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Queen's Award for Enterprise winner Dotmatics has become a global business success from its Bishop's Stortford HQ


By Michael Vaughton


From humble beginnings in one of the founder's bedrooms, Dotmatics has grown into a multi-million pound business with a royal seal of approval.

Stephen Gallagher and Alastair Hill formed the company in 2005 to provide software and technology to support drug discovery and development.

And the firm, which is proud to have its headquarters in Bishop's Stortford and now also has offices in San Diego, Boston, Seoul, Tokyo and Melbourne with a worldwide staff of 175, won the prestigious Queen's Award for Enterprise in April for its phenomenal growth in international trade.

Dotmatics directors Alastair Hill, left, and Stephen Gallagher at the company's global headquarters in The Old Monastery, Windhill, Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Vikki Lince
Dotmatics directors Alastair Hill, left, and Stephen Gallagher at the company's global headquarters in The Old Monastery, Windhill, Bishop's Stortford. Picture: Vikki Lince

Gallagher and Hill have increased the company's global reach year on year and overseas sales have increased by 375% from £3m to £14.9m.

Exports have risen from 69% to 85% and its main markets today are the USA, Switzerland, Germany, Japan and Italy.

The directors have known each other since 2000, meeting when they worked at Merck Sharp & Dohme in Harlow. Gallagher, 46, was in IT scientific software and Alastair was in the chemistry department.

Gallagher, who grew up in Chiswick, has lived in Stortford for 19 years. He is married to Lucie and they have three boys - Charlie, 13, and Harry, 16, both attend Bishop's Stortford College while 19-year-old Sam is at Loughborough University.

Hill, who is originally from Edinburgh, moved to the town in 1998 and is married to Francesca. Their 12-year-old son Jamie is also at Bishop's Stortford College while daughter Zoe, nine, goes to Summercroft Primary School.

The pair began collaborating to integrate IT and science, with Dotmatics getting off the ground in November 2005 and they worked from Hill's bedroom for the first nine months.

Moves to offices in Hockerill and Old Thorley followed before they took up residence at The Old Monastery in Windhill in 2010.

And they have developed a unique capability allowing scientists to access all relevant data in one place and its solutions are now used by companies around the world.

"Six months after we started the company, Merck Sharp & Dohme in Harlow shut down, so there were 300 scientists there that scattered around the world and were already keen on us anyway," said Gallagher.

"That gave us an immediate market to go after as they went to their various new jobs, in biotech and pharma, and said 'I know some great software people'. It didn't happen that quickly, but we got a few deals within the first year which got us started.

"We thought we were going to aim for the small biotechs, but what we found when we started the company was no companies had good software for capturing the data that scientists work on.

"Now we're building and selling software to small companies all the way up to large pharma and large chemical companies."

Dotmatics won a prestigious Queen's Award for Enterprise in April thanks to its massive growth in international trade. Picture: Vikki Lince
Dotmatics won a prestigious Queen's Award for Enterprise in April thanks to its massive growth in international trade. Picture: Vikki Lince

Dotmatics' mission is to give scientists access to all of their data, all of the time.

It typically takes ten to 15 years and $2.6bn to bring a new drug to market, so developing technology that supports scientists in accelerating this process is a key challenge for the pharmaceutical industry.

"Last year the revenue was £21m and we're growing between 20% and 40% year on year," said Gallagher.

"For the Queen's Award you have to show sustained growth and it was specifically for international trade, which has grown from £3m to £15m.

"It's the most prestigious award you can get in Britain for a company so it's great to have it, not just for our visibility here in the UK but obviously American and APAC (Asia-Pacific) companies absolutely love anything related to the Royal Family. I don't think we could link it to sales, but it's certainly a feather in the cap."

Dotmatics is continuing to grow, with 20 open positions to be filled this year across all offices and disciplines including IT, admin, scientists and sales.

The company hired 70 people last year, which was a deliberate ploy to "mature" the business and take it to the next level.

"We'd grown the company organically and very well over the last 12 or 13 years. Now we're selling to large pharma and large chemical companies we need to do more to be able to sell to more of those," said Gallagher.

And Stortford has proved to be the ideal base for the firm, which also has satellite premises in Church Street.

Almost 100 of their 175 staff work in the town with many employees having moved here and brought up their families.

"It started out as being convenient as Steve and I both lived here, but it's a good location for an IT company," said Hill.

"All the things are here like road links, having London and Cambridge on the train line and Stansted Airport. You might not consider it as a kind of natural business hub and more of a commuter town, but it's actually a really good location and being close to the town is great for the staff.

"We are competing with Cambridge, but we can certainly attract staff, scientists for example from biotech companies or programmers who are prepared to come to Stortford or commute."

Dotmatics began life in Hill's bedroom after he and Gallagher had came up with the idea for the business. The company now has offices in San Diego, Boston, Seoul, Tokyo and Melbourne. Picture: Vikki Lince
Dotmatics began life in Hill's bedroom after he and Gallagher had came up with the idea for the business. The company now has offices in San Diego, Boston, Seoul, Tokyo and Melbourne. Picture: Vikki Lince

The company has also helped boost good causes to the tune of more than £100,000 since starting up a donation scheme in 2012.

Every month, an employee gets to choose a charity to receive a £1,000 cash boost and these have included Grove Cottage, Isabel Hospice, Talking Newspaper and Essex & Herts Air Ambulance.

And Stortford will continue to be at the heart of the thriving business as it aims for further growth in the coming years.

"A long time ago we considered having a Cambridge office, but it just doesn't make sense as Bishop's Stortford is perfect for what we need," said Gallagher.

"We'll keep aiming for that 20% to 40% growth year on year, which is obviously getting larger and larger. Everything looks very positive."



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