Silicon Valley software firm Lystable headed by Northern Ireland prodigy comes to Belfast
A Californian technology firm set up by an Ulster University student is to open a Belfast office this year after landing a $10m (£8m) injection from some of Silicon Valley's biggest names.
Lystable, an enterprise start-up that enables businesses to manage freelance staff, has secured the money from PayPal founder Peter Thiel's Valar Ventures, Goldcrest Capital, Kindred Capital, Glynn Capital and Wilmont Ventures.
Founder Peter Johnston, who is from Carrickfergus, is returning to his roots and creating 10 jobs with the new company office at the former Ormeau Baths.
The 28-year-old, a past pupil of Carrickfergus Grammar School who studied PR and multimedia at Ulster University, began his career with Google.
Lystable boasts more than 60 clients, among them big names like Google, Airbnb and MTV, and has annual revenues of between $1.5m (£1.2m) and $3m (£2.4m).
"We are opening the new office in November," Mr Johnston told the Belfast Telegraph.
"It was mainly a business decision to choose Belfast.
"It's the same timezone with London and the UK clients, and was cost-effective.
"I went to Jordanstown and you have graduates - there's a lot of talent in Belfast."
The company currently has offices in San Francisco and London.
Mr Johnston said the new Belfast base will focus on client support.
The former Ormeau Baths has become a tech hub backed by people like FanDuel's Nigel Eccles and Aaron Taylor, managing partner of venture capital firm Frankly.
"It will be training on software for clients, in Europe timezones, and really offering more proactive seminars and online training via Skype and Google Hangouts," Mr Johnston explained.
On plans for the fresh capital, he said: "One area is overall expansion, as we have been growing pretty fast, and to meet demand for software we are adding similar types of people and software engineers."
The firm is also adding new senior executives to the team, and hopes to grow to at least 75 employees by the end of the year.
"We are launching a premium version of the product. At the moment it's free. We are going to give them (customers) the ability to pay the freelancers," he added.
"Our software is like HR software, but catered for the freelance world.
"Like ESPN, they have their employees at their headquarters, but they also have an army of 1,000 freelance photographers.
"They won't be managed through that (HR software), but they will be managed by software like Lystable."
Asked what it was like working with some of the technology world's biggest names, he said: "It's a bit weird. I left Jordanstown six years ago, but it feels like yesterday.
"You get a very good broad base of skills, and I found my feet at Google.
"It's been fun and it's huge for any company."
Mr Johnston said he will be involved in the set-up of the Belfast office, and then will take on someone to run it.
Valar Ventures' James Fitzgerald said: "Lystable is at the heart of a seismic shift in how people work. The concept of having a single, full-time employer is increasingly a thing of the past.
"As the freelancer economy grows, companies of all sizes need an efficient and streamlined way to manage their growing army of freelancers."