SMARTPHONE users flick their way through about 30 apps in an average month, ranging from small, local business offerings, to banking, trading or social media platforms.

As a software engineer specialising in app development and digital consultancy, Dundee-based Waracle is well-positioned to take advantage of the clamour for major institutions across banking, financial services and pharmaceuticals, who are waking up to the digital reality and feel they have to out-source certain aspects of their digital offerings.

Waracle was spun out of Abertay University when Michael Romilly and Mike Warton had aspirations to create a gambling and gaming mobile app.

A former economist at ekosen, David Romilly, brother of Michael, joined the business in 2010 at a time when he says mobile was really beginning to move.

Shortly afterwards, Waracle became the first company to develop an app for the Scottish Government, as part of its Love Food Hate Waste programme.

“We were just stomping the streets looking for contracts,” said Mr Romilly. “People were just getting their head around the web, never mind mobile, but we saw the value in it. We went on the rampage really, so picked up lots of mobile work.”

These small contracts kept the business going, and its ambitions only grew with the recruitment of Chris Martin, who is now chief executive.

With an extensive background in software development across a number of businesses, Mr Romilly says Mr Martin’s appointment brought contacts, experience, and knowledge of software engineering processes.

“We’d winged it up until then. We had to get smarter, make better hires,” he says.

Contracts soon began to build – the Ryder Cup, Imperial College London, NCR. And then came Clydesdale Bank.

The company won a contract to act as the bank’s on the ground app development partner, working in their building.

Mr Romilly says this brought the business to the attention of larger corporations. It also brought them to the attention of Edinburgh-based IT consultant Exception and, in December 2015, Waracle was acquired in a seven-figure deal – but maintains its own brand and staff.

In its first accounts since that deal was finalised, for the 18 months to December 2016, Waracle grew revenue on a like-for-like basis by 159 per cent to £4.8 million and pre-tax profit by 152 per cent to £820,000.

“They put us in front of their financial service clients and helped generate business for us and them through having this new service offering,” says Mr Romilly.

“The companies fit really well together. You have nervousness about being taken over by a larger, more corporate company but they’ve been amazing, they actually really see the value in what we do.”

That the company has grown slowly over nine years works to its advantage, says Mr Romilly, as opposed to a business that has scaled up rapidly.

“We’ve grown up doing apps for a night club or golf courses, where there are not many features or functionality and they’re not being stressed by hundreds of thousands of concurrent users,” he says.

“That’s where I feel we operate on a different plain to mobile operators in Scotland. We’ve elevated ourselves out of ‘we’ll develop you an app for your business’ to ‘we can take on a whole programme of mobile work to customers who use your app around the world’. We’re now knocking on doors of big consultancies.”

It is winning contracts like this that Mr Romilly hopes will take the business to the next level, and time and again he returns to highlight the skills and the “serious salaries” the company must pay to get there..

“We don’t want to be builders, we want to be architects,” he says.

A move last month to a modern new office at the Glasgow Collective, near the Barras, will help facilitate plans to push turnover past £10m this year. “We have people doing remote projects for global clients, but it also acts as a hub for overseeing big contracts in Glasgow,” says Mr Romilly.

Interestingly, he adds that future growth could be restrained purely because of the level of skills the company demands of its staff. That may explain why a number of recent new-starts have moved from JP Morgan, the financial services giant that runs its technical centre from Glasgow.

A new contract in Edinburgh with a major financial services provider will result in the recruitment of 12 more staff, taking the number to more than 100.

From there, Mr Romilly says the business is beginning to look globally, but given the remote nature of its work, that may not require offices outside the UK.

“The tenders we see now have global reach, and that’s great. We started this from a few guys in Dundee to becoming competitors for global contracts. When I reflect on that tiny office with a few guys trying to hustle for contracts, it’s been a pretty incredible journey.”

Mr Romilly admits that looking back 10 years ago when the first iPhone launched, he could not have envisaged the scale of that industry today. “Very quickly, millennials switched on to mobile and it took a while for businesses to catch up.”

He adds: “When [the iPhone] first came out even the BBC reported on whether it was a fad. Within a few months you could see it was real.”

Technology is not slow in advancing though, and today the Waracle offering has moved into voice control, health mobile and smart homes.

Voice control – such as the technology used by Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Home or Amazon Echo – is very much seen as the next major development.

“Ten years on, what is even more interesting is the next 10 years,” says Mr Romilly. “As voice comes in it is going to disrupt many industries, it’s going to disrupt the way people use technology.

“When you watch children now, voice is second nature to them and that is an incredible significant shift in user behaviour.”