‘If your dream doesn’t scare you it isn’t big enough,” remarked Aidan O’Shea when asked about Voxpro’s overwhelming growth.
The firm’s managing director has helped oversee its consistent rise in revenues as well as its meticulously curated client list.
Sitting across from the 40-year-old father of four in the Ballsbridge Hotel as he outlined Voxpro’s US expansion, he is utterly confident of business model and its rapidly expanding turnover.
Voxpro is an outsourcing firm that was established by husband and wife pair Dan and Linda Kiely in Cork back in 2002 and boasts clients such as Google, Nest, AirBnb and Fintech company Stripe.
The company is all about customer service – but for companies that fit with its vision.
“Take AirBnb for example. Most people think it’s a technology company but it’s not it’s about an experience. So what we do is support that experience.
“Most people love it but things can go wrong. If you turn up and there’s nobody there or you can’t get the keys or there’s a problem with the apartment.
“What we do is offer immediate support,” O’Shea told the Irish Independent.
“We have developed a niche working with the AirBnbs, the Googles, the Stripes. They didn’t exist a number of years ago, they’re not traditional companies. AirBnb is probably seven or eight years old, Stripe is about three or four – but their household names globally.
“They’ve scaled massively very, very quickly. You can’t do that without working with partners on the outside.”
The company’s client list consists of some of the hottest tech firms around with contracts going up into the tens of millions.
While starting off O’Shea conceded that Voxpro took what it could get in terms of business, however now in its more established position in both Ireland and the US – it has become more selective.
In order to stay true to its brand O’Shea says that it has both turned away potential and existing business when clients’ views on how the service should function diverge too far from his own.
“As Voxpro was growing, as with any company you take what you can get, but then it comes back to the brand again.
“We realised that if we want to be putting ourselves out there as an international brand working with these type of companies, they will look at the companies we’re working with.
“We have turned down business. We still do.
“We’ve found that over time we work well with them (young companies). We have our own culture at the core but we’re able to adapt to them. They’re growing really fast so we need to be really flexible,” he said.
Voxpro has a very clear view of who it will look to target going forward and O’Shea said it isn’t likely to be banks, telcos, or utility firms.
Mr O’Shea said the company is keeping a very close eye on the financial services space, which is currently being disrupted by financial technology companies (fintech).
That commitment to the brand trickles right down into the office space. O’Shea describes it as a place that young people want to work – one that differs a lot from traditional outsourcing companies.
The company has a certain criteria it looks for in a potential employees too. While he concedes that some of the criteria may overlap with the likes of Google he said that it is “similar, but different”.
Voxpro’s chief executive Dan Kiely has described the idea of an initial public offering as a viable option once revenue hits around €100m.
It seems that target has since been moved thanks to the firm’s rapid expansion into the US.
Mr Kiely, alongside his wife Linda, and Mr O’Shea have grown the business to the point they’ll expand to three US locations.
“Our current one is in California. A lot of our customers are headquartered there, so there’s an advantage to being close to them.
“Some of their engineers and product guys can get in their cars and drive up the road and be there in an hour and a half.
“Our next site will be more east coast, different time zone, closer to ourselves to serve the east coast of the US a bit better – and California is expensive.”
The company’s US move is in line with it major leaps in revenue growth over the last number of years.
Mr O’Shea said the company was “there or thereabouts” in meeting last year’s target of €36m – this year the firm expects that number to jump to around €60m.
It has been that revenue stream that has helped the company continue to expand from the off, however as it looks to the more expensive US market – some bank backing has been secured.
“We finished a three-year business plan in January, we’re six months in and we’re looking at it and thinking – a lot of the stuff we wanted to do in three years we’ve kind of done or in the process of doing, so everything is quite front loaded.”
Voxpro currently employs 1,550 people worldwide, although that number looks set to rise significantly over the next year.
The company has just concluded a hiring round where it brought in 150 new staff and is looking to add between 400 to 500 new workers in the US.
While continued growth in staffing levels in Ireland is expected, hiring may begin to level off soon at its Cork base, where it currently employs 1,100.
Given Voxpro is a people business, O’Shea took the opportunity to highlight the benefits of setting up in Ireland.
“The natural Irish skills – we’re interested in people, we’re good with people, we have a really good attitude toward work. As we internationalised I’ve actually seen how strong it is.
“For Ireland people skills is one of the things but you still need the education, you still need the specific skills.
“When we’re recruiting people the skills are important but the culture fit is as important.
“You need to have fairly clear vision and values to understand why you do what you do and how you do it – because not everyone wants to be part of that and that’s fine,” he said.
Voxpro turned over €18m last year.
One of the main challenges facing it was scaling the business effectively.
“We are scaling about 80pc year on year for the last two years. It’s a lot – we went from about three hundred people two years ago to 1,500 this year.
“What we heard for a long time was that they (customers) liked what we did, they liked working with us, not just the service but they liked doing business -because again they have such demands given the speed they’re going at and they need you to be able to do that as well and sometimes big corporates aren’t able to move as quickly.
“We heard that they weren’t that happy with a lot of providers in the US so we were thinking can we make a go of this?”
Setting up shop in the States doesn’t come cheap – with a lot of the cost at the front end.
“You’re talking about millions per site, there’s a facility component, you’ve got to hire a lot of staff up front before you deliver the service.
“You’ve got to transplant some of what you do over there so you’ve got to bring some staff over you have to put them up, you have to pay for travel – it is a big investment.”
Six months on from setting foot on American soil and he deems it a risk that has paid off.
Understandably the size and scale of the US market played a key role in attracting the business over.
“A nice contract here is a nice contract; a nice contract over there could be ten times the size.”
Earlier in the year Mr O’Shea was added to the board of the company alongside PayPal VP Louise Phelan.
O’Shea was full of praise for Ms Phelan, saying the context she offers in an area it will look to tackle is invaluable.
Expansion right now is what Voxpro is in and it’s rapid expansion too. The company’s high-end international client list is about 11 firms long.
While it may not sound the most extensive of lists, it is the size of the companies that is more impressive.
With the €100m target firmly in its sights earlier than had been previously touted, Voxpro may not been overly keen to run with an IPO once that target is surpassed.
“So €100m was incredibly scary when we came up with it first, which was about a year ago. In 2014 we only turned over €18m, so thinking of getting to €100m was very scary, whereas now, one year on, it’s very achievable.”