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 I felt that the old world of networks and security was out of date.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.