In this column we often cover businesses at the very start of their journey, or those that have reached great heights in a relatively short space of time.
With IT firm Damson Cloud, however, global recognition has come as a result of a slow burn.
It’s almost 20 years now since a then-teenage Fintan Murphy started an IT company called Damson Technology in the bedroom of his family home in Dublin 8.
He was soon joined by his older brother Donal and last year the company – which has traded as Damson Cloud since 2011 – achieved a major milestone by becoming the first and only Google Premier Partner for cloud computing in Ireland.
That was recognition of the company’s rapid growth since the start of the pandemic, expanding their full-time workforce from two to nearly a dozen, and reaching and then very quickly surpassing the magic million-dollar figure in annual revenue.
“It’s a big deal for us,” says Fintan, the company’s CEO. “We were kind of shocked to get the upgrade from Google, but we were very pleased and proud of our team that put the work in. It shows the value that we can bring to companies. “
Fintan cites one of their clients, the youth development organization Foróige, who they helped to roll out an update to their intranet platform, Google Sites, which they use to connect their nearly 6,000 volunteers around the country.
“Adrian, the head of IT there, said that without that work, they wouldn’t have been able to transition as seamlessly,” Fintan says.
Damson started out as an IT sales company, primarily for schools. Fintan was a year into a computer science degree at UCD at the time – he ended up deferring and never went back – and it was only after a decade in business that they began to specialize in cloud computing, and Google’s Workspace suite of business products in particular.
That means selling access to platforms like Gmail (for email), Google Drive (online file storage) and Google Meet (video conferencing), as well as associated hardware, and offering training, support and advice to their customers.
Fintan credits his older brother Donal as being “the futurist” in the family, and the man who saw at an early stage that cloud computing was where they needed to be.
“Selling cloud 10 years ago in Ireland, people thought you were mad,” Fintan adds. “Nobody knew what we were talking about.”
“[Donal] was always saying, ‘This is the next thing, this is the next thing’. He started talking about Web 2.0 as it was then, eventually cloud, and sort of saying, ‘Brother, this is the next thing, we need to get on this’.
“We always joke that it’s the overnight success that took me a decade.”
According to Fintan, the duo weren’t particularly close growing up – and with a six-and-a-half-year age gap, you can see why – but 20 years in business have certainly brought them together.
“We’ve both said at different times, the business has made us much closer than anything else,” he says. “I had to pull him into entrepreneurship a little bit. He loves it now, but at the beginning, he didn’t.
“There were months when the business struggled, and we weren’t sure if we were going to make it. We’ve lived through the Celtic Tiger and the crashes, gone through the ups and downs.
“We figured out early on that I was the salesperson. I always said, I just sold what Donal did. Without him, I’d have nothing to sell, and without me, he’d have no customers. It was the combination of complementary skills. ”
As uncertain and traumatic as it was for many people, the pandemic proved to be a game-changer for Damson. Almost overnight, remote working became the norm as businesses all over the world were emptying their offices and sending employees home. And with that came an unprecedented demand for IT support and cloud services.
Customer requests started pouring in for hardware like Chromebook laptops, for training programs to get entire workforces clued-up on Google Drive, and for support queries.
“The first bit was like this wave of work – but unpaid, so to speak,” Fintan recalls. “The customers had already paid for it – they had support contracts – so it wasn’t new business, it was just more work.
“We were working like maniacs for the first three months.”
But as Fintan stresses, remote working and hybrid working aren’t going anywhere. And that increased demand has translated into rapid growth for Damson. When the pandemic hit, they had just hit the million-dollar revenue mark. Now growth is exponential.
“It takes so long to get to the million mark, and then it just jumped from a million to three and a half million in two or three years,” Fintan says. “It’s just mad.”
That growth gave Fintan and Donal the impetus to really start delegating, and bringing in specialists in all sorts of areas like sales, finance and engineering support. They now have a team of around a dozen – including both of their wives – all working remotely.
“I want to hire people who are better than me, who know things I don’t know,” says Fintan. “I think sometimes small business owners can be almost afraid of that, and that’s the wrong attitude to have.
“They want to be the smartest person in the room – I don’t. I want to bring all the smart people together, to help me grow my business. ”
By its very nature, exponential growth can’t last forever. But this 20-year success story now seems to be heading into a new and exciting phase.
“We have big plans to continue growing,” says Fintan.[but] I don’t necessarily think we will grow at the same clip forever. I don’t live in a dreamland.
“We’ve got some customers that have also had exponential growth, particularly in the UK, and so that has helped our growth as well – we grow with our customers. But I do feel that we have a team now that is set up for success. ”