NI tech blog talk to me

Up and coming website ‘NI Tech blog‘ talk to be about business, expansion and the economy.

The article is as follows.

Russell McQuillan is the Business Development Manager for Bitbuzz, Irelands leading Wi-Fi provider, Last year they expanded into Northern Ireland and this year are looking at the UK market. We caught up with Russell recently…

What is your company “elevator pitch”?

To provide simple, fast secure Wi-Fi to guests and customers of hotels and coffee houses.

Where did it all begin for the company?

Shane Deasy MD of Bitbuzz was working as a consultant for 02 and a company that later became ‘the cloud’ He was receiving great feedback about Wi-Fi from hoteliers and people in the hospitality industry but everyone he spoke to wanted the product to be tweaked a little bit here and there to suit there own business models, which at the time was something they could not do. So he moved back to Ireland and along with Alex French our COO and one other they set up Bitbuzz.

In January 2008 they decided to expand the business into Northern Ireland, that is when I joined the team to head up operations and expansion here. Hoteliers were happy to speak to us, as we were a real alternative to BT Openzone. We are speaking hotels every week now and launching more than one hotspot per week. In fact we have around 20 new sites due to come live shortly. Our next big step to be expand further in the UK mainland market and we have recently signed 7 locations there.

How many people does the company employ (locally/internationally)?

We employ 9 people across Ireland, naturally in a small company, job titles don’t mean much as we all tend to pitch is to get whatever we are working on completed on time.

Who are the target customers?

That’s a difficult question as we target hoteliers and high-end coffee chains, but it’s the end user that makes our service successful and keeps us in business. We would not have the end user if we didn’t have our service in the location, and we would not be in the location if our service was not popular with the end user, so both sides of the business are very important to us.

What does your role within the company entail… a typical day in your life?

First and foremost my job is to look at new ways of expanding the business, be that adding more hotspot locations or thinking of a totally new way of delivering Wi-Fi the people where we need it, like our new product Bitbuzz on Board, a service that will allow people to access the net whilst on their daily commute.

I travel all over the UK and Ireland speaking to people about our business, no two days are the same which is one of the reasons I love the job so much, my background is retail and when you open a new store it does not take long to figure out trading patterns and slip into a routine, there is no chance of that here thankfully!

Once a location is signed, I see that right through to it going live which means working closely with the management team in the location and my engineers, after the site is live I will keep an eye on it and visit every three months to look at new ways of promoting the service and increasing usage.

How did you get into this line of work?

I sold my stake in a small design consultancy, and had been looking for something new to get my teeth into, I worked for some time as an Ops Manager for restaurant chain which was later sold, I was just really looking to see what there was about and really was not sure what I wanted to do next, before my own business I had worked in retail management for 7 years and I did not really fancy going back into that sector. I noticed Bitbuzz were looking someone for head up NI, I met Shane and Alex in Dublin and started the following week.

What are the most & least satisfying aspects of your current job?

I enjoy working with people, hoteliers and coffee store owners, I enjoy learning about their business and providing them with a service that actually add’s value to their consumer offering and drives customers into their outlet.

The least satisfying part of my job is when I drive 3 hours to see a potential client only to receive a phone call about 15 minutes before the meeting ‘asking to postpone’

In the current economic climate one mantra is “Innovate out of recession” – what innovations does the company offer?

We made the decision at the start of the year to expand the business into the UK mainland, one of our main selling points to hoteliers is that there is no capex, in that we invest in all the hardware needed to get up and running. This gives us a competitive edge over smaller home-brew solutions and in recent months BT who do not seem too keen on the no capex deals anymore.

How is the company weathering the economic storm – do you see any green shoots of recovery yet?

Its tough for everyone out there, the important thing is to get your head down, keep on keeping on and get through this. There are companies that won’t survive the storm but those that do will come out of this super streamlined and so driven to achieve big things. As for green shoots, A customer of ours recently received €50 million in VC funding so if the VC’s are lending again that has to be a step in the right direction.

Does the company have plans to expand locally or internationally in 09/10?

Yes as I said, we are looking at GB at present and have recently signed our first locations there, we will look at mainland Europe when the time is right but its important for us to grow slowly and not loose sight of the customers we have already.

And finally…What is the ultimate ambition of your company?

World domination, Isn’t everyone’s?

For more information on Bitbuzz check out their website: http://www.bitbuzz.com

If your company is interested in being interviewed for NITechBlog.com please email james@nitechblog.com

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