IN­TER­VIEW

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

THE first thing you see when you walk into Team­work’s Cork of­fice is a huge video screen with a big num­ber on it — $25m an­nual rev­enue. “That’s our tar­get,” says Dan Mackey. “It’s our sin­gle fo­cus. We’re on track to do it this year.” Mackey has greeted me in cargo shorts and a branded T-shirt. He’s dressed a lit­tle like a roadie.

The of­fice he’s show­ing me around is right out of Sil­i­con Val­ley, too. There’s wood pan­elling ev­ery­where, comfy couches, an ex­ten­sive, well-equipped roof gar­den, su­per­hero art (DC is favoured over Mar­vel) and even a se­ries of hu­man slides between floors. (There’s only been one in­jury on these so far, he tells me.)

But while the Black­pool head­quar­ters looks like a typ­i­cally trans­planted Cal­i­for­nian tech hub, there is one big dif­fer­ence between Team­work and vir­tu­ally ev­ery other fast-grow­ing tech firm in Ire­land and the US.

The in­dige­nous Cork startup, which now has some of the world’s big­gest com­pa­nies as customers, is com­pletely self-made.

Al­most uniquely among to­day’s crop of young tech com­pa­nies, there isn’t a penny of ven­ture cap­i­tal in here. Or debt. The whole thing is self-funded and ‘or­gan­i­cally’ grown by co-founders Mackey and Peter Cop­pinger.

On its pro­jected $25m (€21m) rev­enue this year, it ex­pects to make around $5m (€4m) in profit. Based on the pop­u­lar­ity of its soft­ware, it now em­ploys 200 high-end en­gi­neers and sales peo­ple and is open­ing new of­fices all over the world. This month it an­nounced a new of­fice in Belfast, where it plans to hire 85 peo­ple.

“If it con­tin­ues the way it is now, we’ll hit $450m rev­enue within 10 years, which is our goal,” says Mackey.

So far, there’s no rea­son to doubt it. The com­pany is grow­ing at 40pc a year, says Mackey, and has been for sev­eral years.

Its client list in­cludes Dis­ney, Net­flix, Spo­tify and many other big names.

For those un­fa­mil­iar with what it does, Team­work makes project man­age­ment, cus­tomer sup­port and work com­mu­ni­ca­tion soft­ware. It’s typ­i­cally used by teams within com­pa­nies to track work and projects of var­i­ous shapes and sizes.

It com­petes with gi­ants such as At­las­sian and Zen­desk, names that may not be fa­mil­iar to the av­er­age per­son but are bil­lion dol­lar com­pa­nies with global recog­ni­tion among enterprise busi­nesses. Slack is also in­creas­ingly a com­peti­tor.

Its key com­po­nent is that it’s one of the new breed of ‘soft­ware-as-a-ser­vice’ com­pa­nies, mean­ing most or all of the func­tion­al­ity comes from log­ging in and us­ing it on­line.

Team­work isn’t a new com­pany. It’s been around since 2007, with Mackey and Cop­pinger having worked to­gether (build­ing web­sites) in Cork since 1998.

As Mackey tells the story, they just got sick of try­ing to or­gan­ise projects us­ing hig­gledy-pig­gledy re­sources. So they de­cided to make a de­cent one.

“We threw it out one night on­line and we just got customers right away,” says Mackey. ”We did no sales, no mar­ket­ing. It sold just on the strength of the prod­uct.”

They car­ried on in this vein for a cou­ple of years, with lit­tle thought of build­ing out a tra­di­tional-look­ing busi­ness, un­til they started to see a se­ri­ous up­take of the prod­uct.

Fast for­ward to 2018, where Team­work has 22,000 pay­ing customers with over 10 times that num­ber us­ing its soft­ware. It is now one of the fastest-grow­ing tech com­pa­nies in Ire­land (Deloitte ranks it 12th out of its top 50, though many of those ranked above it in the growth list aren’t prof­itable).

Having now filled up its build­ing (and part of another one) in Cork’s Black­pool re­tail cen­tre with new em­ploy­ees, Mackey and Cop­pinger have pur­chased a large multi-acre site next door with the aim of con­struct­ing its own build­ing in the next cou­ple of years. (Pos­si­bly with more slides.)

This is a daunt­ing project and one that will likely cost a min­i­mum of €25m to €30m.

But a cou­ple more years of Team­work’s growth will see its cash pile hit this level, pos­si­bly en­abling it to be paid for with­out bor­row­ing any­thing.

If and when this hap­pens, Team­work will be on its way to be­ing one of the coun­try’s big­gest home-grown soft­ware com­pa­nies, fol­low­ing in the steps of newly-minted ‘uni­corns’ such as In­ter­com.

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