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This startup bet on a new language growing and it's reaping the rewards

nearForm decided to base its entire company on node.js and has become one of the leaders in its field.

Waterford Castle is now the location of NodeConf EU held every September.
Waterford Castle is now the location of NodeConf EU held every September.
Image: Nico Kaiser/Flickr

FOR MOST PEOPLE outside the computer programming industry, node.js might not mean much, but down in Waterford, it was the catalyst for one startup to become one of the main authorities on the subject.

nearForm, a service which helps programmers develop their own business platforms through node.js, was founded by Cian Ó Maidín and Richard Rodger back in 2011.

Since then, the three-year old company has managed to become one of the leading voices of one of the fastest-growing programming languages in the world, having clients like Intel, Qualcomm and Universal on its books.

It wasn’t a straightforward process though. The company is in that small group of Irish startups which didn’t look for any funding to help the company. Instead, both Ó Maidín and Rodger funded themselves as they tried to get the business off the ground.

The first year was particularly testing, requiring both Ó Maidín and Rodger to forgo payment for the first year.

“It was really tough at times,” says Ó Maidín. “For the first year, Richard [Rodger] and I started by not paying ourselves… it took about a year from when we founded the company to get established and [become] the leading company in Europe.”

As well as not looking for funding, location was also a problem. If you wanted to make an impact, you had to travel to Dublin or abroad to find leads and build partnerships. Since node.js was an unknown quantity in Ireland and the UK, convincing people to start using it was key to the company’s success.

2013-09-10_6679_NodeConf.jpg NodeConf EU has two rules (a) no harassment and (b) don't fall into the River Suir. Source: Nico Kaiser/Flickr

Their solution was to develop a community around this. While it started a usergroup based on node.js in May 2012, it set up a conference based around note.js, another gamble it took during its first year of existence.

Since they were still developing the business, it meant the two of them had to take out a personal loan of €50,000 to fund the first NodeConf. The idea was to establish themselves as an authority in the language and the open-source community globally, an aim helped by the fact that Rodger helped create the language in the first place.

We had no money whatsoever, so Richard and I went to the bank and got a personal loan of €50,000 to bootstrap the conference. We were really hoping through the back of that, we would be better known… [and] make the biggest splash with limited resources.

From that first conference was held in the Guinness Storehouse, the company decided to move it to Waterford Castle. This year, it now has six conferences planned, one in Waterford, three in the UK and two in New York, one of which is taking place in the One World Trade Centre later this year.

Expansion

The company is announcing the creation of 100 jobs over the space of 18 months and has moved into a new office in Waterford.

The majority of positions focus on software engineers and project managers, but it will also include creative positions as well as sales and marketing. When the industry was based mostly in the US, the development of the UK market means it now has partnerships in London, the east coast of the US and New York.

While nearForm has been around since 2011, it managed to grow its workforce to 35 members, half of which joined after September and Ó Maidín expects some major developments over the coming months, but it all came down to that original decision to focus on a developing language.

We took a bet on node.js taking off and a lot of people were looking at it blankly saying we wouldn’t use this experimental programming language on our systems. But we persisted, we found some people who would go for it, the early adopters and then it took off.

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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