Teamwork’s $1bn ambition sets bar for New Frontiers startups

Alison Walsh, New Frontiers programme manager with some of the New Frontiers Phase 2 programme participants at the CIT Rubicon Centre New Frontiers Showcase in the CIT Bishopstown Campus. Picture: Darragh Kane

THE 12 participants in Rubicon Centre’s 2019 New Frontiers programme were inspired at this week’s awards ceremony by guest speaker Peter Coppinger’s unique business journey.

The founder and CEO of Teamwork, Coppinger plans to seek an investment that will fuel the project management (PM) software developer’s aim to become a €1 billion revenue business within the next few years.

Coppinger and co-partner Daniel Mackey formally launched Teamwork in 2007. Their four PM tools now have five million global users, including 21,000 paying customers. Teamwork has 240 staff, 180 of those in Teamwork’s stylish campus in Blackpool, Cork, and the others working remotely with a few overseas roles.

The company’s first big corporate client was Disney, who had been trawling around for the kind of full-service PM offering that Teamwork provides.

“I got a surprise call from Joseph Joseph, who said he was from Disney and they needed a project management system, with good privacy, for their theme parks,” Peter told guests at the New Frontiers awards event in CIT. “Naturally, I initially thought it was one of the lads pranking me, but it was for real. Joseph Joseph was for real and Disney became our first enterprise customer.”

Peter had only recently acquired the Teamwork.com domain name. Having spent a year or more trying to buy it from a domain name speculator, he finally made the leap to pay the dollar equivalent of €500,000.

He had done so without consulting Daniel Mackey, who reluctantly came around to the idea even though it meant the company was left with €30,000 in the bank. Thankfully, it turned out to be the right move. Buying the name unblocked a world of sales. Now, for the first time, the company is going to seek funds to capitalise on a global opportunity.

“We’re developing a fifth product, which will be a unified suite,” said Peter. “Our vision is for a unified suite of products that tightly integrates all our services. We believe that in a few years from now a small number of companies globally will dominate this market, and we also believe that Teamwork will be among them.”

This 2019 New Frontiers participants were clearly impressed by the scale of Teamwork’s ambition. He also advised the NF participants that SaaS (software as a service) is a great business model for any startup as it brings in revenue even as you sleep.

ToDesktop founder and NF graduate Dave Jeffery can certainly attest to the truth in the SaaS message.

“After my first week in business, I am already profitable,” said Dave. “Our SaaS company converts your web app to a desktop app in two minutes. We launched last week and we have 63 new customers paying $49 a month. For our first week, that’s very encouraging.

Daniel Mackey and Peter Coppinger, founders of Teamwork.com.

“Only two of those customers are Irish. We’re aiming for an international customer base. The main thing the programme has brought me has been learning how to understand our customers. And as a sole company founder, it has been good to get feedback and engage with the people around me on the programme.”

Meanwhile, Daniel Mulcahy’s company RideShair has been named as Best Business Opportunity and Overall Winner of New Frontiers 2019. RideShair is a software platform that connects airline passengers and event attendees who can share taxis to and from 3,000 airports globally.

Daniel joined the New Frontiers programme six months ago having returned from Australia, where he was the founder and CEO of a successful sales and distribution company.

“We are in advanced talks with a number of airlines, travel technology companies and global taxi companies,” said Daniel. “We are working on our app and developing our website.”

Other prize winners were: Stephen Fleming, Voxxify, Best Trade Stand; Ryan O’Neill, Legit Fit, Best Business Plan; Loretta Kennedy, Mama Bear, Best Video; and Sean Barni, Masqt, Best Peer Participant.

The other NF participants were: Christina O’Dwyer, Everywhere Medical; Dave Jeffery, ToDesktop; Marian Kennedy, PPR Healthcare; Michael O’Neill, RiiConnect; Nora Irwin, Arona; Padro DaSilva, AtDaLitho; and Tara Zuluaga Dorgan, Gut.Instinct.

All of the New Frontiers participants have progressed towards a formal launch, some already having paying customers, while others have significant deals pending. Several will also go on to future Enterprise Ireland scaling up programmes.

Stephen Fleming’s company Voxxify is aiming to help Fortune 500 companies use digital staff surveys to make better IT investment choices, with potentially vast savings. Stephen brings 23 years working with global multinationals, including four years with Dell. His company is already attracting significant interest.

“I am talking to a Fortune 10 company about a pilot for a few locations around the world,” said Stephen. “There is a potential global white label deal with a world leading tech company. I am also talking to a leading UK fashion retailer.”

Stephen said participating in the course has been invaluable in developing his business plan and preparing for investment pitches.

Loretta Kennedy’s Mama Bear Foods is one of five companies accepted onto the Grow With Aldi 2019 programme. Her healthy ketchup is proving particularly popular in SuperValu stores nationwide.

“I am my own target market. I have three children. I was busy working full-time and I wanted to get something nutritious into the kids,” ” said Loretta. “Children are getting cavities from eating too much sugar-laden ketchup.

“I created a healthy product at home. Mind you, I had to decant it into a squeezy bottle to get them to eat it. Two of my siblings are also entrepreneurs, so they’ve been very supportive.”

Ryan O’Neill of Legit Fit says Rubicon’s experts have given him invaluable advice in building his online platform for health and fitness professionals into a business.

“Before coming to the programme, we spent 12 months in the market, thinking that was the best approach to creating a minimum viable model,” said Ryan. “Through the programme, we got to go out first and meet the customer.

“We surveyed 100 professionals to find out exactly what they wanted. We’ve built the product around their five big issues — booking, billing, communication, payment processing and data tracking.”

Enterprise Ireland hosts New Frontiers programmes in 14 institutes of technology nationwide, with participants from all business backgrounds. The 2019 Rubicon graduates came from sectors including software, food, med-tech, natural cosmetics, life sciences and IOT.

Awards at the CIT event were presented and chosen by a panel from AIB, EY, RDJ Solicitors, the Irish Examiner and Cork Institute of Technology.

Adjudication panel chairman, Diarmaid Gavin of RDJ solicitors, said: “We chose the competition winners based on the clarity of the business plan and the ability to scale the company. The quality of the business ideas in the New Frontiers programme is a testament to the values in the Rubicon.”

Alison Walsh, programme manager of the CIT-based programme, said: “Several of the companies have secured investment in addition to sales and distribution channels in Ireland and overseas so exciting times ahead for the entrepreneur. Participants also benefitted from access to expertise across the CIT campus, collaborating with colleagues in the Nimbus Centre, the Health Innovation Hub and Cappa to progress their ideas, in addition to securing student intern placements and support on marketing and media projects with MA students.”

Alison Walsh said she would welcome any expressions of interest for would-be participants in the upcoming New Frontiers Programme.

Those interested can visit www.rubiconcentre.ie or call 021 4928900 for a chat.

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