Focus On: Deloitte Fast 50 25

The SundayBusinessPost November3,2019

Fastforward tothefuture forrevenue growthvictors Three years into leading theDeloitte Fast 50, DavidShanahanhas lost none of his enthusiasmfor the tech sector’smost coveted awards,writes JasonWalsh

Y ear after year, fortwodecades now, Deloitte has put out its call to the Irish tech sector. It never gets stale, though, thanks to the fast-moving landscape of technology.  David Shanahan, a tax partner at Deloitte and Fast 50 programme lead, said the Fast 50 was best known for its credibility: a recognition of the true value of Ireland’s indigenous tech sector.  “People like the awards because they’re objective,” he said.  Indeed, Deloitte’s Fast 50 is centred entirely on revenue growth.  “We look at revenue in one year, [then] the revenue four years later, and rank the company according to their growth percentage. It’s very straightforward and it’s very clear,” he said.  One result is that the awards are open to all com- ers — though they tend to skew toward start-ups, who find revenue growth easier to achieve than longstanding T he construc- tion industry is changing con- stantly”saidEoin Leonard, chief executive, i3PT. “It has traditionally been known as a stagnant sector with slow uptake for inno- vationandnewtechnologies, but for a number of reasons the past few years have seen majoradvancesbothinterms of new technology and new processes”. He is referring to develop- ments such as Building In- formation Modelling (BIM), mobile field applications for site workers and other proj- ect collaboration tools, but also the adoption of modern methods of constructionand newways of working. “The traditional construc- tion methodologies can’t workanymore.Wedon’thave enough trades and we have an ageing workforce. More- over, clients are becoming more sophisticated in what they demand and quality is something that needs to be demonstrated now” he said . In the midst of a major housing crisis in Ireland and Britain,theindustryiswidely accepted to be facing some real challenges in terms of demographics and general quality, much of which is borne out by statistics. Recent estimates suggest that more than 20 per cent of the British construction workforce are now aged 55 or over and the industry has beenlessattractivetoyoung- ergenerations,whichmeans that new solutions will be needed to deliver the hous- ing and infrastructure that is so desperately needed. The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) alsorecently disclosed that construction defects in Britain are now costing the industry more on an annual basis than it

and celebrates the success of Irish indigenous entrepre- neurialism,” he said.  Whatwas perhaps a defect in the Irish economy at the foundation of the state — a lowpopulation and little tra- ditional secondary and ter- tiary industry—has arguably contributedtoado-it-yourself ethosthatisverymuchinsync with the modern world.  “It’s part of our nature: we’ve always been dogged, andfighters,” saidShanahan.  “More recently, since the 1990s and 2000s, there has been a tech focus [in Irish business in general], plus a realisation that they can run a business from Ireland that doesn’tneeda local customer base.”  This iskey toalmost all Fast 50 success stories: they may be Irish businesses, but few are selling exclusively to the domestic market.  “The joy of technology is that you can get customers all over theworld,” said Sha- nahan.  Ofcourse,governmentpol- icyandeventhearrivaloffor- eign-direct investment have

companies that already have large turnovers.   Still,allsizesarerecognised, said Shanahan.  “There’s some huge com- panies in the room, but there are also small ones,” he said.  “For those that are quite small or at the early stage of theirevolution,it’sagreatway for us to provide them with the opportunity to network.”  A secondary result of all of this—perhaps less important, butarguablyoneofthekeysto the success of the awards— is suspense.  “Thetensionbuildsthought the night, and there’s really a great atmosphere,” he said.  Local heroes  Although the Fast 50 is an in- ternationalawardwithdiffer- ent ceremonies in different countries, it is perhaps par- ticularly suited to Ireland — a country of scrappy entrepre- neurs, said Shanahan.  “The fact is that in Ireland we’vealwaysbeenreallysuc- cessful in making our own businesses, andso theFast 50 is nice because it recognises

David Shanahan, a tax partner at Deloitte and Fast 50 programme lead

also played roles, and with the technology sector there is something of a symbiotic relationship between the in- digenous start-up scene and the 800-pound gorillas.  “The multinationals could well becustomersof thewin- ners, but they’re there [at the awardsceremony]todemon- strate their support, and also to network and [to] build re- lationships.”  The awards as awhole rec- ognisetheimportanceoftech- nology to the Irish economy, but some awards, such as the Spotlight on Cybersecurity, zoom in on particular sectors that Deloitte has identified as key areas for growth.Won by Belfast’s Titan IC, a fabless chipdesigner,SpotlightonCy-

berisverymucharecognition that in 2019 cybersecurity is anareathatno-onecanafford to ignore.  The Spotlight on Fintech award, meanwhile, is spon- sored by Silicon Valley Bank, a leading lender in the tech sector; the winner, Transfer- Mate, will be brought to the US toexplore investment op- portunities.   Changing times  Although the nature of the awards is consistent — mea- suringrevenuegrowth—some years throw up surprises, and 2019 was certainly one of those. 

Infact, it threwuptwovery different surprises: a bevy of new faces, and the return of one very well known to at- tendees.   “Whatwas particularly in- teresting [this year] was that in the top ten, we had eight first-time entrants,” he said.  This represents a change from recent history, where continued growth has seen the same faces pop up more than once.  “In recent years there had been a lot of the same com- panies,” he said.  Some have returned again, of course, but it becomes harder for companies to fea- ture in the Fast 50with every passing year as the required growth figures require ever

move revenue.  “WehadxSellcoandeShop- Worldworldwinning several times, and they [both] made it back in. The presence of the newones, though, shows we’veastreamofnewcompa- nies that are starting to break through,” said Shanahan.  One new entrant, overall winner Electricity Exchange, is an interesting case in point because what it does — using digital technology to reduce theneedforelectricitygener- ation— is verymuch au cou- rant when it comes to 2019’s political debates.   Ontheotherhand,theother surprisewasthereturnofFirst Derivatives,whosecontinued appearance in the awards speaks to phenomenal, uni-

corn-like levels of ongoing growth.  “We look at [revenue] the base year, so in this case of 2015and,themostrecentyear, here 2018,” said Shanahan. “What you typically see is that companies shoot on to thescene, andthendropback downas theysettle intobusi- ness,butthisyearwehadFirst Derivativeswhowerethefirst [ever] winner, 20 years ago.”  ForShanahan,suchsuccess shouldberecognisedasnoth- ing short of staggering.  “Think about the commit- ment required to come back after20years—eventobestill around, frankly, but, as is the casewithFirst Derivatives, to havemadethelist17yearsout of 20,” he said.

At theleadingedgeofconstructionpractices

Technology is a major enabler for

culture change in the construction industry

generates in profits. “These statistics are not surprising, but we can’t be apathetic about it either.The industryhasembraceddigital construction somewhat and we see it as a huge area for growth. We are also seeing a huge culture change around building safety and quality, which begins with the sub- contractor on the ground and extends right back to the funders. “Ati3PT,wearecommitted to alleviating some of these challengesandweareleading the way with our own pro- cesses and technology,” said Leonard. A new addition to i3PT’s leadership teamis

At i3PT,weare leading thewaywithour ownprocessesand technology

From left: at the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 awards were Eoin Leonard chief executive officer, i3PT, Caroline O’Driscoll, partner, Deloitte, RonanMurray, partner, Deloitte; Will Stuchbury, M&E inspector, i3PT and DavidWallace, chief commercial officer, i3PT

directing the shift in culture. “Weworkwithsomeofthe largestgovernmentagencies, multinational corporations and developers in theworld. They trust us to protect their peopleandtheirassets,which is a huge responsibility and one we take very seriously” saidWallace. The firm is currently ap- pointed on projects with a combined capital value in excess of £9 billion, with projects ranging from €500 million data centres to En- glish Premiership football stadiums and high density residential schemes. Leonard points to the two keyelementsinthesuccessof i3PT, peopleand technology. “Our team is so exception- ally diverse and competent,

we have professionals from multiple disciplines and the breadth of experience in our company is unique. “Our service is driven by this excellent team of peo- ple and it is enhanced by our technology, CertCentral.” CertCentral In a typically entrepreneur- ial twist, theCertCentral SaaS platform was originally de- veloped by i3PT to solve its own problems, which were centredaroundassuringqual- ity in construction. However, the digital evo- lution of the construction industry led to increased investment in innovation as new features were being re- questedbyclients.Overtime,

CertCentral was developed to become a full project col- laborationsoftwareplatform, complete with iOS and An- droid field applications. Leonard notes that i3PT hadn’treallyconsideredsoft- ware as a business opportu- nity at the beginning. “We have always said that our purpose was to deliver better buildings and im- proved culture on projects. Originally, we focused all of oureffortsonourprofessional services,whichare primari- ly focused on design review, quality assurance and site inspection. “ThesuccessofCertCentral was almost a surprise to us. We had been so focused on quality, that we built a sys- tem with real rigour, trans-

parencyandevidence-based workflows. Every issue is logged, tracked, closed out and reviewed both digitally and on site. People liked the simplicity of the interface and theywanted toapply the same rigour to other parts of the project life cycle, such as design development and document control. “Our own profession- al team actually design the softwareinterfaceandwork- flows, sowehave thebenefit ofcharteredengineers,archi- tects, surveyors and trades- people when we are trying to design software tools.This means thatwhatwe create is instantlyintuitivetotheuser.” Thecompanyisgrowingits teamconstantlyanditsBritish business is also going from

strength to strength, despite the uncertainty that comes with Brexit. Leonard said: “i3PT’s ser- vices and software divisions arebothgrowingreallywellin Britain,despiterecentevents. Wehavedevelopedsome in- crediblepartnershipsandwe are working in some excel- lentprojects,fromlarge-scale healthcare facilities to sports stadiums,whichhasbecome a real niche for us. “Also, a large number of clients in Ireland and Britain are opting for offsite con- struction, which is another area thatwehave had a great deal of experience in. All in all, the future is really bright and we plan to add another international office in theUS next year.”

profession- al. I witnessed first-hand the kind of

improvements that could be achieved using technology andnewwaysofworking.At Munster,thenewculturethat emerged fromthiswas liter- ally transformative,”hesaid. The company has grown exponentially over the past seven years, opening offices inDublin,Cork,Limerickand London. Changes in legislation and recent failures in building safety have led to a shifting operational landscape and i3PThas beenakeyplayer in

former rugby international David Wallace, who joined as chief commercial officer in 2019. “What really struck me about i3PT was the focus on high-performance in con- struction and the belief that technologycouldbedesigned to improve culture and be- haviours on projects,” said Wallace. “Inmyplayingdays,Ilived throughtheperiodwherethe game went from amateur to

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