There are growth curves and then there is the vertigo-inducing rise and rise of Cibecs. Started just five years ago as a partnership between Dewing Holdings, represented by brothers Richard and Neal Dewing, and CICA Holdings, represented by Ilze Pieterse, the venture has grown to dominate the business computer back-up industry, signing on clients like the South African National Prosecuting Authority, Unisys, Dimension Data, Business Connexion and GijimaAst. In 2008, it caught the attention of venture capitalists at Hasso Plattner who invested an undisclosed sum to take a minority shareholding, and in the first four months of 2010, it tripled its 2009 revenue figures. Not bad going for a company that was started in a lounge.
Richard Dewing, a rare breed of IT geek with a talent for explaining things in layman’s terms, sums up the company’s core offering in a single sentence: “Cibecs software automates the data back-up and recovery for enterprises’ PCs and laptops.” You mean businesses aren’t already doing this, you ask. “Surprisingly no, they are not,” he answers, “Most businesses have a server back-up but even if they have a personal computer back-up policy, most employees simply don’t follow it. Then when their computer crashes or their laptop is stolen, they lose all their work and because it’s not backed up, it can’t be recovered. This represents enormous risk for the company and causes loss of both time and income,” he says. And it’s not just small companies that aren’t doing it; most large corporates don’t have systems in place to effectively and automatically manage this problem.
The beauty of the Cibecs system is that it addresses one of the very reasons why staff fail to perform personal back-ups in the first place. Dewing explains: “In order to back-up your PC or laptop you usually have to copy all your files across to the server. This is incredibly time-consuming – besides which, if all a company’s employees happened to perform this task at the same time, the system would usually crash under the strain.” Cibecs has been designed to only back up the very latest changes to a document. “Instead of copying the entire document across, the software updates the latest changes to the document which takes up far less time, and uses up far less space. The data is then compressed, and encrypted,” he adds. And because it’s automated, it happens without the need for personal intervention from each employee.
Adding new value
But while Cibecs might have been one of the first companies globally to develop and offer software of this nature, the market has since opened up and competition has increased. Nevertheless it’s retained its position as industry leader, partly because of the way it has evolved beyond its initial back-up software offering. “We have a very strong focus on helping businesses to improve their operational efficiencies,” says Dewing, illustrating a fine understanding of the importance of changing clients’ perceptions of back-up software from a ‘grudge purchase’ to something that can help them save time and money. “Cibecs means far more than ‘insurance in the event of a crash or theft’. Because of the way the system has been designed, it doesn’t take an entire day to recover lost data or rebuild data on an employee’s new machine – it takes minutes. This means clients save time, frustration and money,” he adds.
All eyes on expansion
Looking to the future, Cibecs has its sights set on some big strategic partnerships, the first of which it signed with GijimaAst in 2009 to the tune of more than R250 million. “This deal sees GijimaAst offering all of its customers the Cibecs solution,” says Dewing, adding that partnerships of this nature represent a much quicker and more effective route to market for the company. “For companies like GijimaAst, whose core business is managed IT services, it provides the opportunity to really differentiate in a market that is becoming increasingly commoditised,” he says. Dewing and his team are also hard at work expanding their international operation with the planned establishment of three offshore branches (the company already has clients in the Middle East, United States, Europe and Canada).
In spite of all this success, however, Dewing remains grounded. “People look at where we are today and they don’t realise the hard work it took to get here and the many mistakes and difficult lessons we had to learn along the way,” he says. The most important of these? “Surround yourself with great people but never make the mistake of thinking you can hand the big things over to someone else, and expect them to do it with the same passion that you have. Being an entrepreneur is all about being hands-on.”
Player: Richard Dewing
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