mADme technologies

Irish software firm mAdme helping mobile giants through Covid-19 crisis

The seismic fall-out from Covid-19 has created an unprecedented demand for Irish innovation, with our tech sector stepping up to aid the recovery of industries including health, travel and communications.

As mobile operators provide customers with Covid-related updates – typically struggling to get beyond an engagement rate of 1-2% via standard SMS and push notifications – an Irish software firm is making waves with a proprietary messaging channel that is pushing engagement rates closer to 20%.

Dublin-based mAdme provides a customer experience platform for mobile operators to engage with subscribers. The platform overlays rich content including images and video directly on phone screens, without the need for customers to go into an app or notification tray, delivering messages in real-time, triggered by customer usage.

 

Engagement rates up to 20%

“We’re seeing engagement rates up to around 20% for messages sent on our channel versus other channels like SMS and email,” says Dave Manzor, VP (Product) of mAdme Technologies. “Because of the scale and effectiveness of the platform, we can quickly disseminate important messages to huge numbers of people, which is proving hugely beneficial during the Covid-19 crisis.”

In India, mobile giant Reliance Jio used the mAdme platform to issue a message to its subscribers that linked to Covid-19 awareness information including a symptoms-checker. The campaign was viewed a colossal 250 million times.

“We’ve also seen operators use the software for Covid-related business messages including providing free data or removing data caps,” says mAdme’s Dave Manzor.

“It’s also been deployed to help manage the load on under-pressure call centres, for example by encouraging people to use self-care channels for things like topping up credit.”

 

mAdme software on 200 million phones

Founded in 2013 by Triona Mullane, the mAdme platform is currently deployed in 28 countries, running on more than 200 million phones in key markets including Asia, North America and Europe.

Mullane, who won the ‘Emerging’ category in last year’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards, has overseen rapid growth and a hatful of industry awards for mAdme including a 7th place ranking in the 2019 Deloitte Technology Fast 50, and 2018 winner of the Disruptive Technology Award in association with Facebook.

The company has also overcome a few challenges along the way, the most notable of which was having to rapidly scale up to match the growth of Jio in India, going from zero to 100 million subscribers in the space of just five months.

Working with some of the biggest mobile brands in the world, mAdme is now focussing on improving operators’ customer care offerings, especially around the calling experience.

“We’ve developed a new experience in the phone dialler that directs callers to the information they’re looking for,” says Dave Manzor. “This is having a massively positive impact for operators because it reduces the number of calls they need to service in their call centres, but also benefits the caller who can get what they need without having to wait on hold.”

The Dublin-based firm is also looking into the broader enterprise space with relevance for any company that wants to improve how it engages with customers.

 

Disruption through innovation

“Innovation and R&D are at the core of everything we do,” says Manzor. “When you’re a small player from Ireland selling to a global market, you need to be innovating in every aspect of the business. We’re disrupting some very well-established industries and we couldn’t do that without continuous innovation.”

“From a R&D perspective, we’re building software to meet the needs of the market,” he goes on. “Every line of code we write, we make sure it’s adding value for all our customers and we have a really exciting technology roadmap that will enable us to continue adding value well into the future.”

“We’re also active in the IP space with a number of patent applications on the go,” Manzor says. “The first of these was successfully granted just last month, which was very pleasing and further proof that what we’re doing is genuinely innovative.”

Firmly established among the fastest-growing tech companies in Ireland, mAdme has its sights set on further international growth.

 

Irish tech credentials

“Irish companies have very strong history, credentials and reputation for delivering great innovation and it’s all the more impressive given that we’re coming from a small island on the edge of Europe,” says Dave Manzor. “I think it makes it all the more exciting to compete and win business in markets all over the world.”

The company has had support and investment from a range of sources including Enterprise Ireland, the national export agency. “Enterprise Ireland has been a huge supporter from day one, they continue to support us to this day and we really appreciate that,” says Manzor:

“On a global scale, Enterprise Ireland is so well-connected, they use the Irish network incredibly well and make it possible for companies like mAdme to make connections in countries where otherwise we’d be largely going it alone.” 

“If you look at the trade shows Enterprise Ireland runs every year, without them it just wouldn’t be possible for small companies like ourselves to showcase our work but Enterprise Ireland makes that possible.”

anam technologies covid

Anam Technologies: Partnering to stay safely connected

Anam Technologies, an Enterprise Ireland-supported company, is partnering with mobile operators across the world to secure networks against messaging fraud during the Covid-19 crisis.

Working closely with Tier 1 network partners such as Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Digicel and Telenor in more than 85 countries, the aim is to identify and block fraudulent traffic while protecting messages from legitimate businesses and organisations. Such partnerships are essential in a time when fraudsters are primed to take advantage, according to Mary-Therese Fitzpatrick, Anam’s Marketing Director.

Anam is equipping operators with firewalls that detect fraudulent traffic, block it and keep the networks clean. The system is a win-win for all parties involved. The operators benefit from a revenue-sharing model on increased business messaging traffic, and their subscribers are safe from any fraudulent activity.

 

Partnering to stay safely connected during a crisis

Anam has been recognised 3 years running in independent surveys as the world’s leading SMS Firewall and A2P (application-to-person) monetisation service provider. Anam’s technology helps mobile operators to increase revenue per user by reducing the amount of spam & fraudulent messaging on their networks.

As the number of messages being sent increases, so too do the opportunities for fraud within the channel. While the Covid-19 pandemic contributes to a general relaxing of data protection rules, it may also be loosening our own digital defences. When this happens, fraudsters are at the ready.

Fitzpatrick compares Anam’s firewall technology to a tolled road. There will always be those who try to find back ways to the destination:

 “Part of our solution is detecting that ‘grey route’ traffic; traffic that’s freeloading on an operator’s network,” Fitzpatrick says.

Anam blocks this traffic and filters it through the paid route, making sure that all traffic is legitimate and clean. They then share the revenue with the operators.

 

Phishing

In the context of Covid-19, we see more messages from government services, health systems, e-commerce notifications and food delivery services. Some fraudsters are attempting to take advantage of this, sending texts containing key terms like ‘Covid’, ‘Coronavirus’ and even ‘testing’ that might mislead people into giving away sensitive information or clicking on fake links to legitimate-looking websites designed to do the same thing. This is known as phishing.

The texts may look like they are coming from a bank or the government. Some fraudsters even use a tactic known as “spoofing” in which they can make a message appear in a chain of text alongside previous genuine messages. There have also been reports of fraud messages promising free devices or financial relief to cope with the Covid-19 lockdowns.

“If the operator has a firewall installed on their network, they can protect themselves and their subscribers from this malicious messaging,” Fitzpatrick says.

A crucial way to communicate

During emergencies, SMS is an important method of communication due to its immediacy and reach. Most people in the world have a mobile device capable of receiving SMS, and 90% of the messages tend to be read within three minutes.

The success of the channel, unfortunately, means that some vulnerable groups are misled. They may be isolated and not aware of the fraud risk. They may not be tech-savvy, but they most likely know how to read an SMS. Fraudulent texts have the potential to reach everyone, even those without sufficient access to high-speed internet.

Fitzpatrick says that there has been an increase in fraudulent traffic. Although the process of detecting and blocking it is automated to a large extent using artificial intelligence and machine learning, there is still a manual element involved. The process itself benefits from the close partnership that now exists between Anam and international partners. “There are known addresses across international networks that can be identified and blocked once certain patterns of messaging are detected,” explains Fitzpatrick.

 

 

An industry evolution

Anam’s solution is a very clever evolution within the changing messaging landscape,” Fitzpatrick explains. And the fact that today Anam’s systems and services are being used in 85 countries to protect an estimated three-quarters of a billion subscribers is testament to this.

Speaking on the success of the solution and the importance of partnership during the Covid-19 crisis, Fitzpatrick notes that Anam is a preferred partner because they are independent.

 “We work with the operator to secure the channel and make sure that all incoming and outgoing network traffic is clean,” she says. This makes them a trusted party, with no allegiances to middlemen.

After an initial €350,000 investment from Enterprise Ireland in 2018 to aid global expansion and R&D, Anam is currently in a growth phase, expanding its worldwide presence. In November last year, they opened an Africa headquarters in Kenya on the back of significant local contract wins. The new office builds out on the company’s other regional HQ office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and a presence in Egypt, Jamaica, Nigeria,  Vietnam, Malta, United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Pakistan.

jenny melia

Support where it’s most needed for HPSUs

The innovation and dynamism of Enterprise Ireland-supported high potential start-up (HPSU) firms are vital to future economic growth, and it is absolutely essential that HPSUs that were progressing prior to Covid-19 receive the support they require to get through the Covid-19 crisis.

“These firms and their founders are the future leaders of the economy and our focus is on ensuring that they have sufficient fuel in the tank and the right resources in place to get through the next three to six months and be ready to take advantage of the upturn when it comes,” says Enterprise Ireland Divisional Manager for HPSUs Jenny Melia.

HPSUs do face particular challenges in the current environment, mainly due to their early stage of development. “Many of them are not yet revenue generating and are continuing to fundraise to drive business development,” Melia explains. “This can mean that they do not qualify for some of the Covid-19 supports available at the moment. It can also be the case that they haven’t been in business long enough to have built up a relationship with a bank.”

According to Melia, the three main problems faced by these fast-growing firms relate to cash flow, investment, and talent retention.

“In a lot of cases sales have just stopped,” she says. “They have no cash coming in from that source and that can turn into a double whammy if investors back off. There is a softening of sentiment in the investment community at the moment and that is presenting problems. Holding onto key skills is another real pain point for a lot of companies. We were nearly at full employment in the economy just a few weeks ago and they had to work very hard to get the right people. They are in danger of losing them now and these skills will be critical to support future growth.”

Support is available to deal with these issues, however. In the first instance, Melia advises firms to avail of the Enterprise Ireland Covid-19 Business Financial Planning Grant scheme, with supports of up to €5,000 to help companies prepare financial plans with the assistance of an expert.

“We are asking start-ups if they have assessed the impact of Covid-19 on their business and if they need assistance and financial support to do that,” she points out. “We are already seeing a great deal of interest in the scheme. This will help start-ups develop a stabilisation plan, which should look at resetting their business plan e.g. reducing the cost base and lengthening the financial runway to tide them through the next 3-6 months and prepare for the upturn including raising new investment.”

The next step is to work with existing investors and shareholders. “Companies should discuss the possibility of bridging finance with their investors,” says Melia.

“Enterprise Ireland is also willing to co-invest as part of this investment. That is a new departure for us. Typically, when we invest in a company it’s to fund a growth plan for the next two or three years. In this case, we are absolutely willing to play our part alongside existing funders and investors in ensuring HPSUs get through the current financial crunch. Companies should speak to their Development Advisor about this.” advises Melia.

There is also the loan scheme from Microfinance Ireland. “This is open to start-ups with fewer than 10 employees, and the amount on offer has been increased from €25,000 to €50,000. The interest rate has been reduced to 4.5%, with a moratorium on interest and repayments for the first six months. I would encourage start-ups to look at the scheme to see if it is suitable for their needs.”

The Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme is a valuable source of assistance in helping to hold onto talent. “The scheme was initially aimed at firms suffering a reduction in turnover but, recognising the particular circumstances of start-ups, Revenue introduced another criterion, which was a downturn in the level of investment companies had projected. Some companies are not aware of this.”

Enterprise Ireland is also organising a series of webinars to provide advice and support to HPSUs. “We have a number of former HPSU founders that have come through a number of recessions and downturns and have very valuable advice to offer.”

Companies should also leverage the advice available through their own networks, she adds. “They should contact their Enterprise Ireland Development Advisor, their investors, business angels, suppliers and customers out in the market and so on. These are the things that entrepreneurs do anyway, and they are more important than ever now. We firmly believe that there will be opportunities out there for firms when the crisis ends, and our focus is on helping our clients to be ready for these opportunities when they arise.”

 

Market Watch – How Covid-19 is impacting the Asia Pacific region

Just as it has affected every corner of the globe, Covid-19 has made its presence felt in the Asia Pacific region. But according to Enterprise Ireland’s regional director for Asia Pacific, Mary Kinnane, while there is no doubt that it has had a disruptive impact on economies, businesses and lives, the level and magnitude of the impact differs by country and even sector.

 

  • While countries have been impacted in different ways, there is no doubt that Covid-19 has disrupted business and lives across the region.
  • Providing solutions for clients and showing commitment is crucial for Irish exporters.
  • Many sectors have been badly hit but there are still signs of growth in a variety of areas including life sciences, health care and education solutions.
  • The region has shown resilience and is likely to be one of the first areas to emerge from Covid-19 restrictions.

 

China and South Korea were amongst the first countries hit by Covid-19, and life there is slowly but cautiously getting back to normal,” Kinnane says. “More and more businesses are now operating as before with public facilities reopening, while other countries in the region are still undergoing lockdowns and strong containment measures.

“Adverse economic impact, at least for this year, is evident as seen from the revised GDP growth projections from the IMF earlier this month.  And the world economy is now projected to contract by -3% from the previous year, with growth projections for China at 1.2%, Japan at -5.2%, Korea at -1.2%, ASEAN 5 at -0.6%, and Australia at -6.7%.”

Although Irish exporters will undoubtedly be affected, Kinnane say showing unwavering, commitment during these challenging times to customers and partners is particularly important.

“Saving face is an important aspect of business culture in Asia so carefully managing the knock-on effects for your customers and partners is advisable,” she says. “If your business is adversely impacted by Covid-19 and consequently if you cannot fulfil orders, contracts or deadlines, then be clear with your customers and suppliers, but also try to provide alternative options and support. This will be perceived as a measure of your seriousness and commitment for the long term.

Enterprise Ireland has made available new funding and capacity support programmes to help companies through Covid-19. says Kinnane.

“We are acutely aware that our support is ever more critical so our network of offices from Beijing to Sydney are providing virtual introductions to buyers and partners, market research on trends and emerging opportunities and challenges along with other in-market business continuity and development supports.says Kinnane

“We also see that some Irish businesses are taking this time to develop market entry and expansion strategy for some Asian markets with a medium- to long-term view.  We are aiding those businesses to achieve the objective, using our market knowledge, insight and networks in local markets.  Customer targets in ANZ & the ASEAN region are proving quite receptive to remote new enquiries with this being somewhat more challenging in the north of the region where facetime and relationships really matter.”

While travel restrictions have been problematic for tourism and many businesses have been heavily hit by uncertainty, the regional director says there is increasing attention on the life sciences/healthcare sector with more favourable government policies likely to underpin increased investment in the sector. Cloud based SaaS systems, teleworking tools, and paperless processes are also seeing an increasingly rapid roll-out with opportunities well suited to the innovative and agile solutions provided by many Irish businesses.

In addition, various Asian companies have announced their intention to develop antibodies or vaccines to combat Covid-19, so Irish businesses with strong expertise in pharma servicing, regulatory consultation, clinical trials and supply chains are actively probing for new and enhanced opportunities in the region.

“Many companies tended to take a conservative approach relative to their western peers to remote work, “says Kinnane. “But Covid-19 has prompted companies, particularly in China, South Korea and Japan, to re-assess the value of remote-working. And there is now more leniency and openness in corporate culture to embrace the practice with a more strategic and long-term view. Hence, it’s timely that Irish companies now look to the east to capture untapped opportunities. But they may need to be prepared to conduct business for a prolonged period under current conditions and be more creative and resourceful than ever in developing and maintaining customer intimacy.”

The regional director says it’s projected to be one of the first regions to emerge from the Covid-19 challenge, with economies faring relatively well. So as economic and business activities begin returning to normal, it’s imperative for Irish businesses to provide best-in-class services and products to their existing and potential customers in order to exhibit commitment and capability to perform in times of crisis.

“Companies are currently reviewing their supply chains so if there are prospective customers and partners that Irish businesses have wanted to work with, this can provide a context to approach or re-approach them,” she advises. 

“The overarching message from APAC is that of a region demonstrating real resilience with economic fundamentals remaining strong, and the opportunities for world class Irish companies being very compelling.  Our teams, from Beijing to Sydney are fully operational, ensuring a continuity of service with clients and networks and have a range of business supports and funding options to support exporters.”

 

Learn more about supports available to businesses impacted by Covid-19 at Enterprise Ireland’s business response.

 

The funding landscape – surveying the options

Funding Landscape

With entire business sectors forced to either cease trading completely or go into a period of near hibernation as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies are faced with a situation where income has slowed to a trickle while outgoings cannot be eliminated entirely if the business is to survive and emerge from the crisis intact.

 

Look Inside the Business First

These factors make a company’s state of readiness for access to funding, from all sources, critically important. When surveying the funding landscape, John Power, director of specialist financial advisory firm SGL, says the best place for companies to start is internally. That potential source encompasses existing debtors and customers who may be willing to pay in advance for a discount and also maximising terms with creditors which may include payments to Revenue.

“Firms must still submit their returns on time, but Revenue is not going to apply penalties and interest for late payment,” says Power. “Revenue has really stepped up to the plate here. Companies should appreciate that flexibility and use it while they can.”

 

Investigate State Support Schemes

He also points to the range of supports on offer from the State, including the €450 million Covid-19 Working Capital Loan and €200 million Future Growth Loan schemes available through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and the €180 million Sustaining Enterprise Fund through Enterprise Ireland to help companies in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors to adapt their business models and return to viability. A Rescue and Restructuring Fund for worst-case scenarios is also available.

“The SBCI Working Capital Loan Scheme offers loans of between €25,000 and €1.5 million over three years with a maximum interest rate of 4%,” says Power. “The funding is available on an interest-only basis for the first three months, and that will help companies get through the initial period of the crisis. Also, the first €500,000 is unsecured. That’s very important for service-based companies who may have limited assets to use as security.”

Enterprise Ireland also has a new €5,000 Covid-19 Business Financial Planning Grant to help companies prepare financial plans for their internal needs and to better prepared to present a strong lending proposal to banks and the SBCI. There are also a number of strategic consultancy grants and other supports available to help companies maintain and enhance their competitiveness.

Smaller companies also have other options. “Microfinance Ireland has stepped up with loans of up to €50,000 over three to five years at an interest rate now reduced to 4.5%, with no repayments required and no interest charged in the first six months,” says Power.

 

Engage with your Bank

Bank finance is, of course, an option worth pursuing but can be difficult to get in the current environment. “Banks look principally at two things,” Power explains. “Capacity to repay and security. And they need both before they will advance a loan. I hope that banks take a forward-looking view or else look back on 2019 performance when assessing companies’ ability to repay loans. If they just look at the first quarter of 2020, it will make things very difficult.”

 

Credit Guarantee Scheme

Companies which can demonstrate capacity to repay, but fall down on security, can always utilise the Credit Guarantee Scheme, he adds. Managed through the SBCI, the scheme guarantees 80% of the value of the loan in return for a half a percent premium on the interest rate. “This gives the banks the security they require in many cases,” says Power.

 

Sustaining Enterprise Fund

For companies that have been unable to raise finance through either the SBCI or the banks there is the Enterprise Ireland Sustaining Enterprise Fund. The purpose of the €180 million fund is to sustain companies which have been impacted by a 15% or greater reduction in actual or projected turnover or profit, or which have seen significant increase in costs as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

In order to qualify, businesses must provide a Business Sustainment Plan outlining how the company will be stabilised and return to viability. Qualifying businesses will be offered a repayable advance of up to €800,000 to support the implementation of the plan.

Very importantly, there is a three-year grace period on repayments. The advance must be repaid by the end of year five.

“I am pleased to say that the new Sustaining Enterprise Fund is now open for businesses who are unable to raise adequate funding from the market,” says Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon. “My strong advice to companies is, if you haven’t already done so, to prepare an assessment of your financial requirements and progress funding applications to the banks and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) immediately. Enterprise Ireland’s new Business Financial Planning grant will help companies to prepare a Business Sustainment Plan.”

Other supports available through Enterprise Ireland include the new €2 million Covid-19 Online Retail Scheme which offers grants of up to €40,000 to retailers employing over 10 people to develop a more competitive online offer. Companies can also avail of the new €2,500 LEAN Business Continuity Voucher to help them access the expertise to identify the key measures needed to ensure continued operations.

 

Traveltech

Market Watch Industry Bulletin – Traveltech

Enterprise Ireland travel technology companies are facing unprecedented challenges to continue to build and scale their businesses globally as the travel industry is arguably the most affected by Covid-19.

Many are demonstrating impressive flexibility, innovation capability to adapt to the new situation, and collaboration with partners to overcome enormous challenges. Our Market Watch Industry Bulletin for the travel and tourism industry provides insights on the potential impact of Covid-19 on your business.

Read the full report here.

wearable device

Middle East to join the CREW

Irish software services innovator 8 West is bringing its Covid-19 early warning system, CREW, to the Middle East.

Building on its existing success in the region, the company plans to increase its activity in the Gulf region, which includes the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman.

 

Innovation to protect frontline workers

8 West is the company behind an innovative new remote monitoring system, CREW, which is designed to protect frontline healthcare workers and their patients from the spread of Covid-19.

CREW, an acronym for Covid19 Remote Early Warning System, remotely identifies healthcare workers who develop a temperature.

A rise in body temperature is the symptom that is most common among all sufferers of virus.  A spike in temperature, particularly when combined with an increased heart rate, at a time when no other physical activity is taking place – such as when a person is asleep – can provide a key early warning sign for the onset of Covid19.

CREW consists of a wearable digital thermometer sensor which measures body temperature, and a sensor platform such as a smart phone, smart watch or other IoT (internet of things) device, which runs the CREW app.

A cloud based server then runs the CREW system, monitoring incoming data from frontline workers wearing the device. If an elevated temperature is recorded over a specified time frame, CREW generates an automatic alarm warning both the wearer and their employer of their need to take remedial action and self-isolate.

 

Collaboration for the greater good

The system has been developed by 8 West in partnership with the Ireland’s College of Medicine and Health at University College Cork (UCC), its ASSERT Centre and the renowned Tyndall Institute. CREW

UCC’s ASSERT Centre enables clinicians to design, develop, deploy and trial innovative healthcare solutions in a simulated healthcare environment.  The Tyndall National Institute is a leading European research centre specialising in integrated ICT hardware and systems. 

Trials are being undertaken at Cork University Hospital.   

“CUH Emergency Department staff are delighted to have helped pioneer an innovative 24 hour monitoring device like this,” says Professor Stephen Cusack, recently retired Professor of Emergency Medicine at University College Cork and emergency medicine consultant at Cork University Hospital.

“We are 24 hours on the front line of care daily, and it’s good to know that efforts like this are being made to support our wellbeing 24 hours a day too.”

 

Product Innovation with SafeTRX

8 West has extensive experience in developing remote monitoring safety and security systems.

The company, which has been in operation since 1998, specialises in providing technology service solutions to the healthcare and retail sectors to international clients such as insurers Anthem, Delta Dental and DentaQuest, and brands such as Estee Lauder and Ralph Lauren.

It is a product innovator too however, developing its own proprietary solutions. One of these is SafeTrx, which is now Europe’s leading tracking and alerting software platform for the marine sector and which was used in 625 rescue missions last year.

It is thanks to SafeTRX that 8 West has an established presence in the Middle East. A bespoke version of what was originally a marine product is now relied on by Dubai’s police force as a way to remotely monitor and leisure sailors in Dubai waters.

CREW is available on iOS and Android smart phones, Apple WatchOS and Google smartwatch operating system WearOS with the mSafety platform from Sony to follow soon.  In developing it 8 West received technical and hardware support from a range of companies including Sony Network Communications Europe, Cambridge Wireless, Vodafone Ireland, Huawei, Davra, BlueBridge Technologies and PMD Solutions.

 

Addressing an immediate need

According to 8 West founder and co-chief executive John Murphy, the solution was developed from start to finish in just three weeks, “a Herculean effort from our employees” and a part of its contribution to the global crisis.

“Fifty per cent of humanity is self-isolating at the moment. We’ve never seen anything like this before and we’ll most likely be living like this for the next 12 months.” said Murphy

As such he believes an early warning system such as CREW, alongside measures such as social distancing and workplace deep cleaning, will be required for a long time to come as part of all employers’ duty of care to staff.

In the meantime, his goal is to make CREW available to as many frontline staff as possible around the world as soon as possible.

It has the potential to help not only individual medics but the wider hospital and nursing home communities and the general public too, says Murphy, who is due to meet with healthcare sector representatives from Oman, Kuwait and the UAE over the coming weeks.

In developing CREW 8 West didn’t just leverage its own SafeTRX technology, it leveraged Ireland’s uniquely collaborative technological eco-system, he points out.

“The Irish response from around the world and particularly the tech sector, was very collegiate. Everybody was ready to give support because, with Covid19, we all share a single purpose now.”  said Murphy

CREW’s market expansion strategy is being supported by the Enterprise Ireland team in Dubai who are working closely with 8 West to identify optimal routes to market with key local partners.

According to Mike Hogan, Regional Manager Enterprise Ireland, “Markets across the Middle East are always keen to acquire cutting edge technologies and we think this is even more prevalent in the current situation fighting the spread of Covid-19. I’m sure 8 West’s CREW solution will play a big part in fighting the spread of the disease and protecting the frontline health workers who are doing an incredible job keeping our communities safe”.

 

Read more about the Irish companies using innovation to make a difference.

managing liquidity covid19

Managing liquidity through the Covid-19 crisis

managing liquidity covid

Cash really is king for businesses contending with the Covid-19 crisis. Many of those still trading have to meet ongoing payroll, rent, utilities and other costs in the face of rapidly declining demand, while many others have been forced to close either as a result of government directive or adverse trading conditions and are looking at ways to reopen when the crisis abates.

The challenge for all of these companies is how to manage their liquidity through the coming weeks and months to ensure they are in a position to take advantage of the recovery when it does come.

Interestingly, recent events have served to prepare Irish companies for the shock. “We have been talking to a lot of companies in our role as an outsourced CFO,” says Barry Doyle, director of specialist financial advisory firm SGL.

“They have learned to deal with a lot of problems as a result of the Brexit crisis and they are better prepared as a result. With Brexit, the issues were reduced margins, foreign exchange issues and other disruptions, and they have been preparing for them.” says Doyle.

Of course, the scale of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis is greater by an order of magnitude. “This will mean a shutdown for many companies and a full loss of income for a sustained period,” Doyle points out. “They are seeing zero revenues on one hand while they face continued expenditure on staff, suppliers, customers and so on.”

 

Understand the Data with a Cashflow Forecast

Dealing with that situation begins with data. “The starting point is a detailed cashflow forecast,” Doyle advises. “That’s key to understanding where you are.” And what you need to do.

He describes cash and communication as the key elements of the approach to be taken once the forecast is complete.

“If working capital is the lifeblood of the business, cash is the oxygen,” he notes. “Companies have got to have working capital available to them to kickstart them after the shutdown.”

 

Engage with Creditors and Debtors

And that’s where the communication comes in. “You have to talk to your customers to identify what receipts are likely to come in. Are they still open? Are they still in a position to pay bills? Talk to your suppliers to see if they can extend credit to you. Part pay bills if necessary.”

Doyle says the best way for businesses to look at this situation is as akin to hibernation. “They have to squirrel away cash for when spring comes, so they can take advantage of the bounce that will come then. Many companies have seen this coming and have been working with their customers to get as much cash in as possible. Companies who haven’t done this should run an aged debtor analysis to see what might be out there. It might be a case of seeing who they can target for payment when business reopens, or it might be identifying customers to work with to find a way through the crisis.”

 

Wage Subsidy Scheme to Retain Staff

Cash will still be needed for payroll and other costs, of course. “Nothing is as important as your staff,” Doyle points out. “Your employees are a critical resource in business.”

He believes the Government Wage Subsidy Scheme can help companies avoid the damage of layoffs and advises them to avail of it where possible. “We are working with client companies to help them retain key staff and look after them during the crisis,” he adds.

 

Access Government Supports

Doyle’s Co-Director John Power describes the various State initiatives, including the Enterprise Ireland Stabilise and Rebuild Fund, Business Financial Planning Grant as a “huge boost”. Companies should monitor Government support developments and banking facilities offered from main banks and SBCI, to support their Working Capital needs to help them bounce back and restart their businesses quickly when working restrictions are eased

“The decision by Revenue to defer interest and penalties for late payment of VAT has also been very helpful,” he adds. “Revenue is not withholding Tax Clearance Certificates for late payment and that means companies will be able to continue to get paid by public bodies during the crisis.”

Power concludes by noting that businesses now have to become much more disciplined in terms of cost controls as well as in credit control. “In good times it is possible to be a bit more relaxed,” he says. “But companies now have to be a lot more disciplined when it comes to credit control. That means calling in debts as they fall due or even offering discounts to customers for early payment. They have got to build as much working capital as they can. Cash is king. That’s never been truer.”

Covid-19-An-Employer’s-Guide_

Covid-19: Know your responsibilities as an employer

Employers and people managers around the country, especially those in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have legal obligations relating to the coronavirus crisis.

In conjunction with Enterprise Ireland, The HR Suite has produced ‘Covid-19: An Employer’s Guide’, a detailed document that outlines everything business owners and managers need to know about their responsibilities towards employees during this challenging time.

Caroline McEnery, Managing Director of the HR Suite says,

“Some of the relevant legislation is new and the changes in it are unchartered for both employers and employees. Other legislation was already in place, but most people wouldn’t have had to worry about it before so it wouldn’t have been on their radar.”

 

New legislative changes

The main points employers need to be aware of is emergency legislation introduced by the Government related to employee wages and payments.

Companies who can show their turnover has reduced by more than 25% due to Covid-19 may qualify for the Wage Subsidy Scheme. This provides a temporary wage subsidy of up to 85% of take home pay up to a maximum weekly amount of €410 per week to affected companies to help them continue to pay their employees.

Separately, employees who lose their jobs qualify for the new Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment of €350 a week for up to 12 weeks.

A new Illness Benefit, paid at the same rate, is also available — for two weeks to any employee medically required to self-isolate and for up to 10 weeks for any employee diagnosed with Covid-19.

“The good news is that the process of processing the payments and benefits is very  straightforward,” says McEnery. “It’s really important that you communicate all the above information as empathetically and sympathetically as you can to people who are already in a very emotional place.”

 

Relevant existing legislation

Among the older laws employees may now find relevant is the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2014. Under this act, people who are temporarily working fewer hours than they normally would can claim for a payment called Short Time Work Support. It is paid at the same level as Jobseeker’s Benefit (€203 a week), but on a pro rata basis for the days the person is not working.

Layoffs are also covered under the Redundancy Payments Acts. Employers can place employees on a period of temporary unpaid layoff if they believe they will be able to have them back in paid work again when the crisis passes. Employees who have been temporarily laid off qualify for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, as outlined above.

“The only difference now is that if an employee were laid off previously, they could apply for redundancy after four weeks. That option is paused until the end of May [2020] and will be reviewed again then,” said McEnery.

 

Stay informed and communicate

With the Covid-19 situation remaining fluid, McEnery says employers should keep up to speed with what is happening and make sure their employees are in the loop too.

“Review your plans every two weeks in line with the latest Government and HSE guidance, while taking into account what is happening in your business,” she says, adding that employers should also make sure they keep communications channels open with their employees and make sure they are informed of any changes they should know about.

Download the ‘Covid-19: An Employer’s Guide’

Conor Fahy, Enterprise Ireland

Market Watch – A view from the Middle East, India and Africa

The Middle East is expected to return to business sooner than Africa and India with the tech industry being the first to recover.

Key Takeaways

  • Companies need to closely monitor the changing business environment and be prepared to quickly pivot their offer or business model if the market demands.
  • Business is severely affected in the region even though the spread of the virus in Africa and India is weeks behind Europe.
  • Borders have been closed, international events cancelled, and most companies are looking to cut costs.
  • The Middle East is expected to return to business sooner than Africa and India with the tech industry being the first to recover.
  • Communication is vital for to maintain long term relationships.

 

The global pandemic has indeed affected every corner of the world and according to Conor Fahy, Regional Director, Enterprise Ireland, India, the Middle East, and Africa is no different.

“The area encompasses over 40% of the world population so lockdown and self-isolation presents many challenges,” says the regional director. “The situation in the Middle East is similar to Europe in timing and response and most companies are expecting a decrease in revenue and are looking to cut costs and consider cost containment and defer or pause investments.

“The double whammy of an oil price war and Covid-19 will affect budgets and Dubai has introduced highly restrictive measures, including closing its airport, so there is a risk of a sharp increase in business defaults and liquidations in the travel and tourism industry. Also borders have closed across the region and major international events have been cancelled or delayed.

“India and Africa are currently around three weeks behind in terms of cases and government response. But business is severely affected, while economic activity is suffering from the initial phases of lockdown. The medium-term impacts will be severe and combined with oil-price shock and reduced demand for commodities, the region is likely to tip into an economic contraction in 2020/21, in the absence of major fiscal stimulus.”

There are eight Enterprise Ireland offices across the region which are helping Irish companies stay informed, connected and exporting. And Fahy says it’s crucial for people to avail of this support and keep communications lines open in order to survive the challenges.

“We are providing in-depth customer engagement, virtual itineraries, bespoke buyer webinars and one-to-one advice and guidance,” says Fahy.

“Personal connection is vital to winning and retaining business so it’s essential to stay connected with existing customers. Be the trusted source of information: and proactively communicate with accurate market information and insights from your industry contacts, and from Enterprise Ireland’s Market Research Centre. When things get tough, the temptation is to become acutely focused on immediate problems but while these should be addressed, developing a strategy for recovery is just as vital. So extend your timeline assumptions and planning-against scenarios, even if it appears difficult. Now is the time to invest in strategic planning and to start thinking through decision criteria and conditions for return to business.”

Many organisations are still dealing with immediate concerns around the availability of cash.

While all sectors are being affected across the region, Tourism, Aviation, Construction, Industrial Manufacturing and Mining and Oil industries have been hardest hit but technology related businesses will be the first to make a recovery.

“CFOs in the Middle East are expecting to get back to normal sooner rather than later; pausing or delaying investments instead of cancelling them altogether,” he says. “In fact, the majority expect to return to business as usual within three months if Covid-19 were to end today.

“Investments in digital transformation, customer experience and cyber security are most likely to be protected as a result of Covid-19 and all indicators point to a technology-led recovery as AI is becoming pivotal in managing the huge amounts of data needed to deliver services and product.” said Fahy

While there are certainly challenges facing Irish exporters, Fahy says there are also some emerging opportunities, particularly for digital payments and cloud services.

“The near collapse of many online grocery retail platforms is driving demand for process automation and intelligent self-service and Irish companies quickly recognize the changing market dynamics,” he says. “But while positivity may be in short supply, there is optimism in around returning to business and continuing to invest where it matters.

“Business leaders need to invest time away from crisis management to show leadership and strategically look to future opportunities which will emerge when these economies rebound.”

Conor Fahy is Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Director of the Middle East, India and Africa. To learn more about the steps companies can take to address the impact of Covid-19 visit our business supports page.

Digital Tech

Market Watch Industry Bulletin – Digital Tech

In the context of the ever evolving Covid-19 situation in which we find ourselves, Enterprise Ireland‘s digital technology companies are experiencing unprecedented changes in the market, facing extreme challenges but also unique opportunities as
they are forced to quickly adapt and thrive in a more virtual and digital reality.

In our bulletin, Enterprise Ireland’s market advisors provide insight on specific market developments, challenges and opportunities as well as some market specific Government supports and industry trends.

Read the bulletin here.

Market Watch Germany – Webinar – Impact on Supply Chain

 

Enterprise Ireland’s offices in Germany have launched a series of Webinars: Market Watch Germany. Every Wednesday at 14:00 BST/15:00 CET a new theme will be addressed to help Irish companies exporting to Germany navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by Covid 19.

For the second webinar in the series on Wednesday 15th April, we were joined by Dr. Patrick Kim from BridgeBuilder.de and Dr. Gökhan Yüzgülec from Inverto GmbH.

This Webinar explores how to cut through the noise to stay reliably informed during the crisis, the impact on supply chains and procurement, and how to prepare for the shifts after Covid-19.