Sister act: flying the flag for diversity in tech

Having driven her IT firm Xalient to No 40 on The Sunday Times 100 list – of which Vodafone Business is an event sponsor – founder Sherry Vaswani is now hoping her success will inspire other women to join the industry.

Sherry Vaswani had been thinking about Xalient, a developer of software that enables staff based anywhere to securely access systems and collaborative working tools, for three years before she was able to turn her vision into reality.

Vaswani, above, was restricted from starting a new business under a non-compete clause imposed after selling her previous company. She waited less than a day after it expired before incorporating Xalient in 2015.

“During that period, although I was working in a non-competitive sector, I stayed in tech,” says Vaswani, 49. “I spotted a trend for companies moving their applications to the cloud, and more people working remotely, both of which needed to be done securely. Network security is my area and I could see it would be transformative.”

She wasn’t wrong. The surging demand for greater digital security amid the growing threat of cyberattacks and the rise of home working has pushed Xalient to annual sales growth of 84.45 per cent over the past three years. Coupled with revenue of £26.3 million in 2021, that growth saw Xalient ranked 40th in The Sunday Times 100 list of Britain’s fastest-growing private companies, of which Vodafone Business is an event sponsor.

‘This was a chance to build a business that’s a really credible alternative to the sector’s big boys’

Vodafone Business also helps companies grow, and recently launched Vodafone Pulse Connect. It’s a flexible mobile, broadband and cloud calling package with just one bill that lets you add or remove users and tailor services to each employee, so you only pay for what you need.*

And Vodafone Pulse Connect also helps protect companies. Its plans include Lookout Security for Small Business**, providing mobile security and identity protection. The broadband package includes Cisco Meraki’s security and wi-fi device, which updates automatically to ensure you’ve got the latest protection, prevents unauthorised employees from accessing your network, and protects against malicious files; as well as Cisco Meraki Smart Cameras to deter criminal activity, detect threats and provide useful insights into on-site behaviour.

Xalient now employs 180 people in four countries – Britain, the United States, India and Romania – and continues to expand its workforce, with a particular eye on the US, where Vaswani sees the greatest potential for growth. Xalient caters for large global corporations that need to connect their network users and devices to apps and data, securely and efficiently.

“These companies were all very frustrated with the large outsourcers and traditional players who were dominating the network security market but were not very agile and not very focused on the customer,” Vaswani says. “So I thought, this is a chance to build a business that is completely going to challenge that norm and be a really credible alternative to those big boys.”

‘Showing that women can be leaders in the tech business can have a huge impact’

And with hybrid working becoming the norm, companies will need to continue to secure their networks to accommodate remote workers while remaining resilient to cyberattacks.

“Network security approaches used to assume users sit in offices and that you firewall the office, or that you’re logged on through a VPN tunnel and therefore you’re secure,” says Vaswani. “Even pre-Covid, that was an issue. There were big high-profile malware security incidents that proved this approach was not robust enough.”

Xalient takes what it calls a “zero trust” verification approach to securing a user’s devices, which reduces the risk of hackers penetrating a company’s systems. Covid accelerated a trend for home working that was already gathering momentum, increasing an already pressing need for businesses to ensure they have their cyberdefences in good shape.

“Businesses should be very concerned about cyberthreats, especially those companies that are a bit behind on carrying out their assessments,” says Vaswani. “I think large businesses have been concerned for a while, but medium sized businesses are realising they are targets just as much as the large ones. Every business knows there is a threat there.”

As well as focusing on the US market, which accounted for around half of Xalient’s revenue in 2021, Vaswani is looking to invest in more talent and innovation to ensure the business remains at the forefront of network security.

All Xalient’s new products are given female names such as Wanda, Iris, Sona and Martina, reflecting Vaswani’s belief in the importance of increasing diversity – especially the representation of women – in the technology industry.

“I have more of a stage than I realised,” she says. “I recognise there’s an opportunity to help with bringing more women into tech and creating a more diverse society.

“I didn’t used to think that was something I could affect, but I now realise I can. This helps bring the best people into your business. Showing that women can be leaders can have a huge impact.”

How do we move from network observability to proactive monitoring? It has been a challenge for most network teams for decades. One of the problems network teams face is the vast volume of data they deal with and the lack of time and skills to interpret it.

Two decades ago, that data was generally contained, with the majority of traffic understood by network teams. Today, the explosion of cloud apps and remote working has made understanding traffic a significant challenge. It is not just the volume of data but the complexity of that data that makes the challenge hard to overcome.

Stephen Amstutz, head of strategy and innovation at Xalient (Image Credit: Xalient)
Stephen Amstutz, head of strategy and innovation at Xalient

So, where do we start? To find out, Enterprise Times talked with Stephen Amstutz, who’s the head of strategy and innovation at Xalient. Amstutz believes that the move to software-defined networking gives us a chance for greater observability of data. He talks about the gains from having greater granularity into how applications are consuming the bandwidth.

But this is not just about utilisation. Amstutz says, “Not only are we getting utilisation statistics, but we’re also getting all of the metadata that goes along with that, so we know what applications are being used and consumed, and we know what users are consuming those applications. We’re able to much more effectively understand how the network is being used.”

That understanding allows an organisation to set its Quality of Service metrics to prioritise key applications. It also highlights where legacy applications are still in use. A critical area when companies are moving to the cloud.

To hear more of what Amstutz has to say, listen to the podcast here: Can AI get you from network monitoring to proactive observability? – (enterprisetimes.co.uk)

 

We are delighted to announce our new partnership with Volpi Capital, a pan-European B2B technology investor. Volpi’s investment will accelerate international growth, expand Xalient’s product and services portfolio, help scale our distinctive market proposition – all delivering greater benefits to our customers.

Xalient has demonstrated exponential global growth in recent years as businesses rise to the challenge of becoming more agile, more connected, and most critically, more cybersecure leading to recognition as one of the fastest-growing firms in the UK and Europe in 2022.

CEO Sherry Vaswani commented, “I’m extremely proud of Xalient’s accomplishments to date, especially our team of exceptional individuals in the UK, US, India and the rest of Europe, who have all helped define the company and drive its growth. Together, we have established Xalient’s market reputation for innovation and delivering business results for our clients. To continue building on this success and propel us into the next phase of our development, we set out to find an investment partner that would share our vision and ambition, align with our company culture, and have a track record of assisting disruptive technology companies like Xalient to grow and prosper on a global scale. Volpi met all of these requirements. Their high-energy team brings extensive industry knowledge and growth expertise, and we’re thrilled to partner with them.”

Mark Cooke, Chief Operating Officer added, “This is an exciting time for Xalient, we are witnessing rising global demand for Xalient’s integrated networking and security proposition, and for Martina, our unique AiOps product suite that we continue to build. We are excited to have Volpi on board so that we can scale our business to meet this market need, further developing our services portfolio to maintain our uniqueness and market relevance going forwards, and expanding our global reach.”

Scott Fairlie of Volpi Capital responded, “As a thematic investor, we had identified the global networking and cybersecurity market as highly conducive to international M&A consolidation and were actively looking for the ideal team to partner with. Sherry, Mark and the rest of the Xalient team impressed us from the beginning. The Company has an expanding portfolio of leading-edge technologies, a scalable organisation with integrated teams across the US, UK, India and Europe, and a track record of acquiring and growing blue-chip clients over time. In short, we are delighted to partner with Xalient and continue to build on their success”.

 

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About Xalient

Xalient, based in the UK and USA, counts Kellogg’s, Hamley’s, WPP and Keurig Dr Pepper among its clients. It was established just six years ago to disrupt the traditional markets for secure networking, taking advantage of the huge shift to cloud technology that has created high demand for flexible, cost-effective global connectivity and protection against increasingly complex cyber threats.

Combining transformative, software-defined network, security, and communication technologies with intelligent managed services, Xalient helps the world’s top brands become more resilient, adaptable and responsive to change.

 

*Xalient was named as #6 fastest growing tech companies headquartered in the UK in 2021 by Dun & Bradstreet.

*Xalient positioned #19 in the inaugural FEBE Growth 100, which recognises and ranks the UK’s fastest growing private businesses

*Xalient was named most recently in the FT1000 list of fastest growing companies across all sectors in Europe 2022.

*Xalient was ranked in 40th place in the prestigious Sunday Times Hundred list for 2022, which recognises Britain’s fastest-growing private companies.

 

For more information please contact:

Phil Davies
Marcomms Marketing Manager
Xalient
phil.davies@xalient.com

 

We’re incredibly excited to announce that we have won MSDUK’s 2022 High Growth Business of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year.

MSDUK champions the best of British Ethnic Minority Businesses. The awards recognise Xalient as an enterprise within the MSDUK network that has achieved the most growth despite the unprecedented business environment and acknowledges our CEO and founder, Sherry Vaswani, as one of the most inspiring ethnic minority entrepreneurs from across the UK for her poise and determination to succeed.

Speaking on the wins, Group Chief Executive Officer Sherry Vaswani said: “MSDUK does a first-class job in shining a light on ethnic minority-led businesses that may have something unique to offer given their diversity – innovation, agility, expertise, to name a few.

Their work in helping open doors for young entrepreneurs and guiding them on how to succeed with large corporates is much needed and brings a whole new approach to improving the diversity in supply chains.

We’re so proud to have won MSDUK’s 2022 High Growth Business of the Year award for the second year. This awards evening has been a terrific night of recognition and celebration of the great technology, science, and research in diverse organisations within the UK impacting the world.

It is also a great privilege to be awarded Entrepreneur of the Year. It would not be possible without the support of our amazing people, customers and partners. I would like to thank them for their continued support in helping us grow and achieve success and my congratulations to all the nominees and winners.”

The awards were part of a three-day programme of events as part of the MSDUK 2022 Conference, culminating in a Business Show at the QEII.

Xalient has been Lot 2 approved and will deliver SaaS applications which are accessed over the internet and hosted in the cloud.

We are proud to announce today that we have been accepted and approved on the Government G-Cloud 13 Framework to deliver SaaS applications which are accessed over the internet and hosted in the cloud.

The G-Cloud-13 Framework provides cloud hosting and software services and associated support services to UK central government departments and all other public sector bodies. IT solutions and consulting providers must apply and be approved to be accepted onto this framework. On 9th November, G-Cloud 13 will replace G-Cloud 12 and will continue to provide cloud hosting and software services, together with associated support services to the UK central government departments and all other public sector bodies.

“We are delighted to be approved on the G-Cloud 13 Framework and look forward to helping organisations on their digital transformation journey.  As public sector organisations grapple with the volatile economic environment and strive to automate and digitise more of their infrastructure, demand for greater network bandwidth is rising, but so is the cyber-threat environment.  Our security-first approach to networking and intelligent suite of AI-powered network monitoring and secure network access tools means we can deliver both speed and consistency of deployment, as well as the security, visibility and functionality organisations need,” comments Sherry Vaswani, founder and CEO, Xalient.

The UK Government G-Cloud is an initiative to simplify procurement of IT services by UK public-sector bodies. The G-Cloud consists of a series of framework agreements with suppliers, from which public sector organisations can buy services without needing to run a full tender or competition procurement process. Additionally, it provides an online store allowing public sector bodies to search for services covered by the G-Cloud frameworks.

The G-Cloud 13 agreement introduces the following changes from G-Cloud 12:

  • improved terms and conditions, with greater inclusion for the provision of day rate cloud support services
  • inclusion of the latest procurement policies, including social value and prompt payment
  • introduction of a fourth Lot to complement Lot 1, Lot 2 and Lot 3 for further competition for Cloud Support Services for larger, more complex requirements.

The benefits of the G-Cloud framework are many and include:

  • access to multiple suppliers and cloud services, including a high number of SMEs
  • quick and easy route to market
  • access to the latest cloud technology and innovation including:
  • cloud migration planning
  • Set up and migration
  • security services
  • quality assurance and performance testing
  • training
  • ongoing support

Xalient, a rapidly growing, global specialist in networking and cybersecurity services, announced today that it was ranked 40th in the prestigious Sunday Times Hundred list for 2022, which recognises Britain’s fastest-growing private companies.

In producing the rankings, the Sunday Times aimed to identify independent companies with sustained growth, that are profitable, have been creating jobs, and that show every sign of continuing to grow. You can view the full list here.

The list order and placement was numerically-driven, with companies listed in order of their compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in sales over the last two financial years.

Xalient also ranked in the top ten of women-founded businesses, where the challenges facing female founders in securing scale-up funding was highlighted.

Xalient CEO and Founder, Sherry Vaswani, said: “We’re very proud to be featured by the Sunday Times in this prestigious list. It’s been a whirlwind journey since founding Xalient, and these last couple of years in particular, we’ve achieved outstanding success and growth, at a time of widespread uncertainty and unique challenges. I’m also proud to see us represent tech companies and women-led companies, both of which form small segments within the list, and the latter an area I’m very passionate about championing.”

This recognition continues a hot streak of accolades for Xalient, having only last week been named in the FEBE Growth 100, as well as being listed in the 2022 Financial Times’ FT EUROPE 1,000 and Dun and Bradstreet’s inaugural 2021 D&B 50.

Xalient, a rapidly growing, global specialist in networking and cybersecurity proudly announced today that it has ranked in 19th place in the inaugural FEBE Growth 100 list, which champion’s Britain’s fastest-growing, founder-led private companies, celebrating true entrepreneurship, with some of the UK’s most impressive founders, inspiring the next generation of business leaders amidst a backdrop of cliché corporate awards.

The FEBE Growth 100, co-founded by Charlotte Quince and John Maffioli, was born out of a desire to reinstate the true meaning of entrepreneurship, by focusing on the founders behind incredible businesses, as well as a frustration with current corporate business awards and lists, which they consider in need of a shake-up. The duo’s aim to reinvigorate the award scene with authenticity and dynamism has culminated in a definitive list which celebrates the incredible achievements of some of the country’s leading entrepreneurs.

Following the COVID pandemic which posed unprecedented economic and emotional challenges for founders across the country, the FEBE Growth 100 recognises and celebrates 100 of the UK’s founders who have led, and continue to drive their businesses, to deliver significant sales revenue and consistent profit.

FEBE Growth 100 businesses must be UK registered, independent, unquoted, and an ultimate parent company, meeting the following criteria:

  • Sales between £3m and £200m
  • Trading for at least three years
  • An operating profit in the latest financial year
  • Founder(s) must still be involved

The ultimate ranking of 100 was data-driven, with companies ranked by compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in sales over the last two financial years. Businesses were initially selected by either nominating themselves or through organisations contacting them directly, as well as by accessing publicly available financial information. The full ranking can be viewed at www.febe.com.

Commenting on the launch of the FEBE Growth 100, founder Charlotte Quince said: “Our vision is to create something unlike anything else out there. We are building the greatest entrepreneurial celebration on Earth and a club that everyone wants to be part of and the Growth 100 is an integral part of that. So many people think that business founders just ‘get lucky’ or think of an idea one day and are successful the next. But we know that the journey to success is anything but smooth. The Growth 100 will celebrate those who have embraced the entrepreneurial roller coaster and who are now thriving as some of the fastest growing brands in the country.”

Xalient CEO and Founder, Sherry Vaswani, who has already been named as one of 10 Most Impactful Women in Technology 2021 by Analytics Insight, comments: “We are extremely proud to be recognised by FEBE.When I started the business six years ago, having spotted a gap in the networking technology space, I didn’t expect the company to accelerate so quickly and to have global brands and household names such as Kellogg’s, Keurig Dr Pepper and WPP among our customers. This has been a real team journey and we wouldn’t be in this position today, if it wasn’t for our people – and of course our wonderful customers – thank you.”

This accolade also comes on the back of recent recognition by Dun & Bradstreet who named Xalient the sixth-fastest-growing Technology Company in the UK and serves as further evidence that Xalient continues to accelerate at pace.

 

About the FEBE Growth 100

The Growth 100 annual list shines a light on the finest and fastest-growing privately owned businesses in the country, where the founder or founders are still involved. The Growth 100 list is being launched by FEBE, the club built for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs, which celebrates the greatest entrepreneurs in Britain. 

For more information, visit www.febe.com

By Kevin Peterson, Senior Cybersecurity Strategist, Xalient

Remote and hybrid working patterns have extended the corporate world into every home and user device, and as the global pandemic recedes, this is a trend that is here for the long term. In fact, it is hard to overstate the pace and extent of digital transformation undergone by the enterprise environment in the past two years. As 2022 unfolds, the daily working experience for employees looks very different to the way it looked before the pandemic.

Why “the network” has become irrelevant

Now that the hybrid environment has evolved employees can be anywhere; in the office, at home, on a train or in a coffee shop. From a security point of view, locking down the enterprise perimeter and securing network access is no longer what matters; to some extent the network has become almost irrelevant, instead the focus is now around securing applications.  At the same time, organisations need to harness the power of applications, they need to be highly productive with fast and easy access to the applications they need to do their job. This is not only essential, it is foundational to becoming a modern digitised business.  To enable this environment, businesses need reliable network access from the edge to the core and security based on a Zero Trust model to ensure robust, efficient and secure access to essential business applications from wherever employees are located.

As enterprises have accelerated their digital transformation initiatives the number of possible attack vectors has grown, as digital systems need to have multiple access points for customers, partners, and employees, and this has created a vastly expanded attack surface.  As a result, cybercrime has escalated, and a record-breaking number of data breaches of increasing sophistication and severity are taking place year-on-year.

Operating on a Zero Trust basis

The stark reality is that this new hybrid workforce brings an increasing level of risk.  With work happening at home, the office, and almost anywhere, and cyberattacks surging, security must be the same no matter who, what, when, where and how business applications are being accessed. Now that the security control organisations once had has quite literally left the building, this makes it critical that each and every connection operates on a Zero Trust basis.  Cybersecurity leaders have historically called this “default deny”, which it still is. Only now, thanks to cloud platforms that tie user and device identity into the equation, the controls to make it a reality are both scalable and elegant.

What we mean by Zero Trust is that organisations effectively eliminate implicit trust from their IT systems, and this is replaced or embodied by the maxim ‘never trust, always verify’. In practice this means only trust those who have appropriate authority to access.  Zero Trust recognises that internal and external threats are pervasive, and the de facto elimination of the traditional network perimeter requires a different security approach. Every device, user, network, and application flow should be checked to remove excessive access privileges and any other potential threat vectors.

Nevertheless, working with a remote workforce isn’t a new concept.  There are plenty of visionary enterprise organisations that have been thinking about this issue for a long time, but sophisticated solutions haven’t always been available. In the past, enterprises relied on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to help, albeit minimally, solve user trust issues, but now the time is right to re-think enterprise security models in light of the modern security solutions that are available which can be implemented easily and cost-effectively.

Rewind to the security backstory

Ultimately, any high-level security model really breaks down into a trust issue: Who and what can I trust? – the employee, the devices, and the applications the employee is trying to connect to. In the middle is the network but today, more often than not, the network is the internet.  Think about it.  Employees sit in coffee shops and log onto public browsers to access their email.

So now what organisations are looking for is a secure solution for their applications, devices, and users.

Every trusted or ‘would-be trusted’ end-user computing device has security software installed on it by the enterprise IT department. That software makes sure the device and the user who is on the device is validated, so the device becomes the proxy to talk to the applications on the corporate network. So now the challenge lies in securing the application itself.

Today’s cloud infrastructure connects the user directly to the application, so there is no need to have the user connect via an enterprise server or network. The client is always treated as an outsider, even while sitting in a corporate office. The servers never even see the client’s real IP address (because they don’t need to) and even data centre firewalls are of far less value as the Zero Trust model, and expertly applied policies and controls, are now exponentially better.

Death to the VPN!

In this new construct the VPN dies, thanks to Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA), and networks become simplified with lower operational running costs, thanks to SD-WAN.

So, does the old client VPN truly die? Yes, it does! The reason is that we are now only concerned with what we trust: the user, their device, and the destination. Notice that “the network” isn’t part of that. Why? Because we don’t trust users or their devices any more on the corporate network than we do on public networks. So even when connected to a LAN port on the desk, they have the same seamless security posture and always-on application (not network, but application) access that they would if there were on public WiFi.

Just as film is no longer used for taking pictures, VPNs are no longer the future for application access. Everyone now sees that the real need is not for users to access networks, but rather just to access the applications as though they are all cloud accessible. That’s the Zero Trust-based future for us all.

New thinking

Most enterprises realise that it is time to enhance remote access strategies and eliminate sole reliance on perimeter-based protection, with employees instead connecting from a Zero Trust standpoint. However, most organisations will find that their Zero Trust journey is not an overnight accomplishment – particularly if they have legacy systems or mindsets that don’t transition well to this model.  That said, many companies are moving all or part of their workloads to cloud and, thus, greenfield environments. Those are the perfect places to start that journey and larger organisations, with complex IT environments and legacy systems, might see the road to Zero Trust as a multiphase, multiyear initiative.

This is where organisations can work with partners, like Xalient, to assist with implementing security controls and Zero Trust models in the cloud utilising our Xalient Zero Trust Framework. This framework provides a firm security foundation to underpin digital transformation initiatives, helping organisations take their first steps towards becoming a Zero Trust connected enterprise. It does this by addressing common areas of compromise between a user or device and the application or data source being accessed or consumed. And it does it wherever the users, devices, data and applications are located.

In today’s hybrid environment, implementing a Zero Trust approach enables organisations to start to really drive down the risk factors while ensuring the enterprise is future-proofed for 21st century business. With cyber threats only set to escalate, this peace of mind is essential.

London, UK, 6th April 2022: Xalient, a rapidly growing, global specialist in networking and cybersecurity announced today that it has completed the latest phase of the company’s expansion with several key appointments in the US. These recent developments bolster Xalient’s existing presence in North America and support the expansion of the company’s growing global customer base from east to west coast.

Jeff Gray joins the company as Vice-President, US Operations. As a member of Xalient’s global Senior Leadership Team, Jeff will be responsible for accelerating Xalient’s capabilities in the region, playing an active role in client relationships and driving future growth. Jeff brings more than 30 years of senior enterprise IT experience, including 14 years at Warner Music Group and 12 years at AOL Time Warner, while most recently operating as an independent consultant managing large-scale enterprise transformation projects for global organisations.

Kevin Peterson has also joined the US team as Senior Cyber Security Strategist, responsible for helping Xalient customers develop and deliver their zero-trust networking and security strategies. Kevin is a recognised thought leader in cybersecurity and brings rich experience, previously leading his own consulting firm serving Fortune 500 companies. Prior to that he worked with Zscaler as Director, Security and Network Transformation, McKesson and Juniper Networks.

Additionally, Andrew Creech and Randy Leach join as Principal Consultants. They join the established global consulting team, responsible for designing and deploying secure, modern networks for Xalient’s US customers. Andrew has rich experience in delivering cloud solutions to large enterprises, gained during a 20-year IT career, including key roles at Verizon and IBM, while Randy brings experience in design and implementation of a wide array of digital technologies and solutions gained in companies including, most recently, media company E.W Scripps, also at Worldwide Technology and Crown Equipment Corporation.

Xalient’s US team has been further strengthened with the appointment of Marc Mancuso as Senior Business Development Manager, with responsibility for driving growth in the NW Pacific region. Marc joins from Verizon where he held a variety of market-facing roles during a successful 20-year career.

And finally, Emilee Khalil joins the growing team as Senior Account Manager, responsible for some of Xalient’s major accounts in the US. She joins from Spectrum Enterprise, prior to which Emilee was with HPE, Verizon and AT&T, gaining wide and valuable experience in the secure networking sector.

Commenting on this latest phase of Xalient’s global expansion Chief Operating Officer Mark Cooke said: “We have a very successful US operation that has helped Xalient expand its business significantly in recent years, delivering around half of our global revenues. To ensure we continue this growth path and keep delivering exceptional customer service, we are delighted to welcome these high calibre, experienced professionals into our business and wish them much success at Xalient.”

These new leadership and operational roles will enable Xalient to quickly scale to meet customer demand supported by its new service Martina, a unique AI-powered virtual network engineer designed to strengthen Xalient’s Managed Services capabilities.   Martina helps triage and resolve issues quickly, often through self-healing. This results in less downtime, enhanced security and a better experience for customers. Its development has also provided Xalient consultants with the opportunity to be involved at the forefront of AI innovation, particularly where the outcome means they can focus on more strategic aspects of service delivery, while Martina takes care of many of the day-to-day issues.

Xalient is one of six companies selected to feature in CRN’s Rising Stars 2022 Report, an annual report highlighting six of the UK channel’s fastest-growing, most profitable and most ambitious companies.

 

This year’s Rising Stars were handpicked from the recently published CRN VAR 500, which profiles the 500 largest UK channel partners on their radar by revenue and headcount, and who grew by an average 49 per cent in their latest years on record, adding more than £45m to their collective top line.

The report this year digs into each of the six companies’ business models and examines what they’ve done differently during the pandemic. It also highlights how they’re reinventing themselves for a new era of hybrid working, while also exploring how leading channel firms should be approaching the WFH vs office debate, the rise of new consumption models and the influx of private equity into the sector.

Read our founder, owner and CEO Sherry Vaswani’s interview  on how the business has changed and grown since Xalient was born in 2015 below.

 

Xalient was only founded in 2015. What was the genesis of the company?

My previous business, Worldstone, was acquired in 2012 and I had a three-year non-compete. Three years and one day later, Xalient was born. I had the opportunity to be ahead of one of the biggest mega trends I’ll probably see in my lifetime – the whole transformation around networking, security and SASE. I’d worked for a year in the US in 2014, and spotted a trend of companies moving their applications to the cloud, and of people working more remotely. I felt that the old world of networks and security was out of date. New technology like SD-WAN was emerging at the time. A basic managed network can be easy to provide – you check if circuits are up or down, and whether jitter, packet loss or latency thresholds are being breached. But in the world of SASE technologies, there’s a lot of intelligence in the tools that allows you to be much more proactive about monitoring and managing those environments. I saw an opportunity to differentiate by building a business that’s able to get the best of these technologies and that invents its own tools that make the most of those technologies – and is therefore able to offer a much more intelligent service to customers.

Seven years on, we’ve got huge customers like Kellogg’s, WPP, Keurig Dr Pepper and Avis. I hope they would say the same thing about Xalient, and that these are the reasons they pick us.

What size are you now?

Roughly 150 people, but growing every week, and about 50 customers. Just over half of our revenues are US based, which I think is interesting given that we’re a British-born business. We’ve got operational centres in Leeds, London, USA, Romania and India. The SD-WAN market has commoditised.

How have you adapted?

When we started, people didn’t know what SDWAN meant. Now a lot of companies have decided to specialise in it. We have the advantage of seven years of experience. We’ve expanded hugely on our cyber practice in the last couple of years. Now our market message is that we’re very much that leading authority on zero trust networking, not just SD-WAN. Also, whilst we’ve invested in innovation from the beginning, we’ve doubled down on our investment in MARTINA [Monitoring through Artificial Intelligence and Analytics], which is our AI-based monitoring tool. It’s now across the whole zero-trust piece, so it’s not just network fault monitoring and prediction of network faults.

You more than doubled revenues in 2020. Where’s the growth coming from?

What customers are now seeing of course, is that getting these foundations right, is so critical to digital transformation. Our business model is very much targeted at large companies and multinationals. But we’ll start with a consulting engagement and prove our worth. Then we go into solution design and deploy, and then into managed services. The business model lends itself to fast growth, providing you can retain the customers and deliver good customer satisfaction. We’ve had 95 per cent customer retention since day one, six years ago, and a net promoter score of at least 80 in the last year across all our services.

How have you funded the business?

I funded the business myself. We’ve also had the advantage of government funding and grants. Investing in Leeds was a factor, rightly I think, because we have created a lot of jobs there, including during the pandemic, with 30 or 40 new hires in and around Leeds. Going forward, we can grow and get to our ambitions organically, but we may want to accelerate that with acquisitions. And to do that we might need to get some funding in.

How are you handling the skill shortage?

Our HR team is a team of five. We have a talent and development manager who’s just joined us. But there’s no doubt about it – we are having to spend double the amount of time recruiting for roles. One of our core values is challenging conventional thinking. We look for people who can do that, who have an interest in newer technologies and for the right individuals, Xalient has an attractive offering, which is a differentiator when looking for great talent. To me that will always be the headline about what Xalient does differently.

Has the chip shortage prompted you to modify your focus?

We focus on software defined technology by nature, so it hasn’t really impacted us. There’s not a lot of hardware in our world. But wherever there is, we just manage it. It’s not on our risk register, because it’s quite insignificant.