Interview with Brad Rappell, CEO
Could you tell us more about the history of CloudFirst and its core activity?
CloudFirst was founded in 2011. As our name suggests, we have specialised in assisting organisations move IT functions within their business to the modern cloud platforms. In doing so we enable organisations to use the latest technologies available, hence help them to grow at a faster rate, with less risks and, in the majority of cases at a lower cost than if they were running traditional digital technologies themselves.
For example, we have different packages to be able to meet any company’s needs. Those packages can include anti-virus, conference call apps, accounting software, data storage, sales and customer relationship management tools or any combination of software to run a business. We have plans starting at $5 per user per month, up to $300 per user per month. Those tools can be run on any devices, which we can provide (and maintain) as part of our IT solutions packages.
Our competitive advantage is that we can provide those technologies at a cheaper cost than if the company would buy them separately. We are mainly able to provide such high-end services thanks to our strong relation with Microsoft. Our solutions are indeed build-up on top of Microsoft's online service offering - based on Office 365, which is the ultimate reference on the market, with an 85% penetration rate amongst the Fortune 500 companies. This is a fantastic opportunity for small businesses to have a low-cost access to world class technologies.
We have actually been one of the first companies to provide Microsoft cloud-based services in Australia. Over the last five years, we have had the opportunity to assist many small and large companies, from 3 people to 10,000, going through their digital transformation. Our role is to guide them to take advantage of the most modern technologies and best services available on the cloud to optimise their performance. In other words, by externalising their IT systems to the cloud, our clients can focus on their core activities and ultimately accelerate the strategic outcomes they are looking to achieve for their business.
Can you describe your personal background and your role within CloudFirst?
I originally was trained as an accountant and worked in different business management roles before starting my own IT consulting company ‘Productiv’ in 2000. A hardware and network provider, as well as a software integrator, Productiv used to provide organisations with the latest technologies that they could implement on their sites. In that initial business, I was successful in winning a number of Microsoft Awards for the solutions we had created for our consumers and subsequently I was appointed in 2007 to the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Advisory Council. Out of its 640,000 partner organisations, employing 15 million people worldwide, 20 people are chosen by Microsoft to seat at this table. To this date, I am still the only Australian representative.
For the last 10 years, I’ve had the privilege to travel twice a year to the USA, to Microsoft headquarters in California, to be briefed on the latest technologies. It is through this process that I came to realise in the late 2000’s that the cloud was clearly the next IT revolution and decided to sell my stakes in Productiv to start CloudFirst.
CloudFirst was literally born in the cloud, with a very small team. At CloudFirst we like to think of ourselves as the example of where we’re trying to take our customers. We don’t own a server. We have no physical tin in our business. We consume Microsoft cloud services and we get the benefits of the productivity that Microsoft provides as part of its Office 365 platform. I now lead a team of 25 people dedicated to guiding our clients through the rapidly changing IT landscape. Thanks to Microsoft’s 2,000 back-office engineers, we are able to offer 24/7 support services via a call centre entirely dedicated to our clients. I am personally based 6 months out of Australia and 6 months out of the USA.
How do you envisage the future of your company and how can FACCI help you achieve your objectives?
We’ve been very successful so far and recently won the Microsoft Partner of Year Award for Australia, thanks to Franchising First, a dedicated platform providing the same type of cloud-based services to franchisors, in order to help them spread their brand internationally really easily. The product actually encountered such a success that we have now taken Franchising First to the next level and created a sister company, Franchising 1st.
Franchising 1st basically offers everything a franchisee needs to run its business, including not just a fully configured Office 365 deployment, but also the franchisee’s processes, code of conduct, and other brand-specific content, and additional services such as Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite and Microsoft Delve, all packaged in a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet. The franchisee also gets setup, support, training, and is ready for business in a record time. Franchise 1st is only 18-month old and we are surfing a wave of quick development, currently on-boarding new franchisors around the world every two weeks. Our main markets are Australia and New-Zealand as well as Canada, the USA and Mexico, but we are willing to expand to Asia and specifically to Japan where there is a high demand for such technologies.
At this stage our main goal is to continue providing the best service and to reach new customers, including members of the French-Australian Chamber of Commerce. Beside my personal French heritage through my father, we actually have a strong connection with France. We work quite closely with Microsoft France and some of our main specialist technologies partners are actually headquartered in Paris. Partnering with FACCI allows us to reinforce our expansion strategy by networking and communicating about our products amongst your active members. FACCI has a large network of Small Business members in particular who could be interested in and benefit from optimising their IT tools.
For more information consult: http://cloudfirst.com/.
Interview conducted by Claire Dupré and Sharlen Crespin on 5 October 2016.
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