Altocloud, a Silicon Valley-based start-up with a base in Galway was co-founded in 2013 by Barry O’Sullivan, Joe Smyth and Dan Arra.
- Barry O’Sullivan, Altocloud CEO, is a former senior executive at Cisco and Nortel, a co-founder of ITLG, the Irish Technology Leadership Group, a charity board member, and an investor and “Dragon” on the Irish TV program Dragon’s Den.
- Joe Smyth is Altocloud’s CTO; he has previously held senior technical roles at Apple, Nortel and Cisco.
We spoke with Barry and Joe about their business and why they are based in the West.
Tell us About Your Business
Altocloud is a cloud platform that combines predictive analytics with voice, video and chat interactions to identify the right website visitors and best moments for communications.
We help convert shoppers into buyers for ecommerce, connect web and mobile visitors with inside sales people in real-time,and streamline customer support experiences.
Altocloud helps businesses efficiently grow revenue, saving time and money while making customers happy.
Why are you based in the West of Ireland?
We wish to build a successful Irish tech company with global reach based on local talent and showing that it can be done from the West of Ireland. Two of our three founders are based in Galway as is our R&D department.
When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?
The company was founded in 2013. We were driven by the state of the customer care business and how it has failed to move into the web age.
We have significant background in Customer Care; Barry was General Manager for Customer Care in both Nortel & Cisco and Joe was a key R&D manager in Nortel’s Contact Centre product development. We understand deeply the current state of the industry which is rooted in technology designed in the 1980s and early 1990s and it is time to move Customer Care into the web era.
Contact Centres today are completely disjointed from Business Websites – we believe that the Contact Centre should be deeply integrated with the Website and that together they should present a consistent unified interface to the customer.
What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
As we are a SaaS product the key startup costs have been hiring key people. The product is developed using Open Source tools and hosted on a Cloud Provider platform. The initial funding came from founder funding, angel investment and Enterprise Ireland. This was focused on building the Software as a Service to an Minimum Viable Product.
Where is your market? How have you targeted international markets?
The market for Altocloud is global but right now we are focused on the US & UK as they are two of the most advanced eCommerce markets and we have presence in the USA and are close to the UK. We also have customers in Ireland who are very accessible to the engineering team.
How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?
From initial idea to actual product coding took about 8 months.
How do you recruit and retain a talented team?
We leveraged our network locally for hiring. This was especially fruitful within the university environment where we were able to get really great talent who were finishing up research projects, PhDs, Masters programs and some really great graduates. Being based on campus at NUI Galway has facilitated this process.
We are also heavily involved in the Startup Galway community (startupgalway.org) which is a great way of meeting people with ideas or who have an interest in starting or joining a startup. Retaining such people requires a mix of interesting work, connection to customers, a strong sense of product ownership and company ownership via stock options. Everyone we hire is deeply committed to what we are doing and where we want to take the company. Oh, and they need to have fun doing it!
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful?
Both Barry and Joe have significant industry experience in Contact Centre and Unified Communications. We have therefore focused our talent acquisition on Data Analytics and Web services and of course Sales which is the forte of our US based co-founder. So ensure you have a balanced team who know their roles and can complement each other.
How do you continue to grow and learn?
Leverage the web, there are a huge amount of talks and presentations online, delve into Open Source and embrace the Open Source way of “do, don’t talk”.
How do you promote your business?
Via our website, social media, word of mouth and especially working with initial customers so that they become a word of mouth driver for you.
If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
Do it earlier!
What should happen in the West of Ireland to encourage further entrepreneurship?
- Infrastructure is key – especially completing the motorway network North / South to allow us to connect Cork/Limerick/Galway/Sligo. This will enable the creation of a counter-balance to Dublin on the western seaboard
- Galway itself needs to grow to be at least twice the size it is to get to critical mass and make it easier to have opportunities in the city for it’s people rather than having easier options in Dublin or Abroad. It would be great if it grew up rather than out – proper urban planning would be good.
- Government investment in the universities is key and the universities need to work with local industry to ensure they stay current.
- We’d love to see a proper Startup community in the city centre – it’s too easy to push development to the suburbs but that kills community and the network effects of what can be achieved.
‘Galway now challenging Dublin as a software start-up location’ written by Barry O’Sullivan recently featured in the Irish Times
What advice would you give to anybody thinking about a life in the West of Ireland
The weather may be not so great but it’s what drives so many great things about the west – the ocean, the weather beaten scenery, the vibrancy and resilience of the people, the sense of common purpose of people who live here. So embrace it – you can complain about it for sure but it makes us who we are!