Some time ago, we had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Law from Giacom. We talked about the company’s latest results and operations. Below, you can read the excerpt from this interview.
Giacom was founded in 1999 as an IT service provider to support small and medium businesses across the UK. Over the years, Giacom have worked with top vendors across the world such as Microsoft, Acronis, Bitdefender and Vade and built up an excellent understanding of what their partners need to support their customers. Two decades after its establishment, Giacom has become the UK’s leading Cloud Solutions Provider for SMB’s delivering high-quality, user-friendly and cost-effective cloud services to more than 3,500 IT resellers through its partner network.
About Steve Law
Steve Law, Chief Technology Officer at Giacom, joined the company two and a half years ago to help professionalise the technology side of the company to support its continued growth. He has many years of experience in managing growth from scratch at both start-ups and large enterprises. In all the positions he’s held, Steve has been responsible for building and leading engineering teams to create world class SaaS and Cloud products. He also managed all aspects of day-to-day technical and product operations on an international basis, including the legal and financial. Steve has a passion for technology, remarkable leadership skills and a nose for recruiting and managing brilliant people.
PC: In the last couple of years, Giacom has experienced enormous growth. Your company’s success story features a significant pivot, right?
SL: Yes. Generally, we’ve been very lucky. We had a very exciting period of growth over the last five years, which, as you say, has been driven by a pivot. Giacom’s main business from 2010 to 2015, was providing hosted email and email security services, which allowed us to build up a really loyal base of IT providers and build a successful business. But in 2015 we saw that Microsoft was really starting to get some traction with Office 365. Our concern was that they would end up eating our launch. So effectively our service would become irrelevant – everybody would use Office 365 and wouldn’t be interested in our service.
So, we had a conversation with Microsoft, who at the time had a number of global partners (including multi-billion-dollar businesses that they’ve worked with) and somehow, we managed to persuade them to add us to their partner list on a new program that they introduced, called CSP. We were offered the opportunity to become a Tier 2 Partner which is essentially a distributor.
Ultimately what we do is provide software to IT providers, who then provide it to their customers. This really revolutionised our business. And that’s all driven on the back of us providing not only the Microsoft products like Office 365 and Azure, but also a growing portfolio of other products from companies like Acronis and Vade to support our IT provider customers. So yes, it’s been really interesting growth and as you say, on the back of an interesting pivot.
PC: Two years ago, you were brought into Giacom by the CEO, Chairman and investors Livingbridge. What were they looking to change and achieve by bringing you into Giacom?
SL: I would say that fundamentally they were looking to bring in some technology leadership and to address a number of challenges as the business continued to scale very quickly. Building out the technology teams and trying to professionalise our processes and practices, in particular in the software engineering and infrastructure teams. Finally, also spearheading our move to the cloud.
So, a big part of my focus over the last two years has been building out a world-class team. I was very lucky that we had some great people there already when I joined, but obviously we are growing very quickly and it’s important to continue to develop and grow the team. And we’ve managed to bring in some really high-quality people, so I’ve got a great team today that’s got some really good skills.
And interestingly, we’ve brought that team in from far and wide, including a number of people that I’ve brought over from India, that I had worked with in previous roles. It’s a really good team that delivers a great service to our customers and built some important foundations in terms of architecture. A lot of which these days is on Azure, so we use many of the tools that we sell. I think, hopefully, I’ve achieved the things that they wanted when I was brought in.
PC: Steve, I know that you have a fascinating background. Can you tell us more about your career?
SL: Yes. So, I guess I’ve had a long (as I’m quite old) and varied career, including quite a number of different technology and leadership roles in a mixture of different companies, start-ups, high growth technology companies. I’ve done a bit of Silicon Valley over the years, I guess the more interesting ones – certainly my kids always think so!
I spent some time in the games industry back in the 1980s (just to show how old I really am). I used to write 8-bit games for Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore 64, etc. I used to personally write them as well as run a small business in that space. And I’ve also done a stint in the games industry more recently, where I was running teams building Xbox, PlayStation, and GameCube games.
So, I’ve definitely done some fun things. More recently, before I joined Giacom, I spent 10 years with Capita in product and technology leadership roles, running a number of their vertical market software businesses, in sectors like education, local government, etc. During that time, I built some very large scale and successful SaaS products using a lot of Azure as well, which was great fun.
PC: Steve, we came together last year when you were looking to select a partner to work with your teams to drive Giacom’s success to the next level. You’ve got loads of nearshore, offshore, on-site software delivery experience. Could you tell us a bit about what attracted you to PGS Software?
SL: Yes, no problem at all. I’ll put that experience into context. So obviously I’ve been running development teams for certainly 20 plus years, both multi-site and multi-country development teams. The best example of my experience on the near and offshore front is with Capita. I built an Indian Offshore Development Centre for their software businesses so started from ground up, from employee number one. And I think when I left, I probably had about 500 staff that we’d recruited into that development centre and we were centralizing all of our software development into that. I think that’s now got well over 1000 staff in that service centre. That obviously gave me a lot of experience dealing with many of the challenges that are associated with remote development and getting teams and businesses to work over geographically dispersed teams.
When I joined Giacom, it was clear early on that we need to significantly increase our capacity. We had a go at doing that locally, in Hull, and to be honest – Hull is not Silicon Valley (well, not yet anyway).
Obviously, we’re trying to slowly turn it in Silicon Valley, but we have still got a few years to go. So, it became clear that we needed to augment our capacity outside of that we could do locally. I looked at a number of different options and decided that a nearshore partner would make the most sense for us. Somewhere we could travel to and back, potentially in a 24-hour window and have closer time zone match. We selected and talked to a long list of potential partners. I think we probably had conversations with maybe 15. I shortlisted that down to three and booked a week out to come and do a trip around Europe.
Interestingly, I had just managed to recruit myself a Head of Development and his first week on the job was with me in Europe, so that was a fun experience for him. He got to learn about me very quickly, in an intense way. But we had a great trip around Europe, and we came to see the three partners that we selected of which you guys were one. And interestingly, PGS Software – being very open – was not our favourite before we came.
By that, I mean that PGS Software wasn’t the one that we expected would come out best in our evaluation. But to be very honest, we were blown away from the minute we walked in the door at your office. We really liked that kind of setup. But most importantly, we really liked the people. For me, building great software requires great people. It’s like everything in life. You can’t get the job done without having the best people available and software engineering these days and building complex software is a hard job. It requires really, really smart people that enjoy what they do, are focused on what they do, and really want to do it. And all of the engagements we had with everybody at PGS Software, right from day one, that’s what shone through: a really great set of people that just love software engineering, which is obviously what we needed. It frankly became a very easy choice in the end. And our experience over the last 9-10 months has matched what we saw when we first came over. So, we are really pleased with the choice.
PC: Thank you very much. It’s fantastic to partner up with you and share the Giacom journey. We wish you all the very best going forward.
Learn more in the video interview below: