As CitySwift celebrates its fifth anniversary and reaches the 50 employee milestone, we sat down with CEO Brian O’Rourke to look back on the early days of the business and journey we’ve been on since then.
What was the original concept for CitySwift?
“We started out using data and technology to offer crowdsourced private bus hire for concerts and events. But - as with many startups - there were a lot of pivots along the way and we ended up creating a specialist data platform for some of the largest global players in public transportation.
When I think back to those original business discussions with Alan Farelly, my co-founder, over a couple of beers in Ballymahon, I couldn’t imagine where CitySwift would be today – and this is really only just the beginning.”
"I couldn’t imagine where CitySwift would be today – and this is really only just the beginning.”
Why did you choose to base the business in Galway, Ireland?
“We knew we needed to base ourselves in an urban centre to get access to the best talent, and we were overwhelmed by the universities and the growing tech community in Galway. We got in early, as it’s becoming a serious hotbed for innovation and technology. It’s also an incredibly beautiful place. There’s a great work/life balance, so much to do and people are very friendly.”
What advice would you give your younger self, or other young entrepreneurs who are starting their own businesses?
“At CitySwift, we’ve had some great successes, but our fair share of failures along the way. When you start a business, not everything will work, but the important thing is to learn from the things that don’t.
Be resilient, stay focused and don’t expect overnight success – people think tech startups go from zero to unicorn in twelve months, but the reality is that rarely happens. It takes time to find the right product/market fit, raise capital, build a great team and create a compelling product or service. Everybody overestimates what they can do in twelve months, but they underestimate what they can achieve in five years.”
How important is it to be passionate about the field you work in?
“I think it's super important, no matter what area you're working in. As Alan and I got deeper into public transit, we realised that our personal passion for buses could make a huge impact on a wider societal scale. The whole team at CitySwift shares a passion for mobility. They are excited about their roles and the opportunity to help deliver the highest quality public transit across cities and communities around the world.”
"We realised that our personal passion for buses could make a huge impact on a wider societal scale."
What was it like reaching the 50 employee milestone, and what have you learned about people management along the way?
“We were very ambitious from the start, so it’s not overly surprising to hit this milestone – although it’s fantastic to be surrounded by such a wonderful and committed team.
Businesses go through various stages of growth and CitySwift is very much in ‘scale-up mode’ right now. And as we’ve scaled, it’s become less about the company’s goals and more about the team’s goals – and the individual goals of every single team member.
We believe in giving everyone a solid career roadmap, flexibility around their personal lives and a good support system. We reward people fairly and encourage (and act on) employee feedback. I believe that if you look after each and every team member, you’ll get that back tenfold in terms of effort and commitment – it’s certainly something I’ve found to be true over the last five years.”
What next for CitySwift?
“We’ve got some very cool new products in the pipeline and our next wave of growth is all about international expansion and scaling the business globally. We’re working with the UK’s biggest transport companies and have some massive opportunities lined up in North America, Europe, the Middle East and beyond. It's going to be a super exciting time for everybody in the company.”
"It's going to be a super exciting time for everybody in the company.”
Interested in joining CitySwift on the next stage of our journey? We’re hiring.