Building a tech business from scratch in a data-driven world

In this Q&A, Paul Evans, CEO and co-founder of Redstor, explains how he built a tech business from scratch in a data-driven world.

Paul Evans is the CEO of Redstor, an international SaaS and tech business with a global scale data management platform.

He co-founded Redstor in the dining-room of childhood friend Tony Ruane in 1998, building it into a market-leading, multi-million-pound business with more than 100 employees in the UK and South Africa. During that time, Redstor has undergone four evolutions.

Version 1: Systems integrator.

Version 2: Cloud distributor.

Version 3: Backup SaaS company.

Version 4: Software business that provides a smart, cloud-native, all-in-one data management platform.

Information Age asked Paul what advice he would give to anyone building a tech business from scratch.

What made you start your own company and how tough was it at the beginning?

Tony and I were born an hour apart, had been friends since primary school and always wanted to start a business together. We saw a gap in the market for a consultative data management integrator that was not focused on ‘shifting tin’, but built bespoke solutions around backup, disaster recovery and archiving. We won out over our competitors because we were consultative and tailored solutions to customers’ needs.

What are the five golden rules for starting up a new business?

1) Identify a problem or something you can enhance which you can solve in a differentiated way.

2) Don’t procrastinate. Take those first small steps towards solving that problem or adding value.

3) Test what audiences will be receptive and whether your endeavours will be rewarded.

4) Get experienced help from board members, business advisers or angel investors.

5) Nothing replaces hard work, so stay focused and have the courage to adapt.

Above all, don’t wait for the big idea because that is what holds many people back. Once you set the ball rolling, you will find plenty of things to solve.

For example, Redstor was never satisfied with providing just backup. The early vision was to deliver “data on tap”. This evolved into building a smart, cloud native, all-in-one data management platform delivering backup, archiving, disaster recovery and migration, search and insight – all managed through a single, web-based control centre.

We also firmly believe in the world of streaming. Everyone does that at home to watch films and with Redstor, users stream data and recoveries and migrations in real time, much like they use Netflix. You wouldn’t download Netflix’s entire film catalogue to watch one film or pick up from where you left off. Redstor works the same way, allowing users to work on priority data while the rest recovers in the background. Whether data is on-prem, in the cloud or stored in a hybrid environment, our technology provides on-demand access.

What are the five golden rules for expanding a business?

1) Find a good business partner.

2) Surround yourself with great people.

3) Keep the team refreshed and learning; get the right people on the bus, and the right ones in the right seats.

4) Be persistent — half the battle is to stay in the game, lots of people give up.

5) Work hard and smart and be ready to adapt.

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How important is culture at Redstor?

Culture is everything. Every business is built with the people who work there. Redstor lives by the acronym FLIP. F is for Fun, ensuring we recruit people in a role that suits their nature. L is for Learning. We want people who are curious and keen to expand their knowledge. I is for Integrity. We make sure we are open in everything we do. P is for Profit. If our customers and partners benefit, so do we.

What has been your biggest obstacle and how are you keeping Redstor one step ahead?

We have always had lots of ideas at Redstor, but a lack of financial backing meant we were never able to go large early on. Today we are backed by Beech Tree Private Equity and like all investors they look for trusted, backable management teams with great ideas in growing markets, so be persistent.

Many of today’s biggest businesses — Amazon, Facebook, Netflix and Spotify — are data companies. As data moves to the cloud, Redstor is investing in more connectors for Microsoft 365, Google Workplace, Xero, Intuit and Sage and Salesforce so that customers can discover, manage and protect their data from one place, ensuring oversight with the ‘big picture’.

What was the best decision you made in 2020?

Being completely focused on the end-to-end channel and customer experience — ensuring everything is smart, safe and simple during the lifecycle of the user.

Intuitive software makes data management quick and easy, but we also put our marketplace and training online. This enables MSPs to accelerate their entire sales journey by onboarding, converting, provisioning and billing faster. Many companies concentrate on just tech but we redoubled our efforts on the entire user and service experience. This customer-centric, holistic approach saw an 11-fold growth in our cloud revenue.

What should senior tech leaders be focusing on in 2021?

Stay relevant in a world where everything is connected and data driven. The pandemic has proved you can work from anywhere. It is vital, though, to have the right tools, people and insights to interpret and apply all this data in a meaningful way.

The adoption of 5G will lead to a massive explosion in edge computing with trillions of endpoints. Everything from a washing machine to our health will be controlled by a little chip. Artificial Intelligence has existed in commerce and retail for years, but the future will be the embedding of machine-learning into the mainstream world — everything we do.

As data becomes more valuable, it is important to make sure it’s not more vulnerable too. Security concerns increase as we become more connected. Managed service providers know they need to protect the time and reputations of their customers with smarter, more modern data management, which is simpler and easier to use, if they are to enjoy recurring revenue and enduring relationships.

Being nimble with a rapid release cycle, Redstor can adapt quickly. Soon we’ll have new functionality for migration to Azure, with support for blob storage and Azure SQL, and we will also provide our partners with a malware detection product in the new year as part of our multi-factor protection.

Whether it is Redstor using AI to spot malware, or the government plotting patterns of behaviour to determine whether a lockdown is working, the big challenge is to interpret all this data in real time. That way we can make more informed decisions.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...