Multipath Networks – An ArcLabs Case Study

Background

The need for Multipath Networks arose when Justin Collery found himself based in rural Ireland where the broadband connection was dismal. He wondered how he might join broadband connections to form one strong connection and thus the Multipath journey began…

Originally, Justin worked from his garage. He found some research known as Multipath TCP that formed the underpinning of the business as it focussed on adding different internet connections together. The Multipath TCP research was developed in UCL in Belgium but as Justin worked through it, he discovered that the original research had been conducted by TSSG in WIT.

Previous to the Multipath project, Justin had another business which he ran for approximately 10 years selling wireless equipment to wireless ISPs around Ireland. This experience meant that Justin had a solid exposure to commercial activities as well as significant technical knowledge.

What Multipath Networks do

Multipath networks created a piece of hardware, a router, that you could plug into all kinds of internet connections so you can plug in various connections from various providers and it combines them to make one single strong guaranteed internet connection.

The key customers for Multipath Networks are large corporates, construction companies and, emergency services. Because network connectivity is guaranteed with the Multipath Networks router, any establishment that had remote monitoring stations were ideal customers.

Multipath Networks is an export-oriented business and sell their routers to customers across Ireland, Germany, France, Holland, the UK and the US.

Multipath Networks and ArcLabs – from a Tweet to an Innovation Voucher to an ArcLabs Client

 After many months working through the Multipath TCP research from his garage, Justin had encountered a challenge that he simply couldn’t overcome alone. He posted a tweet to a friend looking for a connection to be made with a professor in Trinity. In the meantime, Mary Roche, the Mayor of Waterford, picked up the tweet and before Justin knew it, he had been connected with John Ronan, who had been one of the TSSG researchers involved in the original project. In Justin’s previous business, John had been a customer and so they met to discuss the issues he was having. At this point, Justin was introduced to Tom, the centre manager in ArcLabs, who facilitated the application process for Justin to conduct an Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher with TSSG and to overcome the difficulty he had encountered.

Having completed his first Innovation Voucher with TSSG, Justin took up office space in ArcLabs. John Ronan and Justin worked so well together on Multipath Networks’ Innovation Voucher project, John made the decision to take a career break from TSSG and work with Justin full-time. They brought another previous TSSG staff member on board, Christian Walsh, and that made up the backbone of the Multipath Networks team. Justin used the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Voucher scheme very well to address skills gaps in projects he required for the development of the Multipath Networks technology.

Justin’s experience in ArcLabs was immensely positive. Working so closely with TSSG, it made sense for Justin to take up office space in ArcLabs. He found that he had become very isolated working alone, as he was, and the ArcLabs environment gave him great access to ideas and information and helped him to build a strong network of contacts and supports. He found the infrastructure in ArcLabs highly conducive to getting work done. Justin also highlighted how impressive the building and the location are and how it portrayed an incredibly professional image to clients which also made it easy to do business. Multipath Networks also used the data centre facilities and again this was very well received by Multipath Networks’ clients. When asked to identify the key advantage to being based in ArcLabs, Justin asserted that without doubt, it was the knowledge transfer that occurred there. Justin described ArcLabs as: “A hotbed for innovation” and that the co-location of acaedemic researchers and start-ups is what creates that.

Financing the Venture

Financing new ventures is often one of the most significant hurdles for start-up companies. In the case of Multipath Networks, Justin followed a relatively traditional path for the IT world. Profits from his previous company along with personal investment were used to initiate the venture. The next stage of financing came from a round of VC funding.

The VC experience was non-traditional in that the venture capitalist approached Justin having used the product and therefore, wanting to invest in it. This put Justin in an advantageous position but even still, it took eight months to close the deal.

Venture capital funding is notoriously difficult and the negotiations can take a significant amount of time, with a lot of legal paperwork to navigate. From Justin’s experience, he believes now that it is better to ensure you have a profitable business before you go down the VC route. He also advised that the reality of VC deals is that they are not up for negotiation. Thus, in order to save time and energy he now believes that you should only go with the deal if you are happy with it in its initial form as you can spend so much time and money negotiating to ultimately end up with a deal which is substantially the same as what you began with.

Multipath Networks – After ArcLabs

Multipath Networks has essentially been wound up to be sold. Justin is currently working as a consultant to a company in Dublin but already has plans to launch a new venture and will do so from ArcLabs. The ArcLabs environment is the best that Justin has experienced and he believes it is the best facility in Ireland to be situated in if you are developing a business in the IT space.

Conclusion

ArcLabs represented an ideal location for the development of Multipath Networks. Justin identified that they could never have achieved what they did without ArcLabs and the various support and collaboration that they engaged with. ArcLabs is a hotbed for innovation and an ideal location for the development of businesses such as Multipath Networks.

Threefold Systems – An Agora Company ArcLabs Case Study

Background and Context

 

Threefold Systems came to ArcLabs in February 2015 under the reigns of Ciarán McGrath. The business is part of the larger Agora Publishing Services group but was set up as an independent entity in Ireland to work on web, e-commerce and mobile application development for Agora Publishing clients. Ciarán had worked with Agora in the US for a number of years before establishing Threefold Systems for them in Ireland.

 

Developing this arm of the business in Ireland made sense for the company as Ciarán highlighted the difficulties in the United States with regard to availability of expertise and the cost and length of time that recruitment requires. Building the same team in Ireland, took a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost that it would have in the States.

 

The Business

 

Threefold Systems are concerned with web, e-commerce and mobile application development for Agora Publishing clients. As well as designing and building sites and apps, they also maintain and monitor them 24/7 to ensure guaranteed performance. The idea to develop Threefold Systems came about when Ciarán identified that Agora Publishing customers were not getting the support they required from their web developers. When he identified the requirement for web developers and designers who were familiar with the Agora backend systems, Ciarán was well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.

 

The Customers

 

Currently, all of Threefold Systems customers are clients of the Agora Publishing group. By way of example, Ciarán described one of their key customers: International Living, based in Waterford. They have over 30 people working for them. Their website has over 20,000 pages of content. As a result, their website is incredibly complex and many web-support companies simply would not be able to manage the technicalities associated with such a vast website. Their website gets half a million unique visitors each month and they have 600,000 subscribers who are sent a newsletter every day. As such, the stability of their website is paramount. Threefold Systems have the skills and capacity to serve customers at this level.

 

Support for the development of Threefold Systems in Ireland

 

The IDA worked closely with Agora to attract them to Ireland and they participated in the IDA incentives schemes to sponsor employment. Through working with the IDA, Threefold Systems got great exposure and were launched into Ireland under the IDA banner. This was the key advantage to associating with the IDA. While the employment grant that the IDA offered was also very attractive, Ciarán found the process of getting the contracts approved lengthened the recruitment process.

 

On ArcLabs

 

Ciarán went to college in WIT and so was familiar with Waterford. He had already come across the centre when meeting with other ArcLabs clients and was very impressed. Thus, when the opportunity arose for him to establish a spin-out from Agora, ArcLabs was the obvious choice. He had been working with Agora in the States for many years but was keen to move back home and this represented an ideal opportunity.

 

Ciarán was incredibly impressed with the speed and ease with which the process was completed. Via email with the ArcLabs centre manager, Tom Corcoran, Ciarán set up a meeting for December 2014 for a visit to ArcLabs and at that point, having seen the facilities and infrastructure available at the centre, Agora committed to setting up in ArcLabs from February 2015. Ciarán found the move into ArcLabs seamless:

That process of leaving the US, flying to the other side of the World and being up and running in just a couple of days was phenomenal

He enjoyed the centre’s environment and particularly the restaurant area where he could discuss challenges he was facing with other businesses and academic researchers who held an incredible amount of knowledge.

 

Ciarán and Threefold Systems are collaborating with TSSG and are in the process of completing an application for an Innovation Partnership with TSSG so even though they are no longer physically located in ArcLabs, collaboration is still live with WIT.

 

Threefold Systems was quite different from the other start-up businesses within ArcLabs as they had huge support from their parent company which meant that Ciarán didn’t share many of the challenges that traditional businesses entering the incubator face. This made him feel like “an imposter” at times. He had been provided the means to develop the business and expand the team in Ireland without having to worry about the finance, a luxury alien to the average start-up!

 

Threefold Systems – After ArcLabs

 

After starting with Ciarán alone in February, Threefold Systems went from strength to strength and as the team grew, they found themselves requiring larger office space. They currently occupy an entire floor of office space in a premises in Waterford city centre while they await the remodelling of a premises that Agora have purchased in Co Waterford. Employment in Threefold Systems is now at 27 people.

 

Though Threefold Systems currently work exclusively for Agora Publishing clients, as the company grows, Ciarán wants to open up their services to all businesses. They are currently working on mobile and e-commerce applications that can be tailored to a variety of clients.

 

Conclusion

 

Ciaran’s experience of establishing Threefold Systems from ArcLabs was immensely positive. They had not anticipated the level of growth they experienced. With this growth, Ciaran and the team were forced to move out of ArcLabs but are continuing to collaborate with the Institute and TSSG specifically.

GIY – An ArcLabs Social Enterprise Case Study

Grow it Yourself (GIY) was launched by Michael Kelly in 2008. It arose from a very simple need for Michael to engage with other people who were interested in growing their own food. Michael’s background was in IT and when he moved to Waterford, he assumed there would be a group he could join for amateur food growers. When there wasn’t, GIY was born. It began with one community group in Waterford city but within very little time, more and more groups were formed across the South East. GIY was originally established as a charity but quite quickly, Michael’s thinking matured to perceive it as a Social Enterprise, though still maintaining the not-for-profit ethos.

 

GIY’s mission is to: “help people grow their own food as a lever to a healthier life”. GIY’s focus is twofold: to inspire people to grow their own food and then to support them to do it better.

 

GIY started as a hobby for Michael but by 2009, he moved into ArcLabs and began working part-time on the enterprise. However, from that early stage it became apparent that the need was national and beyond. The first two years were concentrated primarily upon supporting the GIY community groups that were emerging around the country and really help them establish themselves. After this time, GIY expanded their offering into different campaigns targeting different markets, from corporate clients to primary school groups.

 

Funding GIY

 

GIY’s early funding came from philanthropic sources. GIY was awarded grants and received donations from various foundations such as Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. They also received funding from the Arthur Guinness fund in 2010. This philanthropic funding was primarily available when GIY was considered an early-stage start up. Within GIY’s social enterprise model, they were keen to generate funds independently to support their work. Their focus was on selling products and services that would help people to grow their own food. This ranges from selling small bags of seeds, books and tools on their online shop, to providing companies with food-growing programmes for their employees. GIY also have a market garden which they run from Carriganore (beside ArcLabs) that they use to produce vegetables to sell to local restaurants and at farmers markets. GIY have also run big-scale national campaigns where they have secured significant corporate sponsorship from companies such as Innocent and Cully and Sully.

 

GIY’s Target Market

 

Michael identified that the markets served by GIY are very diverse and therefore, their routes to each market are quite different. The age profile of GIY customers span from primary school children participating on seed growing courses to members of GIY community groups who are up to 90 years of age. However, Michael identified that the key demographic for them are young parents, 30 to 45. These people are generally finding themselves living in a house with a garden for the first time. They are concerned about what their children are eating. Thus, they are interested in trying to grow their own food. GIY are also trying to target young professionals between 20 and 35 to inspire them to grow their own food. Accordingly, as the majority of people in this age profile live in apartments, GIY are focussing on promoting alternatives such as balcony growing for this group. Thus, in a nutshell, everyone has the potential to be a customer of GIY.

 

GIY and ArcLabs

 

GIY became a client of ArcLabs after seeing the facilities on offer in the centre via their web development company Emagine, who were based here. Michael came to see the centre manager, Tom, and felt he immediately understood what GIY was and what GIY wanted to achieve. In Michael’s experience it was so rare to meet someone who understood social enterprise and he felt that Tom immediately did. The whole process of moving into ArcLabs was seamless for GIY and Michael highlighted the ease of the move into ArcLabs for all the facilities and services offered (internet, phone, shared reception, canteen etc). Michael really valued the network in ArcLabs and enjoyed sharing his journey with like-minded companies: “It’s the water cooler moments of being able to bounce ideas off people”. Michael found it incredibly beneficial to be in an environment where this was actively facilitated.

 

Michael found that he had great networking opportunities in ArcLabs, though probably quite different to other clients of the centre. WIT provided a space on the campus for GIY to create a market garden. This market garden remains in Carriganore even though GIY have graduated from the centre. Michael anticipates the links with WIT to be ongoing. Currently, the horticulture and culinary arts students visit the garden and train with Dermot Carey, GIY’s head food grower. With the opening of Grow HQ Michael would like to work with WIT to provide accreditation for the courses being offered.

 

GIY – After ArcLabs

 

GIY moved to their own offices nearby the Grow HQ site in early 2016. They had been in the centre for almost six years at that stage and so the time was right. They needed more space to expand over the year and their new facilities would accommodate that. The development of Grow HQ is a significant milestone for GIY and represents the impact of the GIY movement in a physical form.

 

 

Grow HQ is a 3 acre site that the GIY team have worked tirelessly to realise. They anticipate that they will open in September 2016 and Grow HQ will be a centre focussed on full food empathy, taking the process from growing the food, to cooking in their kitchen, to customers eating it in their restaurant. There will be an education centre there where GIY will deliver courses on food growing. Grow HQ represents a real opportunity for GIY to expand the reach of the movement and monetise their activities to ensure their sustainability.

 

The GIY team

 

From the humble beginning of a part-time project for Mick alone, GIY now employs nine people but will expand significantly with the opening of Grow HQ which is anticipated to happen in September 2016. Grow HQ will have a training centre and restaurant and will increase employment numbers to approximately 25.

 

Conclusion

 

Michael and the GIY team had a very positive experience in ArcLabs. ArcLabs provided them with the space they needed to grow and develop the business. They have forged strong links with WIT and though the offices are no longer based in ArcLabs, Michael is keen to nourish these links and remain closely involved with the Institute.