Founder of Lon­don­derry IT start-up in vow to grow glob­ally

An­nounce­ment of 256 jobs just the start, says NI en­tre­pre­neur

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Front Page - BY RYAN MCALEER

A NORTH­ERN Ire­land en­tre­pre­neur has said there is “no ques­tion” that his in­sur­ance soft­ware firm will grow beyond the 256 jobs an­nounced for Lon­don­derry.

John Harkin’s new com­pany Alchemy Tech­nol­ogy Ser­vices is seek­ing to fill all the posts within three years, with 80 peo­ple set to be re­cruited by the end of the year.

The roles will be based within the firm’s new head­quar­ters at City Fac­tory build­ing in the city.

Speak­ing yes­ter­day, the 56-year-old busi­ness­man, who left Lon­don­derry in 1980, de­scribed the plan to cre­ate 256 jobs as “con­ser­va­tive”.

“The model we have de­vel­oped is ap­pli­ca­ble glob­ally, but first and fore­most, to all of North­ern Ire­land,” he said.

“We will ex­pand and grow in the north­west and our head of­fice will re­main in Derry.

“We’re def­i­nitely ex­pand­ing — no ques­tion.”

Yes­ter­day’s an­nounce­ment brings to 628 the num­ber of new In­vest Ni-backed jobs for the north-west an­nounced in the last few months. In June, Belfast-based Fin­Tru an­nounced 600 new jobs, with 305 based in Lon­don­derry.

Last week, Danske Bank said its new cus­tomer pro­tec­tion cen­tre in the city would cre­ate 67 new jobs.

Mr Harkin said the an­nounce­ments were good news for the area, adding that he does not ex­pect his re­cruit­ment drive to be in di­rect com­pe­ti­tion with the ongoing cam­paign by fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­pany Fin­Tru.

“We’re more tech­nol­ogy-ori­en­tated than what they’re look­ing for. So I think that’s great news, it’ll help keep the tal­ent in this area,” he said.

Alchemy Tech­nol­ogy Ser­vices, which was set up in De­cem­ber, has been of­fered £1.5m for its new Euro­pean cen­tre of ex­cel­lence by In­vest NI. The eco­nomic sup­port agency said the jobs, which will at­tract av­er­age salaries of around £25,000, will even­tu­ally be worth £6.5m for the north-west’s econ­omy.

Re­cruit­ment is al­ready un­der- way, with the De­part­ment for the Econ­omy pro­vid­ing £800,000 via the As­sured Skills pro­gramme, which will be run out of the North West Re­gional Col­lege.

Mr Harkin is a for­mer stu­dent of the col­lege and was born and raised in the Wa­ter­side, Lon­don­derry. He de­scribed how his ca­reer had brought him full cir­cle back to his na­tive city after nearly 40 years.

That ca­reer in­cluded stints at KPMG and PWC and took him to Sil­i­con Val­ley, Paris, Sydney and Sin­ga­pore, work­ing with some of the world’s big­gest com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Ap­ple. “It’s very ex­cit­ing. I had no clue that fate would lead me back in this di­rec­tion,” he told Busi­ness Tele­graph.

He said the tal­ent pool in the area and the fi­nan­cial sup­port had al­lowed him to re­alise his vi­sion for Alchemy faster than he could have in­de­pen­dently with just the nor­mal in­vest­ment ap­proach.

But while he re­tains a deep and per­sonal con­nec­tion with Lon­don­derry, he said the de­ci­sion to lo­cate the head­quar­ters of his new com­pany in the city of his birth was “a pure busi­ness de­ci­sion”.

He said: “Head had to rule over heart, but I was amazed at the trans­for­ma­tion of the city and the area and the qual­ity of life.”

Mr Harkin said the es­tab­lish­ment of Alchemy in Lon­don­derry was “the first step in a much longer jour­ney”.

“We want to build a solid foun­da­tion for a busi­ness that can grow,” he said.

“This isn’t a quick-hit, cre­ate some­thing and sell it. This is about cre­at­ing a re­ally sus­tain­able or­gan­i­sa­tion rooted in peo­ple, car­ing and man­ag­ing the way we grow it.

“We want to be part of the growth and suc­cess of this area.”

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