Belfast Telegraph

Software start-up firm lands £8m funds package

By John Mulgrew

A software firm set up by a former Ulster University student and backed by one of Silicon Valley's biggest names has landed almost £8m in funding.

Lystable, an enterprise start-up that enables businesses to manage freelance staff, has secured $11m (£7.5m) in series A funding, led by PayPal founder Peter Thiel's Valar Ventures and Goldcrest Capital, alongside Spring Partners.

The business was set up by Peter Johnston, a past pupil of Carrickfergus Grammar School who studied PR and multimedia at Ulster University.

Lystable has already secured some big-name clients, including Google, Airbnb, MTV and CNBC.

It now boasts more than 60 clients, manages more than 20,000 freelancers each week.

The firm will grow its workforce to 35 staff by the end of year at the company's San Francisco office.

The business was first backed by Mr Thiel last year, when he injected $1.5m (£1m) into the firm. He is best known for co-founding PayPal with Max Levchin and Elon Musk. He was chief executive of the company until it was bought by eBay in 2002.

Mr Thiel was also the first outside backer of social media giant Facebook, and he sits on its board of directors.

Speaking about the latest major boost to the business, Peter Johnston said: "This phase is now one of growth.

"We have figured out a lot of nuances and worked to make our model repeatable and scalable with large companies.

"Securing this funding allows us to scale out sales and marketing and bring in a number of key senior hires on product and engineering."

James Fitzgerald, founding partner at Valar Ventures, added: "Legacy software is not equipped to deal with the growing freelancer economy.

"Lystable's product solves a real pain point for enterprises who are managing an increasing number of freelancers and contractors. Their product is in another league compared with the incumbents."

Leila Zegna, co-founder and partner at Spring Partners, said: "We've been involved in Lystable's growth since the beginning and we are excited to continue to support the company through this next exciting phase.

"We believe that the future of work is a flexible one, and we're confident that Lystable will be leading the charge towards enabling that future."

Mr Johnston previously worked at Google and said being employed there had inspired him to set up his own business.

He is also a former creative manager at advertising giant M&C Saatchi, and worked as a senior designer for PR firm Weber Shandwick.

Mr Johnston graduated from Ulster University with a first in PR in 2011 and also spent a year studying interactive multi-media and design.

Adam Ross, partner at Goldcrest Capital said Lystable was "one of our top priorities this year". "Peter Johnston is an extraordinary entrepreneur who has led the company to exceptional growth in a short period of time," he added.

Belfast Telegraph

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.