Tom O’Connor, CEO of Version 1, sat down for an exclusive conversation with the Sunday Times to discuss digital transformation, diversity and driving growth into new markets such as the US and Australia

In an insightful interview published on Sunday, 29th of January 2023, Linda Daly from the Sunday Times engaged Tom O’Connor, the CEO of Version 1, in an illuminating conversation about how a technology and digital transformation provider founded in Ireland has grown a team of over 3,000 talented specialists and acquired 16 business across the UK and Ireland.

Attracting the attention of over 20 investment firms in 2022, Version 1 chose the leading global private markets firm Partners Group as its majority investor to accelerate its ambitious strategy to grow faster than ever before.

“The investment from Partners Group was a great vote of confidence in our plan, the team and our track record, but it really is all about the future. Everyone has a growth agenda, but Partners Group have it on steroids. The thing I love about private equity is they continue to challenge you to grow faster.”

Since Partners Group came on board formally in the summer of 2022, Version 1 has been on an acquisitive streak, purchasing Instinctive BI, Qubix and Automation Logic, three businesses that bring 350+ more employees, capabilities and expertise to accelerate Version 1’s plans to grow revenues by 20 per cent or more annually over the next five years, through a mixture of organic growth and acquisitions. Version 1 now has a dedicated (and growing) acquisitions team.

The Sunday Times heard how Version 1 employs more than 3,000 people — which makes it the country’s largest Irish-founded tech employer. With 11 consecutive years as a Great Place to Work-Certified™ Best Workplace™, Version 1 recently ranked #10 in Glassdoor’s 2023 Employees’ Choice Awards.

Referring to the ‘tech wreck’ currently sweeping Silicon Valley and the tens of thousands of high-profile job cuts at tech giants such as Alphabet, Meta,  Salesforce, HP and Twitter, Linda Daly sought Tom O’Connor’s perspective on this.

“In the market we are in, digital transformation; there is still a lot of demand. We are not immune to the chill wind of recession. If our customers start to sneeze, eventually, we can catch a cold, but we are still confident about the business. When you are a public company, the market turns, and the next thing you have to do is let people go. It’s one of the reasons I am glad Version 1 is not a public company — we are protected from that type of pressure.”

Tom gave the Sunday Times an insight into an area that he and many others at Version 1 are working to improve – diversity at senior levels of Version 1’s organisation. As Tom explained in the article, Version 1’s workforce is 69 per cent male, 27 per cent female and 4 per cent identify as non-binary. While there are 50 nationalities at Version 1, that diversity is not represented at senior levels and Tom has implemented targets for managing directors of the business to move the dial meaningfully, explaining that “a couple of my managing directors have missed elements of their bonus because they didn’t hit diversity targets.”

The Partners investment allowed Version 1 to allocate €8 million to its people in a milestone bonus, and this week, Version 1 is launching a share scheme for employees that will reward them provided the share value of the business increases over the next five years.

“Everybody who has played a part in the growth should, as a matter of principle, share in the reward.”

With over 22 years spent at Version 1, and its first two customers still with the business (An Post and ESB), Tom has no intentions of slowing down personally.

“I really enjoy what I do and what keeps me going is the fact we are doing new things and entering new markets such as the US and Australia. I’m not going anywhere.”

Read more from this insightful deep dive with Tom O’Connor and other news by subscribing to the Sunday Times online.