Matt Grainger talks to George Ilko, co-founder of Vitesse Managed Services, about the firm’s beginnings and the services it offers that other providers don’t.
How did the company come to be founded?
Basically, I was working on a customer site. The directors had several problems with their infrastructure that had been ongoing for a while and had had several IT companies in to deal with it.
It was actually a trading tool for a company that clears hundreds of millions of pounds worth of Government bonds so it was really a critical site.
As a result I was approached by the directors, who said: “We like the way you work, we like the business model that you use. We think it would go well in the city and we’d be quite prepared to back the business.”
So we set up a company, started trading and we haven’t looked back since.
They said that to you personally?
Yes. We set up the business in November last year, we started trading in March this year and we’ve been paying telesales companies to generate leads as well as building up our own marketing.
We’ve got MDF funding from companies such as Symantec and we’ve generated our own leads as well from existing partnerships and whatnot. So we’ve started trading and we’ve hit the ground running.
So this is all relatively recent then?
It is. You could say we’re a startup.
Okay, so why financial services in particular? Is that just how it worked out or was it a very specific direction for you?
It was very specific purely because, under FSA regulations, it’s a requirement for firms to meet data protections standards. It’s not just something that’s nice to have – it’s actually a stipulation. The FSA data protection handbook, for example, says you have to have a business continuity plan, you have to have your data backed up, you need to be able to archive telephone calls, emails, anything for a spot audit by the FSA.
So how did you come up with what is essentially an untried business plan?
By doing some thorough research. My role previously was IT director for the EMEA region for a film company, which involved reading digital cinema specifications – a 400 page document – and having about three days to assimilate the information and then head out and pioneer the digital cinema initiative.
I had a similar experience when reading the FSA data protection handbook. You need to be compliant with FSA regulations.
I also found that there are around 11,000 FSA regulated companies in the EC1, 2, 3, 4 and E14 areas and there was no single incumbent provider that was servicing these companies. There were lots of IT companies that were generalists and had a foot in that camp as part of a marketing exercise, but no one dedicated to that sector. So we’re the first company in the UK to target purely the financial sector in that way.
How does Vitesse differ from other managed service providers?
Purely the FSA focus. We deal with concepts and services that most other service providers won’t even have heard of, so we’re really plugged in to that industry. It could be you’re looking for a search string to put in to a Bloomberg terminal to find a piece of information or you want to set up a Bloomberg terminal on your network and you’re not sure how to architect that, then that’s the kind of thing we can help with.
How are you planning to develop over the next couple of years?
We’ve got a database of every FSA regulated firm in the areas we’re targetting and we’ve got a managed services bundle that targets FSA requirements.
Another thing is that we’ve teamed up with Symantec to become a managed security specialist, so by working with them, they take us in to some larger accounts that we wouldn’t previously have had a hope of getting in to in the early days by offering to be their feet on the ground so to speak.
So they cover security operations from their centre in Reading and if something goes wrong, they notify us and we can be their operating arm.
Although it’s early days for you, what would you say has been the biggest challenge so far?
It’s been getting the contact details for the compliance officer within firms – specifically the compliance officers that we need to sell our proposition to. Although we bought a database with every relevant FSA registered company in our area, we didn’t have the details for the people we needed to talk to.
That’s where the partnership with Symantec helped because they introduced us in to their accounts. They’ve got a great financial services sector presence so we’re taking that route as a trusted partner to reach the marketplace.
What does this partnership involve? How strong is it?
Well basically I’ve worked with them for years. I’ve contributed articles for them every month, I’ve presented for them at the RSA Conference. I’ve done a lot of work with them and I have been able to leverage that strong relationship.
So the company has been strongly built on the knowledge that you have...
Well, that’s not really true. Our directors, Richard and Andrew, they’ve been in the industry for over 40 years. They run a clearing company and deal with Government bonds and have been through the whole accreditation process, so they’ve got a whole heap of knowledge that has been very useful in the industry. Not to mention contacts.
Okay, it may seem like a cheeky question, but how has it taken so long to set up a company with such a great proposition?
It’s not a cheeky question at all. It’s just that sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to spot and it was just sitting there in front of me. You sit around, you do your work and sometimes you’re blinded by what’s in front of you. It took the impetus of the directors, Richard and Andrew, to say ‘this is a good opportunity’ to be the catalyst.
Just to touch on CompTIA. I understand that as well as them being a client, you are actually a member too. How does that help a relatively small company like yours?
It’s the experience of the other people in the room. I go to the UK reseller forums and there are people there who have decades of industry experience.
I’m actually helping CompTIA to build a best practice guide for managed services and the IT industry in general. I’m on the executive council there, as voted by my peers, and that’s been invaluable to learn from people like Richard Tubb and Lee Evans.
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