A pair of young professionals who both scooped one of the city’s highest accolades have launched a new venture together.
James Villarreal and Anthony McCourt, who are both previous winners of Birmingham Young Professional of the Year, have launched a new business to business telecommunications company called Roar.
The firm uses the latest VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology to help businesses transfer their telecommunications from fixed line to digital, which they claim saves customers money in the process.
“We are talking about using the latest technology in the market and helping businesses, whether they are start-ups at the science park or corporates in Colmore Row, cut their costs as well as increasing functionality by sending calls digitally over the internet,” said Mr McCourt.
Mr McCourt, who is an investor and director in the new company and will head up its business development, said the technology was “coming from the west” with more than 80 per cent of US businesses already using VOIP of some description.
“In five to 10 years this will be the norm and businesses are beginning to understand this is the future. John Lewis currently uses VOIP for its telecommunications so it is already gaining some traction.”
The pair said they decided on Roar as it was important to stand out from the crowd with a new venture like theirs.
Mr Court said: “If you set up something generic then you will be lost in the marketplace so the brand has to be different. We are enough risk takers that we think being a talking point will work but then setting up in this climate is neither safe or sensible.”
The business will be an offshoot of Mr Villarreal’s successful Glide Utilities venture that he started with fellow student Sandeep Krishan while they were studying at Birmingham University which allows tenants in shared houses to split their utility bills with individual itemised bills as well as allowing landlords to receive one bill covering all their properties.
The company has seen significant growth and has attracted a number of major investors since it was founded in 2006 and it is now turning over more than £7 million a year, providing significant buying power for the new telecommunications venture.
“The backing of Glide means we can partner with a major supplier like BT or whoever and can offer complete solutions unlike other competitors,” said Mr Villarreal, who won BYPY in 2010.
“We have invested around £150,000 in setting up Roar but without Glide to help generate business and give us that buying power it would have been impossible to set up.”
The company has set a target of turning over £500,000 in the first year – it has already secured £100,000 worth of contracts and £2 million the year after.
“The business plan is ambitious in this market but certainly achievable,” said Mr McCourt. “The bottom line is we are offering something every business needs and we are doing it cheaper and saving them money.”
Mr McCourt came to prominence in 2008 after winning BYPY while working at law firm Wragge & Co but soon after he joined forces with Alan Chatham and Neil Edginton at Birmingham Development Company (BDC) to build the Cube but left earlier this year after a tumultuous period that saw the main contractor arm of BDC, Buildability, go into administration half way through the project.
However, Mr McCourt along with Mr Edginton stayed on to finish the project for administrators PwC.
Mr McCourt, who has known Mr Villarreal for a number of years, said the pair had been looking for a project for some time while he had been looking for a new challenge after his time at The Cube came to an end.
He said: “The last few years have easily been the biggest personal and professional rollercoaster of my life and while it’s a ride I’ve enjoyed, I’m not sure I want to get back on again for the time being.
“It showed me you can never take anything for granted and opportunities come in the weirdest ways. I had been friends with James for some time and wanted to do something but he has been pushing Glide to great places so wanted to do something else.
“This isn’t my primary space, which has been law and property, whereas this is a heavy sales role so I will be well out of my comfort zone. These are exciting times and while we are part of Glide, we want to be independently successful in our own right.”