi, as well as annual turnover of €15 million and more than 100 staff. It has also just been named one of Ireland’s leading cybersecurity companies by ThinkBusiness Ireland.

It’s not a bad journey for a company that started with a small number of engineers in 1999, and had to weather the dotcom crash around the turn of the century. It now has a 24-7 office in Salthill, as well as a US subsidiary in Florida, where it employs around ten support staff.

“I joined TitanHQ in 2004, when the company started building an email security system,” Ronan Kavanagh, its chief executive, said. “There were only three of us in the business at that stage, and we went to market from a small room where we worked.”

What TitanHQ lacked in presence, it made up for in expertise and foresight, staying ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing industry.

The software it offers has changed a lot since the early days, when the company went by the name Copperfasten Technologies and sold mostly to firms in Ireland and Britain.

What hasn’t changed, Kavanagh said, is the firm’s customer focus and ability to win new clients on the strength of its technology.

“In those days, people tried the product, they liked it, and typically they bought it,” he said.

Over the years, the Enterprise Ireland-backed company has gone through several stages of evolution. In the last five years, it has built a strategy around selling to managed service providers – companies that maintain IT and other systems on an outsourced basis for their clients.

“We would see ourselves as the go-to provider for email and web security services for managed service providers servicing small and medium businesses,” Kavanagh said. “That’s where we’re firmly lodged at the minute.”

The security software provided by Kavanagh uses “advanced technology” to place a firewall around clients’ IT systems.

“In simple terms, what we do is that we stop people clicking on bad stuff, and we stop bad stuff coming in through email or through people’s web browsers,” he said.

In June 2020, TitanHQ secured a major investment from Livingbridge, a leading British private equity firm, in a deal worth millions to the company. Livingbridge took a majority stake in the company as part of the investment, and since then TitanHQ has grown its operations further still.

“Over the last 16 months since the investment, we’ve looked at the core of the business with a view to scaling beyond where we were over the next three years,” Kavanagh said. “We want to build on the platforms we already have, and make them bigger, more scalable and faster.”