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Northern Ireland

Alchemy founder outlines plan to go global

Announcement of 256 jobs just the start, says NI entrepreneur

Ambition: John Harkin
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A Northern Ireland entrepreneur has said there is "no question" that his insurance software firm will grow beyond the 256 jobs announced for Londonderry yesterday.

John Harkin's new company Alchemy Technology Services is seeking to fill all the posts within three years, with 80 people set to be recruited by the end of the year.

The roles will be based within the firm's new headquarters at City Factory building in the city.

Speaking yesterday, the 56-year-old businessman, who left Londonderry in 1980, described the plan to create 256 jobs as "conservative".

"The model we have developed is applicable globally, but first and foremost, to all of Northern Ireland," he said.

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"We will expand and grow in the north-west and our head office will remain in Derry.

"We're definitely expanding - no question."

Yesterday's announcement brings to 628 the number of new Invest NI-backed jobs for the north-west. In June, Belfast-based FinTru announced 600 new jobs, with 305 based in Londonderry.

Last week, Danske Bank said its new customer protection centre in the city would create 67 new jobs.

Mr Harkin said the announcements were good news for the area, adding that he does not expect his recruitment drive to be in direct competition with the ongoing campaign by financial services company FinTru.

"We're more technology-orientated than what they're looking for. So I think that's great news, it'll help keep the talent in this area," he said.

Alchemy Technology Services, which was set up in December, has been offered £1.5m for its new European centre of excellence by Invest NI. The economic support agency said the jobs, which will attract average salaries of around £25,000, will eventually be worth £6.5m for the north-west's economy.

Recruitment is already underway, with the Department for the Economy providing £800,000 via the Assured Skills programme, which will be run out of the North West Regional College.

Mr Harkin is a former student of the college and was born and raised in the Waterside, Londonderry. He described how his career had brought him full circle back to his native city after nearly 40 years.

That career included stints at KPMG and PwC and took him to Silicon Valley, Paris, Sydney and Singapore, working with some of the world's biggest companies, including Apple. "It's very exciting. I had no clue that fate would lead me back in this direction," he told Business Telegraph.

He said the talent pool in the area and the financial support had allowed him to realise his vision for Alchemy faster than he could have independently with just the normal investment approach.

But while he retains a deep and personal connection with Londonderry, he said the decision to locate the headquarters of his new company in the city of his birth was "a pure business decision".

He said: "Head had to rule over heart, but I was amazed at the transformation of the city and the area and the quality of life."

Mr Harkin said the establishment of Alchemy in Londonderry was "the first step in a much longer journey".

"We want to build a solid foundation for a business that can grow," he said.

"This isn't a quick-hit, create something and sell it. This is about creating a really sustainable organisation rooted in people, caring and managing the way we grow it.

"We want to be part of the growth and success of this area."

Belfast Telegraph

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Ambition: John Harkin