SKIBBEREEN-based tech company Spearline Labs is to double its workforce in the town by adding 20 new jobs within 18 months.
The new jobs were announced during National Digital Week, an event that the organisers have confirmed will be returning to Skibbereen in 2016.
The jobs announcement was just one more piece of extremely good news in a week when the good news seemed to keep on coming – the promised 1 Gigabit Siro broadband network has been delivered to Skibbereen’s new digital hub, Ludgate; two West Cork entrepreneurs pledged €300,000 in seed capital for new businesses; other start-ups are metaphorically queuing up take the first 75 places at Ludgate; and the event itself, National Digital Week, generated a €2m spend in the local economy.
Kevin Buckley and his business partner, Matthew Lawlor, of Spearline Labs said: ‘This is the most exciting week the town has had in years’ – a sentiment echoed by John Field, a member of the Ludgate steering group, who said: ‘It is the most positive thing that has ever happened in Skibbereen.’
The rapid growth of Spearline Labs – a company that tests phone lines, thereby increasing productivity and profitability for other companies internationally – has been remarkable, given its humble origins.
Kevin described the dark days when, at the age of 22, they didn’t know where they were going. In 2008, during the downturn, PGI in Clonakilty came to them and said they had a problem – they weren’t able to test freephone numbers unless they were physically in the same country.
Kevin and Matthew took on the challenging of solving this problem and started Spearline Labs in a garage before moving to an outhouse owned by Kevin’s father – all the time trying to run a business with a 1 Mb broadband connection that was so bad ‘everyone remembers the dial-up tone.’
Spearline Labs progressed to a rent-free, old building and – with the encouragement of Donal O’Driscoll, the manager of the Credit Union in Skibbereen – they moved, in 2010, to their stylish new offices above the credit union.
In the early days, the company had a workforce of three and was facing a debt of €250,000, but it now has a 20-strong workforce, and is in a position to double that, as well as invest money back into R&D.
But Kevin maintains there is more room for development. ‘In fact,’ he said, ‘every company in this town needs to be selling online.’
Lots of people helped Spearline’s success: Ronan Harris, CEO of Google Ireland and vice-president of Google EMEA; Declan Hughes, the assistant secretary of the Department of Enterprise, and Dan Barry, Spearline Labs’ development advisor with Enterprise Ireland, which is backing the company’s €1m investment in developing their mobile testing platform.
Kevin wasn’t joking when he addressed the diaspora and said: ‘Send in your CVs.’ He pointed out that there are 700 students doing the Leaving Certificate in the greater West Cork area every year and companies like Spearline Labs ‘want to give them something to stay for.’
He said the announcement that the arrival of Siro – the ESB-Vodafone joint venture which is delivering Ireland’s first 100% fibre-optic broadband network nationwide on ESB supply lines – in Skibbereen next summer ‘means that everyone in the town will be able to do business here and export to a global market.’
Google’s Ronan Harris said: ‘We are always delighted to support Irish businesses, in particular those that are not only creating employment for their local region but are also making a mark on an international level.
‘Spearline Labs is a great example of how smaller businesses can grow in a way which has only become possible with the development of new technologies and the internet.’