Enterprise Ireland is delighted to work with many wonderful start-ups and innovative entrepreneurs who have exciting and insightful stories to tell.
To continue the How It Started vs. How It’s Going series, we sat down with Larry Breen, Head of Health and Life Sciences at Nearform, a digital technologies company, to learn about their growth.
1. Q: When and how did the business start?
A: In 2011, software engineer Cian Ó Maidín met technology entrepreneur Richard Rodger, who shared the same desire to make cloud computing accessible to organizations. Cian and Richard seized the opportunity to have NearForm become a key player in the then-fledgling open-source and node movements which they believed to be a tool that would empower developers to build better software more efficiently.
The business was officially founded in Tramore, Ireland, in 2012, and by 2013, big companies such as Walmart & Paypal began using Open Source and Node.js1, providing the market validation that NearForm needed to begin rapidly acquiring new US clients, starting with NBC Universal and Conde Nast.
2. Q: What were some of the largest hurdles faced when the business first started?
A: When NearForm was founded, Node.js was a brand new and relatively unknown technology, and not many companies were using open-source. While O’Maidin had predicted that it would take approximately 12 months for companies to get behind Node.js, in reality, it took nearly double that time frame. Additionally, NearForm was a very small team of two people at first, then growing to four. This led to many long nights of work until the company was in the position to expand headcount.
3. Q: What lessons did you or other founders learn in overcoming those hurdles?
A: Consistency in staying true to our core company beliefs has been crucial to NearForm’s success. As one of the first groups of Node.js experts, we pride ourselves on our technical expertise, empowering us to not only differentiate ourselves from competitors but more importantly to provide our clients with as much knowledge as possible.
4. Q: Are there any growth statistics you can share?
A: We’ve grown from 2 people in December 2011 to 222 people as of December 2021 with plans to reach 650 NearFormers by the end of 2025. Our team is spread across 30 different countries. Over the next few years, we are focussing quite heavily on expanding our US-based presence, with a growing group of US-based NearFormers. EI has been a constant support to us over the years as we have continued to grow the business and explore new markets. The global team at EI has been a great support as we engaged with governments and organizations across the globe to help with the response to Covid. In North America, the EI team has been a tremendous help with directly connecting us with the right folks in various states and also arranging a number of online information-sharing sessions to help get information about what NearForm and the Irish Government have been doing as we respond to covid. This has allowed us to reach out to new government and enterprise contacts and provide assistance during this time. Post covid we would expect a lot of these relationships to further expand and the EI team will continue as a key constituent in that process.
5. Q: What is the mission of your company?
A: Our mission is to empower organizations to accelerate their digital delivery. Fundamentally, we want to create a digital advantage for our clients, people, and communities. We bring tremendous value to our clients through two main avenues: creating digital products and building out their digital capability with our team of highly skilled NearFormers.
6. Q: What decisions were made that have been instrumental in achieving the company’s current success?
A: Commitment to hiring top talent, regardless of where they are located in the world, has been vital. We believe in bringing brilliant careers anywhere we can find passionate and talented people. Additionally, choosing to specialize in Open Source, particularly Node.js, has given us the differentiation that we needed when we first started our journey and now the expertise that we need to set us apart from our competitors.
7. Q: What achievement of the company so far are you most proud of?
A: Despite our tremendous growth, particularly in the past 2 years, NearForm has remained true to the family values that it was founded on 10 years ago. Fundamentally, we don’t believe that people need to move to “tech hubs” to have a brilliant career, and as such, we have always been and will continue to be a remote-first company.
Although we are widely dispersed, NearFormers are a tightly knit team. Building on our open-source origins, we are open and transparent, sharing thoughts, knowledge, and ideas both with our teams and with our clients.
8. Q: What project that the company has done are you most proud of?
A: More recently, we have started to take on more engagements within the Health and Life Science space. This obviously fits nicely with the company’s views on social impact, but on a personal level, it has been great to get involved in a variety of projects that are and will have a real and meaningful impact on the health outcomes of a large number of people across the globe.
A great example of this has been NearForm’s support of governments in North America, Ireland, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Gibraltar in response to the COVID-19 pandemic through the delivery of our COVID response apps and vaccine support solutions. I am incredibly proud to have seen firsthand how our engineering excellence and ability to build high-quality, secure, and scalable software solutions at pace was the reason we were approached by nine governments across the world to support their efforts in the fight against COVID.
9. Q: What do you hope the future of the company looks like?
A: We will be continuing to grow at a rapid pace, with the goal of reaching 650 team
members by the end of 2025. We currently have 29 NearFormers based in the Americas and are planning on rapidly increasing the number of US-based staff this coming year.
In terms of brand, we want to be known as the #1 company for accelerating digital transformation and continuing to help even more clients with their digital transformations. To support this, we are working to expand brand recognition in the US as well as broaden our US client portfolio.
10. Q: Can you share a bit about the personal relationships you have formed through the company?
A: The NearForm team is made up of a vibrant mix of wonderful people who are a great pleasure to work with. We focus a massive amount of energy on making sure only the right fit and right talent join the business, which enables us to have a high degree of confidence in all that we do as well as a high level of trust. This has allowed me to personally build trusted relationships with some very dedicated healthcare-focused people. Being able to help identify problems or needs, knowing that there is such a talented team at NearForm able to rise to the challenge, really allows me to get fully immersed in making a difference.
Nearform’s story demonstrates the global impact Enterprise Ireland’s support of innovative startups has been able and will continue to create.