Founder and CEO of Calligo, Julian Box had a chat with CanadianSME to discuss his inspiration behind starting his company, the programs they offer that can benefit SME owners and his advice to entrepreneurs when it comes to IT and data privacy.
Julian Founded Calligo in January 2012 and is the company’s CEO and CTO. He is responsible for delivering Calligo’s vision of building a client-centric business with data services based on the most innovative cloud technologies that optimize the data journey while ensuring that data privacy continues to be at the heart of the organization and our services.
He brings over 30 years’ experience helping organizations streamline operations through the innovative application of technology. He has founded several start-up companies, including VirtualizeIT, an award-winning technology company, as well as co-founding Virtustream Inc., a venture capital-backed cloud service provider which raised over $120m in funding from several US-based venture capital institutions and was sold for $1.2B in May 2015.
He also applies his unique expertise as a non-exec to several FinTech businesses as well as working with several local schools on their technology roadmaps. These include Jersey College for Girls whereas a governor he works with the school’s executive team on its technology road map and innovative ways of applying technology into all aspects of the curriculum.
What is your main day to day responsibility as CEO of Calligo?
My main focus recently has been M&A activity and opportunities – primarily our recent acquisition of Connected Technologies, which made us one of the largest providers of IT managed services in the Greater Toronto Area, and the largest provider of IT services to CPAs.
Otherwise, we tend to be on a three-year plan and I always believe that we need to be constantly checking it to confirm that our activities are aligned with our company’s goals. My role is mainly looking at our strategy and seeing how we might tweak it to take advantage of new trends to remain ahead of our competitors. And the rest of my time is dedicated to supporting and mentoring my senior team.
What inspired you to create Calligo?
It all came from becoming more and more interested in data and what you can do with it. This was back in 2011, and I felt there was an opportunity to offer cloud-based services differently. At the time, the whole point of the cloud was that you didn’t need to worry about exactly where your data was, provided it was secure and available.
However, I felt that this attitude would change. I could see that data privacy was starting to gain momentum, and it seemed at odds with the way in which cloud was perceived and used. I could see it was only a matter of time before the market would change, which was why we moved quickly to design and build the world’s first cloud platform with data privacy and residency at its heart.
Of course, I didn’t have a crystal ball so did not foresee the breadth of privacy laws and obligations that companies operate under now, I felt it was going to become best practice but as it turned out, privacy has become perhaps the most important aspect of running a business – understanding the laws around the data that you store and holding it legally and ethically.
If you could pick one specific skill that you have learned in your previous 30 years in the technology industry that has helped you most in your current role, what would it be?
You have really got to believe in what you are doing and understand exactly how it will help your clients. If your potential clients don’t need or like your product, it’s incredibly difficult to succeed. Also, if you deliver great customer service, it doesn’t matter what vertical you are in, I believe you will be successful.
Can you tell us more about the products offered at Calligo and how they can help Canadian SMEs?
We have a few main areas that we focus on. Privacy is, of course, the key to all our offerings.
We offer data privacy services, ranging from helping people understand the frameworks that apply to them and how to incorporate them into their business processes, all the way through to offering outsourced Data Protection Officer Services.
We also host our clients’ data in our own global cloud infrastructure – built specifically to address a business’ data privacy and residency priorities – or in Microsoft Azure. We have even built the world’s largest network of independently-owned Microsoft Azure Stacks, which allow businesses to create an entirely consistent hybrid cloud between Stack and public Azure, so you can take full advantage of the power and flexibility of Azure while guaranteeing your data residency and sovereignty.
The big one for our Canadian SME customer base is our managed services. 80% of our clients are on a managed service. We do everything from hosting our clients’ data all around Canada and across the globe to offering day to day support, monitoring services, and network performance and offering strategic counsel.
We also deliver AI services. This is a relatively new space, but our customers are keen to understand how and where they can use it more and more. We are focusing on delivering AI into the small to mid-tier business space, in a way that gives them access to capabilities that have typically up until now been designed for the bigger players. All with data privacy support alongside.
Has the onboarding process for your customers been a key focus when creating all of Calligo’s products? Your company prides itself on having award-winning processes in place to make the experience as “easy” as possible.
We have created a pretty slick process for moving people’s infrastructure from on-premise or another cloud to our services, whether that’s our cloud or Azure. Frankly, our process has to be slick – any issue in a cloud migration can affect how the company accesses and processes its information, and therefore materially impact its core function. And while it’s, of course, lovely to be congratulated or thanked for a good job well done, our measure for success is effectively silence – we want our clients’ teams outside the IT department to not even realize they have been onboarded!
Please describe how your vendor partnerships (with Microsoft, Lenovo, Intel etc.) have been essential to the success of Calligo?
We pride ourselves on finding great technology. In fact, we have a long track record of being the first adopters of innovative and proven technology. For example, we were first in the world to implement Azure Stack with Lenovo and the first cloud service provider to have an entirely SSD-based offering, putting us ahead of our competitors for performance and reliability.
We don’t stick to a badge, but we do put considerable effort into building face to face relationships with a small defined set of partners. This is where the rewards come from. They take time to build and maintain, but we have developed great mutually beneficial relationships with our vendors, which have led to us having remarkable access to the best technologies for our clients.
Where are most of your customers located?
We have clients all over the globe. Roughly 50% of our client base is in North America (Canada being the vast majority), and the rest comes from all over the world – primarily Europe and Asia.
What advice would you give to small business owners when it comes to IT solutions and data privacy?
SMEs should focus on what they want to do and not focus on technology. The more profitable use of a business’ time is to focus on its core service and offering, not the nuances of the tools it uses, which is why outsourcing IT, proves so popular.
As far as advice on data privacy is concerned, business owners need to make sure that nothing happens in their business with data before the teams responsible have ensured that they are acting legally and ethically. That goes for every interaction with a process, and every use of a tool that relies on data (which is most of them, to be honest!). It is especially important for new services and applications – privacy needs to be engineered into it.
If you have not put privacy at the forefront, you could run into serious trouble. People are much more aware of this nowadays and there is no defense of not knowing about it.
Where do you see the company going five years from now? What is the overall goal of Calligo?
We will always remain focused on data and helping our clients capture it, host it, use it in a legal and ethical way, and optimize its value for their businesses. Our services may grow and evolve, but that ethos will always remain. We also consider it important to help clients understand just how much they can do with their data and show them the opportunities that exist – provided of course their data is being treated legally and ethically in the first place!