Bill Shock Factor Propels Asavie Profits

29 Feb 2016 | 04.04 pm

Bill Shock Factor Propels Asavie Profits

Roaming charge trends and IoT traction means growth for Asavie Technologies

29 Feb 2016 | 04.04 pm

Mobile phones and tablets are a standard company perk for many business executives, especially those on the road. Those execs will typically have a generous data allowance, but with mobile surfing going through the roof, Bill Shock can result if the data usage isn’t monitored.

According to Vodafone, 75% of business travellers take at least three mobile devices on trips abroad, and Cisco estimates that about a fifth of business data is consumed while roaming. Mobile data is now more than ‘email on the go’.

Video is important for remote conferencing as well as sharing content. Enterprise applications are increasingly mobilised, with software vendors focusing more on mobile development, satisfying an increasing appetite for remote access to services.

When you bust your data allowance, the charge rapidly rings up, with some operators charging €1 per megabyte for data used over the mobile data allowance. So, large companies are demanding from their mobile networks visibility on this spend, which is where Asavie Technologies has found a valuable niche.

Usage Policies

The Dublin company, established in 2004, provides software that controls SIM-set policies from a customer portal. The user can set policies that limit internet access speeds, block websites and cap mobile data usage.

The platform can set different usage policies for different geographic locations to stop travelling employees clocking up hefty roaming charges, while the reporting function gives real-time visibility of data usage.

The popularity of this type of service is evidenced by Asavie’s recent growth spurt. In 2014 the company booked a profit of €3.9m and tripled its debtor book. Ralph Shaw (pictured), co-founder and CEO, says that in 2015 Asavie’s annual turnover doubled to the €19m mark. Now, the company is actively recruiting more staff, with the aim of adding around 100 new hires in the coming year.

Shaw says that his firm’s annus mirabilis came courtesy of a combination of factors. “We have benefited from organic growth within our install base, new business from our operator partners, growing acceptance of cloud technology and the growth of internet of things in industry,” says Shaw.

Credibility

In Shaw’s view, it pays to think long-term in business, whether you’re an entrepreneur or an investor. He can point to his own company as proof. In its first year in operation, Asavie made a loss of €500,000, but founders Shaw (51), Tom Maher (48) and Maurice McMullin (52) had sufficient entrepreneurial credibility to convince Enterprise Ireland and a variety of private investors to invest in their vision.

It wasn’t until 2011, with €4.3m equity invested and accumulated losses of €3.2m, that Asavie turned its first modest profit. Since then, the company’s annual surplus has accelerated.

“We are now a mobile-first world and it’s all about delivering everything to your smartphone, your tablet etc. We’re at the core of that, securing that information and those transactions,” says Shaw.

“We’re also working on the internet of things, which is very real in our world. Our technology is in action managing vending machines and cash-in-transit vans. We have a myriad of solutions we can point to in this IoT space.”

Dot Com Darling

Shaw’s business background is in software. He worked as systems integrator with Mentec before joining Baltimore Technologies in 1998, an internet security company that became a dot com darling.

“The company went all the way up to knocking Rolls Royce out of the FTSE 100 and then all the way back down. As part of that we went from 50 to 1,500 people,” Shaw recalls.

When Baltimore sold off its hardware encryption unit to AEP, Shaw moved with the technology. In the couple of years prior to Asavie being founded, Shaw says he saw an opportunity in providing on-the-go connectivity using 3G technology and early ‘smart’ devices.

“On the one hand you had smart devices and on the other hand you had connectivity, yet you still had people not communicating on the move. We went about solving the problem of connecting devices securely to corporate data. Mobile operators had the network, the smartphones and the customers, so we went about evangelising our services to that operator base.”

Asavie secured O2/Telefonica and Vodafone as customers, providing them with white label solutions to help manage billing, customer care and other functions. “We then added more services to our main platform, which we had patented. We added enterprise and mobility management services, mobile-first technologies, IoT services etc. That gave us a scale point.”

Plain Speaking

According to Shaw, Enterprise Ireland was helpful from the start. “With EI you have to be clear on what you want to do, what the opportunity is and what you’re looking for. When approaching private investors, the key is to turn your vision into English. You put the solution into their everyday lives.”

Shaw’s advice to other technology companies looking to grow fast is to carefully strategise and keep costs down. He adds: “For example, we decided early on to outsource anything we couldn’t do well, such as accounting.

“We also sourced the best advice we could afford about setting up the company structure. Get good advice, build a good team and remember that everything takes twice as long as you thought it would.”

With competition intense for quality software talent, Asavie pays attention to getting its name out there. The company won an international growth award at the 2015 Irish Software Association awards and secured inclusion in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 listing. Asavie also made Deloitte’s best managed companies listing and for its hiring announcement last December jobs minister Richard Bruton was invited to the company’s Dublin 4 office.

“We’ve generally been lucky finding staff and we have people from about 20 different countries employed in the company,” says Shaw. “All our staff are working on interesting projects and we’ve built a good culture in Asavie.

“We send our guys out to Stanford, Berkeley and institutions like that to learn about the best practices in product development, product management and business.”

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