| 5.7°C Belfast

Teamwork founder: 'Opening in Belfast is a very big step for our company'

Teamwork.com doesn't need to move to the US to grow but has come to Belfast instead, co-founder Dan Mackey tells Adrian Weckler


From left: Dan Mackey, Alastair Hamilton of Invest NI and Peter Coppinger

From left: Dan Mackey, Alastair Hamilton of Invest NI and Peter Coppinger

From left: Dan Mackey, Alastair Hamilton of Invest NI and Peter Coppinger

The first thing you see when you walk into the Cork office of Teamwork, which opened a Belfast operation this month with assistance from economic development agency Invest NI, is a huge video screen with a big number on it - $25m annual revenue.

"That's our target," says chief technical officer and co-founder Dan Mackey. "It's our single focus. We're on track to do it this year."

But while the Cork headquarters looks like a typically transplanted Californian tech hub, there is one big difference between Teamwork and virtually every other fast-growing tech firm in Ireland and the US.

The indigenous Cork startup, which now has some of the world's biggest companies as customers, is completely self-made.

Almost uniquely among today's crop of young tech companies, there isn't a penny of venture capital in here. Or debt. The whole thing is self-funded and 'organically' grown by co-founders Dan Mackey and Peter Coppinger.

On its projected $25m revenue this year, it expects to make around $5m in profit. Based on the popularity of its software, it now employs 200 high-end engineers and sales people and is opening new offices all over the world.

This month it announced a new office in Belfast, where it plans to hire 85 people.

"If it continues the way it is now, we'll hit $450m revenue within 10 years, which is our goal," says Dan.

So far, there's no reason to doubt it. The company is growing at 40% a year, says Dan, and has been for several years.

Its client list includes Disney, Netflix, Spotify and many other big names.

For those unfamiliar with what it does, Teamwork makes project management, customer support and work communication software. It's typically used by teams within companies to track work and projects of various shapes and sizes.

It competes with giants such as Atlassian and Zendesk, names that may not be familiar to the average person but are billion dollar companies with global recognition among enterprise businesses. Slack is also increasingly a competitor.

Its key component is that it's one of the new breed of 'software-as-a-service' companies, meaning most or all of the functionality comes from logging in and using it online.

Teamwork isn't a new company. It's been around since 2007, with Mackey and Coppinger having worked together (building websites) in Cork since 1998.

As Dan tells the story, they just got sick of trying to organise projects using higgledy-piggledy resources. So they decided to make a decent one.

"We threw it out one night online and we just got customers right away," says Dan. "We did no sales, no marketing. It sold just on the strength of the product."

They carried on in this vein for a couple of years, with little thought of building out a traditional-looking business, until they started to see a serious uptake of the product.

Fast forward to 2018 where Teamwork has 22,000 paying customers with over 10 times that number using its software. It is now one of the fastest-growing tech companies in Ireland (Deloitte ranks it 12th out of its top 50, though many of those ranked above it in the growth list aren't profitable).

Having now filled up its building (and part of another one) in Cork's Blackpool retail centre with new employees, Dan and Peter have purchased a large multi-acre site next door with the aim of constructing its own custom building in the next couple of years.

This is a daunting project and one that will likely cost a minimum of €25m to €30m.

But a couple more years of Teamwork's growth will see its cash pile hit this level, possibly enabling it to be paid for without borrowing anything.

If and when this happens, Teamwork will be on its way to being one of the country's biggest home-grown software companies, following in the steps of newly-minted 'unicorns' such as Intercom.

But they will have done it without getting the hundreds of millions in venture capital that forerunners such as Intercom and Stripe have.

The opening of the Belfast office is a new step for Teamwork because it's the first time, Mackey says, that it will have a proper team outside Cork.

"Before we'd have three or four-man teams working on it in Buenos Aires or Barcelona. With Belfast, this is our first time where we have a new team building a core product."

Dan and Peter appear to know what they want. They also appear to have the money to finish the job themselves.

Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.

Already have an account?

Belfast Telegraph