Tech start-up of the week: Obatics

24 May 2014

Chris O'Brien, founder of Obatics

Cork-based Obatics has created an affordable, easy-to-use business management system, specifically designed for small to medium-size industries. The company aims to employ 25 highly skilled people over the next three years.

The brainchild of Chris O’Brien, Obatics can be accessed on a desktop computer, or on the move from a laptop, smartphone or tablet.

Features include quotations and sales, work orders, task management, time sheets, invoicing and payments, inventory control, and customer relations, as well as supply tractability and barcode integration. Users can record and analyse downtimes and time taken on tasks to help improve efficiencies and costing.

Obatics has been designed to be easy to use, install and maintain. Users can store their information in the cloud or locally, on their computer or server.

“Initially, we are targeting the print and light engineering sectors in Ireland,” O’Brien said.

“Like many other sectors, both of these companies have challenges, which often lead to projects being micromanaged by the managing director.

“Obatics will help the day-to-day project management, from enquiries and work orders right through to invoicing and payment receipts.”

The founder

O’Brien has worked in software and quality for most of his working life.

After finishing his studies in the RTC (now Cork Institute of Technology (CIT)), he started out in a company called Glanmire Electronics as an R&D engineer, designing network cards and software for the Apple IIe Computer. The product was used in schools as the first networking solution for the computer.

Prior to setting up his own software company, O’Brien managed teams in Apple in both the software test and manufacturing departments.

He has spent the last five years developing customised systems for many companies in Ireland, including Apple, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson, as well as many other small companies.

The technology

“Obatics is installed onto your Windows or Apple computer much like other programs, such as Microsoft Word,” O’Brien said.

“Storing your data in the cloud gives you the freedom of mobility, whereas having your data stored in-house allows you to run the system without the need for internet access for your work systems.

“Documentation such as purchase orders, quotations and invoices can be emailed directly to the supplier or customer, reducing lead times and costs to the company.

“And when everything is done, you can export your accounts details and give it to your accountant.”

O’Brien said the ultimate goal is to supply Obatics worldwide.

“The business plan is employing 25 highly skilled people over the next three years. We will start localising (translating) Obatics early next year into French, German and Spanish, and plan to be selling into most countries by 2016.”

Obatics started with five pilot companies that used Obatics as their primary business system.

“We worked with these companies extremely closely to ensure Obatics offered the most import of each user’s needs.”

Crossing the Rubicon and discovering New Frontiers

O’Brien said there are lots of decisions to make and the wrong decision can be costly, but enrolling in a programme such as the New Frontiers start-up programme at CIT’s Rubicon Centre will diminish the chances of such instances. 

“Time and money were the two resources in short supply. Obatics has been in the making for the last three years with little or no financial return. Producing such a high quality product requires thousands of man hours.

“I am lucky to be able to develop the product myself, without the need to look for financial backing to pay for developers, but it is the biggest and most rewarding project I have ever taken on.”

O’Brien believes if you have a good idea that has the potential for export, Ireland is a great place to be.

“The Enterprise Board, Enterprise Ireland and incubation hubs, such as the Rubicon Centre in CIT, couldn’t be more helpful.

“I spent from June of last year to March of this year based in Rubicon as part of the New Frontiers start-up programme, where they supplied mentors and training and so much more in all aspects of business and entrepreneurship.

“The Rubicon has been an invaluable resource, opening avenues to many different sectors and ideas, when you’re out on your own there are tough days but when you have a support network like I had in the Rubicon Centre then you can chat to like-minded people and realise that there are always solutions.

“Enterprise Ireland and the Enterprise Board were always only a phone call away and always available for meetings.”

Just do it

O’Brien said the most important thing to remember if you have an idea is to prove it is want the market really wants.

“There’s no point asking colleagues, friends or family if they like your idea – the chances are they will soften an answer to protect your feelings. It’s better to hear the bitter truth before you invest money or time in your idea.

“Sign up to a programme like New Frontiers and you won’t go wrong.

“But if you have an idea, don’t sit on it – go execute it!”

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