Buncrana businessman, Lee Tedstone of Nvolve Ltd is ‘over the moon’ after scooping three business awards in the Shell Livewire All Ireland Finals last Thursday. The three categories are for the Best Use of Innovation, the Entrepreneurial Spirit award and the Export Potential award. “I am absolutely delighted,” says Lee “They are the best categories too as they reflect a good product, a good business and a good market reach.” It is a testament to the work and effort Lee has put into his business, that in two years he has created, from his Letterkenny base, a successful global company with clients across all industry sectors.
Lee was brought up in Buncrana on the Railway Road and always had a clear vision that he was going to work for himself. As a child he would go to work with his dad and watch his father and his business partner, Bertie Cartmill run their amusement business. “These two men had a big impression on me” Lee recalls. “I was fascinated by their lifestyle and how they interacted with their customers and their suppliers. I am sure it had an influence on me. I have fond memories of Buncrana in my childhood, being around the amusement arcades, going down to the shore front to go on the bumpers, the bingo at the weekend. There was a real buzz about the place.”
Lee went to St Columba’s boy school (now Scoil Iosagain) and Scoil Mhuire. He didn’t do particularly well at school as he always felt he needed to do things his own way and could do things better himself. Lee explains, “I liked to break the mould, if I was messing around and the teacher would tell me I was going to fail, I felt determined I would prove them wrong. I would challenge myself to go and do what I needed to.”
Lee did well enough to go to the University of Ulster to do his degree in electronics/software design and then went on to Queens to do his Masters in Semi-conductor Design. From there he went to Edinburgh where he worked for a company designing microchips, before moving to London to work in recruitment, project management and business development for a variety of employers, all within the electronics field. Through his work, Lee identified a gap in the market, where he felt he could make a contribution and as he wanted to come home, he moved back in 2006 to set up Nvolve Ltd.
The gap Lee had identified was a need for organisations to co-ordinate recruitment, training and performance management. Nvolve’s learning solutions division has developed software that trains staff faster, better and more cost-effectively than ever before, enabling organisations to manage and deliver their training at a fraction of the time and cost of more traditional methods. The business owners / managing directors can set objectives, which are filtered through the business hierarchy in the form of individual objectives for each worker that are measured against a timescale. Each employee can work on their own objectives and feed back what resources or training they need. This allows businesses to streamline and the success of the product is measured by the amount of money saved for the organisation. “The learning management side fits perfectly with organisations that have legislative requirements but it is effective for any business that wants to align their training activities to performance objectives,” Lee clarifies.
The other division of Nvolve Ltd develops bespoke software to match the needs of their clients. Their customers include start-up businesses as well as large enterprises; any-one who needs a professional software solution in place quickly and efficiently. One recent example was a package for a community forum of golfers so they could keep in touch and chat on-line. Lee outsources his software development to a company in India, a partnership that has worked so well that Nvolve recently bought a majority share in the company. This means very competitive rates for his clients.
Lee is keen to point out that although their customers include large corporations and companies, more and more small local businesses are getting in touch with him. He explains, “Over the last few months about forty small businesses, local people from the Northwest have contacted me with an idea for a software package. There are some really good business ideas out there; I have found the entrepreneurial spirit has really gone through the roof. Some of these young businesses however, don’t have many resources or can’t afford to get a software package developed. I would encourage any-one in this situation to contact us for advice on how they could get their software developed.”
Sharing business skills
Lee is open to sharing his business skills. He recently gave a talk to 600 young people at Mount Errigal Hotel, which was organised by the Donegal County Enterprise Board. So what advice has he got for young entrepreneurs? “I would encourage people to engage with organisations such as the Inishowen Partnership, the Donegal County Enterprise Board and Enterprise Ireland,” he says. “I would also suggest that before they invest serious time and money on a service or product, they should try and get a commitment from some-one to buy it. You need qualities such as perseverance in business, drive and ambition as well as being able to keep your feet on the ground. If you have business acumen and skills, that is great, but you need perseverance to get through the hard times. However when you see the fruits of your hard work, there is no better feeling.”
Lee employs six people locally in Ireland and has sixty employees in the Indian software engineering company. He believes in meritocracy in the business culture and believes that employees in Nvolve get out what they put in. Two recent graduate employees have worked so well that they will soon be heading a new software division.
So what about the future for Nvolve? Well, there are two new software products in the pipeline that are being developed and with the large amount of exports to the United States, Lee is looking at opening a sales office in the U.S. possibly in California. He is also going on a fact-finding mission to Dubai and has already secured business over there.
If you would like to contact Lee his e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org and his phone number is 0749116000.