Sysnet Global Solutions build and support mutually beneficial relationships between SMEs and financial institutions through the provision of innovative, technological solutions.
Gabriel Moynagh is Sysnet’s Chief Executive Officer and is ultimately responsible for Sysnet’s performance and direction, making strategic and investment decisions to ensure Sysnet’s long-term sustainable growth. Gabriel oversees all Sysnet divisions, which have grown to provide services in over 40 countries. In addition to sitting on Sysnet’s board of directors, Gabriel also sits on the board of iScan Online, Inc., in which Sysnet has made a strategic investment. Gabriel joined Sysnet in 2005 and was responsible for Sysnet entering the PCI DSS space and the company’s decision to aggressively focus on this market. Initially acting in sales and account management roles, Gabriel was appointed General Manager in December 2009 and became CEO in January 2012.
Sysnet Global Solutions was established in Dublin, in 1989, and was one of the first open system houses to develop a strong skill base in the area of TCP/IP – the networking protocol upon which the internet is founded. This gave the company an early advantage in the development of its Information Security business and, today, Sysnet helps businesses of all sizes to protect their valuable company information from cyber security threats. Sysnet entered the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) space in 2005 which focuses on security threats to credit and debit card data processed by businesses of all sizes.
Three years later, in 2008, Sysnet launched its web-based portal to assist banks and their SME customers to achieve PCI DSS compliance. The large number of SMEs using the portal opened up a big opportunity for those banks to engage further with their customers and build on their relationships with them, which led to the launch of Sysnet.airTM. The Sysnet.air solution builds and supports mutually beneficial relationships between SMEs and their financial institutions through the provision of SME focused products. Examples include security tools like anti-virus and firewalls to secure website building technology. Today, Sysnet has clients in more than 40 countries globally and over 800,000 merchants use its proprietary Compliance Management solution. In the UK and Ireland, Sysnet works with the top 7 financial organisations including Barclays and Lloyds. In the US, Sysnet has signed agreements with 3 of the top 10 financial organisations, which includes two competitive displacements – US clients include WorldPay and US Bank. In addition, through their consulting services division, Sysnet also provide consulting services to numerous large financial organisations and businesses throughout the world including Walmart, Nationwide Building Society, and ABSA bank. Headquartered in Dublin, Sysnet also has offices in Atlanta, Salt Lake City, London, Cape Town, Kiev, and Hyderabad. Sysnet has more than 160 employees with roughly half of those working in customer care. The majority of employees are based at the company’s Dublin headquarters located in Carrickmines, Dublin 18. Sysnet provide a solution that helps their clients attract new customers through a differentiated offering which enables them to add value to their customer relationships, helping them to stay competitive. Every solution they build has the ability to be white labelled which meets their goal of growing their clients’ brands in the eyes of their customers.
– ENTREPRENEURIAL INSIGHTS –
What vision/lightbulb moment prompted you to start-up in business?
In 2005, we were providing InfoSec services to Irish companies. One evening we got a fortunate call from Realex Payments looking for help with a new mandatory InfoSec standard called PCI DSS. We’d never heard of it but we realised that every business accepting credit cards would have to implement it. We moved quickly to get certified by Visa and MasterCard and rapidly gained new customers.
How did you secure your first investment?
In 2007, we were advised by Brian Caulfield at Trinity that developing our own software would greatly enhance our chances of securing investment. We began development and subsequently won a tender with a UK bank to deliver our new software to 35,000 small businesses. This deal helped us secure funding with a US Private Equity firm called GTX and also with Enterprise Ireland, who have provided fantastic support to the business over the years.
What was your “back-to-the-wall” moment and how did you overcome it?
We had product stability issues in the run up to our first client software launch and, although the client was very patient, they were nervous and understandably frustrated. There was a real concern they would cancel the whole project with terrible consequences for Sysnet. Our product team worked past midnight nearly every night for weeks and we went live with hours to spare.
What moment/deal would you cite as the “game changer” or turning point for the company?
Our first software deal with Bank of Scotland Merchant Services. Over the course of several months, our then Business Development Director Colum Rafferty, our Chief Product Officer Paul Prior, and I worked hard to design a winning proposition. This deal allowed our company to grow about 250% in revenue and hire aggressively. It made us a software company and gave us a platform to grow into a global business.
Were there any interesting or unusual circumstances surrounding the inception of the company or its evolution?
In 2009, my sister Lindsay was a musician in a traditional Irish music show that had received funding from a US investor after he attended the first performance while holidaying in Galway. He turned out to be the former CEO of a US and European payments company which, coincidentally, was Sysnet’s second largest client. He subsequently funded Sysnet and I always found it a lucky crossing of paths.
What are the biggest challenges you face now?
We have grown to where enthusiasm and a good product/market fit is no longer enough to maintain growth rates. Management and leadership skills are increasingly important and we need to introduce more processes while trying to retain the flexibility and client responsiveness that got us here in the first place.
What is your biggest business achievement to date?
My Dad founded the business in 1989. There have been a lot of high points and low points but we are 25 years old this year and I think that is a big achievement.
What were the best & the worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?
I think the best advice was to research our market and find a gap for a software product. The worst advice relates to the saying “build it and they will come” – it can be very costly to establish a local presence to demonstrate commitment to a new country. There are other ways to demonstrate commitment and now we prefer to get customers before we commit.
Were there any early signs that you would eventually follow an entrepreneurial path?
When I was a teenager I made a deal with the priest in Knocklyon to sell Christmas trees outside the church. My dad had planted them in a field behind our home and the priest let me sell them and gave us a mention after mass, in return he got €5 per tree sold for a local charity. We ran out of trees.
Has anyone acted as a mentor to you?
My parents. My dad founded Sysnet and ran it for years. He drilled us all on the importance of cash-flow and wouldn’t let any idea go forward unless it was thoroughly scrutinised. My mother also worked at Sysnet in accounts and is gifted with great people skills. Our CFO Peter Nealon and COO Damien Moynagh are a great source of balanced feedback.
Has your “Irish-ness” contributed to your success?
Yes, a huge part of our business is the customer support that we provide to businesses in the US, the UK and all across Europe. For a while I was concerned that we would have to put a contact centre in each country but each time we sign a new client they are really happy with the friendly support they get from our Irish team and never ask for a local team.
How do you generate new ideas to stay ahead of the curve?
Innovation comes from both our people and through listening to our clients. It’s not as process driven as it needs to be and we are trying to get better at ensuring every department in the company has the ability to influence ideas. For example, many of the ideas that emerge at our monthly efficiency review meeting with our customer support team should ultimately make it into the product roadmap.
When making a new hire, what key characteristics do you look for?
A sense of urgency is my favourite characteristic. Recently, I tend to look for someone that is very opinionated on the specifics and someone who likes to go into detail beyond what most people are interested in listening to. I’m not looking for general management skills, I’m looking for expertise more than personality and even cultural fit.
Have you started to feel the effects of the economic upturn within your sector/industry?
Our core business has not suffered or gained from the economy as it is not tied directly to the effects. However, I feel positive that some new products that we are launching soon will benefit from the upturn because they are about helping SMEs grow their business. When SMEs feel positive they are more likely to make positive moves such as purchasing solutions to help grow their business.
What do you believe it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
I think entrepreneurs often put so much into their company that it can become too personal. You believe every compliment and see positive signals everywhere but react emotionally to criticism. I think a successful entrepreneur has enough vision to stay objective, and colleagues who recognise when they are in entrepreneur mode and know how to talk them back down to earth.
If you were to invest in a sector, what would you consider the next “big thing”?
I really like the Hailo mobile app. I think they have perfected the ordering of a taxi using every relevant smartphone capability at their disposal. It seamlessly makes life easier for both driver and passenger. I’m not sure what the next big thing will be but I would like to invest in mobile products that are trying to achieve the same end-to-end user experience for everyday trials.
What do you believe is your company’s competitive advantage?
We try hard to be the most customer focused and the most flexible company in our space. We’ve worked hard to gain every customer, so we really try to do everything we can for them and, as result, I think we have developed a strong reputation in the industry for customer service.
What sacrifices have you had to make to get your business where it is today?
When things are going well, I don’t feel I’m sacrificing much and the demands are worth it. When things aren’t going well, I realise I may have lost touch with friends or forgotten to smell the roses – you tend to react to requests to be social rather than seeking it out. It doesn’t feel like there is a choice though and I’d guess most entrepreneurs are programmed in this way.
How do you recharge your batteries?
I like reading. I tend to read novels on holidays and biographies when traveling with work. I also like to play golf and I play traditional Irish music on the fiddle but nowhere near enough to be good at either.