There is no better illustration of an entrepreneur at work than Oriium’s Managing Director Chris Kiaie who, boosted by significant funding, has entered the next phase of expansion.
In July fast growing channel-only cloud services and solutions provider Oriium secured a seven figure funding package from Allied Irish Bank to fuel organic growth and acquisitions. The company is already on target for £11 million revenues this year, a significant leap from £2.8 million in 2015. And according to Kiaie the new investment signals another step-change for Oriium and its expansion strategy. “Up to this point the business has been fuelled by its own steam and cash generation,” he stated. “While that’s a sound way to build a sustainable organisation it doesn’t necessarily equate to rapid unrestricted growth. We’ve got Oriium to this point as fast as possible, now we’re supercharging our development and growth while remaining fully in control with our debt partner.”
When Chairman Ryan McCarry joined the company in 2015 both he and Kiaie set their sights on achieving a £10 million-plus run rate by 2018. “We’ve achieved that and exceeded our initial goal,” stated Kiaie. “But to sustain this rate of growth and ensure that all areas of the business continue to receive the level of investment required it was the right time to find a funding partner.”
Leeds-based Oriium has evolved greatly over the last 10 years, as has the markets in which it operates. Therefore products and services require continual development and Oriium’s focus during the last three years has been on application delivery and the associated data dependencies.
“The environments where applications and data reside have become broader and more complex than ever before and we need to continue to invest heavily to ensure our services not only remain relevant but lead the market,” he stated.
Kiaie founded Oriium in 2007 on his return from Sydney where he worked for a ‘phenomenal’ software start-up that specialised in data management. “Australia was meant to be a year out but I took a job opportunity at Commvault that was too good to miss,” he said. “Oriium’s first incarnation was a direct technical services and outsourced infrastructure supplier targeting small and medium size organisations. The initial goal was to fill a void and supply enterprise grade solutions and quality of service into a market segment that at the time was poorly serviced. I started the business because I have a passion for technology and believed in what we were doing and how we wanted to help our client base.”
Oriium’s customer base is largely made up of heavily regulated organisations – pharmaceuticals, financial services, blue light etc – with stringent compliance requirements. The company also serves clients with vast complex IT estates spanning on-premise, hybrid and cloud environments. All the services are delivered by a team of 70-plus staff based mainly in Leeds but also spread throughout the UK.
“A major milestone in our development was the need to recruit a capable sales team and business unit leader,” noted Kiaie. “This was a real challenge for me personally. Once set up, creating coherent sales plans, commission structures and managing targets presented a steep learning curve. We’re now in a great place where we have confidence in our team to deliver against forecasts, but it’s easy to see why this is such a pain point.”
Kiaie has a practical rather than academic leaning and at the age of 17 a poor college attendance forced him to leave education and start working full-time for a local television producer in Leeds. “That year he was BAFTA nominated for his documentary on the world land speed record, so to be part of the technical production team was immensely exciting and gave me a technical appetite,” commented Kiaie.
“A year later I was lucky enough to be offered a directorship at a newly formed Harrogate-based IT services company. We had a superb initial year but at 19 I had underestimated the pressure the role would bring and left to pursue a more focused financial integration job in the UK bedding industry. This taught me a lot about finance, process and management – all skills which are invaluable to any MD.”
Kiaie learnt that a thriving business development strategy that fuels organic growth is key. “We’ve built platforms, processes and personnel for scale,” he explained. “This was a significant priority for us during the last two years. We have also spent time integrating the add3 application practice into our business following the acquisition in 2016.
“Oriium’s application practice represents an exciting opportunity for customers to truly understand and control their complex application estates, rather than taking a legacy infrastructure approach. Gaining visibility of the end user experience and application interaction allows a business to deliver applications far more effectively. When you combine this with our skilled data teams you have a complete 360 degree view of two of the most important client assets – applications and data.”
Applications in the context of public cloud migration is still relatively immature and poorly serviced in the marketplace, believes Kiaie. “There’s generally a one-size-fits-all approach with companies simply lifting and shifting existing virtualised workloads,” he stated. “This doesn’t represent the ethos or power of public cloud computing platforms and customers get a less than ideal final solution.
“Mid-market ERP is another area of interest for me. The mid-market remains poorly serviced in my opinion and the legacy players are both unwieldy and costly for most mid-sized organisations. Finance software has come a long way in the last three years but in comparison to other sectors remains far behind. You only have to look at the banking sector for the evidence. But change is definitely coming – it has to.”
Oriium’s efforts are now focused on both mid-market and enterprise organisations as Kiaie finds these segments less congested and in need of greater specialist attention to resolve their challenges. “We have the credentials and experience to support their stringent requirements and ambitions as we continue to innovate in our core competency areas – application control and data management,” he said. “This ultimately means building a range of managed services, cloud services and professional services that help customers manage, control and protect their data and applications, no matter where they reside. We do this by working with vendors such as Commvault, Citrix, Microsoft, Druva to name a few.”
Operating solely via the channel Oriium takes many cues from partners. “We listen to their feedback on product and service demand, commercial requirements and enablement activities and translate that into our portfolio,” said Kiaie. “We’re also agile enough to develop or change our products as the market or our partners evolve. Subscription services and utility billing is a good example of this with the vast majority of our services being made available flexibly as capex, opex, short or long-term. We’ve also broadened our portfolio of services so that members of our network are able to take advantage of cross-sell and up-sell opportunities within their accounts. An added benefit of working with Oriium is the combined feedback received from over 200 partners, 1,000 clients, the market and vendors alike.”
Now in its 10th year and hurtling towards £12 million revenue Kiaie confirmed that it’s likely he will seek more investment in the future. “Firstly, we intend to apply the capital we have to generate significant business growth, mainly organically but also through acquisition,” he added. “It’s vitally important to the entire Oriium team that throughout this journey we don’t lose sight of the attributes that made us the company we are today – complete customer focus and services that excel from a technology and commercial standpoint.
“In terms of acquisitions, you have to be open minded as high quality well run businesses that are looking for an acquirer don’t grow on trees. We have some criteria that must be met – excellent customer satisfaction, not just good. A service catalogue that delivers real value, not questionable ‘man in the middle’ or ‘supplementary’ services. And good recurring trade focused on managed services and customer support. It is also vital that the business offers value to customers in our core focus areas of data and apps.”
Just a minute with Chris Kiaie...
I respect anyone who has the tenacity and vision to lead a business and succeed
What talent do you wish you had?
To play the piano
Your greatest fear?
Failure. That’s the biggest driver of my work ethic
If you weren’t in comms what would you be doing?
A project such as smart home technology, home automation and what the IoT means for consumers
One example of something you have overcome:
Surviving the housing market crash with a string of property investments. Painful, costly and hard to rectify
Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I own a robotic lawn mower
What possession could you not live without?
Our big blue Audi Q7 we call the ‘mega bus’. Great for our kids, family visits and luggage
Name three ideal dinner guests:
Chris Evans, Kevin Bridges and Adel. There’d be great stories, laughs and music
Deliver tangible value and be relevant to your customers. They always vote with their feet
How do you relax?
Time with my family and friends and messing about in sailing boats when I get the chance
Best piece of advice you have received?
Fail fast. Failure is normal, just do it quick and learn from your mistakes
Your key strength and what could you work on?
I react very quickly to events. Sometimes this is great, other situations call for more consideration