Posted on Thursday 19 September 2013 by Ulster Business
Automated Intelligence, founded by Mark Godfrey and Simon Cole, has taken 4,000 sq ft of office space in NISP's Innovation Centre with the option of 2,000 more after outgrowing the 2,000 sq ft office it moved into in 2011.
The company, which currently employs 30 people, specialises in information management software that helps companies simplify and manage their unstructured data – such as documents, presentations, spreadsheets, emails, video, communication, audio files – reducing their costs and increasing efficiency.
It has attracted £3m in revenue in less than two years' trading and signed up 40 large customers, predominantly in the public sector, including HM Treasury, the Department for Education, Department of Health, the British Red Cross and several local councils. It is also working in Northern Europe and the Nordic region with private sector customers such as Statoil.
Mark, whose background is in sales, and Simon, who specialises in product development and management, expect the rapid growth to continue.
"I think we are going to have three years of huge growth," said Mark.
"We've just launched a new product that has taken us into the financial services industry, building on the existing technology and tailoring that to the vast amounts of data held by banks and insurance companies. In terms of scale I think financial services is going to be eight to 12 times bigger for us in the UK than public sector is. It is a massive growth opportunity for us."
The need for AI's solutions arises from the fact that large organisations today have millions and millions of documents to manage.
"We were with a customer the other day that if you were to print off all of their documents it would cover the whole island of Ireland. That's how much data we're talking about and the scale of problem we're talking about solving," explained Mark.
"Instead of people searching around billions of documents for the needle in the haystack we take the needle to them and make sure it is where they need it to be when they need it."
AI was born when, working at a large software firm, Mark and Simon spotted a gap in the market to create technology that would help organisations sift out the data of value and make sure it is available for the right people to use in performing their day to day tasks.
"We could see the industry was in a race against itself, producing more and more complicated software to differentiate itself from the competition. What it wasn't doing was developing software that was going to enhance the life of the user. We decided there was a better way of doing it," said Mark.
"When we're up against big companies we tend to sell on solving the problem, on the impact our technology will have for the companies rather than our name. Customers at the moment, with the state of the economy, they're looking for dynamic and better value answers to their problems. They can't sign over the big cheques to the big companies any more," he added.
"You have to have the ability to deliver projects within 90 days, not three years. People have not got the budgets or the patience to do a five year IT project. The challenge is making sure those customers know about us."
As well as focusing on financial services, AI's leadership team see further potential to tailor its technology to other industries including oil and gas and pharmaceuticals. And having already moved into Northern Europe the company is making preliminary plans to open an office in New York within the next 12 months.
The company's development centre will remain in Belfast and the founders of AI are confident it will further expand its workforce over the next three years, making the most of the tech talent that exists here.
"Hiring has been a challenge in some respects but we've benefited from the fact that we are a bit different," said Simon.
"There are some large companies in Belfast looking for people but the work they are doing is not that exciting. What we have is a really compelling product, new technology, so we're getting some of the best guys in Northern Ireland working for us. They see something different, we've got a great atmosphere and everyone is really motivated because they can see the opportunity for success."
Automated Intelligence are finalists in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year programme.