A global business west of the Shannon

Based in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, Cora Systems provides enterprise project and portfolio management solutions to global organisations and government agencies such as Honeywell, Elanco, PwC, City of London and the UK’s National Health Service.

 

We compete against companies such as Microsoft with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. We are playing in their space and beating them

In the last 18 months, it has grown its staff from 50 to 89 off the launch of its flagship product Cora PPM. Further hires are in progress in Carrick-on-Shannon and in the United States where the company is building its presence.

The company was founded by Philip Martin in 1999. Early on, he received €75,000 in seed capital from the Western Development Commission Investment Fund, and it gave them the breathing space to develop their product. This was swiftly followed with €317,000 of investment funding which was matched by Enterprise Ireland.

“That gave us a really strong foothold – for a relatively small company that was a lot of cash to have to grow the business,” Philip says.

Twenty-one years on, he sees that initial WDC funding as key to Cora System’s ongoing success, and he is looking forward with a degree of confidence to operating a global business in a post-pandemic world. “We’ve got a pretty good cash position.

“Where most people are cutting back now, we’re actually investing in sales and marketing. You can trace all of that back to WDC funding – where you put in a solid basis of mentors, of support, of the right partnerships at the right time. All that takes cash, and if you don’t have the cash to do that at the start it just makes things a lot more difficult,” he says.

“We are really unusual in this space. We compete against companies such as Microsoft with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. These are huge companies but we are playing in their space and beating them – because our product is really good and our people are really good, but all of that is because we had the right size of investment at the right time to start off with.”

Philip believes the climate for operating a business in the West of Ireland has changed utterly since he set up the company. Back then, he knew that if he wanted to live and work in his home town of Carrick-on-Shannon, he would have to become an entrepreneur as there was no prospect of employment for a software developer there. Now, he provides employment for software developers working at the forefront of technological innovation in machine learning, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and other emerging technologies.

“Those are all key areas in which tech people want to work, and we are using that technology,” Philip says. “We might be west of the Shannon, but we’re using the same technology as the guys who are state of the art in California.

“The infrastructure west of the Shannon may have traditionally been the weakest, but it is here now and steadily improving. Poor infrastructure can no longer be used as an excuse. It makes no difference now whether you work east or west of the Shannon. As connectivity in the West continues developing, we should be planning what we can plug in around it. What the WDC are doing needs to be tied in with a strategy for west of the Shannon to realise its full potential.

“In particular, that potential includes opportunities for remote-working in safe, uncrowded spaces for employees of companies in the UK or Dublin. This key advantage of living and working in the West has been highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic. If the WDC attracts a critical mass of people to an area, companies will set up in that area because the skillset is there.”

Off the back of the success of Cora PPM, Philip expects the company to have 100 employees by the end of the year, and further hiring is anticipated with the imminent launch of a new product, in the Portfolio Planning/Strategy Realisation space which uses machine learning and predictive analysis to help large organisations decide which projects are viable before investing heavily in them.

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