Global Ambition – Industry Insights webinar series

Enterprise Ireland will host a series of Global Ambition – Industry Insights sector focused webinars for clients, to deliver market intelligence on the evolving international export opportunities across global markets. The five sector market webinars will focus on:

  • Construction – 15th September, 9:30am – 10:45am

  • Lifesciences – 15th September, 2pm – 3pm

  • Travel Tech – 16th September, 3pm – 4pm

  • Agritech – 17th September, 11am – 12pm

  • Consumer Retail – 17th September, 2pm – 3pm

 

This webinar series will draw on Enterprise Ireland’s unique insight into key markets for Irish exporters lead by the Market Advisor in that sector and will explore crucial issues such as relationship strategies and the shift in consumer behaviour in the context of Covid-19.

You can register using this link. You can register for multiple webinars and all registrants will receive a copy of the webinar recording and slides.

Digital communication – the key to success in North America in the context of Covid

The ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic has thrown up many challenges for companies worldwide. For Irish companies exporting to North America, these challenges have varied widely from sector to sector, but some, such as remote working, communication with clients, difficulties in finding new business, establishing sales pipelines and cash flow issues have been identified as common. As such, a basic roadmap to recovery has been drafted by Enterprise Ireland (EI) to help companies navigate through this uncertain time.

“The roadmap is a framework,” says Sean Davis, Regional Director for North America at EI, “but what’s interesting is that it extends across many, if not all sectors.”

There are three stages to the roadmap, and it’s backed up by EI supports to get companies into stages two and three:

  • Stabilise – protect your business, maintain operations and retain employees
  • Reset – adapt your business, plans and operations to new conditions
  • Recover – Restart innovation and capitalise on early demand as recovery develops

Communication is key

One major issue that affects every stage of the framework is communication. Many companies found themselves scrambling to deal with a workforce that suddenly became remote. Face-to-face meetings became impossible, and in the North American market, different time zones and inability to travel became massive issues for Irish companies – and so setting up successful and secure online communication technologies became key.

Dr Martyn Farrows, COO of Soapbox Labs, explains that the communication issue is not just an internal problem, but also extends to your customers and potential clients. “For us, as an online business, we were very comfortable with using many of the technologies available to us, such as Slack, as we had already had them set up internally. That situation was put into very stark contrast with the market. Our business has a very regular 12-month rhythm as we do a lot of work with the education sector, so when this kicked off in February/March, we were right into our development phase and two very big customer networking events in North America were cancelled as a result of Covid. So we had to react very quickly as to how we could communicate with our clients and how we could support them as they adapt to a remote learning environment.”

But there are positives. Because this is a global problem, everyone has the same communication issue – and Sean explains that in a way it’s a great leveller for companies, as location becomes less of an issue when face-to-face meetings are not possible for anyone. “We also had a good call with Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.  Following research work with a large number of North American companies, the conclusion is that we’ve actually crossed the digital rubicon in terms of our movement towards digitalisation and this new virtual environment.

“Maybe one of the benefits of Covid has been that push of the technological envelope, leading companies to utilise technology in a more utilitarian way.”

Adapting your business

For every company, there is a real need to adapt to the new market conditions, and answer any individual challenges that present themselves to the company. John Power is the CEO & Managing Director of Aerogen, a company that manufactures the only product that delivers drugs via a closed-system aerosol on ventilated patients, so he experienced great demand as the crisis took hold. “In the second two and a half weeks of March we received orders equivalent to the orders received in the first half of last year. But that meant we had to ramp up our manufacturing at a time when the world in many ways was shutting down. For instance, a lot of our product is shipped globally on passenger planes but when they were grounded, we had to look for capacity on cargo planes. It was a very challenging time and we had to manage expectations to make sure everyone was getting what they needed to keep them going.”

For Martyn, too, there was a need to adapt quickly. “We have just launched a first-of-its-kind voice-powered assessment tool to help educators understand and accelerate literacy development for remote learners in the US. That is an interesting case study as we signed the contract in January 2020 for delivery in August 2021. In May, the customer floated the idea that they’d like to speed up development to bring it in this year to address needs created by Covid. Now there are 150,000 kids able to access that product for their learning, growing to 2 million in the next two years. This is a good example of needing to be agile, needing to adapt to your customer’s needs as they try to respond to the needs of the market.”

Both John and Martyn agree that the key to rising to such challenges is being sensitive to your staff’s needs, especially in such uncertain times when staff members may be dealing with virtual working challenges, stress and worry about illness, and children at home from school. “You have to manage things very carefully and set clear expectations,” says Martyn. “Our team has been amazing and adapted extremely well, but a lot of that is down to effective communication.”

Preparing for the future

While stabilising and adapting your business is key to survival, to keep trading once the crisis is over, preparation for the future is vital. And again, finding new ways to communicate is extremely important.

“In the medtech industry, our usual method of opening new accounts would be to meet the people and demonstrate our products,” says John. “Obviously that has been disrupted now as hospitals don’t want people coming off the street amid the restrictions. We’ve had to develop more online training, online webinars and keynote speeches to try and attract a pipeline for the future that way.”

Both Martyn and John agree that to succeed in the North American market, preparation and flexibility are needed. “We did a lot of research into the market and were fortunate to get a Market Discovery Fund grant approved through EI, which was pivotal for our entry into the market,” says Martyn.

“It’s all about preparation; there is no such thing as an overnight success in the US market.”

“Our modus operandi at EI over the past 30+ years has been to cultivate the client/buyer relationship,” says Sean.

“With the opening of our Montreal office, we will have eight offices across North America. I would advise any client company to get in contact with our local manager and market adviser for help during this time. We have had the same communication issues as our clients, but we’ve moved quickly to adapt so we can continue to nurture those client-buyer relationships.”

So what will be the future for Irish companies operating in North America? “At the start of this crisis, you couldn’t over-communicate, everyone wanted information,” says Sean. “But as it started to move through its different phases, we’ve moved more into trust and delegation. There will be a certain snap-back once we start to get back to normal and a certain amount of personal interaction will come back. On this point, there is a distinct difference between the US and Canada, as in Canada, those personal relationships are very important – which is why we have two offices there now.

“There has always been a cultural affinity between America and Ireland – but there are a lot of domestic NA companies that will be dusting themselves off and looking at the opportunities within the region – of which there are plenty – and they may be taking advantage of the huge markets on their doorstep to help them recover. That will be a future challenge for our clients.”

Market Watch – South East Asia

Overview

• Many countries in South East Asia have made a successful return to business
• Travel restrictions had posed problems for businesses selling into the region, but goods are moving again.
• Critical supply chain companies are ramping up production and capacity to meet increasing demand
• Opportunities are continuing to arise, particularly in Digital technologies, Life Sciences, Telehealth, and Industrial sectors
• Life is beginning to return to normal.

Every industry across the world has been impacted by the effects of Covid-19. But while there is undoubtedly still a long way to go, business is beginning to return to some sort of normality and Kevin Ryan, Director of ASEAN, says much of South East Asia has made a cautious, but successful return.

“Business is definitely getting back to some semblance of normality, but things are a little different,” says Ryan. “In Singapore, we are now in Phase 2 of the ‘Circuit-Breaker’ measures and most businesses are now allowed to return to office environments. But the message remains consistent and to work from home where possible.

“Politically there is a history of stability and longevity here with governments making long-term plans which are carried on by successive ruling parties and this is very beneficial to the economy of the region.”

With experience of the SARS epidemic in 2002-2004, the governments of SE Asia have been methodical in their management of the Covid outbreak and this has proved crucial in the successful reopening of business.

“During the phased approach, the return to work was carefully managed,” says Ryan. “And around the region, key markets are opening up and demonstrating strong ownership in managing business and movement of goods.”

So with the effects of Covid shaping how people work and interact, the ASEAN director says strong sectoral opportunities have emerged.

“The Future of Work and the Digital Workplace is a very interesting development and client companies see big potential across the Asia market,” he says. “Here you have huge centres of populations, with Banks, Insurers and Tech companies all requiring teams to work remotely and embrace innovative solutions.

“From the Life Sciences sector, there is significant interest and demand for services which offer innovative solutions to help eliminate the effects of Covid. And the crisis has shown how reliable technology can be and has forced governments to take a fresh look at implementing digital health solutions in their regions.

“Consumer Retail is also playing out strongly with the likes of Water Wipes and Pestle & Mortar being two good examples of clients gaining traction in Asia.”

But most businesses, regardless of sector, are focused on saving cost, generating additional ancillary revenue streams and using technology to help prevent Covid in the workplace.

“Businesses are very keen to understand how technology can help them combat the pandemic and keep staff safe,” says Ryan. “We’ve had strong engagement with companies who see the value proposition, most notably with the likes of Novaerus who have a proven air and surface disinfection device. While companies such as Combilift have proven capabilities in an industrial space, helping to eliminate waste and enabling companies think more efficiently.

“Our clients are constantly looking at new ways to offer unique solutions to companies, which are now struggling with their traditional business model. And we are seeing success and increased interest in companies such as Good Travel Software (GTS), which allows OEM car manufacturers and car companies opportunities to tap into additional ancillary revenue streams they wouldn’t have considered before.”

But one of the real strengths of Enterprise Ireland is its network overseas.

“We are the gatekeepers making sure clients are ready to make the leap,” says Ryan. “We also work with them to break down any barriers – geographically and culturally.

“So on a positive note, we’re definitely seeing greater availability and access. Prospective buyers in the region are realising that unless they open their minds and are willing to think innovatively, they will face the prospect of losing opportunities to their competitors, and in this climate that could prove fatal. Irish companies have a long history of being innovative and entrepreneurial and business in Asia is very responsive to this.”

The SE Asia region encompasses 10 countries with a population of circa. 650m people and Ryan says the market is very much open with he and his team engaging regularly with client companies to support a successful entry into the region.

“Ireland, in comparison to some parts of Asia, is small, and our team works extremely hard on selling a consistent Irish message,” he says. “We have strong success in opening doors and creating opportunities and our reputation across the globe is superb with Ireland’s expertise in Asia shining through from the perspective of innovation and quality.

“So there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re encouraging clients who have a product ready to go, to engage in Asia as we are laying the groundwork for opportunities to be realised in 2021 and beyond.”

Get key insights on the supports available from Enterprise Ireland.

eiffel tower

French €100 billion recovery package puts business first

Recovery package which invests in Green economy, public transport, sustainable builds and digitisation could be of interest to Irish firms.

The impressive two-year stimulus plan announced in Paris last week puts business high on the priorities list. With the lion’s share going towards a tax cut for businesses, the goal is to spur economic growth and get back to 2019 levels by 2022.

With the global economy in the midst of the worst economic downturn in decades, governments are under pressure to outline individual recovery plans. France — feeling the sting of a 13% contraction — isn’t taking any chances, announcing one of the largest cash injections amongst bigger European countries.

The government’s spending strategy is heavily focused on boosting business to the tune of €34bn. Jobs, health and social programmes which aim to create at least 160,000 new jobs next year will see €36bn of the pot. Finally, €30bn will go towards green transition initiatives which will go a long way to help France meet climate goals without relying on carbon taxes.

The key measures outlined in the recovery plan are:

  • €20bn in production tax cuts for businesses
  • €11bn investment to improve transport networks, particularity railways
  • €7.5bn towards extending the furlough scheme, though limited to the worst-hit sectors and part-time subsidies

As France24’s Senior Business Editor Stephen Carroll notes, the plan has “a little something for everyone”.

The general sentiment among France’s business community is that it will open opportunities, triggering new and innovative projects.

Banking on consumer confidence

Central to the plan is boosting consumer confidence. France argues that incomes have largely been maintained and that households have continued saving during the two-month lockdown period. Encouraging consumers to spend their money, the government believes, will stem primarily from people having job security. They say the focus on business investment will provide that security by spurring and maintaining economic growth.

 

Green goals

The recovery investment presents the opportunity to make some serious headway on climate goals. Of the €30bn going towards the green transition, €2bn will be injected into the hydrogen energy industry — accelerating a move away from fossil fuels. Almost €7bn will be invested in making public and private buildings more energy-efficient, creating jobs in manufacturing and construction at the same time.

 

A 40/60 split

The money will come from two sources: 40% from the EU’s Recovery Fund and 60% in affordable loans from the European Central Bank. The government plans to repay loans by 2025 and insist they won’t implement tax increases to do so. The €100bn investment aims to create economic growth which in turn will reduce the debt burden, making repaying easier.

 

Opportunities for Irish companies

The emphasis on the green economy and digitalisation will undoubtedly trigger major investment projects. Enterprise Ireland Market Advisor for France, Jean-Charles Moczarski, says that Irish client companies with a current foothold in France are well-positioned to take advantage of such opportunities and that the potential is ripe for those yet to enter. “I think it will bring market opportunities within France; it certainly makes it even more worthwhile for client companies to put France on the list of priority export destinations.”

A View from International Markets – North America – Webinar

In these unprecedented times knowledge and insights have never been more critical to business planning.

This On Demand webinar draws on Enterprise Ireland’s unique insight into key markets for Irish exporters and explores crucial issues such as sales and relationship strategies in the context of Covid-19, managing teams remotely and emerging market opportunities.

The webinar featured SoapBox Labs and Aerogen who gave their first-hand experience of selling internationally and maintaining and building relationships during the worldwide pandemic. This webinar also featured Sean Davis, Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Director for North America.

This webinar discussed:

  • Operation and business continuity during these unprecedented times.

  • Growing your business in the world’s largest economic region.

  • Lessons in leadership and using technology during the Covid-19 pandemic.

happy employee

Irish talent tech firms boost global engagement and productivity

In this era of widespread remote working, employee engagement and wellbeing matter more than ever. Isolated workers need to feel a sense of community and get support from their employers in line with their company’s values.

Companies around the world are looking to Irish talent tech companies for cutting-edge digital solutions to enable streamlined, effective work by HR departments, managers and employees. From wellbeing apps to performance management tools, Irish companies are exporting best-in-class products to businesses in dozens of countries.

Most are also focused on integrating with the existing technologies used by companies, meaning those in charge of IT budgets can maximise their legacy investments. Discover how five of the best in Irish talent tech are meeting the needs of a global client base.

 

1. Workvivo: Engaging employees with a highly social experience

Cork-based Workvivo is an enterprise social network, designed to enable organisations to engage as well as communicate with their employee communities.

“We took activities such as posting, liking and sharing content to an activity feed, which people are used to on social media apps outside the workplace, but developed them in a business context, enabling people to more easily engage with one another and with their company.” says Pete Rawlinson, Chief Marketing Officer at Workvivo.

 

Describe your business

“Disengagement was an issue for as many as 70% of businesses before the pandemic,” he adds. “One-to-one communication tools such as email or messaging facilitate communication but don’t do anything to provide that sense of community and culture.”

“People  need to feel part of something, especially when they are working remotely.” Pete Rawlinson, CMO at Workvivo

Since the pandemic spread, Workvivo has seen a significant increase in enquiries. “Companies are seeing that many remote workers can feel isolated. Our platform helps bring employees together through a highly social experience. We see customers using the platform to host activities such as quizzes and competitions that really help create that important sense of community….and fun!”

Woodies found that its Workvivo activity went up when its workers were furloughed due to Covid-19. “These were mainly employees with no work email account or company device, but they wanted to stay engaged,” says Rawlinson.

Workvivo has sought to ensure it can integrate with existing communication tools such as Slack, Zoom and Workday, and also includes built-in engagement analysis through pulse surveys, he says, adding that many customers report higher levels of employee satisfaction and engagement than before they implemented the platform. “Higher engagement typically leads to increases in talent retention and acquisition,” he said.

Established three years ago, Workvivo now has customers in 35 countries with over 150,000 users on the platform. The company is headquartered in Cork, Ireland and has recently opened an office in Sacramento, California. Having recently secured $16m (€14.2m) in Series A funding, it is now focused on expanding its US client base and accelerating its product development plans.

 

2. Frankli: automating continuous performance management

While performance review cycles can strike dread into both managers and employees, Frankli aims to make performance management easier and more intuitive with its end-to-end platform.

“Our product allows managers to have much more meaningful conversations with people and support their development,” says Noel Dykes, founder and CEO of Frankli. “This approach is transformative and agile — we don’t set out to be a once-a-year annual cycle of goal-setting and meetings.”

A software engineer by background, Dykes worked as a consultancy practice manager in New Zealand and saw first-hand that younger employees were particularly keen on continuous feedback and recognition. “People want to be truly connected to the work,” he says. “They want to understand their purpose. Why are they there? What is the company they are working for trying to achieve?”

He adds that purpose-driven organisations will thrive, especially as remote working opens up a global marketplace.

“Managers are going to become coaches, rather than engaging in direct management in the office where they can see employees and know what they are working on. From now on, they will have to trust people and give them much more autonomy.”

Within Frankli, managers can set up regular recurring one-to-one meetings with their team members, setting priorities, agreeing action items and supporting accountability on both sides. The software suggests recommended talking points, based on insights from organisational psychology. Employees can also contribute comments and suggestions.

The product also enables businesses to offer more tailored learning and development opportunities, including a two-sided mentor marketplace tool.

Frankli has customers of all sizes in Ireland, the UK, Poland and New Zealand. While its core focus is midsize companies looking to scale, it already supports workforces of as many as 70,000 employees.

 

3. Empeal: personalised employee wellbeing at scale

While many employee wellbeing platforms work on a one-to-many scale, says Sohini De, founder of data-driven start-up Empeal, her business aims to deliver 1:1 wellbeing support at scale.

“If someone is having trouble with sleep, perhaps not doing too much exercise, eating unhealthy food or generally falling into bad habits, they can go through the programme on our system,” she explains.

“They start by completing interactive questionnaires and we can also integrate data from their wearable devices. They could be given a personalised programme to improve their sleep hygiene, for example. If they continue to have problems, their case is escalated to a sleep expert.”

With users in Ireland and India, Empeal is now focused on expanding those markets and pushing into both the UAE and the UK, So far, it has seen engagement rates of 60% on average, which De says is high for a wellbeing app. “We have also seen very encouraging results in terms of people achieving their health goals,” she says.

In addition to helping employees improve their wellbeing, Empeal also provides anonymised aggregate data to employers to enable them make better decisions, improve staff retention rates and attract more talent.

To help companies navigate the coronavirus crisis, Empeal produced a free toolkit of resources and also made its community-level module free. “We were finding a lot of employers were asking, ‘How can we take care of our people at this time?’ — they were very concerned about how everyone in remote locations was coping not in touch with their workplace or workmates,” says De.

 

“The community engagement part of the platform, which includes fun challenges and community boards, helps employees feel connected and it’s very simple to roll out for HR teams.” Sohini De, Empeal founder

 

4. Peptalk: building community through connection and wellbeing

The three founders of workplace wellbeing platform Peptalk — all former sports stars — know more than most the value of wellbeing when it comes to performance.

“We had all been involved in high performance sports,” says CEO James Brogan, an all-Ireland winner himself and a cousin of Dublin GAA legend Bernard Brogan, another of the co-founders along with Michelle Fogarty, who represented Ireland at taekwondo. “We had seen that to get the best out of people, their lives need to be in balance. What you do off the pitch is as important as what you do on it.”

Peptalk aims to help companies build sustainable high performance cultures through its community-driven employee experience platform. The product includes an insights tool, management toolkits, an employee app and a real-time measurement dashboard.

“We’re helping organisations with those off-the-pitch activities. We’re helping humans to be better at what they do, to have more energy, and to be more focused and resilient,” says Brogan.

He adds that the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the issue of work-life balance: “Senior leaders have seen a different side to their staff. They’re now acutely aware that, unless people have proper support, they won’t be able to work to the best of their ability.”

During the crisis, Peptalk has seen increased engagement from existing clients, while also doubling its usual number of demos to potential customers.

Set up in late 2016, Peptalk has users in 10 countries, including Mondelez, McDonald’s and Paypal. “This is a global challenge faced by multinationals. We offer one solution that works across an organisation, so there is no sense of disconnection with different offices doing different things,” says Brogan.

With serious plans to scale further, Peptalk expects to close out its current funding round later in 2020. “This is the time for us to get out and support as many organisations as we can,” says Brogan. “It’s a challenging time and the need has never been greater for the type of services we offer.”

 

5. Wrkit: easy to implement and clinically-backed 

Founded two decades ago, Wrkit was originally a group benefits scheme, which evolved into an employee discount scheme. While users can still access thousands of discounts on holidays, food, clothes and other products, Wrkit has expanded to offer other services, including a learning portal with 4,500 personal and professional courses, a recognition portal and a wellbeing portal called Powr.

“POWR stands for Positive Occupational Wellness Resources, offering tools such as meditation, breathing exercises and reflective journaling” explains Jason Brennan, Wrkit’s Director of Wellbeing and Leadership.

“The big differentiator between Powr and similar apps is that it offers 430 clinically based behavioural plans put together by psychologists,” says Brennan. “These are based on six paths — mind, sleep, work, life, food and active. When users answer the questionnaires for these paths, they are given a personalised plan.”

“POWR users begin by finding out how they score clinically in the 6 areas of wellbeing and are instantly provided with personalised clinically based plans to improve engagement and growth in each area. During covid for example we saw a huge up take in the activity, work and life plans, helping not only users but employers by feeding back what is happening in real time with their anonymised and aggregated dashboard.”

Wrkit is based in Dublin, but also has offices in London and Massachusetts. Its clients include multinationals such as KPMG, FedEx and Boston Scientific. Its internet-based application can be launched quickly as it requires no specific IT infrastructure, says Brennan.

“All we need to launch is the list of employee ID numbers, and we provide lots of webinars and video tutorials to help staff engage with the tool, which is of course completely confidential.”

When Covid-19 struck, Wrkit quickly found demand rose. “We launched to 60 companies in eight weeks,” says Brennan. “We also quickly created a Coping with Covid portal to help users.”

social distancing

Social distancing keeps opportunities close by

Social distancing is now more important than ever as economies around the world reopen and people learn to live alongside Covid-19. For innovative Irish companies this new need to be together, but apart, is opening up fresh export opportunities.

It includes companies such as UtilityAR, which specialises in augmented reality (AR) solutions for smart factories in sectors such as manufacturing, pharmaceutical, utilities and data centres. Right now it is enabling workers separated by Covid-19 – either because of social distancing or because one may be in quarantine – to continue to work together.

“We produce systems for technical workers to help them get the job done in cases where, traditionally, they would have worked side by side, whether for oversight, guidance, trouble shooting or simply to have a second pair of eyes,” says UtilityAR CEO Patrick Liddy.

Its high tech AR eye glasses allow the wearer share what he or she is seeing with a colleague on another part of the site, allowing socially distanced collaboration. The company has clients around the world, in some case helped by contacts made working with foreign multinationals based in Ireland.  

 

Enabling companies to get back to work

Irish construction services technology company GoContractor quickly identified Covid challenges for the construction industry, particularly in relation to induction and training. Much of this activity traditionally takes place in person, either in a work trailer or classroom, and involves the sharing and copying of documents. Clocking on too, whether paper based, touch screen or turnstile, risks spreading germs.

Prior to Covid-19 GoContractor’s contractor management platform automated these processes and moved them online, saving safety and project management personnel thousands of hours of teaching and registration time over the life of a project.

Since Covid the company has been enabling construction companies in Ireland, the UK, US and Canada to get back to work by providing a socially distanced ‘no touch’ method for site orientations, registrations and access control.

Instead of a worker having to physically provide documents to site-safety personnel or a site manager, GoContractor allows workers to upload their credentials directly to the GoContractor platform, from anywhere.

For clocking on and off, GoContractor allows site security or other check-in personnel to scan a QR code to pull up their information, making sure they are properly trained and registered to be on site, and then checking them into the worksite.

GoContractor even allows for hard hat stickers with QR codes, meaning workers can simply have their hard hat scanned on the way in and out of a site to be checked at a distance.

 

Adding value for clients

All of these innovations can provide additional value to its clients in the post Covid era, including international companies such as Lendlease, AECOM and Skanska.

Irish software firm Solgari develops integrated communications solutions for the fintech sector that offer voice, video, chat, SMS and co-browsing options which are fully integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and support regulatory compliance globally.

Since Covid-19 the company has been helping its clients meet demand for distance-working by ensuring that all company communications are recorded, and the data extracted efficiently, regardless of geography or medium. It allows companies whose employees are working remotely to keep up to date records of all client interactions.

Internet of things specialist Taoglas launched CROWD Insights, an IoT solution that supports social distancing. Its cloud-based analytics platform uses existing WiFi infrastructure to measure, monitor, predict, alert and notify social distancing breaches.

“We believe this will be vital in the days and months to come, to allow people to move around safely without fear and to get the economy moving again and help business to stay open,”

says Ronan Quinlan, co-chief executive of Taoglas

Waterford based Nearform answered Ireland’s call with the development of the HSE’s new mobile tracing app, designed to rapidly notify those who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

When launched the new real-time symptom tracking and digital contact tracing app will curtail the spread of the virus across Ireland.

Dublin based Kastus moved quickly in response to the pandemic, taking its already pioneering anti microbial surface coating and getting it independently tested – and verified – as a key tool in the fight against Covid-19.

It works on touch screen devices, such as those seen at airport terminals and in fast food restaurants. The company, which prior to Covid had already provided with Al Maha, a ceramic tile maker in Oman, has since partnered with Swedish company ZetaDisplay too, a specialist in digital signage.

As for so many innovative Irish companies, the move showed how social distancing globally can bring business opportunities back home. 

Orbidal CEO

Evolve UK Webinar – Selling your Digital Solution to the UK Public Sector

Laura Brocklebank, Senior Market Advisor, Enterprise Ireland UK and  Tony Corrigan, CEO, Orbidal will present best-practice and opportunities that exist in the UK public sector and how to be successful at winning UK Public Sector contracts. The webinar will feature:

  • Overview of UK Public Sector Procurement – Covid-19 update and what’s happening now?

  • Overview and opportunities that exist with UK Public Sector – Spotlight on Digital Frameworks

  • Best practice for prospective public sector suppliers

  • What makes a supplier successful at winning contracts?

  • Orbidal’s process to ease and simplify the process of tendering.

CX Index – Capturing valuable customer feedback

David Heneghan is the CEO of CX Index, a Voice of the Customer software company successfully doing business in the Nordic region

What does CX Index do?

CX Index is a feedback management platform. Our SaaS technology enables our customers to capture feedback from their customers through channels such as email, chat and IVR. Then, with a range of automated processes, we integrate that feedback with a host of other data sets, so our customers have the context that is necessary to measure, manage and ultimately improve customer experience.

According to Gartner’s latest Voice of the Customer vendor guide, there are over 1000 vendors within the voice of the customer space, with 29 of these leading the wa “based on their vision and technology”. CX Index is in that cohort of 29, which includes others such as Qualtrics and Medallia and the market in which we operate is incredibly competitive. This is why we invest in innovation, including utilising AI and machine learning capabilities to remain differentiated from our competitors.

 

What inspired you to start the company?

I started my career as a bond trader for an investment bank and I saw that the decision-making tools that traders used to bet on the performance of companies seemed superior to the decision-making tools of the companies we were betting on as traders. After digging a bit deeper, I discovered that the problem for the corporates was not a lack of technology, capability, or resources – the problem was a lack of data related to measuring customer experience.

I discovered that feedback is the key metric for customer experience and determined that it would be great to build a tool around this. I then realised that there was a burgeoning industry dedicated to solving this problem but also recognised it was a large market still in its early days.

Having identified the opportunity, I needed to find someone with technical abilities to build a product. I then got introduced Piotr, who is our CTO, we started the business 8 years ago and it’s been a great journey that I would recommend anyone to take.

 

What first attracted you to the Nordic region?

Back in autumn 2017 I was on a call with a Gartner analyst who was advising on the latest trends around customer experience and during this conversation I asked which markets he thought would be best for an emerging business like ours. In European terms he said he would recommend the Nordics as he felt that the Scandinavians are forward thinking with technology and open to fresh ideas and solutions plus the markets were a bit smaller than the likes of France, UK and Germany, which make them more manageable.

Around the same time we were introduced to a Scandinavian company that was in the same space as us but doing something different.

Knowing what the analyst had said to me, I immediately decided to get on a plane to meet the prospect face to face. I think it’s important where appropriate to do that, once it adheres with official travel guidelines. It shows a level of commitment, and very soon after our first meeting we started working together. Over the last 2 and a half years we have worked together to sell into over twenty companies in the Nordics, three of which were in the last two months which is remarkable given the current climate.

 

The company has seen strong growth in the Nordics – what do you attribute your success to?

Firstly, we have been lucky with the partner we found and have put a lot of work into provisioning our technology so that the partner now has a lot of autonomy in selling our platform. They are not just re-selling our tool, but they have the capability to market, to sell, integrate and set up their customers on our platform without the need for us to ever meet any of these customers. This wasn’t straightforward by any means, but it has set us up on a firm footing for a fruitful long-term relationship.

 

What type of companies do you sell into?

We have customers in a host of industries such as retail, retail banking, insurance, hospitality, utility companies (nine of which are in the Nordics), travel companies, B2B companies, BPOs, technology companies and government agencies. Basically, if a business needs to capture feedback from their customers, we generally have a solution to fit their needs. That said, we primarily work with medium to large businesses.

 

What are your top tips for exporting to the Nordics

1. Get on the ground to build your network

Face to face meetings count for a lot, so the best way to achieve that is to go and meet people once you comply with current travel advice. If you feel like it’s a market that you want to pursue, it’s worthwhile reaching out to Enterprise Ireland in the region, as they host great events and offer a range of support.

 

2. Find a partner

If you can identify a strong partner that has a complementary solution or product, it makes life a lot easier. It’s easier for them to sell into their existing customer base than for you to start from ground zero. We have been very lucky with the Provad / Visma relationship.

 

3. Focus on a region

If you get success in a geographic region or country, we have found it is good to focus on that region and try to expand your capabilities there. Having experienced growth in several markets now, we know that local references do count for a lot and it is worth trying to capitalise on these.

 

What are your aspirations for the future of CX Index in the Nordics?

We have had a lot of success in the Finnish market to date and are looking to expand our footprint in Norway, Denmark and Sweden. I hope to double our customer base in the Nordics before the end of 2021. Given our track record, I think that this is eminently achievable, even with what is happening with the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is nice to work in places where there is a nice culture and as a region for doing business I plan for it to remain a top priority for some time to come.

 

Contact our Nordics team to discuss how Enterprise Ireland can support your business.

ReturnWorkplace 1

Covid-19: Returning to the workplace safely

In four short months, the world of work has changed dramatically thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of us experienced remote working, changed working conditions, altered hours or even layoffs. But now, as the economy slowly reopens according to the Government’s phased roadmap, employers and employees are slowly returning to the workplace, albeit a very “new normal” type of workplace.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted on companies in many different ways,” says Karen Hernandez, Senior Executive, People & Management, at Enterprise Ireland. “As a result, the challenges that companies are facing as employees return to the workplace tend to be different, but in general, there are a number of key considerations that companies will need to address to ensure a safe return to work.”

To help companies navigate their way through these considerations, Enterprise Ireland has produced Covid-19: Return to the Workplace Guide, which can be downloaded on the Globalambition.ie website. This is a practical guide that takes employers through four key areas: the health, safety and wellbeing of employees; employee communication and engagement; resource planning; and data privacy and GDPR. The guide also includes some templates that employers can use within their own business, such as a Pre-Return to Work form.

“The first consideration that employers need to address is the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees,” explains Karen. “The Health & Safety Authority (HSA) has issued the Return to Work Safely Protocol, which supports companies put measures in place that will protect the health and wellbeing of their employees as the economy begins to open up. Measures include completing a Risk Assessment, completing or updating your business’s Covid-19 Response Plan, and asking your employees to fill out a Covid-19 Pre-Return to Work Form.”

The HSA Protocol can look daunting at first, but Joyce Rigby Jones, Joint Managing Director at HR consultancy Voltedge, explains that it’s up to an employer to decide what is right for them. “The HSA Protocol provides a list of guidelines and protocols, and it’s up to each company to look at these and decide what is reasonable and appropriate in their case. But at the same time, as employers, we have to make sure we’re providing a good and safe base for our employees.”

Many guidelines include practical measures such as putting processes into place for suspected Covid-19 cases in the workplace, but another major part of ensuring employees’ health and safety is looking after their wellbeing, as Joyce explains. “We’ve all gone through major stress and there’s been such radical change that every employer has to take  onboard how this has affected employees.

Many employers have put into place an Employee Assistance Programme or Occupational Health Service to help employees with any issues they may encounter. But if you don’t have this, there are other things you can do, such as running wellness sessions or spearheading wellbeing initiatives.

There are some really nice resources on the gov.ie website called In This Together. The HSE website also has a mental health section, which is very useful. And of course, the Enterprise Ireland Covid-19 Return to the Workplace Guide offers some useful ideas such as a buddy system, which can be great for those working remotely. Communication is key – not everyone will be able to return to the workplace so talking to each individual and making them a part of the decision-making process will help their wellbeing and make sure any decision is good for them.”

Communicate, communicate and communicate some more!

The second key consideration identified by Enterprise Ireland is communication, which is essential during a time of so much change. “The HSA has provided guidance on a number of practical measures to enhance communication with your staff as they return to work,” says Karen. “Employers should be looking at all the changes in policies and procedures that must be made and ensure that employees know what they are.

A first step includes putting a Covid-19 Response Team in place, who will be responsible for completing and implementing the business’s Covid-19 Response Plan. At least one worker representative should be appointed, who will work with the team to engage with employees regarding any changes that need to be made as part of the Covid-19 Response Plan. All staff must also be trained.”

Enhanced communication will also help your employees’ wellbeing. “Everything about the workplace will change, from where you enter and exit to where you take your breaks,” explains Fredericka Sheppard, Joint Managing Director at Voltedge. “Change is difficult and it’s up to each employer to implement those changes, map it out, communicate with their employees and communicate again – you cannot communicate too much in this instance.

“Collaboration will bear fruit. You want to know if there are risks or if an employee is nervous about the workplace or feels unsafe. You want your staff working in a safe environment; if you are communicating with your staff through surveys, questionnaires etc on a regular basis, you will get greater engagement with your employees – and we know that in an environment where there is greater engagement, there is greater productivity.”

Successful resource planning

Inevitably, some businesses will have to take a hard look at their company and make some changes. Remote working will become a long-term reality for some companies, while sadly for others, redundancies may have to be implemented. Any changes in resources should be made objectively and with the constraints of employment law in mind. “Given current physical distancing guidelines, it’s highly unlikely that any company will be bringing back their full complement of staff initially,” says Karen. “Businesses will have to look at their resources in line with their business plans and their employees’ needs. For instance, some employees might have underlying health conditions and mightn’t come back into the office at first.”

“Some companies may have to look at restructuring or altering their business,” adds Fredericka. “They must pay attention to the legislation in this area. This hasn’t changed and the crisis won’t excuse you if you don’t do it right.

The Enterprise Ireland Return to the Workplace Guide has some useful information regarding this. Of course there’s a financial impact to this, but you must also remember that there’s a psychological impact too. The staff who are staying may be affected by any redundancies too – and this is talent that you have worked hard to get. Evaluate your business and market; you must keep this under constant review.”

On the other hand, this is a great opportunity to look at the skills of your employees and invest in your talent. “Resilience and good people management have never been more important and we need to support and invest in managers in developing these skills. Your marketplace may have changed, you may have to alter the product you offer – invest in your people to adapt to these changes and you’ll reap the rewards in the future.”

Protect sensitive information

A final key consideration is the tricky issue of GDPR and data protection. The HSA Protocol requires employers to collect information and keep records that could contain potentially sensitive information. It’s imperative that employers only collect the information they need, and that it is stored appropriately.

“GDPR and data security are more vital than ever,” says Karen. “The HSA is asking employers to keep contact logs, and there may be a need for some companies to undertake temperature checking too. There will also be health information included in the Pre-Return to Work Form. Companies need to be very mindful of their obligations under GDPR and data security. They must make sure that any information they request is reasonable and that this information is stored securely.”

These points, and more, are explored and expanded in the Covid-19: Return to the Workplace Guide. Enterprise Ireland has also launched a number of supports for businesses, including the Lean Business Continuity Voucher, which provides companies with up to €2,500 to help them put into place any guidelines or strategies needed before opening up the workplace again. More details can be found at https://globalambition.ie/covid-19/

EI_Market Watch Series_Dubai

Market Watch – Middle East

Overview

  • MENA is beginning to open up after a very strict lockdown.

  • Irish companies need to be aware of market differences in the region.

  • There is scope for movement in the health and safety, education and healthcare industry.

  • Communication and innovation is the key to success.

Covid-19 has most certainly changed the world as we know it – and as many countries are beginning to lift restrictions, markets are changing rapidly with dynamics shifting as everyone tries to adapt to the new normal.

Mike Hogan, Regional Manager for MENA says Ireland has long had a healthy business relationship with the Middle East and North Africa and as the region begins to open up, he encourages Irish businesses to be aware of how things have changed.

“Everyone knows that Covid-19 has brought about a special set of circumstances, an unprecedented Black Swan Incident,” he says. “At home, Enterprise Ireland is working with clients in a tailored manner to help them make changes to their business models in order to survive.

“But circumstances are different overseas and we have been offering continuity to clients in order to help them find new ways to communicate and keep informed about what is happening in terms of delivering their service and product.

“It’s so important to understand the dynamics of the market and the situation end users are facing. Much of this is similar to Ireland, but there are specific market differences so on a simplistic level, business models need to be tweaked and companies must begin to look forward to the new normal.”

This may take some time as much of the region has been completely shut down for the past few months.

“Many of the measures taken to combat the effects of Covid-19 across the Middle East may have seemed draconian from an Irish perspective,” says the regional manager. “There were 24-hour curfews with people only allowed out to go to the chemist or buy groceries and at the height of the restrictions, people could only leave the house once every three days.

“This has impacted the economy, especially as many places rely on tourism and international transport, so the shutting down of airspace, apart from cargo flights, has had an impact. And of course from an Irish perspective, this has had consequences on how goods are brought to market and how much it costs.

“So the new normal will involve an unwinding of these measures as well as a change in logistics, markets and communication. Nothing worries clients more than silence and people will remember who did business with them during the hard times and will reflect on who stood by them when their business was in jeopardy.”

But while the MENA region has been severely impacted by the crisis, Mike Hogan says there is still plenty of opportunity to be had.

“We are going through a bad time at moment, but Irish companies can have an impact as they have solutions which will fit in very well,” he says.

“And while countries like Saudi, for example, had cut back on infrastructure, the continuing increase in population, means that it continues to add new hospital beds every year, just to keep up with population growth, and increased capacity will increase healthcare opportunities ”

Indeed, Hogan says that healthcare and education will generate opportunities as countries across the region begin to open up and get their economies and their population back to some sort of normality.

And due to a diverse demographic, the Gulf region is also an ideal location for companies to test the waters and trial a new product or service.

“The region includes a lot of expats and migrant workers, so you can test a product here and get a wide number of reference points in terms of market reaction, as you are dealing with a large number of different nationalities, cultures and traditions,” he says. “So it’s a good opportunity to gauge how they react to various products and services.”

But one of the effects of the pandemic will see countries looking to reduce their supply chains and reinvigorate their indigenous industries to be more prepared should a second wave of the virus occur.

And while Ireland has always enjoyed a large share of the educational market in that corner of the world, remote learning is likely to continue to play a larger role in the future, so our HEIs need to be prepared for this.

“Cooperation between Ireland and the Middle East is going to need to change as some countries are really expanding their education system to meet the needs of the region,” says Hogan.  “Ireland needs to look at the content for remote learning rather than replicate what’s been happening in the classroom.”

Businesses will also operate more on a remote basis with exhibitions and conferences pushed into next year, so companies who want to stand out from the crowd, should come up with other ideas to make video conferencing more interesting. Decision makers in the Gulf are becoming increasing younger and tech savy, so Irish companies can’t simply rely or existing contacts and need to engage more widely and future proof their contact base.

“There is certainly some fatigue with relation to webinars and conference calls so it will be important to come up with something a bit special to engage clients,” says Hogan.

“These are young countries which require a continued and changing response so companies mustn’t sit on their laurels.”

Get key insights on the supports available from Enterprise Ireland.

Patrick Torrekens, Head of the Enterprise Ireland BeNeLux

Market Watch – Benelux

 

Overview

  • The BeNeLux countries (Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) are working hard to return to normal business practise.

  • Health and safety remain a prime concern so remote working and virtual meetings will continue to be in place for some time to come.

  • Continued communication with clients is vital.

  • Opportunities are available in the biopharma, digital connectivity, and biotech sectors.

Like the rest of Europe, the BeNeLux countries are working hard to return to some level of normality after Covid-19. And Patrick Torrekens, Head of the Enterprise Ireland BeNeLux team, says despite the fact that remote working remains in place, business is beginning to pick up in the region.

“Just like many people across the world, I have been working from home for the past few months and here in the BeNeLux countries, remote working, particularly for the services industry, is still the recommended norm as part of the three countries’ re-entry strategy,” he says.

“However, more and more production facilities, construction sites, engineering plants and office buildings are gearing towards full capacity and the ports of Antwerp and Rotterdam are fully operational with authorities doing everything to maintain the flow of goods in and out of the three countries.”

Torrekens says health and safety remain the prime concern and the necessary measures have been taken to ensure social distancing on the work floor, on public transport and in public places. While industry heads and Government are doing everything they can to get everything up and running once more.

“Things are not back to normal as yet, but the Dutch, Belgians and Luxemburgish, are keen to see business pick up again as quickly as possible,” he says. “When we are talking to buyers in our markets, we still hear that their focus is on adapting to the new reality on making their supply chain, and other critical processes, Covid compliant.

“So any solution which helps them to achieve Covid compliance gets their full attention and that is why it’s so important to stay closely connected to your clients as they are also turning to their existing client base for inspiration and support at the moment. But BeNeLux decision makers are not currently looking at new investment projects so expect a delay in the sales cycle, be patient and stay connected with your in-market contacts.”

But despite the delay in returning to normal, he says business is definitely moving in certain sectors and some markets remain buoyant.

“There are opportunities and exceptions to be found, particularly in the sectors of high relevance for trade with Ireland,” says Torrekens. “The BeNeLux region is a hot spot for pharma and biotech research and innovation and it is expected that multinationals such as Johnson and Johnson, with research facilities in the Antwerp region, will invest in new laboratories for vaccine production and other virus related research.

“So it is encouraging to see that some Irish companies are already preparing to play a part in this by strengthening their teams in markets.”

The past few months have clearly pointed at the strategic need for digital infrastructure and the Netherlands, in particular, is a frontrunner in digital connectivity and continues to invest in its infrastructure.

The Enterprise Ireland regional manager says communication is vital during these strange times, so Irish companies must do all they can to stay in touch with their clients.

“An interesting fact to mention is that the Netherlands has witnessed the highest global growth rate of virtual meetings held over digital platforms in the past weeks,” he says.
“So rest assured that if your contacts are not available for face to face meetings, they are definitely open, and accustomed, to online sessions. And please remember that the travel restrictions which are currently in place in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg should not prevent you from reaching out to existing clients and new prospects.

“Finally Belgians and Dutch and Luxemburgish people have massively turned to online commerce and businesses have adapted their sales channels to accommodate this. This has given an extra boost to businesses in IT, and professional service but also in transport and logistics.

“Ultimately, your solution will stand out if you have a strong value proposition which gives you a good chance to win more business in this region. And our teams stand ready to support you with advice and hands on support, so do get in touch, virtually for now, but hopefully face to face soon.”

Get key insights on doing business in BeNeLux and the supports available from Enterprise Ireland.