Genesys Irish operation thriving in Galway’s technology cluster

Four years into its existence as a software company that set out to harness artificial intelligence and real-time communications to improve customer experience, Galway-based Altocloud was acquired by Genesys, the global leader in omnichannel customer experience and contact centre solutions, in 2018.

Altocloud, co-founded by technology sector heavyweights Barry O’Sullivan, Joe Smyth and Dan Arra, has since been absorbed into the Genesys operation as its artificial intelligence platform and staff numbers have increased sevenfold to 140 since the acquisition.

Barry O’Sullivan, familiar to Irish television viewers from his time on RTÉ’s Dragons’ Den, is now Executive Vice President and General Manager of Genesys Multicloud Solutions while Joe Smyth and Dan Arra also have senior roles within the company.

Altocloud started from the premise that broken customer experience could be fixed.

“We always thought there was a gap in the market around customer experience,” Barry says. “If you’ve ever had to call a cable company or your internet provider to get help, you’ll know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you have to wait for a long time, listen to that lovely music, press 1 for this, press 2 for that, and then when you eventually do get to talk to somebody they don’t really know what you need.

“That very disjointed customer experience is something we thought we could fix with artificial intelligence by following the customer journey as they moved around various touch points, whether on the website, or a phone call, web chat or text message, or in a physical store, and join those dots and share them with the customer service representative so that when you do talk to somebody you have that context of who they are, what they’ve been doing, what they probably want, and how best you can help them.”

Selecting Galway as a base for the operation, a county to which two of the three co-founders had a strong attachment, was based on the technology resources and talent available in the city. “We knew from working in the tech industry in the US and Ireland that there was good global talent in Galway, a cluster of cloud communications and customer experience focused companies and a lot of good work in the Insight Research Centre in NUI Galway on artificial intelligence and data science,” he says.

“Those were the kind of ingredients we needed to bring AI and communications together, and we knew that there was a good talent pool there to help us get that done. As it turned out a lot of our hires came out of Insight, a lot out of NUIG and we were able to mix that with more experienced people from the local area.”

Barry includes the initial hires from Insight among the key milestones in the company’s journey along with getting Bank of Ireland as a customer early in their existence. “Bank of Ireland really pushed us hard to improve the product and that really stood to us,” he says. “We were able to take it around the world with that success behind us.”

Funding at key stages was also pivotal. Initial funding came from the three co-founders before private investors and state agencies like Enterprise Ireland and the Western Development Commission came on board. Barry says:

In the early stage you’re talking about raising enough money to give yourself enough runway to get to the next milestone. The WDC investment was really important to give us that time and space to build the right product

Amid all the economic gloom associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is clear that technology companies like Genesys are thriving and are still providing high-value jobs in the West. “We’re very committed to Galway and our business is doing well,” Barry says. “We announced with the IDA that we were going to 200 jobs and that’s still very much our plan. We have open positions in Galway right now so we want to hear from qualified, talented engineers who want to work in leading edge artificial intelligence technology in a great company.”

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