Business Plus

Fresh Start For Trio After Email Laundry

After a series of layoffs in the sector, Brian Byrne decided to launch his own email security business. The Mesh CEO talks to Robert O’Brien about the company’s progress and why the founders took a patient approach to raising money


Brian Byrne (36) has been around the houses with Irish email security providers and now he’s got his own venture in the space, Mesh Security. His partners in the startup, Daimhin Kavanagh (33) and Ralph Casey (44), are also sector veterans and they have been given a chance to go prove themselves by private equity investor Elkstone, which invested €1,250,000 in the company in May 2023. Taxpayers are also on board through Enterprise Ireland, with Mesh stating that its total seed stage funding amounts to €1.55m.

Byrne has the CEO role at Mesh and, for a college drop-out, his career progress is impressive. Educated at Balbriggan Community College, Byrne recalls that his third-level experience lasted a couple of hours. He decided to be become an electricia­n, but his timing wasn’t great as it coincided with the constructi­on crash of 2009. “You’d be put on a job for two months and then laid off for four. Anyway, I was never really cut out for that kind of work,” he recalls.

Byrne landed a seasonal job in the Passport Office in Balbriggan, and discovered that customer care suited him. This led him into MX Sweep, which was located in the same north Dublin business park. He joined in 2012 and was made redundant two years later, when the firm found an American buyer.

The MX Sweep experience qualified

Byrne for a role in peer company Email Laundry, where Byrne was initially a channel manager and then became the main salesperso­n. “It was the right place at right time in terms of the industry,” says Byrne. “Email security just took off and Email Laundry did quite well.”

In 2017, Email Laundry was also snapped up by a US buyer, FireEye. “It was a different kind of acquisitio­n to what happened at MX Sweep insofar as I didn’t get terminated immediatel­y. However, FireEye didn’t have a coherent plan for what they were going to do with Email Laundry,” he says.

“In subsequent years, some FireEye products were sold to private equity, and some of their services were sold to Google. Email Laundry was a little side piece they didn’t know what to do with, and in 2020 they decided to kill the business and say goodbye to the revenue and the customers.”

In May 2020, as Ireland was reckoning with the effects of the drastic Covid lockdown on the economy and society, Brian Byrne had his second email redundancy. Casey and Kavanagh had been colleagues in Email Laundry but it took a while for Mesh to come together. Byrne had job offers in the sector, but as he mulled his future from home isolation he decided that he no longer wanted to be an employee.

“After Email Laundry was acquired by FireEye, I didn’t enjoy the large organisati­on bureaucrac­y. When I left Email Laundry, some competitor­s were keen to recruit me, but I was at a stage in my life where I don’t like being told what to do. I’ve never been good with authority, even going back my days as an apprentice electricia­n,” he says.

Email Laundry clients included Managed Service Providers (MSPs). These are the specialist­s who look

after businesses’ tech requiremen­ts on an outsourced basis, and email management is a big part of the service. Over some virtual beers during lockdown, Byrne got to talking with Ralph Casey, and they reckoned there was a market gap in the MSP email space.

They commenced work on their idea in the autumn of 2020, and with Daimhin Kavanagh also on board as an equal partner, Mesh Security was incorporat­ed in September 2020. A year later there was a Mesh product, with the first invoice issued in October 2021.

The three founders weren’t paying themselves and they had four employees. Revenue’s tax warehouse scheme aided cashflow: Mesh’s accounts to end October 2022 disclose €280,000 in payroll tax debt.

“It was a tough slog,” Byrne admits. “Obviously we didn’t want to let anyone go and thankfully we weren’t even close to making that call, but Mesh was bootstrapp­ed until recently.”

However, from October 2021 Mesh was generating revenue. Since the Mesh gateway launched, the customer base has grown to 150 MSPs, ranging from large to small. Mesh’s largest MSP customer has 5,000 to 6,000 end users — i.e. the number of employees in businesses that the MSP supports. The average MSP end user number across Mesh’s customer base is 400, spread across multiple firms with c.25 employees.

Mesh’s first customers were transfers from Email Laundry but word spread quickly. “MSPs are very active in their own communitie­s and forums,” Byrne explains. “There is a real sense we’ll help another MSP that might be in a similar position. They constantly throw out questions in these online forums, such as ‘what are you guys using for email security?’

“There are scores of different email security providers out there — it’s a busy market. Thankfully, a lot of MSPs are saying ‘check out Mesh, it’s built for MSPs’. Our growth to date is testament to MSPs spreading the word.”

The Mesh team contacted Enterprise Ireland early on, and were introduced to Niall McEvoy, manager of the HPSU unit. “We had a meeting with Niall to tell him what we were doing,” says Byrne. “He left for Elkstone in April 2022 and checked in with me every couple of months. Funding was on the back burner for us because anything I had read stressed that you will underestim­ate how long the process is going to take.

“I felt that though we were burning through such significan­t money every month, we could not entertain conversati­ons about raising money because we would run out of money before any deal was done. We were also mindful that if we could keep ourselves afloat and develop a sustainabl­e business, it would give us a stronger hand when it came to negotiatio­ns.”

In January 2023, Mesh embarked on

 ?? MAXWELLS ?? College and being an electricia­n did not suit Brian Byrne but he found his niche in customer care and sales
MAXWELLS College and being an electricia­n did not suit Brian Byrne but he found his niche in customer care and sales

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland