High-flyer who’s got the travel industry figured out
The following article appeared in the January 4 edition of The Sunday Times
by Gavin Daly
With his laptop bag, fashionable dark-framed glasses and black North Face raincoat, O’Flanagan is straight out of techie central casting. A former head of engineering at the Dublin-listed travel software group Datalex, he jumped ship three years ago to set up his own business after spotting a growing trend towards analytics — a favourite buzz word.
In a business world increasingly fixated on “Big Data”, the move looks well timed. O’Flanagan’s company, Boxever, also a tech provider to airlines and travel groups, was officially formed in 2012 and was one of the busiest movers in the Irish start-up scene last year.
“I was shooting in the dark three years ago,” he said. “Now we’re getting a request for proposals every month.”
Airlines and travel groups want to know more about Boxever’s product, which pulls together data to give a “single view” of a customer. That lets them tack on extra services and pitch personalised offers.
In 2014, the company announced deals with Ryanair, Tigerair, Air New Zealand and eDreams Odigeo, one of the biggest online travel agents in the world. They’re just the latest ones — in total, the firm has eight large customers and is already pulling in revenues in the millions of euros.
Those revenues should treble this year, said O’Flanagan, though he declines to put a specific figure on record. The company recently moved from cramped start-up digs to a new HQ with the space to increase its 40-strong staff.
For O’Flanagan, the coming year “is all about growth”. A big expansion will be financed by a $6m (€5m) investment last year from heavyweight funder Polaris Partners and Frontline Ventures, an Irish venture capital group backed by Declan Ryan of the Ryanair dynasty.
“Our product is strong, the R&D engine is good. Now we will focus on sales.”
An office has been opened in Boston, and the team bulked up with a vice president of marketing, Allyson Barr, a veteran of LogMeIn, a hot tech group valued at $1bn on the Nasdaq. “It means I don’t have to be on every plane any more,” said O’Flanagan, who racked up serious air miles to get Boxever off the ground. “We were always just a bunch of engineers, but we’re becoming much more commercial.”
His ambitions for 2015 aren’t small. “I want to acquire 10-12 new enterprise customers and 40 smaller ones. That’s looking more than achievable now.”
If there is the opportunity to do more deals, O’Flanagan is ready to raise more investment and chase the business. He is well aware of the fate that befalls many Irish tech outfits, which get overtaken by American rivals that can easily raise $50m in funding and blow them away.
“We want to be the ones doing the $50m