Insight alum Alan Holland headshot

Insight Alumni: Alan Holland, Founder and CEO Keelvar Systems

Submitted on Thursday, 08/06/2023

Alan Holland started a PhD in 2002 under the supervision of Prof Barry O’Sullivan. The Cork Constraint Computation Centre (4C) as it was known then was in its infancy and he was among one of the first PhD graduates in 2005. He conducted research at the intersection of Computer Science and Economics, looking at topics related to Algorithmic Mechanism Design and how to combine multiple objectives in large or complex auctions that involved expressive bidding and constraints on winner determination.

‘My research was academically challenging and commercially relevant so the work was particularly rewarding in that regard. I continued lecturing in UCC after graduating until late 2012 when I set up Keelvar and entered the startup world. With a small team and seed funding we embarked on the adventure that sought to bring advances in computing and intelligent systems to the arcane world of B2B procurement. It was challenging in the early years when we were evangelising new and more sophisticated approaches but it developed
momentum and just over ten years later we have 115 staff. We work with customers such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Caterpillar, J&J and Novartis
and help them manage $150bn in spend more efficiently each year.

My period in research has given me the basis for establishing a unique product vision that has empowered our business. It has helped Keelvar by educating graduates and postgraduates on the intricacies of Optimisation and Machine Learning, key skills that are required in our domain. Our hub remains in Cork and we continue to support interns and
hire graduates from Insight. We feel luck to have such a close connection to that research centre and feel there is a strong synergy between our business and the research and education conducted there.’