Originally from Sligo, but now based in Galway, Luna Connect CEO Brian D’Arcy took the road less travelled a number of years ago when he left his job as a Hewlett-Packard software executive to found his own start-up. Five years later, the business is going from strength to strength, and they have big plans for the future.
“I spent some time in Dublin when I left college initially – maybe a year up there – but then got a job in Galway and moved down here. At the time, I wasn’t looking for a job in Galway. A job came up in Hewlett Packard and I really liked it, so it just happened that I came here…well, my wife is from Galway also, so that’s the other part of it!” Brian says with a chuckle.
In the time Brian has been in the Galway software scene, he has seen quite an impressive growth, as he explains.
“When I came to Galway a number of years ago, you had two options – Hewlett Packard or Nortel – there were two big tech employers. Surrounding that, there were smaller software companies, but that’s completely exploded. Now, you have HP, DXC, Cisco, Avaya – and all the new guys that have come in like Genesys, Diligent. There are loads of them now.
He also points to Digital as the place where a lot of Galway’s tech experts can trace their professional roots back to – but Brian now sees the start-up scene as becoming more of a draw for people.
“I think now what you’re starting to see is people like me leaving those companies and having the confidence to go out and start their own venture,” he says, going on to explain that there’s still more to be done to help encourage people to take that leap of faith.
Luna Connect is a digital lending platform that has been based out of the PorterShed for a number of years, and they are at home in the entrepreneurial scene, helping small-to-medium sized community financial institutions get to grips with digitisation.
“Luna Connect is a software product that helps our clients get online and digitise as easily as possible” he says.
Luna Connect helps bridge the digital gap that many of these institutions have. Ultimately, the SaaS company’s technology is able to improve their onboarding experiences, make Know Your Customer processes streamlined, and create a more seamless experience for customers signing up to these smaller lenders.
“One of our customers said to us, ‘we need our online experience to be as good, if not better than walking into a branch’, so that means we’ve had to build our product with that in mind. Obviously, we try and automate and use digital as much as possible to reduce costs, but that customer experience is huge for our customers,” Brian says.
The landscape of banking has certainly changed enormously over the past 20 years, as challenger banks have come along to provide that at-home, on-the-go banking experience where big – and small – financial institutions have struggled to adapt.
So, how has that impacted the way Luna Connect has been working?
“For us, someone like Revolut probably makes our life a bit easier. As part of our conversations with customers, we’re telling them ‘this is the way things are going – if you want to grow your loan book, you need to start tapping into the online market’,” Brian explains, adding that the types of financial institutions Luna Connect provides software for are wanting to attract younger customers and students, for example.
“When Revolut comes along and they’re so successful, our customers are saying ‘oh, now I know what you’re talking about’, so it’s good for us,” the Luna Connect CEO says.
The here and now is really positive for Luna Connect – and I’m interested in getting back to what motivated Brian to leave his big company job to start his start-up in the first place.
“It’s something I had always wanted to do. I suppose it was just about timing.
“When we started looking at Luna Connect, we realised how far ahead of the small and medium-sized enterprises some of the multinationals are, and that’s where we saw the opportunity.
“You realize that there’s an opportunity to start a company like Luna Connect to help smaller companies use and leverage tech that bit better, so that’s where the idea came from initially.”
It’s not just the present that looks good, either, as Luna Connect are focused on expanding their reach and building on the amazing growth they have already achieved in such a short space of time.
“We’ve got a really good customer base in Ireland, we’re starting to work with customers now in the UK, and we’ve also just started working with a partner in the continent of Africa – and they’re a re-seller into six countries in Africa for us, so that’s all our focuses at the moment, and then looking at other international markets that we can expand into – and that’ll be the main focus over the next few years.”
By Trevor Murray