‘After the HSE hacking, we were inundated with business enquiries’

31 Aug 2021

Andrew Tobin. Image: Dylan Vaughan

Stryve’s Andrew Tobin discusses demand for cloud and cybersecurity services, and how he has been interested in IT since hacking games on his Commodore 64 as a child.

Andrew Tobin is the CEO of Carlow-based cloud service provider Stryve. His has almost 20 years’ experience leading Irish SMEs, having spent more than a decade as managing director of web development and digital strategy company T2.

In 2018, T2 merged with cloud and cybersecurity specialist vCloud to create Stryve, and Tobin took on the role of CEO. The company now has clients in 20 countries and is looking at expanding its team and growing its business through acquisitions.

‘The recent shift to remote working and cloud computing has led to increased awareness of the vulnerabilities of companies’ data’

Describe your role and what you do.

As CEO, I am directly responsible for setting the company’s strategy with our board and then seeing that we get there. We need to be constantly researching and looking for opportunities as the digital world is changing at an enormous speed. In the first year, we turned over €1.2m. We aim to reach €5m in year five.

A key early decision was to invest half a million euro in our own green data centre in Cork. This ensures that Stryve can offer private cloud and can guarantee data security to its clients. This sets Stryve apart from its competitors and is central to achieving the growth we have targeted.

Part of my time is spent planning for growth with suitable partners. Mergers and acquisitions are a vital part of Stryve’s growth strategy to become Europe’s largest private cloud provider.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I have always been an organised person. I make a list daily of my to-dos and look at the short, medium and long term.

Then the most important thing is to prioritise. That way I can ensure the top priorities always get dealt with. It’s not always bulletproof in there could be days with lots of scheduled meetings, but I’ve learnt to work around that, leaving gaps where appropriate. The key thing is that before you leave the office you can see what has been done and what needs to be done.

I have a philosophy that we have a work life, personal life, family life, etc – the common word is ‘life’. So, I don’t beat myself up over an hour here or there, whether it’s personal infringing on work or vice-versa. Through regular reflection, often during exercise, I would soon recognise if one part of life was not getting the appropriate attention.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

Due to the HSE hacking and the extensive publicity it received, we are inundated with new business and enquiries. Most SMEs, large and small, don’t have the skills needed to understand the cybersecurity and cloud needs for their business.

They are looking to companies like us for advice and, without exception, every company we talk to has weaknesses in their security that need to be addressed. People want their data safe but, just as importantly, they do not want to have to waste time sorting out a problem that they could have protected against.

Our clients need to trust us, so we need to be able to establish trust virtually now due to the new working norms, and that is sometimes not as satisfactory as face to face. Like every company, we are adjusting how we ‘meet’ with our customers and thankfully we are coping well.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

The recent shift to remote working and cloud computing has led to increased awareness of the vulnerabilities of companies’ data and cybersecurity. We now have people coming to us to ask are they safe. Usually, there is a weakness that we can quickly identify with a simple penetration test.

Companies are realising that their rush to public cloud may not have been the right or most secure move, so are now looking to private cloud as the answer. Stryve, with data centres in Ireland, UK and Poland, is well positioned to take advantage of this.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

My love for IT. From hacking games on my Commodore 64 when I was 12 years of age, to building my own computer systems in my late teens, to writing software applications – all my life I’ve had a flair for IT.

That and coming from a farming background where money was scarce. If you grow up on a farm, you get used to a day’s work!  

How do you get the best out of your team?

I’m a very trusting person. I offer a lot of flexibility and largely leave my team to their own devices. We have selected good people with the right skills and they know what our plan is. They are as keen to progress as I am. If there is an issue within the business then I’m a big fan of grasping the nettle and dealing with it.

We have recruited an experienced team for our leadership positions. Paul Delahunty, one of the country’s top experts in his field, is our chief security officer and Gunter Bayer is a tech-visionary chief technology officer. We are currently filling 10 new positions in Ireland and Poland.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

At Stryve, we have quite a diverse workforce with men and women from several nationalities and backgrounds. I see it as a big plus to have people with a wide variety of experiences contributing to the company. Our focus is on skills and a good attitude to work, and that almost automatically will result in a diverse workforce.

Did you ever have a mentor or someone who was pivotal in your career?

Laurence D’Arcy is a serial entrepreneur and one of my business partners. I met him first about 10 years ago and Laurence continually provides good advice to me. [Business leader and consultant] Blaise Brosnan was superb also in my early years of business and his words of wisdom are always front of mind.

What books have you read that you would recommend?
  • Exploring Strategy by Gerry Johnson, Richard Whittington, Patrick Regnér, Duncan Angwin and Kevan Scholes
  • Making Money is Killing Your Business by Chuck Blakeman
  • You Are the Limiting Factor by Blaise Brosnan 
What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

My mobile, AfterShokz headset and email. And some good long cycles on the country roads to clear my head.

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