Excellence Hall of Fame – Raomal Perera
Nominated by: Gavin Denn
Seconded by: Pat Frain and Neal Traynor
“Raomal has been a pillar of entrepreneurship at INSEAD since 2001. Initially as the protagonist of a case, then as our first entrepreneur in residence, then as a professor and as the lead for our boot camp for the MBA’s in Asia, Raomal has educated hundreds of students and built a large, vocal fan base at INSEAD. He is best known for giving unstintingly of his time in counseling entrepreneurs and teams. Raomal is one of those vital individuals who connect our European and Asian campuses and he is truly an ambassador of goodwill for Ireland just by being a wonderful role model for those who aspire to build ventures. Raomal’s induction into the Excellence Hall of Fame by the Fellows of the Business Excellence Institute is a tribute to a wonderful man and dear friend who exemplifies what it means to say that business should be a force for good, INSEAD’s guiding principle.”
Philip Anderson Professor and Academic Director of the INSEAD Centre for Entrepreneurship
“On behalf of the Irish technology sector, I would like to warmly congratulate Raomal on his induction to the Hall of Fame. Raomal is a true patriarch of the Irish software sector and in many ways can be credited with the great successes we see in the sector today. Raomal has given selflessly of his time in supporting a new generation of entrepreneurs, helping others learn from his trailblazing achievements.”
Paul Sweetman Director of Technology Ireland at IBEC (the Irish Business & Employers Confederation)
Raomal grew up in Sri Lanka. Although his father was a Paediatrician and two of his brothers went into the medical world. Raomal’s love of mathematics led him to study engineering after school. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Electronic Engineering from the University of Wales in Swansea (UK) in 1979 having also learnt how to carve his own way in a country where his family name didn’t open doors.
After graduation, Raomal joined automaker British Leyland (of Jaguar, Land Rover, and Mini fame) in 1980. While there, he taught himself Computer programming, enabling him to take a job that made use of his computing skills.
In 1980, he met Pat from Blessington (County Wicklow, Ireland) who he later married. Around the same time, he was headhunted by the US word processer manufacture CPT Corporation to work for them in their Irish factory in Cork. Within a year of joining CPT, the dedicated word processor market collapsed and the Irish plant was closed. Raomal was offered a job with a different division in the U.S. but as he and Pat had just become parents, the timing wasn’t right so having travelled to the States out of courtesy, he decided to stay in Ireland and was out of a job.
He took a contract role with a company in the Netherlands and moved there where he got on well with the Dutch and worked for 18 months before taking an R&D job with Retix (a technology communications company) where he helped to establish an Irish office in Dun Laogharie, Co. Dublin. He was soon promoted to Associate Vice President of Engineering and offered a job in Los Angles which he accepted. However, within a year he returned to Ireland as Pat didn’t settle in LA. On his return, Raomal joined Artist Graphics to head up the engineering group in Dublin. In parallel, he also started to study for an MBA in University College Dublin’s Smurfit Graduate School of Business.
Shortly after starting his studies, Raomal was asked by Andy De Mari (Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive of Retix) to set up an internet software company with him. Consequently, after three months of study in the Smurfit School, Raomal stopped studying and left Artist Graphics to establish ISOCOR with De Mari. The company, founded by De Mari and Raomal, was headquartered in Santa Monica, California, and its Irish operation was led by Raomal. They grew it to a size of 250 staff before taking it public in 1996 when it listed on the NASDAQ, and later negotiated the sale of the company to Critical Path – one of the global leaders in messaging software at the time – for a final price of approximately $450 million.
In 1999, Raomal established his second venture Network365, a developer of software for mobile commerce that enabled payments to be made from mobile/cell phones. He built a high-performance team of professionals – many of whom had enjoyed working with him in his previous ventures. It is a measure of his calibre, integrity and of the esteem in which he is held by his colleagues and peers that not only was he repeatedly asked to lead organizations by business partners with whom he had achieved success but that he was also a talisman for a generation of Irish engineers who were keen to take the opportunity to work with him in different organizations developing different technologies. Under his leadership, the company won a number of awards including the Wall Street Journal Innovation Gold Award for business and it was listed by Time Magazine as one of Europe’s 50 Hottest Tech Firms in both 2001 and 2002.
Over the years, Raomal maintained close ties with the business and technical communities in Sri Lanka initially partnering with Sri Lankan developers and, ultimately, establishing a major R&D facility for Newtowk365 in Colombo and providing support and guidance to Sri Lankan entrepreneurs expanding their operations into Europe.
In 2003, Raomal was invited to serve as one of the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers. In the same year, after having success in a number of markets including Japan and Hong Kong, Network 365 acquired a U.S. competitor iPin and, after the merger, was renamed Valista.
In 2003, Raomal was the first-ever recipient of the Irish Software Association’s Outstanding Software Achievement Award and was also a finalist in the Ernst & Young ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ awards. In 2007, he was appointed an Adjunct Professor at INSEAD and stepped down as Chief Executive of Valista a few months later. In 2009, Valista was sold to the Belfast based AePONA, a subsidiary of the telecoms software company Aldiscon that was subsequently acquired by Intel.
In 2008, Raomal was appointed an Advisory Board member on University College Dublin’s Innovation Academy and became an Adjunct Professor of the Academy, he is now its Chairperson. In 2014, his ties to UCD strengthened when he was appointed an Adjunct Professor of the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. At INSEAD and UCD, Raomal teaches and studies a range of disciplines including entrepreneurship, innovation and the management of rapidly growing companies.
In 2015, he started his third venture, Lean Disruptor.
Roamal has served on the Advisory Board of the Sri Lanka Association of Software and Service Companies since 2009 and has also served as the Chairman of the Irish Software CEO Forum (2006-2008), and – since 2016 – as a jury member of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards. He is passionate about education and has been on the board of management at Loreto Foxrock (a girl’s in Dublin) for the past 15 years. He first joined the board as a parent nominee and is now a Loreto Trust nominee as he continues to sit on the board long after his daughters graduated from the school. Raomal is a very committed Christian and has been involved in the Family Mass group at Kilmacud for over 25 years and is now with the same group that is working at St. Matthews’s church in Ballyfermot.
In 2010, Raomal faced the biggest challenge of his life when he was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML). He had to undergo a bone marrow transplant that year. His brother Mahesh was the donor. He was able to fight the disease and recover in time to take his daughter Lesley-Ann down the aisle in 2012. His positive attitude to fighting the disease as well as his great faith in prayer helped him overcome this significant challenge. His journey is documented in a series of blog posts on Raomal.com which was a source of inspiration to other leukaemia sufferers. While the initial battle with cancer was won, the cells mutated and returned in 2013 and once again Raomal was faced with having to deal with cancer. Thanks to an amazing dedicated Haematologist (Dr. Conneally), Raomal managed to fight cancer once again. Today he is free of cancer and very grateful to the doctors and nurses who have given him the opportunity to enjoy his young grandson who lives next door.
Despite his unquestionable business success, his proudest moments have been witnessing his two sons and two daughters achieving their own success in their chosen fields of law, teaching, business, and – less predictably, music. Ever the committed family man, Raomal lives in Foxrock, Dublin, with his extended family including his grandson.