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Rapid international expansion thanks to specialisation

Interview by Globe Magazine with Nino Tomovski, CEO of Infradata Group

Adequately securing IT environments and users is a complex and increasingly difficult matter. With identity theft, DDoS attacks and hacking all being lucrative business, hackers are using new techniques to more effectively disguise themselves and circumvent traditional solutions. ‘Security used to be the network manager’s responsibility,’ says Nino Tomovski, the CEO of Infradata. ‘But this is no longer the case; it’s a shared responsibility, and every IT professional has to deal with it on a daily basis.’

Nino Tomovski believes many companies and governments lack a sense of urgency about the importance of cyber security. ‘A lot of people think: “it's not that bad, it'll blow over.” But that's definitely not true.’ The CEO thinks companies need to learn to anchor security as a fundamental element in all projects and activities – and therefore also budget for it. This responsibility lies with the IT department and management. This is why Infradata has consciously chosen to specialise internationally in cyber security, cloud and networking. ‘Many of our clients operate on an international level. To meet increasing demand, we focus on the entire European market,’ says Tomovski, speaking at Infradata's headquarters in Leiden.

Infradata was founded in 2004 by Leon de Keijzer and has since grown into a global supplier of services and solutions for cyber security, cloud and networking. When the founder joined the Board of Directors in 2019, Tomovski was in charge of day-to-day management. He grew up in North Macedonia and graduated as an ICT Engineer in Boston, USA. ‘I worked for all kinds of companies after graduating. Having worked in the Netherlands since 2000, I joined Infradata in 2010, and I've held almost all the positions at the company.’

Tailored cyber security

In 2018, Infradata had to hire more than eighty new employees in several countries in order to be able to satisfy demand for security projects from companies and governments. ‘We’ve been growing very fast over the past three years, especially in various markets outside the Netherlands,’ says Tomovski. ‘Our clients are mainly in the manufacturing, financial and public sectors, but we also provide services to many universities and research centres.’ Since 2016, the company has been focusing on cyber security. 'Cloud security plays an important role in our business, as more and more governments, companies and organisations are connected to the cloud. Supported by our experts, we only deliver customised solutions. That's because each client has different needs and is exposed to different risks.

There's no such thing as “one size fits all”, given that each organisation's digital infrastructure is unique. We apply the Design Build Operate and Maintain (DBOM) principle in order to offer clients a comprehensive solution. Our international strategic partners, including F5 Networks, Fortinet, Juniper Networks, McAfee and Palo Alto Networks, play a key role in this.’

First international adventure

Five years after being founded, Infradata went international for the first time when it opened an office in Brussels in 2009. Achieving true organic growth, the office welcomed the big Belgian telecoms provider Mobistar (now Orange) as a client in 2010. In 2012, Infradata also won the trust of Telenet, another major Belgian telecoms player. But as with every new beginning, some years are good, and some years are bad, explains Tomovski as he reflects on the past. ‘With hindsight, our first international adventure was particularly important because we learned that it is essential to work with a strong local team. This needs to be a club of experienced professionals who understand the local market and the way the country does business.’

“Security used to be the network manager's responsibility. But this is no longer the case; it’s a shared responsibility, and every IT professional has to deal with it on a daily basis.” - Nino Tomovski, CEO of Infradata Group

Combining knowledge and technology

At one point, the company was faced with the choice of broadening its product portfolio or becoming a truly international specialist within the market. It decided on the second option. One year after establishing the Belgian office, Infradata also attracted its first clients in Germany. ‘We initially served these clients from our office in the Netherlands, but after continued growth, it was time to open an office there as well,’ says Tomovski.

In 2014, the company chose to open an office in the German city of Dortmund, which now employs 25 people. The Polish office – founded in 2012 – was also experiencing rapid growth at the time. ‘In 2014, we added Poland's three largest telecoms companies to our client portfolio! After that, Infradata's development gained momentum. More and more large clients followed in the telecoms sector, including well-known players such as KPN, Liberty Global and Vodafone. In 2015, Infradata acquired the UK-based Quonubes. ‘Being an independent expert in automation and networking, this company was a perfect fit for us. With the knowledge and combined technology, we were able to speed up the development of an innovative network platform. This allowed us to offer our UK-based clients services for managing and securing advanced network environments as we entered the UK market,’ said Tomovski.

French revolution

In 2016, Infradata acquired Paris-based cybersecurity specialist Nomios. ‘Nomios has a very strong position in the telecoms, financial, defence and other sectors. Approval from the French government was required for this acquisition, as Nomios secures critical data and IT infrastructure for public sector clients,’ explains Tomovski. To increase its strength in France, Infradata invested heavily in having a local presence in this market. ‘In addition to the main office in Paris, we now have six French offices. In total, our offices employ 130 people who work for over 600 clients, including many local authorities. By leveraging each other's expertise, we can provide an even better service to clients throughout Europe.’

“Above all, we’ve learned that it’s essential to work with a strong local team." - Nino Tomovski, CEO of Infradata Group

One identity

Opening offices and acquiring companies in other countries brings its own challenges. ‘The biggest challenge is working with people from different cultures and bringing them together to form one team,’ explains Tomovski. ‘In order to be successful, you need a shared identity that you also emanate to the outside world. But alongside the challenges, there are many advantages. Each country has its own specific knowledge and experience. As the various international teams work in close cooperation on projects, they learn from each other and strengthen each other. A plus point is that logistics within the EU are relatively easy to organise, but it may be a different story outside the EU. Countries such as Argentina, Brazil and India are challenging locations in which to start offering cyber security services, as importing and exporting involves complex processes.’

A secure and connected future

Poland is a recent example of our successful international expansion and the strong cooperation between the offices. In May 2019, having fought off five other candidates, Infradata secured the tender to develop the Polish National Education Network's comprehensive security system. This project has been successfully completed and provides safe, fast and free internet to over 25,000 schools in the country. Tomovski explains: ‘This confirms our unique experience and expertise in implementing these kinds of complex network and security projects. The selection was partly influenced by supplier recommendations and the innovative applied security technologies we offered.’

Infradata is a trusted IT infrastructure partner for large organisations and well-known brands such as eBay, KPN and Coolblue. When we ask Tomovski about the next step in his growth strategy, he says: ‘Our focus is really on Europe. From a strategic point of view, our initial aim is to capture a large slice of the German and UK markets. We are also very interested in Scandinavia and Switzerland, as we're already providing regular services to several clients there. Infradata wants to achieve this growth organically and through acquisitions. The private equity advisory group IK Investment Partners plays an important role in this second growth spurt in Europe, having taken a majority stake in Infradata in November 2018.

Source of publication: Globe Magazine by evofenedex, November 2019

25 November 2019

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