E-commerce firm on the fast track to success
Over 10 years ago e-commerce innovators Export Technologies made its debut on the IT business market. Now, with £700m of transactions behind it, the Belfast company looks to future.
Export Technologies is becoming recognised as one of the most exciting emerging IT businesses in either the UK or Ireland. Significantly, it is has been in top 12 in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 list in Ireland for the last three years - and has now entered the top 50 in the UK classification.
The company is 12 years old and operates from the Northern Ireland Science Park in the Titanic Quarter.
It provides e-commerce software, which has now facilitated over £700m of transactions for Northern Ireland businesses.
Chief executive and founder Daniel Loughlin says that initially it was a matter of gradual progression, rather than sudden expansion.
He recalls: "I did not realise until further down the line, but a key moment was a meeting in 2000 in Queen's University facilitated by my brother, who was an IT lecturer, with a small local bike company called Chain Reaction Cycles (CRC).
"The meeting proved significant due to the partnership that was agreed for us to develop CRCs e-commerce platform.
"The partnership acted as a starting point for our software development and it also proved a great client to work with and learn with over the years. By 2003 I had quit my IT job and effectively spent two years at home programming our first version of the e-commerce platform - the IRP - that forms the basis of our commercial offering.
"It was easier to invest two years of time when I was younger, but it was a big personal commitment in something that guaranteed no return.
"Fortunately the IRP e-commerce platform did work when it was rolled out in November 2004, which formed a key moment for me personally."
The company's fast growth rate can be tracked back to when it moved into the Belfast Business Centre and started taking on staff - it currently has 14 employees, with one senior position vacant.
"The company has grown steadily since 2005 and in the last five years turnover has grown by 471%," explains Mr Loughlin.
"Our new home since 2010 has been in the Northern Ireland Science Park and it offers both a larger office to hold our ever expanding team, as well as providing the right commercial environment to grow and nurture our type of business."
Mr Loughlin says that featuring in the Deloitte Fast 50 demonstrates that the company is firmly on the commercial map.
"The Deloitte Technology Fast 50 is well respected in the industry and we are happy that we have been ranked within the top 12 for three consecutive years. It gives a boost to the Export [Technologies] team, as well as an increased awareness within the wider business community," he explains. Now, though, the company is poised for its most challenging period yet.
"In many ways the last seven years of Export Technologies has been dominated by research and development - both in the development of our IRP e-commerce platform and in online consultancy," says Mr Loughlin.
"So far we have dealt with a smaller number of companies - now we are now in a position to scale our business. This is the plan for early 2013 - an instantly deployable e-commerce platform for mass market with a focus for the second quarter on the creation of sales and strategic partnerships.
"Our online marketing techniques and our e-commerce platform are proven to work in every virtually market we have been involved.
"We now aim to be an e-commerce provider on a bigger scale to many more companies in Northern Ireland and beyond."
Fast growth in the past, it seems, could be the precursor to even faster growth on a wider canvass in the coming years. And the future starts now.