GTC Alumni Series – Storm Technology

Much like the centre, Storm Technology’s origin is rooted in Digital’s legacy in the city. Karl Flannery co-founded Storm Technology in Galway working with leading multinationals in the region.  Today they have a team of over 80 people in Galway and Dublin. 

Karl spent a morning with us to share his experience growing a business in the Irish technology sector. 

Storm Technology is a business technology consultancy. That means we take digital technology and software and apply it in the business context.

We work with corporations and government to develop key processes such as customer acquisition, internal collaboration, administration and the delivery of services.

We help our clients to be more productive by understanding how they might see opportunities and how they work with their customers. We then build systems that achieve business objectives in a more efficient and cost-effective way.

But it’s not just technology for technology’s sake. We look at it from the point of view of how technology can positively impact the business.

Storm Origins

The story for Storm is quite simple. Some of us worked personally with a company called Digital Equipment Corporation. At the time they had a large cohort of contractors working with them and they wanted to build a network of technology companies that could provide services to them. We were one of the companies that set up at that time.

We got our first contract with Digital to build a system to manage fraud. That was a very good project that helped us build up our balance sheet. We then worked with Nortel and Thermoking before expanding into Dublin and other companies around the country.

Building A Company

A company doesn’t exist in isolation.

It exists to solve a problem. It exists to provide a place for people to build skills. It exists to contribute back to the economy. A successful company evolves over time

At the start, you need to be very curious and be willing to take big risks. And you need to be able to take big risks at a personal level as well because most companies do fail. You might have to do it two or three times to be successful.

Don’t do everything at the start

When you are building an organisation, it depends what stage you are at. At the start-up phase, it is very much about people who can actually apply and use technology. In my case, I was a software engineer working with Northern Telecom when we founded Storm. So I brought my own core skills in technology to bear on the business.

You know you can’t do everything when you are starting up. You’ve got to focus on delivering to your customer and getting the technology to work.

Shift focus as you scale

But over time you start to get the space to invest more in the company. You begin to transition from working in the company to working on the company. That’s a gradual transition that takes place over time – not as a big bang.

As the company scales and you acquire more customers you need to look at how the structure of the company works and build a team around you that can help manage the organisation. You have got to build everything from talent acquisition to finance to quality management to sales and marketing.

Getting the right mix at the right time is important for the growth of the company.

Galway’s Talent and Lifestyle 

People normally set up companies in the location where they are based. We were fortunate to be based in Galway.

Galway has a fantastic pool of talent available to it and access to talent was a key factor for the growth of Storm Technology. We are co-located with the university so we are able to get talent coming out of the university. But we are also able to tap into the talent coming from the multinational sector that is based here. Bringing in experienced people who understand and have worked for larger organisations is important for growth.

A lifestyle that helps companies build their talent pool

I think the lifestyle goes hand in hand with talent. Galway is a fantastic environment to have a really interesting lifestyle. There is great arts, culture and food. And the physical environment around Galway is fantastic.

It is a very attractive thing for professionals to base themselves in Galway. And it helps the companies build the teams they need to be successful in the markets in which they operate.

A transformation to a thriving ecosystem

Thirty years ago Galway was dominated by two or three key players in a couple of sectors. Now we have start-ups, SME’s and multinationals operating within a variety of industries.

It has been a gradual transformation over thirty years. The growth of the university and diversification and scale of enterprises has created opportunity and confidence.

We have incredible talent available to us now and they possess the skills, confidence and insights that contribute to the success of companies in the region.