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  • Headquarters: Belfast, Ireland
  • Acquisition Date: 2016
  • Vertical Market: Supply Chain & Inventory Management
  • Website:

From Little Things, Big Things Grow

Gaina started life as the ‘drinks software' division of a company called Wellington Computer Systems, formed in the 1980s by co-founders Alex Dunne and Kevin Taylor. The pair had worked as software developers at Guinness PLC and when the company decided to shut down non-core operations, including the software development division, they acquired the rights to the software they had created.

In their 30 years running the business, Taylor and Dunne expanded from their roots in creating solutions for drink wholesalers into developing software for credit unions. By the time they entered discussions with Volaris to sell the company in 2014, the drinks division of the business was significantly smaller than the division that served the credit union customers.

When Volaris Portfolio Leader Mike Dufton sat down with incoming managing director Kevin Bradley for a deep dive into Wellington’s business model post-acquisition, he saw the company was clearly operating two very different businesses under one logo. “We think it’s best to split them out and nurture each of them to focus on them in different directions,” Dufton told Bradley at the time.

Crafting a New Identity

After deciding that Wellington IT would continue managing the credit union software, Volaris began crafting a new brand to build up the drinks part of the business. The spin-out was named Gaina – short for Gain Advantage – and set to work refocusing its efforts on a single customer base.

The restructuring initially led to some uncertainty from team members who had been with Wellington for up to three decades and were wary of a new owner making changes. 

However, Gaina’s current CEO Kealan Curran said that employees quickly realized that the split would allow the company to grow in ways it wasn’t able to do while dividing its focus on multiple customer bases. Communicating those growth aspirations and successes to every member of the team was an important part of building trust.

“I am committed to communicating Gaina’s one-page strategic plan right down to grassroots level. Every employee understands how they can make an impact that will help develop the business. There is more transparency in the business now than there was before and I believe that is a positive step to achieving a culture of honesty and openness.”

- Kealan Curran, CEO, Gaina

Building Up the Business

After the split, Volaris helped build out the organizational structure Gaina needed to operate as separate entity, including creating a customer care department and making additions in technical teams such as professional services and R&D. The group invested in talent development opportunities for staff and procured new technical equipment, setting every individual up for success. Curran had joined Wellington’s technical support team just before the company was acquired by Volaris and under Gaina’s first CEO Andy Nelson, he embarked on a path that saw him rise through account management and eventually heading up the customer care department. Within two years, Curran was promoted into the Managing Director role at Gaina. 

After joining a relatively small company with limited expectations for advancement, Curran said the acquisition by Volaris provided “more opportunities than I could every have imagined. There's a huge focus on people, a razor-sharp focus on strategy, and a significant commitment to execute the strategies.”

Gaina’s talent, knowledge and technology enabled the company to thrive in its vertical market. However, a review of the business found the company had already absorbed a high percentage of the Irish drinks industry and needed to look further afield for new customers. Further application of Volaris best practices and benchmarking data led Curran to conclude he should further split the sales and marketing functions and build out each department to pursue new markets. He also discovered an opening to collaborate with a Volaris sister company World Chain Stores (WCS) to exploit opportunities where their unique technologies could create a more robust solution to meet client needs on a global scale.

“By working together in an open and honest manner, Gaina and WCS secured a ground-breaking project that delivered a much-needed technical solution to a globally recognized customer. This collaboration proved the concept that working with another business unit can bring huge opportunity for all involved.”

-Kealan Curran, CEO, Gaina.

Maintaining Autonomy, Receiving Support

Curran spent 12 years working for his family’s business before taking the role that would eventually put him in the CEO chair at Gaina. When he looks back at his father’s company from his vantage point these days, he can see that the small business always needed additional expertise and funding to grow, the list of benefits that Volaris already has. For Curran, the ability to maintain his autonomy in running a company while having access to the benefits of belonging to a global organization is the best of both worlds.

“There is a phenomenal strength at Volaris that most businesses wish they had access to,” he said. “The expertise, the financial backing, the credibility, the longevity, the access to knowledge from everything from legal right through to technical knowledge, it's completely covered. Being part of Volaris is a dream come true.”

Since spinning out from Wellington Computer Systems, Gaina has continued to grow year over year, engaging diligently with existing customers and explaining the increasing value that the company’s solutions can add to their operations. A renewed emphasis on marketing has the company confident that it will further expand its market share in mainland UK, where the Gaina brand is less well-known. Looking at the balance sheet these days, there’s one metric that always makes Curran smile.

“Volaris may not have acquired Gaina as a separate entity back in 2014, as it may have been too small. However, I am certain they would buy us now. I believe that tells the story of how far we’ve come as a business since the split.”

- Kealan Curran, CEO, Gaina