European hosting provider Combell Group is tapping into the explosion in data and how companies use it. We caught up with Stefan Rosenlund, its Managing Director in the Nordics.
For a measure of the continued excitement around the European hosting sector just talk to Stefan Rosenlund.
Rosenlund has been on quite a journey in recent years. Twenty years ago he set up Zitcom Group which, through organic growth and acquisitions, would become a leading Danish SME-focused hosting and cloud solutions provider.
Our view has always been that if there was a manual process in our business then we needed to automate it.
In 2015 the business was acquired by HgCapital which, during an 18-month ownership period, supported Zitcom’s acquisition and integration of four companies helping to double its customer base and revenue, and treble profits. Clearwater International advised on the deal.
In 2017 Zitcom was then sold to Intelligent, a Belgian headquartered provider of hosting solutions, which subsequently split itself into two hosting companies, one serving the SME market and the other larger companies. The business serving the SME market (and incorporating Zitcom) was rebranded the Combell Group, and late last year was sold to HgCapital.
Rosenlund says the fact that HgCapital had therefore reinvested in his former business showed the strength of the sector opportunity.
“Hg thought that there was more to do in this sector, while it naturally had a lot of industry insights from its previous ownership.”
Combell Group is a leading hosting player in Belgium and Denmark, and has growing positions in the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland as a onestop partner for web hosting, domains, e-commerce and application solutions.
Adds Rosenlund: “The investor proposition is very strong and I am passionate about helping SMEs. Every business needs a domain name, a website and an email address. And we are the first step when a company wants to digitally transform itself by providing that range of tools and apps that it needs.”
Rosenlund says that, in general, most SMEs are still only at the very start of their digital transformation.
“For a tech business like us it is a natural evolution. In our company automation was built in from the very beginning and, although you hear all this talk today around digital transformation, the truth is that it has been around for years. Our view has always been that if there was a manual process in our business then we needed to automate it. We constantly look at the questions that customers ask us and say ‘can we automate those answers’. By doing that we have built up a huge amount of data which means we can now do sophisticated things with that data, putting algorithms on top of algorithms.”
Rosenlund says for a lot of businesses automation is still a new concept and requires a big jump in thinking. And too often young businesses try to run before they can walk.
The investor proposition is very strong and I am passionate about helping SMEs. Every business needs a domain name, a website and an email address.
“Yes, automation allows you to scale your business. But a lot of businesses forget that before you start working with new tools you need the underlying data in order to do the complex things such as machine learning. They may talk about digital transformation, machine learning and AI, but often they haven’t even automated their own internal processes yet. That is the key step that a lot of companies are missing and it is exactly where we come in and help. You can buy a lot of platforms which automate different processes, but people can miss the point that you need to tie them together at the back end.
“Because a lot of businesses are not looking properly at what data they have in the first place, companies are missing a step around automation too.”
Given such scenarios, Rosenlund stresses that his main focus remains on serving his current customer base. But he adds that it would make sense to start looking further at other countries and expand its reach.
“We are interested in further opportunities in the rest of the Nordics and countries such as the Netherlands and Switzerland which have similar dynamics to Denmark and Belgium in that they are small markets with local champions. There is much more to do, and I’m looking forward to exploring that and taking everything a step further.”