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Working in the cloud


Neill O'Neill

WORKING in IT for a multi-national company in Galway five years ago, Oliver Surdival from Belcarra got chatting to local man Darryl Byrne. The pair had a lot in common and realised that they had both the expertise and experience to give into the entrepreneurial spirit inside them that was yearning to be set free.
Looking towards emerging technologies in their sector, they settled on what was then the relatively new concept of cloud computing, set up their own company and have not looked back since.
Today, Cloudstrong, operating from the Innovation Hub at GMIT’s Castlebar campus, is experiencing rapid growth and preparing to fledge the incubation nest and supports provided to them in the busy Castlebar centre. In business for four and a half years, Cloudstrong specialise in moving businesses to the cloud.They have opened a Dublin office for their sales and marketing function, and CEO Oliver Surdival says that the biggest obstacle to their growth is finding the right people to take on the journey with them.
“What moving a business to the cloud means is taking your business applications like Sage or whatever applications you utilise in your business, such as e-mail and other data, and moving it into a data centre, which is essentially ‘in the cloud’,” he explains.
“We manage that application with the advantage for the business being that you no longer need any servers or hardware or maintenance contracts. Typically, SMEs will have guys who come in and look after applications, we manage the whole lot, the back-up, the disaster recovery, all aspects of it, and for customers it is like any other utility, you get a bill, you pay for a service, just like ESB, and you expect it to be on all the time, accessible from anywhere. We are accredited by Microsoft, and we have built up our own data centre.
“We hand hold you through the whole process, looking after everything from A to Z along the way. The technology needs less explaining these days than when we started, the savings are there for customers, the convenience of it all is great and the benefits are many, particularly for companies who might have people on the road, or working remotely. We now have a lot of experience in doing this. Our model is working well and we have 16 staff.”

Oliver explains that a big influence on Cloudstrong’s growth was getting selected for Enterprise Ireland’s HPSU (High Potential Start Ups) programme. When they secured HPSU status, funding worth hundreds of thousands of euros followed.
“That played a huge part in our growth and allowed us to jump from organic growth to investing in sales and marketing,” he recalled.
“We began in Galway as that is where Darryl was from and I was working there, and when I went full-time with Cloudstrong we moved to Castlebar. We moved into offices and soon outgrew them and then we came across to the I-Hub and have been here for over a year now.”
The benefits of locating to the I-Hub are many, but chiefly according to Surdival, is the expertise available to them and being present with like-minded people.
“This is a community of people that are going through the same start-up phase, you have like-minded people and can have some great conversations. The big thing is the mentoring. Brian Reynolds works a lot with us and he has been very influential in our development, in helping us make good decisions, and challenging us on certain things, which for me has been of great benefit.
“You can pick and choose what you get involved with here and even though we are stepping back from it now and moving on, the mentoring is the big attraction, those guys have been through it and they will save you an awful lot of time.
“We are getting tight on space here now and the stabilisers can come off so we are ready to fly. We have leaned on the expertise available through the I-Hub and are ready for the next step.”
Oliver states that while many entrepreneurs have an idea, a lot do not always know about the market, or if their idea is actually viable, if it will sell. He says that there is a whole process to go through to understand this, and that is where the I-Hub is particularly good, in guiding you through that process.
“Sometimes it is not what you want to hear, but 99 percent of the time it is right.” he added.

MORE The Innovation Hub (iHub) at GMIT Mayo celebrates its tenth year in 2016. In the last decade its client companies have created 192 full-time and 51 part-time jobs and raised €19.7 million of funding with nine high potential start-up companies created. Keep an eye out for more in our series of special articles on the iHub in the coming months.