cybersecurity

Protecting remote workforces: Tips from five notable Irish cybersecurity firms

One of the most immediate consequences of Covid-19 has been the rapid global shift towards working from home where possible

During these uncertain times, Irish cybersecurity companies can offer innovative solutions to the challenge of managing a remote workforce. Many are free or open to all, including:

Read on for expert advice from some of the Irish companies that can help your employees work from home safely and securely.

 

1. Edgescan: continuously monitoring threats

Remote working must happen over a VPN or similar solution to help ensure secure, encrypted communications, says Eoin Keary, CEO and founder of Edgescan, an award-winning vulnerability management service (SaaS) and one of Ireland’s largest cybersecurity exporters.

“Access to network systems in the office should be on a least-privilege basis and if your organisation has a Network Authentication Server (NAS), make sure it’s configured and enabled appropriately,” he says.

Appropriate patching and anti-virus measures should also be enabled on employees’ computers, he adds, to prevent viruses spreading into the office network once people return to the office.

Edgescan helps its clients worldwide to understand, prioritise and mitigate cyber security risks on a continuous basis, including when offices are closed and employees are working remotely

 

2. CWSI: ensuring secure enterprise mobility

The rules governing data security and cybersecurity don’t go away just because people have to change how they work, says Philip Harrison, CTO and co-founder of CWSI, which specialises in secure mobile and workforce solutions and works with many large organisations from its offices in Dublin and London.

“The cyber-criminals and hackers certainly aren’t taking a break to let us all adjust, so more businesses are more vulnerable than ever,” he says.

A core tenet of any information security management system is that your security or compliance is not weakened during a business continuity or disaster recovery scenario.”

Two-factor authentication, he adds, is critical to protect corporate data. Businesses should also ensure mobile devices are secured with a mobile thread defence (MTD) solution.

Employees should be encouraged to report security incidents to IT while they’re working from home and to be vigilant about keeping data secure at home, even through simple steps such as locking their screen when they walk away.

 

3. Cyber Risk Aware: training on cyber security in real time

Using VPNs and patched applications on encrypted up-to-date devices is critical to security for remote workforces, agrees Cyber Risk Aware’s CEO and founder Stephen Burke, himself a former chief information security officer (CISO).

These devices should be company-issued, with password-protected and encrypted files and data, he says. “I know what it’s like being on the inside defending a network. Personal accounts and devices can really leave a business insecure and vulnerable to cyber attacks,” he says.

Clear, secure lines of communication are also critical, he adds, advising companies to avoid channels such as social media and Whatsapp when working with sensitive data. Likewise, businesses should avoid ‘shadow IT’ or the unauthorised downloading and use of software and systems.

Cyber Risk Aware is the only company in the world to offer a real time cybersecurity awareness training platform. It helps companies worldwide assess and mitigate human cyber risks, the root cause in over 90% of security incidents, by running simulated phishing attacks, assessing cyber knowledge to locate risks within a business and providing security awareness training content when needed.

 

4. Sytorus: specialising in data and privacy management

Companies and organisations around the world have been urgently seeking information on minimising the risk of data breaches or employees getting hacked while working from home. So says John Ghent, CEO of Sytorus, which offers a SaaS privacy management platform and is a global market leader in data protection and privacy management.

“Many people newly working from home are likely to have smart TVs, gaming platforms, and wireless routers, with some also having Internet of Things (IoT) devices installed,” he says.

“All these can add complexity to the security challenge and vulnerabilities to the network, and home networks are not usually sufficiently protected.

Ghent advises organisations to update their remote access policy or develop one if none is in place, and to ensure all staff complete a full cyber security awareness programme (covering topics such as malware, acceptable use and device security) and understand the high risk of Covid-19 related phishing emails.

5. TitanHQ: protecting higher education and business

Along with businesses that must suddenly enable remote working, universities and colleges that now have to facilitate remote lectures and study must also be mindful of coronavirus-related cyberthreats, says Ronan Kavanagh, CEO of TitanHQ, a multi-award-winning web filtering, email security and email archiving SaaS business.

“We have seen massive demand so far this year for two products in particular that can be rolled out seamlessly to remote devices,” he says.

“These are SpamTitan cloud-based email security, which protects students and staff from the newest iterations of phishing attacks, and our AI-drive DNS security product, WebTitan. Combined, these create an umbrella layer over all students and staff protecting their devices.”

Helping innovative Irish start-ups to flourish


     

    In 2018, the Central Statistics Office reported that small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represented 99.8pc of enterprises in Ireland. Small indigenous Irish companies are the backbone of the Irish economy, opening new markets and creating job opportunities.

    “20 years ago, sectoral definitions such as fintech, agtech and digital health were unknown,” says Claire Carroll. “Now we are constantly seeing the emergence of new technologies, be it iterative within existing industries or new and disruptive sectors such as those that are supporting driverless cars, satellites, Artificial Intelligence (AI) or machine learning. In Ireland we must have an environment that contributes to these innovations, stays ahead and relevant so that we can drive jobs and exports.”

     

    High potential

    Claire says that the genesis for Enterprise Ireland’s Seed & Venture Capital schemes came over 27 years ago when Enterprise Ireland identified  the need for a functioning venture ecosystem to support the emergence of technology companies as it was not feasible for the state to fund a company’s journey “all the way from establishment, right up to the point where they’re able to stand on their own two feet, particularly the typical High Potential Start-Up (HPSU) companies that need to invest heavily in research and innovation, thereby delaying the timeline to cashflow positivity”.

    “Since then, we have had five Seed and Venture Capital Schemes, to help ensure that there is an available and effective overall funding ecosystem in Ireland. To date, €565m has been invested in funds. The most recent scheme of €175m was announced in Budget 2019, and to date four funds have received commitments, whilst a number of others have received an allocation and are scheduled to close over the coming months.”

    Enterprise Ireland recently ran an €82m Call for Expressions of Interest for venture fund managers which will lead to more funds being launched over the coming year.

    Claire says “The vision of the scheme is to foster a strong pipeline of high-growth, innovative businesses in the Irish economy, and help those indigenous companies at the early pre-seed or seed stage move into their scaling, Series A phase.

    “We need to support fast-growing and disruptive sectors such as fintech and agtech, amongst others. In 2019, we invested €10m in a new European agritech venture capital fund run by Yield Lab, a venture capital company for the sector. Up until very recently, there wasn’t a sufficient cohort of companies to require such a specialist fund. Likewise, Enterprise Ireland has invested €20m across two European fintech funds, Finch Capital and MiddleGame Ventures which will support Irish companies in these sectors and help them scale internationally. When Enterprise Ireland invests in a venture fund, the manager will invest twice what Enterprise Ireland has allocated to their fund into Irish companies – this leverage is at the centre of Enterprise Ireland’s strategy to bring external capital into the Irish SME sector.

    Claire highlights the Seed & Venture Capital schemes are also used to drive other aspects of Enterprise Ireland’s strategy such as support for women in business and regional development. The Irish venture sector has an above international average of women involved in investment decision making and we want to grow this further and also, most importantly increase the number of women-led businesses that attract VC funding. We expect our venture managers to ensure they have policies and processes that are supportive and encouraging to women entrepreneurs. Ensuring that Irish businesswomen realise their full business potential is critical to Irish economic prosperity. Likewise, Enterprise Ireland’s decision-making process around commitments to venture funds gives strong consideration to the extent to which the managers will either base themselves regionally or have a strategy to source their investments across the country and not simply around Dublin.

     

    Leverage investment

    Raising capital is often a challenge for Irish early-stage companies. A key piece of this most recent scheme is that, for those funds focused on the Pre-Seed to Seed Stages of development –  where there’s little revenue in the company – Enterprise Ireland can now invest an increased maximum share of up to 70pc of these funds. This was increased from 50pc in recognition of the challenges finding investors for early stage funds. At this stage of investment, the funds are often co-investing alongside the High Potential Start-Ups (HPSU) programme as companies raise their first external investment.

    “What we aim to do is leverage our money, rather than simply hand it out,” says Claire. “So, fund managers need to raise as much as they can from their own resources by ‘matching money’.

    For example, if they are targeting a €60m fund, they might get €20m from us and must raise the remaining €40m elsewhere. I think this is great, because depending on their strategy, that can effectively treble the leverage of Enterprise Ireland’s capital for Irish SMEs.”

    The €565m funding that has been invested to date has leveraged substantial additional external funding of over €1bn, directly benefiting over 740 Irish companies.

    To learn more about the scheme or to submit an expression of interest visit Seed & Venture Capital Fund

     

     

     

     

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    Anthony Ryans: Bringing online shopping to a whole new generation

    When you’re a fashion retailer with a young client base, switching to online shopping is no big deal – your customers are probably already enjoying the convenience of online retail and going online will just increase your number of shoppers.

    But older customers might be slower to adapt and therefore businesses with an older clientele might feel that investing in a sophisticated ecommerce website is not really a priority. However, that all changed in the last year, when Covid-19 essentially forced reluctant consumers online, changing their shopping habits potentially forever.

    In business since 1909, family-run Galway retailer Anthony Ryans is well placed to comment on the huge impact that Covid-19 has had on the evolution of online shopping over the past year. “Younger people are well used to shopping online but our customer base would be a little older, from late thirties up to people in their eighties and nineties,” says company director Joseph Ryan, the great grandson of the shop founder. “A lot of our customer base would not have shopped online before the lockdown but they’ve since adapted. I think once they have trust in the company and they know that if they have a problem they can just pick up the phone and talk to someone, they’re happy to shop online. And many have commented that they’re happy to be able to continue supporting us during this time.”

     

    Building upon a base

    Anthony Ryans developed a website about ten years ago, but kept things small to begin with. “We saw the trend for shopping online and we set up a website over ten years ago. But it was really an add-on to the business, and only accounted for a very small percentage of our business. We started with homewares as we thought these were easier. If someone buys a double duvet cover online, they know it will fit their double bed. But someone might buy a shirt in three sizes and return two of them.”

    About three years ago, the company made a decision to develop their website, and with the help of Enterprise Ireland’s Online Retail Scheme, launched their brand-new website at the end of 2020.

    “We wanted  to develop a site that was fully integrated with our stock control system, as we felt this would be suitable for branching into selling fashion online,” says Joseph.

    “We met a number of different developers and took about six months before deciding which one to go with. They were aware of Enterprise Ireland’s scheme and we applied immediately.”

    Thankfully, the team had already done their research, and for the application, it was a question then of really looking at their online strategy and pinpointing exactly what they wanted to achieve. “The application process gives you a chance to sit down and really think about your strategy around the whole ecommerce side of the business,” says Joseph. “You also need to be able to prove that you’re worthy of getting the grant and that you’ll put it to good use. Trying to get your strategy across in words to someone like  Enterprise Ireland can be difficult and you really have to think carefully about how best to spend the money, but it’s a good process to go through whether you’re successful or not.”

     

    Improving your platform

    The plan was to launch the new site in the spring of 2020, but this was delayed when Covid-19 arrived. “We planned to get it ready for March/April 2020, but when Covid-19 hit, our existing website really took off as people were buying a lot of homewares online,” explains Joseph. “We didn’t get to pick it up again until September, and we went live in December. Since then, it’s been working really well. Obviously with a new website, there are always a few issues here and there, but it’s been much busier than our old site.

    “With Christmas and lockdown it’s hard to gauge the effect the new site has had on our existing online business, but the increased functionality is really great – it’s easier to operate, easier to use, our customers enjoy it more and we’re getting more traction on it.” says Joseph.

    When it comes to fashion, Anthony Ryans isn’t short of competitors, but Joseph says that the business has definitely benefited from the drive to shop Irish. “I think people realise it’s very easy to shop on big hitters like Amazon, but by doing this, they’re not supporting local jobs or businesses. During the first lockdown, we had a lot of customers ring up and say they didn’t realise we had a website, and they were delighted to be able to shop with us still.”

    While Joseph doesn’t envisage online taking over their bricks and mortar business anytime soon – the company has three fashion shops and one homewares shop in Galway – he does think that a strong online offering will boost their revenue and certainly provide insurance if the shops were ever shuttered again. “A lot of companies didn’t have websites when the first lockdown happened and no strategy in place. At least we had something there, and our strategy allowed us to scale up to deal with the demand. The new site is now built to withstand the number of transactions and demands that occur during a lockdown, so if this was to happen again, we have the website in place to help us.”

    Learn how the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme can support your retail business online growth.

    Online Retail Scheme: Helping Irish retailers compete on a global scale

    Online shopping has been growing steadily in popularity over the last decade, with many more retailers setting up websites and the shopping experience becoming ever-more convenient, fast and cost-effective. However, thanks to Covid-19, this evolution has accelerated, with many businesses reporting huge increases in online sales and more consumers discovering the advantages of shopping online.

    “Many retailers would have had a very small investment online, but an intention to do more in the future; then Covid-19 turned online from a “nice to have” into a “need to have” in order to survive,” says Ross O’Colmain, Enterprise Ireland’s manager for the construction, cleantech, timber and consumer sectors

    “The flip side of this is that there’s now an opportunity for retailers to evolve in a positive sense. By investing online, you can tap into that consumer demand for online goods and into a wider consumer base. Online also potentially opens up your business on a global scale.”

    Enterprise Ireland’s Online Retail Scheme was devised originally in 2019 in recognition that consumer behaviour was shifting gradually to online buying. After a successful pilot scheme, the initiative was launched in 2020 as the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme, when it became clear that having a presence online was now a case of survival for many Irish retailers. A total of 330 retailers were approved €11.8 million via two rounds of the scheme in 2020, with the average grant per business in the second round being €36,700.

    A further €5 million funding was announced for the scheme in 2021, recognising once again that a sophisticated web presence is now a must-have for Irish retailers. “The scheme is for companies with more than 10 employees that have some sort of web presence already, even perhaps a simple e-commerce site or social media presence,” explains Ross. “The scheme is really for those companies that recognise that online will be a major part of their business in the future. It allows for companies to bring in consultants to implement and execute their online strategy as well as contribute to the technology needed for that strategy, for example a platform that allows for the integration of stock levels.”

    Investing in the best expertise and sophisticated online technology can be expensive, and possibly beyond the budget for many retailers that have been recently closed for months at a time; recognising this, the Online Retail Scheme offers a very generous grant rate.

    “We offer grant aid of up to 80% of the project’s cost,” says Ross. “In other words, if you come to us with a €50k project, we can support €40k of that. It’s not just about the funding, however, it’s about doing the research and having a very smart plan that matches your offering to the people, so you get the best possible conversion rate.”

    Enterprise Ireland is committed to helping as many retailers as possible strengthen their online presence to compete both nationally and internationally; with this in mind, we’ve outlined five important things you need to know when applying for the Online Retail Scheme this year, along with some great advice from previous successful applicants.

    Explain your project as clearly and succinctly as possible

    “You need to assume we know nothing about your business, so you have to tell us in very basic form what your current online position is, your target market, what internal skills you have,” says Ross. “You need to have a really clear idea of the project’s objectives, and make these simple to understand. Basically speaking, the better researched your project, the better chance you have of success with the application.”

    “We spent a long time on the application as it was a really serious project for us,” says Sarah Gill, managing director at Seagreen. “We had an online presence, but I didn’t believe our online store reflected the look and feel of our bricks and mortar shops. It’s basic, it’s functional but it’s absolutely not what our customers would expect from us. We compete on an international scale, selling labels that are available on Saks 5th Avenue and Net-a-Porter, so if you were looking for a particular item, as it stands, you wouldn’t go to Seagreen over those sites, because it’s a little local-looking and clunky.

    “The main aspect of the project we put forward to Enterprise Ireland was engaging a consultant, an outside vendor who can direct and implement a strategy, really important things such as stock management, and then training the team.” says Sarah Gill, managing director of Seagreen

    “We also have someone dedicated to online, which is a big step for us. Another key consideration was making the site more international in feel to help increase our international customer base.”

     

    Outline what you want to achieve with the project

    “Identify how the project will impact your business – your sales, your customer acquisition and the future of your business,” says Ross. “Identify why you need to invest in a better online platform. Think about your marketing strategy and the preferences of your target customers. Describe the best case scenario for your business following implementation.”

    “In our case we had a well-established website but it just wasn’t where we wanted it to be,” says Maeve Ryan, managing director at The Book Centre. “We didn’t have the skills inhouse and so we wanted to engage external experts to assess the site, work on our SEO and customer retention and identify where we could improve. We also wanted our site to reflect the ethos of our stores, which is based on good customer service. I spent about a month researching the project, educating myself on where we wanted the site to go and talking to potential service providers. In the end we went with a company that was able to explain clearly what they could do, and how their research and recommendations would pay off in terms of increased business and profits online.”

     

    Engage early with a suitable consultant/service provider

    “As early as possible, identify the consultant or service provider that you want to work with,” says Ross. “There are many that know how the scheme works and have the knowledge and ability to execute. This will influence your application. Retailers can choose any service provider they want; however, it’s important to remember that we will be assessing the quality of the plan, the experience of the chosen consultant and their ability to execute your plan.”

    “When the scheme was announced, we began engaging with Enterprise Ireland at the same time as we were consulting with a service provider,” says John Smith, managing director at Best Menswear. “Luckily the people we picked had a proven track record in driving profitable online sales and we were confident that they could bring us to where we wanted to be. We went from signing papers in May to going live in September, which was quite an achievement. This was greatly helped and facilitated by the grant from Enterprise Ireland.”

     

    Show you have thought about international opportunities

    “We meet retailers at all stages of their journey to internationalise,” says Ross. “We simply want you to consider how your online presence could open up global markets for you – your competition abroad, any potential technology issues, marketing etc.”

     

    “For us, there’s great potential in the international market,” says John Smith from Best Menswear. “We’ve already managed to sell to approximately 23 countries, including Canada, Australia and Japan, without even targeting specifically to them. One of the reasons we went with the company we did is because they have a very international outlook and were only interested in working with us if we were intending to target abroad.”

     

    Ask for help and guidance if you need it

    “Look carefully at the application and how it is divided up in terms of scoring,” says Ross. “Make sure you’ve answered everything. If you need any help, we have a specific email address which deals with hundreds of queries and there’s a very fast turnaround on answers. We will also be hosting several webinars that take you through the process.”

    “The process is incredibly doable,” says Derek Moody, director at Great Outdoors. “The guys in Enterprise Ireland could not have been more helpful. They encouraged us, they advised us, they looked over our plans as we developed them, they were there for us every step of the way. The result has put our online business three years beyond where we had initially planned it, especially in terms of targeting international markets, particularly Europe, which poses significant opportunity thanks in part to Brexit. We’re testing in France and Denmark at the moment and we’ve definitely had a few sales trickling through – this is without officially launching.”

    Learn how the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme can support your retail business online growth.

     

    Enterprise Ireland administers the Online Retail Scheme on behalf of the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

    Organico: Turning online retail into a healthy business during Covid-19

    Online trading has become a lifeline for retail businesses that have had to close during the recent Covid-19 lockdowns.

    Even when things eventually get back to normal, it’s widely predicted that the gains in online business will continue as consumers become accustomed to this way of shopping. Enterprise Ireland’s Online Retail Scheme is designed to help smaller Irish retailers develop their online offering – and those who availed of it pre- and during the pandemic have been reaping the rewards that a good ecommerce site can offer during difficult times.

    One such business is Organico, a West Cork family-run healthfood business, which was founded in 1992 by Alan Dare and currently run by his daughters, Hannah and Rachel. The original bricks and mortar store was joined over time by a café and a bakery, and about a decade ago, by an online shop too.

    “In West Cork there’s always been a strong interest in health, as a lot of people would have relocated here because they wanted to escape the mainstream,” explains Hannah. “As a result, we had a good customer base from the start. However, even though our customer base is spread out over all of West Cork and in the summer we would have benefited from the tourist trade, it’s still a limited market. So going online was an obvious move for us to expand our business.

    “We first went online about ten years ago, when we had to choose between another bricks and mortar store and a website.

    “We started out with just niche products on a WordPress site; now we have around 3,000 live products, and possibly another 1,000 products that either come and go or are in the pipeline to be added.” says Hannah

     

    Expanding the business

    For Organico, an online shop was a challenge as they offer such a wide range of products. Building this kind of ecommerce shop requires a lot of expertise, technology and funding, as a system needs to be put in place with such sophisticated functions as integrated stock levels to make order fulfilment as easy as possible for the company and for the business to be viable with less manual work. So before the company enhanced their online offering, Hannah and Rachel applied for funding from Enterprise Ireland’s Online Retail Scheme.

    “We’ve had two rounds of the Online Retail Scheme, and Enterprise Ireland has been incredibly helpful,” says Hannah. “We received the first funding last year, and we applied because we wanted to upgrade the online shop software – which is a huge investment. 

    “For us, the funding was hugely helpful, as to get the expertise and the work of good ecommerce specialists would be out of our budget otherwise.

    “We also work with a digital marketing company who specialise in helping smaller companies. When you’re a small business it’s all about word of mouth; online was a completely different experience for us and you’re using a whole load of platforms you’re not familiar with. The scheme helped us access the right support for marketing our online offerings.

    “The scheme has allowed us to access support companies, and I believe that is the scheme’s big benefit – to lift smaller retailers and allow them to compete with bigger companies.”

     

    Overcoming Covid-19 and Brexit issues

    For Organico, the funding couldn’t have come at a better time. “We were incredibly lucky because the funding came in before Covid-19 hit. We had a very busy Christmas with hampers in 2019, and we had to ramp up our production as a result. Then we had a little breather before the lockdown came in. But, by then, our new online shop was ready and we were able to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by lockdown to build our online business.”

    As Organico is considered an essential retailer, their shop is still trading – that said, online is currently playing a massive role in the company’s operations. “Right now, it’s nearly 50/50 between online and the main business because of lockdown. During the last lockdown we got so busy that we had to temporarily turn the website off; this lockdown, we’ve built that online business even further. This time we’ve also had local people buying online, which is new for us.”

    Any boost is welcome for businesses in these tricky times, especially for retail businesses like Organico, who also have Brexit to deal with. “We’ve had time to prepare for Brexit, to source products directly from Europe,” says Hannah. “There has been a lot of improvements in labelling over the last few years, which has allowed us look for goods from places like Holland. That said, because of the nature of the deal, our preparations didn’t translate into a smooth transition and we’ve had a couple of issues, such as organic certification and foods of animal origin, which affects even supplements containing fish oil.”

    Alongside dealing with these issues, Hannah is keep to set up the right structure to service their clients even better post-lockdown. “Right now, we’re hiring to strengthen our online team, and we’re having to expand the physical space too, to cope with the online business. We’ve decided not to reopen the café as it’s a big space and although we’d be busy in the summer, it’s too big a space for most of the year. We’re currently using it as a warehouse for online, but our long-term plan is to expand the shop to make it safer for shoppers post-lockdown, and to make it more efficient for picking up online orders. Good service for both online and in-person customers is important for success in the future.”

    Learn how the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme can support your retail business online growth.

    Greenes Shoes: Putting their best foot forward in online retail

    Fashion online retail is a fiercely competitive area; here, an Irish retailer might find themselves fighting for business alongside stores from all over the world, not to mention giants such as Amazon, ASOS, Shein, Littlewoods and more. But for Greenes Shoes, with seven shops in Letterkenny, Galway and Limerick, an improved online presence meant opening their market up beyond their geographical area, and most importantly, providing insurance during the unprecedented effects of Covid-19 lockdowns.

    Recognising that the retail environment was changing rapidly, Orla McFadden, general manager and director at Greenes Shoes, applied to Enterprise Ireland’s Online Retail Scheme  to improve their website, a move that was to pay off immensely in 2020. “We began our website about ten years ago, as we knew that online was going to be a big part of the future for retail. We started off small, with only our bestsellers and just one image per shoe, and it’s only really in the last couple of years that we’ve really concentrated on it.

    “I think you also have to remember that a website is not just about selling online; a lot of people do their research online before coming into the shop to buy. So we felt that having a presence online was vital for our business. The main challenge online is competition, but there’s also the challenge of showcasing our brand to a wider audience amidst all of that competition and driving more traffic to the website.”

    But rather than being put off by the intensely competitive nature of online fashion retail, Orla and her team decided to go for it, applying for the scheme to update their website’s platform. “Our previous platform was quite old and when online activity increased during the first lockdown, I realised how much manual work was involved in fulfilling orders. So I used the money to move to a platform that was integrated with our stock system and with our couriers.”

     

    Lifeline during lockdown

    Orla was already planning the new site, and when lockdown hit and Greenes had been accepted for the scheme, she was able to give the project her complete attention and get the new site up and running as soon as possible – which she achieved in mid-April 2020. “The timing was ideal as I was able to concentrate on it 100%, and obviously when trading stopped, so did our cash flow, so knowing we have that funding there for the job really was a godsend.

    “It was harder for people who had no online presence at all because it was a lifeline during lockdown. The updated website allowed us to do a lot more ourselves, such as putting certain products at the front of the site, rather than having to ring a company to do it for us. For instance, at the start of the lockdowns, sales of healthcare workplace shoes, such as nurses’ shoes, just went through the roof, and we were able to promote these and put them to the front of the site so easily. The customer journey was so much easier too. Really, it was like chalk and cheese between the old and the new website.”

    With the bricks and mortar shops closed for a third of 2020, the increased online business was a lifeline for the company and showed Orla and her team that just because the shops were shut, this didn’t mean that people did not want to shop for shoes. “About ten days after the shops shut, online picked up and rapidly increased after that. You could see then that people still had the appetite for buying shoes and if they couldn’t come into the shop, they’d go online instead. And in a way, I think the crisis changed people’s buying habits. 

    “Our online business plateaued and levelled when we reopened, but they stayed at a much higher rate than before the lockdown.” says Orla

     

    Going a step further

    Orla now believes that their website is the perfect accompaniment to their seven shops, especially as consumers have now adapted to shopping online. “I think online really is the way of the future,” she explains. “You don’t know what’s coming down the line, so it’s good to have that part of the business developed. I think people have changed their habits too, maybe discovered how handy online shopping is. Plus it opens up our business to the entire country and beyond.

    “I can’t open a shop in every county in Ireland but by going online, I can sell to every county. We also have customers in the UK and Europe, and this is something we’d like to develop further.” 

    And with Brexit causing issues for Irish shoppers on UK sites, Greenes is in a great position to increase their business both online and in-store. “I think we will benefit from Brexit; added charges and longer shipping times might encourage Irish people to order from Irish retailers instead. Also, I think the Covid-19 pandemic has made Irish people more inclined to buy Irish and support local retailers, and Brexit has just intensified that.”

    For now, as she awaits the signal that their shops can reopen, Orla is concentrating on improving the website even further. “This time, we’ll invest in adding extra functionality to the site, such as store locators, giftwrapping, a virtual shopper to show you more styles that you might like in the same category or brand. These functions will make the site even smarter and more user friendly, and really establish Greenes as a strong online retailer.”

    Learn how the Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme can support your retail business online growth.

    German Healthcare System: Telekom Healthcare Cloud

     

    The German healthcare market is the largest in Europe offering a wide range of opportunities for Irish medtech and e-health businesses.

    This Enterprise Ireland webinar discusses the importance of using a reliable cloud provider when providing business services to the German Healthcare System.

    Watch the webinar to hear insights from Alexander Gerlach,  Telekom Healthcare Solutions on:

    • Why businesses should use a trusted cloud provider in the German healthcare sector?

    • What makes the German market so unique?

    • Open Telekom Cloud: Public LaaS for European Enterprises

    • Importance of Data protection and compliance – Certifications

     

    Middle East Aviation: Ready to soar once again in the post-pandemic future

    The Covid-19 pandemic has hit few sectors harder than the aviation industry, with severe restrictions on travel and closed borders resulting in a dramatic decline in passenger volumes globally. Airports around the world have had their resilience tested to the limit as they faced the initial paralysis of the skies, followed by the ongoing waves of the pandemic. However, there is a glimmer of light on the horizon driven by the rollout of the global vaccination programme in the majority of countries, albeit at different levels of implementation.

     

    Predicted growth

    Despite the significantly curtailed demand globally and regionally due to Covid-19, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts the Middle East will see a 4.4 percent growth in passenger journeys over the period through to 2039. “With the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) home to some of the most advanced airports in the world and often exceling in passenger service, they are on the front foot to ensure restored confidence in flying once again,” said Alan O’ Mahony, Market Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at Enterprise Ireland.

    “Airport operators and airlines are monitoring the situation closely and continue to adapt to the evolving situation. They are now faced with the challenge of balancing additional health and safety requirements with providing a good passenger experience as they seek to restore confidence in air travel. Innovation and technology across the Middle East will play a key role in unlocking improvements for passenger experience and safety whilst also igniting the recovery for the sector. Ireland has forged a strong reputation for delivering world-leading innovative solutions that are used every day by the largest airlines in the world and across the wider aviation sector. We need this innovation now more than ever to power the industry’s recovery and Irish companies will continue to shape this new age for air travel.”

    Pandemic-era air travel

    Technology has advanced swiftly over the course of the pandemic in reaction to the ever-changing environment, and a new focus on health considerations in technology and process transformation has emerged.

    “One trend that will become more widespread is the adoption of contactless technology in order to minimise the spread of viruses and reduce interaction between staff and passengers throughout the entire journey,” explained Alan. “A good case in point is Irish company IO Systems which operates the automated baggage return tray systems in Dubai International Airport. The company has adapted its latest models to include blue light cleansing technology to ensure their trays are actively cleaned as they automatically return through the baggage system. Airports can ensure additional safety measures are applied whilst still ensuring a good passenger experience is delivered through the introduction of these type of innovative solutions.”

     

    Taking flight

    “The hot topic in the industry right now is the digital health certification to capture the completed vaccination process or Covid-19 status of people intending to fly,” said Alan. “Irish biometric identity assurance specialist Daon is leading the way by creating the world’s first widely adopted mobile health passport to help those eligible to travel to navigate the changing entry requirements associated with Covid-19. The company’s new VeriFLY app, which has already been adopted by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia Airlines and Aer Lingus, is designed to offer peace of mind before travel by ensuring passengers meet the entry requirements of their destination.”

    VeriFLY provides digital health document verification, confirms eligibility, and allows people to combine necessary travel documents, such as Covid-19 test results, in one place, allowing travellers to ensure they are fully compliant with all the departure and arrival requirements before leaving home. Certified customers will be fast-tracked through the airport where specially designated desks are available for check in.

    “The ingenuity, ambition, and adaptability that Daon and their partners have demonstrated throughout the pandemic are making a significant contribution to restoring traveller confidence and ensuring a positive passenger experience. It’s just one example of how innovation from Ireland, one of the major travel tech hubs in the world, is playing a leading role in the recovery for the sector.”

     

    Advanced technologies

    Responses to Covid-19 have accelerated the adoption of digital technologies across almost all sectors, and it’s thought that many of these changes will have a lasting impact. “With the global smart airports market to top $22.6 billion (USD) by 2025, the requirement for advanced technologies – especially as part of the immediate recovery – will continue to be an important market for the vast array of Irish companies operating in the sector. We are likely to see new entrants into the airport space across technologies such as biometrics, robotics, cloud technologies and IoT.”

    “There is no doubt that the Covid-19 crisis has had a devastating impact on the air travel industry and the recovery for the industry is still some distance away. With that said, recent trends offer reasons for cautious optimism. While it’s certain that air travel will never look the same again, these innovative solutions will help to ensure international airline travel is, once more, cleared for take-off.”

     

    Germany’s Hospital Future Act

       

       

      The German healthcare market is the largest in Europe offering a wide range of opportunities for Irish medtech and e-health businesses.

      Due to a new law signed this year, the German government is investing €3 billion in digitalising its healthcare system.

      This Enterprise Ireland webinar examines

      • the opportunities arising from healthcare digitalisation

      • the Hospital Future Act and the significance for companies with relevant solutions

      • how to navigate the landscape and position your solution effectively

      This webinar is chaired by Enterprise Ireland Market Advisor Nicol Hoppe

      with expert insights from:

      Carsten Schmidt – Co- Founder of Digital Health Port