Belfast Telegraph

Derry software company eyes staff expansion after £27m deal

BY John Mulgrew

A rapidly growing Londonderry software firm is hoping to expand its workforce after being taken over by a listed company in a deal worth £27m.

8over8 has been bought by Cambridge-based Aveva - a global engineering software company listed on the London Stock Exchange.

Londonderry firm 8over8 employs 71 staff as well as around 20 others through consultancy work.

It provides contract risk management software to major industry - including oil, gas and mining.

It posted turnover of £10m for the year ending December 2013 - boasting pre-tax profits of £3.1m.

But figures are expected to be even more glowing for the last year.

And it's grown by more than a third, year-on-year, according to its Donegal-born chief executive Clare Colhoun.

"It's a positive step for Northern Ireland as well as us. It's showing the market that we can grow - and that we are a fantastic hub for companies like this," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It proves there is a demand - we solve a particular business need and fix the problem.

"Our solution is a contract risk management solution and we save a lot of money for the owner and operators of capital projects, reducing the cost of claims and cost overruns.

"The fact that we have been growing from the north west is fantastic, and we should be able to do much better under a global company like Aveva."

It's one of two dozen firms based at the North West Regional Science Park in Londonderry, and sprang up as a spin-out from the city's Magee University.

It now boasts offices across the US, Australia, the Middle East and the rest of Europe - but remains headquartered in its native Londonderry. Ms Colhoun joined the company shortly after it was founded in 2000 - based at the University of Ulster's Magee campus.

She said the firm would continue to be based at its current Londonderry headquarters.

And while the company could not be drawn on new job numbers as part of its further expansion, Ms Colhoun said: "We have a very ambitious plan for next few years and need a lot more resources. That growth is inherent.

"We have 11 nationalities employed in the company, but a lot of our software developers are from here, including Donegal and Londonderry."

Dr Norman Apsley, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Science Park, said the company could now look at doubling its workforce as a result of the deal.

"I'm delighted for Clare - learning an industry and then bringing that experience back to Northern Ireland," he said.

"It's been a 14-year build for the company, but we need to get faster in Northern Ireland.

"And in this case, when a firm is bought over for its technology, the firm is always keen to keep people on.

"We hope it remains based in Londonderry - if Aveva bought it for the people, then that's where it will remain - they have room for doubling in terms of staff numbers."

Meanwhile a group of 'angel' investors based at the Northern Ireland Science Park announced late last year that they would inject £1m in firms - with a focus on those in the north west.

Working under the Halo programme of investors, each of those in the network will invest £100,000 each in start-up companies or high-growth firms.

Alan Watts, director of Halo at the Northern Ireland Science Park, said the major focus on the north west was significant.

"We are delighted that this new group will have a focus on stimulating fast growth start-ups in the north west," he said.

Belfast Telegraph