A month after the company he founded 22 years ago but left in 2008 was wound up in the High Court, IT security expert Dermot Williams has picked through the embers of Systemhouse and has come roaring back with a new start-up, Threatscape.
Williams set up Irish IT security company Systemhouse Technology Group in 1988, and turned it into a highly successful company which he sold to Top Security Group in 2004.
The firm had grown under his leadership to employ more than two dozen staff – many of them highly trained IT security specialists. Annual profits exceeded a €1m before his departure in February 2008 as the firm approached its 20th anniversary.
Now, six years after selling Systemhouse to Top Security Group, Williams is spearheading a brand new venture, Threatscape. Established and funded by Williams, the IT security company already employs seven people, with the core team comprised of former colleagues who worked with him for many years in Systemhouse.
The new business is projecting turnover in its first year of more than €3m, and by the end of 2010 expects to have doubled its headcount. Threatscape will be focused on IT security solutions and has already won a substantial number of blue-chip clients in its first few weeks.
Last month, all staff at Systemhouse (which since November 2004 had been trading as “Topsec Technology” to reflect the branding of its new owners’ IT security division) were made redundant after the High Court in Dublin appointed David Van Dessel of Kavanagh Fennell as liquidator to the company.
“It came as a very big surprise to see this great company fold after so many successful years,” Williams said.
“Having built up the business, I knew its greatest asset and main factor in its prior success was the expertise and experience of its team. I sounded out a number of them and six calls and six acceptances later, I realised I had a compelling opportunity not only to re-enter the market but to work with a group of people I know and trust and whose futures looked uncertain only a few weeks ago.”
Williams continues: “Security is a trust business and trust takes a very long time to win, build and maintain. For the 20 years running Systemhouse, the team and I forged strong relationships with customers and vendors alike. This was key to Systemhouse’s success and will also be what makes Threatscape a success going forward.”
Management at Threatscape
Joining Williams at Threatscape are a core management team who, between them, have collective experience of more than 50 years in IT security. They are Colin Reid as commercial director, Eddie Lyons as sales director, Alan Roche as technical director and Wendy Williams as finance director. All own stakes in the new enterprise.
After forming Threatscape, Williams then took the logical step of submitting a bid to the liquidator who had announced his intention to sell all the assets of Systemhouse (including stocks, fixed assets, customer base, business and goodwill) in a single transaction. His bid was successful, and a contract for sale is being finalised.
Offering a range of services, including anti-virus, data loss prevention (DLP) and network access control (NAC), Threatscape has already signed up numerous large customers.
Williams puts this down to the people behind the company and their established customer relationships, strong track records and reputations.
Threatscape also operates in the data communications market, supplying communications hardware and logistics services to carriers and ISPs – and Williams reports that that part of the business has likewise “hit the ground running”.
Threatscape has moved into new offices in the Apex Building in Sandyford, and Williams believes he can make it a bigger success than his first company, in part by maximising contacts built up during two years of consultancy work for clients outside Ireland since leaving Systemhouse.
“The broadened horizons this has brought makes me confident not only that Threatscape has bright prospects – but that much of its future success will lie in growth outside Ireland, exporting Irish IT security expertise to markets in the UK and further afield,” says Williams.
“I see considerable opportunity for Threatscape to grow bigger than Systemhouse ever was, and look forward to working with many of the new contacts I’ve dealt with over the past few years. The future is very bright and I very much relish this opportunity,” Williams concluded.
By John Kennedy
Photo: Dermot Williams, who is spearheading a new business, Threatscape