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‘Belfast operation will fuel our engine for building better products’: SmashFly CEO Thom Kenney

  • It’s been a busy summer of FDI investment for Northern Ireland with PA Consulting and law firm FieldFisher unveiled in recent weeks. To explore out how new firms are finding the operating environment here, Sync NI caught up with one of Northern Ireland latest arrivals from the US - recruitment CRM platform provider SmashFly Technologies. 

    In July, the company announced plans to create 70 jobs locally and they’re already ahead of their recruitment schedule. 

    “It's progressing better than we expected,” says  SmashFly CEO Thom Kenney. “We initially expected to get the  team set up with 11 people in the second half of the year and we're actually on pace for 20 by the end of the year.” 

    Founded in 2007, SmashFly completed a $22 million series B funding round in 2017. Its products are now used to recruit talent from over 180 countries around the world and earlier this year it reported significant customer growth. 

    Belfast is now critical to the next chapter in the company’s plans - capturing the market in Europe. 

    “Belfast is going to expand in 2019 with the addition of marketing and sales support so that we can really capture the EU market in the same way that we captured the US market,” he says. 

    “For us, the plan for Belfast is a long-term play - this very much is a real investment in the future of our company.” 

    Maintaining the company’s technological edge is critical for Thom, who was SmashFly’s CTO until April this year when he stepped up to take the top job. At that time, the company’s departing CEO Michael Hennessey said Thom brought “rich operational expertise and experience advancing products to the next level”.  

    Data analytics is a major focus for the company and the engineering footprint in Belfast “will fuel our engine for building better products.” As part of this focus on data, SmashFly is sponsoring the Big Data Belfast conference in the Waterfront Hall on October 18. The new Big Data Belfast format will offer a technical deep dive alongside the higher interest discussions.

    According to Thom, the Belfast “centre of excellence” will work alongside its current engineering centre of excellence in Concord, Massachusetts, which will focus on front-end user experience. 

    “Machine learning, artificial intelligence and the advanced theoretical side of computer science will be the centre of gravity inside Belfast,” he says. 

    For Thom, the quality of the talent in Northern Ireland is exceptional not just for the talent at senior level positions but also those coming out of university.

    “They’re extraordinarily well-prepared and ready to make an impact very early on in their careers,” he says. 

    In June Invest NI reported a strong year for inward investment with 23 firms entering Northern Ireland for the first time. As one the region’s most recent arrivals, Thom has been impressed by “a business climate in Northern Ireland that’s really receptive to FDI”. 

    “Whether it was finding talent or finding a location for the office, it has been a very easy process for us to get connected to the right people at the right time. It's been incredibly positive,” he says.

    Thom says it’s critical for local businesses to recognise they’re all data companies now.

    “What will be interesting over the next few years is the confluence of business leaders thinking about what data means and in ways that they never thought of before,” he says. 

    “If you look at the way that AI is designing new aircraft parts and new lighter and stronger engine parts for automobiles, that ability to learn obtuse or obfuscated data insight from your business or your people is going to be a huge part of the way people do business in the future.” 

    Last month SmashFly launched ‘Emerson’, an AI recruiting assistant that’s fully integrated with an industry-leading recruiting CRM and Thom says there’s “significant interest” in the product. Now the company plans to “double down on pipeline intelligence”. 

    “As many other companies have found out - we have only touched a small portion of what we can do with our data and with the information that we've got in helping recruiters find their talent,” he says.

    Better exploitation of data is going to “start moving the needle inside of the industry”. 

    “Data intelligence will help drive forward better candidates and the right candidates with the right employee message,” he says.

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