The Friday Interview: Cliodhna McGurk, Saadian

18 Jan 2008

Dublin firm Saadian has given 18 UK police forces a prisoner intelligence system and has generated €1m in revenue. Cliodhna McGurk is founder and CEO.

Your target base is public sector organisations. Do you agree with the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report which casts a negative light on e-government in Ireland?

My own personal experience wouldn’t be negative. The Revenue Commissioners for example are the most successful department in the area of electronic government, in terms of how SMEs and individuals pay and file their taxes.

Some 75pc of all taxes in Ireland are now collected electronically. For all company directors, we have to file our income taxes and I filed mine in 20 minutes by laser card and that was successful.

Bodies like the Revenue Commissioners should be lauded for making the collection of taxes more efficient. In a country where you can file tax online electronically, e-government is not a failure.

How much of Saadian’s business is with the public sector?

A good portion. We’ve been involved in providing citizen self-service by text message, such as appointment confirmations and reminders for things like driving tests. This helps public sector bodies reduce costs considerably.

The business of Saadian is split into two different parts – the traditional area would be text messaging technologies for efficient businesses, the public sector and health, while the second area would be a growing focus on fleet management and emergency planning.

You’ve won considerable business with UK police forces. Specifically, what kind of work are you doing there?

Some 18 of the largest UK police forces have deployed a technology called Prisoner Intelligence Notification System (PINS), which informs arresting officers when prisoners are about to be released.

We have sold it to them on an annual subscription basis and this year we brought in revenues of €1m and the company has grown 60pc in the last three years. We are forecasting the same level of growth this year.

Has Saadian taken on private investment?

We remain privately funded. This is good because the control of the company has remained with the executive team. As such, we don’t have to conform to a fixed timescale for aggressive returns.

Instead we are able to fine-tune our strategy to changing market conditions. When we saw how a venture capital funded company like Marrakech ramped up losses of €77m before becoming a take-over target, it makes us glad we didn’t go down the venture capital route.

In what new technology direction is Saadian headed?

We are focusing on developing exportable mobile software products, particularly in the area of emergency planning technology. At present more than half of our business is in the UK.

Emergency planning communications for agencies dealing with call-outs, such as the ambulance and fire services, is a growing business segment. This is especially true when the public are demanding greater accountability from the emergency service providers.

By John Kennedy