App economy erases barriers to growth for young firms

27 May 2010

Waterford-based software firm FeedHenry has built a technology that allows firms to build a mobile app once for multiple devices. Software veteran Cathal McGloin is its new CEO.

What is the key strategic opportunity for FeedHenry?

The mobile phone is moving rapidly into the web standards space. We studied what this means and the opportunity is to solve a pain point – building apps for the iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile. We solved that problem by creating technology that allows a developer to build an app once only and then translate it to be used on other devices.

If you think about it, the mobile space will see a replay of the internet wars of the last two decades, which usually centred on which browser you use. The key is to base it all on standards.

What we did differently was we built cloud logic into the back end. This allows companies to get involved in the mobile and social-media space without having to buy hardware or software and put their apps on different phones quickly and easily. It will enable a whole host of business apps that will make enterprises more comfortable about building apps.

Do Irish firms have what it takes to be successful in the cloud app space?

Absolutely. One example is a company called Nowcasting International, which focuses on heavy-duty business-to-business weather information.

Helping businesses to enter this space by giving employees useful apps is critical. How do you intend to bring this to market?

We believe in enabling the app economy. The problem up until now has been the different code bases for different devices. Operators could either create apps for the iPhone or for a Nokia device.

There are several routes to market for us. Telecom operators are often asked by corporate firms to build these apps for different processes. There are also opportunities in the utility, smart metering space, not to mention the healthcare marketplace. Utility companies will want to offer customers apps that allow them to turn on and off electricity from their mobile. Airline companies will also want to offer people the ability to check in online via their phone.

Where is FeedHenry at in terms of funding and growing its revenues?

The company has been incubated at TSSG (Telecommunications Software & Systems Group) and has been funded to date by Enterprise Ireland, winning business and bootstrapping. My job is to accelerate FeedHenry’s growth. The company has been gaining traction in the US and we have been talking to venture capitalists with a view to raising funds in the next four to five months.

We employ 22 people and I see this growing to 50 by the end of next year.

Why do you think the apps industry is one that more and more Irish developers should be focused on?

Young people who don’t have a lot of money to set up businesses can use their brainpower and achieve success.

In many ways, it is suited to the Irish economy. We need more broadband and if young people can be encouraged to build useful mobile or iPad apps the opportunity is enormous.

In the past, for Irish software companies the biggest challenge was route to market. In the app economy that problem has been solved.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Cathal McGloin, CEO of FeedHenry

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years