Cormac Casey is a business founder and a mountain climber – and he has his sights set on a few highs in the not-too-distant future.
The connection between Cormac the entrepreneur and Cormac the mountaineer who has targeted reaching the top of the Seven Summits before he turns 34 (a record previously set by Dr. Clare O’ Leary) is obvious, but it’s an interesting one nonetheless. He’s already conquered three of them and he’s only 21.
On the surface, Cormac – founder of an e-commerce agency and builder of an analytical software – is an intrepid explorer who is drawn to challenges and new obstacles that must be overcome. In his own words, however, Cormac is just interested in doing what he loves, whether that’s climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, reaching the summit of Mount Elbrus in an ice storm, scaling Mount Kosciuszko, or getting started in the e-commerce world aged just 15.
“I was a weird kid,” he says jokingly.
Cormac’s career began as a teenager when he fell into the world of e-commerce. Deciding to put his transition year to better use than most might, he went on work experience with Great Outdoors where he first got a taste for e-commerce. For around four years, Cormac worked there, earning real-world experience in the field before his manager at the time encouraged him to set up his own business. A chance encounter with someone at a bus stop led to Cormac getting his first client (building a website), and a full-fledged career started from there as he got a taste for the industry. Today, he runs two start-ups, Tobi.ie and DataPals.
The former offers Shopify storefront-building and email marketing services, while the latter is an app that marketing managers and e-commerce managers can leverage to help them more easily interpret data and turn that into big wins.
When it comes to challenges, he has certainly had his fair share – as most founders do – and he tells me one of the main lessons he’s learned so far came about only recently after one of his most successful periods in Q4 of 2021.
“The biggest lesson I learned was after that. I was on this high; I was like ‘successful businessman, making money – happy days’ and then January, February, I wasn’t focusing on getting new clients in the door.”
He says he’s still getting that entrepreneurial education with every passing day.
“I’m still learning; cashflow is such an interesting thing. Now, we’re planning six months in advance.”
Cormac says that he’s set to hire his first full-time employee later in the year, which says a lot about where his businesses are and how focused he is on the future and the long-term goals. Indeed, it’s something he’s hyper-aware of – yet he’s comfortable with it being part of the fabric of a founder’s life, something that he says is a motivator in itself. Of the PorterShed, he says that it’s a really motivational place that can really help founders like him get things done.
“Surrounding yourself with people that are either on the same path as you or a little behind, you can help them – or if they are ahead of you, they could help you, and that’s massive. But even just getting in here, sitting down and seeing a hundred other people working in front of me on their own thing, it’s very motivating,” Cormac says.
Cormac recently took part in the Start100 Accelerator programme where several student entrepreneurs engaged in six weeks of work from idea to finalised pitch, delivering their pitches to a panel of judges at NUI Galway’s Aula Maxima. He says that he learned a great deal from the programme.
“The first thing is that I’m not always right,” he says with a smile.
“Second of all, listening to other founders who made it is really interesting. The one common thing that everyone in Start100 has is that drive to develop whatever it is their developing, so that was great. The other thing is that the programe was massively impactful to everyone who was there. It pivoted everyone to a direction that they all found themselves. It wasn’t like ‘one step, two step, three step’, it was more like ‘let’s flesh this out, let’s talk to industry mentors’ and that was massively valuable.”
So, what does the future hold for Cormac the founder and his two businesses in the short and long term?
He says that he is hoping to hire his first full-time hire later in the year, and is obviously focused on continuing to see everything trend upwards through the remainder of the year and into 2023. He also adds that he is keen to continue onboarding new clients – after all, they are the lifeblood of his business.
“Beyond that, in the next year or so, the next hire is in-house development,” he explains.
“As we’re scaling, which we are, one of the most important things is to have that ethos in the business. One thing all of my clients have in common is that they’ve been ripped-off before, and it really annoys me,” he says, adding that the last thing he wants to see is business being exploited, which is why he’s passionate about offering them a fair and affordable alternative that gets results in unique ways.
Getting back to the mountaineering, when he’s asked why he does it, he says “I don’t know, but I love it”, and it’s clear to see that is the case because he’s already focused on potentially conquering Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in Latin America, in December of this year.
“By then, I’ll be the highest person in the world,” he says, explaining that the Himalayas are essentially avoided by mountaineers in the winter.
The way things are going right now, there’s sure to be a few more dizzying start-up highs for Cormac and his two companies, but for now, he’s happy to be doing what he loves – whether that’s scaling mountains or start-up companies.
By Trevor Murray