Cathal McGloin, the founder of FeedHenry, is bringing more jobs to Waterford with his latest venture, an AI business which automates customer services for banks, insurers and other big companies.
The 55-year-old Donegal native spun FeedHenry out of Waterford Institute of Technology’s Telecommunications Software and Systems Group in 2010. An open-source mobile application platform, the start-up went on to create 100 jobs in Ireland and was acquired in 2014 by Red Hat, the US open source software company.
McGloin has now moved on to ServisBot, which uses AI technology to automate customer services for large firms. He runs the business with his brother Ray and Cian Clarke, a third co-founder.
“It’s really all about making things easier for customers. Say you want to open an account with a bank or sign up to a new insurance plan, you don’t have to go into a branch to pick up forms, then fill them out, scan or post them,” McGloin said.
“You can do the whole thing on your mobile. One of our little bots will pop up on your screen when you’re going through the application process. It will say ‘Hey, I’m here to help you, I need the following documents.’
“You can photograph the documents using your phone and the bot will automatically upload them to the bank or insurer. The bots also provide automated out-of-hours services to customers when call centres are closed.”
Launched in 2017, ServisBot employs 30 people at the Arclabs Research Centre on the WIT campus in Carriganore, and a second office in Massachusetts in the US, where McGloin has lived for two decades.
The company sells directly in Ireland to customers such as Axa Insurance, Chill Insurance, Bank of Ireland Payments and Car Trawler. Outside Ireland, Servisbot sells through partners such as Mastercard and Concentrix, the US business services provider, to companies in the banking, insurance, utilities and outsourced customer services sectors.
The company has a presence in Britain, North America, the Middle East and South Africa. Backers include ACT Venture Capital and Enterprise Ireland, the state agency.
“Enterprise Ireland has helped us with seed investment, training and market development through their network of local offices in other countries,” McGloin said.
“ServisBot has a special significance for myself and Ray, because we actually set up another company together 22 years ago called Performix Technologies. That didn’t work out quite the way we wanted, because we had trouble with our VC investors.
“We’ve always wanted to have a do-over and that’s what ServisBot is. We learned a lot from that early experience and I think it’s really helped me in the years since to find the right investors for subsequent ventures. “
McGloin advised other entrepreneurs to be careful what they wish for when seeking venture capital.
“VC money might be easy to access, but it can also bring with it a loss of control and that can lead to difficulties when the VC’s vision doesn’t match your own,” he said.
“Until you have your product-market fit figured out, and you know for sure that every extra dollar raised in VC money will return 10 to 20 times the investment, I’d say a capital efficiency approach is probably best.”