Summer 2015

Editor's Note

This Summer- It's All About Community!

The BPI Network is dedicated to the power of the community. We believe an informed and connected network can achieve much greater impact than single disparate actors. This summer, community is more important than ever here at BPI. Whether you are an enterprise, a startup, an innovator, or a mentor, we can only achieve so much on our own. So how can we all come together to build upon each other's successes and knowledge to move forward? Check out our latest initiatives and get involved. Let's grow together! 

Crowdsourced Ideation through CauseTech

Through CauseTech, we are building a community of innovators, technologists, impact investors, and entrepreneurs to crowdsource Innovations Overcoming Limitations. This initiative, in partnership with UNICEF Global Innovation Centre, will bring together both the private and the public sector in order to succeed where there's a need. Have an amazing idea? Our first contest is open! The Burundi Renewable Energy Challenge focuses on developing alternative energy solutions for the most energy-poor country in the world. Can your idea address this challenge? We want to hear from you!

Global Knowledge Transfer through Transform to Better Perform

BPI Network has just launched one of its most ambitious initiatives yet, Transform to Better Perform.  Our goal is to initiate a global conversation on IT transformation. We’re reaching out to business and IT leaders around the world to explore the business drivers, imperatives and priorities for IT in a digitally dependent age and map a new model for IT.  Register to join in this ongoing global dialogue. We've already launched our first report on the topic, "Accelerate how you Innovate" and are researching for our next report.

To help us undertake this research, we need your insights! Please take our quick survey: Where Can IT Innovation Accelerate Business Transformation? and help us ignite the conversation!

As a part of this campaign, we are conducting ongoing interviews to get the perspectives from enterprises and data center professionals alike. See our feature interview to get a peak at one of these incredible perspectives. Find additional perspectives here

We'll also be hosting our first roundtable event July 30th in San Francisco. Email Tamara at to reserve your spot!

Empowering the Community Bank

For community banks and credit unions, it’s a whole new world. The economy is finally growing again, but so are the risks and challenges. Competition from larger financial services companies has forced community institutions to think and act differently, particularly about how they cost-effectively use technology to engage and retain customers. Economies of scale are ever more important, making mergers and acquisitions a hot topic of discussion for everyone in the industry. 

If you are in this field, we're looking to hear from you! Provide your insights in this Grow Smart From the Start Survey and receive an exclusive report! 

Building the BPI Network

We recognize that our successes are due to our incredible community members, advisory board, and network of partners. A huge Thank You for your continued support in helping us grow!

Find us in the News! 

New York Times: Love Not War Wins for Small Businesses and Large Companies 

FierceCIO: Will CIO Survival Depend on Disruptive Innovation? 

Inc.: Why Big Corporations Suddenly Care About Small Companies and What You Should Do About It 

Ventureburn: New UNICEF-Backed Platform Looking to Crowdsource Innovation

Disrupt Africa: CauseTech Crowdsourcing Startup Ideas for Burundi Renewable Energy

Cloud Computing Intelligence: BPI Campaign Aims to Change the Future Data Centre 

Feature Article

How One African Misruptive Innovation Company is Storming a Key US Market

A South African start-up is rapidly defining a new kind of business disruption in the US tech sector.  Call it “mis-ruptive” innovation: breaking into a major new market by accident – and then storming that market by sticking to the same, humble business model devised for the original market. 

In 2012, the founders of Snapt not only didn’t know what their own product could do; they weren’t even sure there was a market for it. And so they generated a hyper-generous pricing and business model for their open source load balancing and web accelerator solutions, hoping that small local start-ups might be interested. 

Then, founding CEO Dave Blakey got a strange call from the Chief Technology Officer for a major US company, who said “Could you, um, please drastically increase the price on your product for us?” With alternate load balancing solutions costing tens of thousands of dollars, the CTO was worried that his company board simply would not believe that Snapt’s $300 product could solve one of their most critical needs: secure and reliable web operations. 

Even more remarkable: the solution would work as the company scaled up to networks of servers, or migrated to the cloud. The disbelieving CTO was told he could keep the working product forever, even if they chose not to renew that $300 annual license.

Then Blakey discovered that one of their early customers was none other than NASA, who stumbled on its breakthrough products online, and quietly paid what was surely one of the organization’s smallest-ever IT invoices.

Now, this Johannesburg-based application delivery controller (ADC) start-up has 10,000 customers in 50 countries, including Intel and euroVPS. But what makes Snapt successfully misruptive is that – despite stumbling upon the lucrative new market of large enterprises – they have kept their misdirected, freakishly generous pricing and business model. 

“We doing this because it's working – we’re disrupting the space, we’re cash positive and we’re growing nicely, without spending any money on marketing,” says Blakey. “Where we thought we could play has changed dramatically - we didn’t think we’d have these types of clients; then all of a sudden these huge enterprises came to us.

People say – ‘Now that your market has changed, why don’t you just charge 80% of what your competitors charge?’. There was a time just two years ago when our most expensive product was $900 per year. Several times, we’ve had to respond to requests from customers to increase our price for them – and we still have ridiculous situations where we are 3% of a competitor’s quote. But we are sticking to our guns.”

One US expert in the ADC industry, Scott Ryan – Asankya – says Snapt’s innovations would “define the future of the global ADC market.”

Delays of webpage loading of even fractions of a second – often, through the problem of “latency” – can cost millions for companies in fields like e-commerce. Blakey cites Amazon’s estimate that a 0.1 second delay could cost the company $1.6 billion. Yet Snapt’s inexpensive web acceleration tools – scaled to the client’s needs – are keeping sites for enterprises of all sizes “up-and-running-faster” around the globe.  It has surely lost out on many other major clients in its 3 years of existence, due to its too-good-to-be-true offering – and the fact it that it has boasted a sales and marketing force of zero staff.

And yet this Johannesburg-based start-up grew 400% in revenue last year, and has grown 1000% to date in 2015. 

Last week – May 2015 – Georgia’s top tech incubator, Advanced Technology Development Center, included the startup in its elite ATDC "Select" membership. Blakey says: "We're honored to have been included. It's a big deal for us chiefly because of their Industry Connect program, which links top start-ups with Global 1000 companies.  ATDC is important for us as we are not headquartered in the US, and breaking into larger enterprises in the US – especially those who care about web reliability – is crucial for us.” 

Blakey also opened a sales and marketing arm in Atlanta in May, called Snapt Global. Snapt’s outlandish pricing is rooted in its fundamental disruption: replacing traditional hardware solutions with open source software solutions for load balancing, web acceleration, and smart firewall products. It can also be traced to the company’s strikingly low overhead costs, including a total staff of only 15 people.

Of course, price is of little concern to Snapt’s fast-growing ranks of large enterprise customers. Instead, those tiny invoices act as a mindset jolt for C-suite executives; a clear herald that there is a better, newer way of powering reliable delivery to business-critical applications. For them, the real disruptive value-adds from Snapt lie in the versatility of the technology and the quality of its customer support. 

Todd Reagor, CEO of web hosting solutions firm RivalHost, admits the products he bought from Snapt were “downright cheap” – and that they had also saved his company $250 000 so far, and counting. But more important for him was the adaptability of the software: "The secret behind Snapt's solutions is that they are adaptable and customizable. Snapt transformed those disparate third-party solutions into a beautiful, user-friendly GUI/interface. We were able to leverage reverse proxy and let attack traffic run through our hosting center rather than through our clients." 

One Snapt launch innovation which has 'survived' its unexpected success is a guarantee which the market never thought to demand: a promise to publish its customer response times. Snapt remains the only provider in the $4 billion ADC industry to broadcast its own support report card (this week, the average response to customer queries was 1 minute, with the longest response taking 4 minutes). Ian Barnes, CTO of BetTech Gaming, calls the service "unbelievably amazing support," and Reagor calls it "a game changer." 

Rather than entrepreneurial ambition, Snapt was conceived through pure innovative curiosity. The son of a Johannesburg IT innovator, Blakey began his education in computer software when he was only four. By age 11, he was the world’s youngest A+ certified computer technician. Having skipped formal tertiary education, Blakey was experimenting with various software platforms in his early twenties. One of the challenges that struck him was the outsized cost of quality load balancing solutions.

“There was just no way a small start-up which needed reliable web operations could afford hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure their sites remained online,” he says. “We weren’t even sure we were going to go into ADC space. We grew organically; adapted on a day-to-day basis - we saw what was important to clients, and kept asking: How we can add more value?”

As a techie, Blakey also commonly found himself irritated when calling IT customer service lines, and finding that the support had been outsourced to technicians will little direct knowledge of the product. “When you log a call with someone who knows less about the technology than you do, that’s annoying,” he says. “Especially when the problem affects a critical part of your business, its not good enough to have someone on the phone ask you to turn it off and on again; to look at the blinking lights.” 

Blakey vowed never to outsource IT support from his new company – and has somehow, miruptively, kept that promise, even as it has grown to 10,000 customers. Blakey knows that, now, US competitors are asking: how on earth can Snapt provide direct customer support for thousands of customers with only 15 staff – and respond to those calls at an average of one minute? He’s happy to provide the answer: “It's because our number of (support) tickets received is very low – and that’s because the product runs well; its easy to understand; and it doesn’t break. In the lifetime of the business we’ve had only a few thousand support requests.”

Blakey says the company’s past growth is based on thjs remarkable statistic: 80% of customers that test-drive the system on the free trial become paying customers. The company is not actively seeking new funding. Instead, it simply needs more companies with critical web reliability needs to do the free trial. “In 3 to 5 years, we want to have a much bigger piece of virtualized ADC market,” he says. 

Snapt poses a fascinating case for business academics, because it’s virtually the opposite of the “minimum viable product” lean start-ups model. Their product had more features than most established competitors at the outset – but, in terms of risk, it echoes the “no cost prototype” model of lean innovation in its choice of open source software. The CEO of one leading Silicon Valley tech incubator told BPI and SABLE that the key value behind Snapt’s stubbornly low pricing to big customers was that it “tells a unique and memorable story, which is priceless in terms of branding.”

Dave Blakey founded Snapt in 2012 and currently serves as the company's CEO. Under Dave's leadership, Snapt achieved a 400% annual growth rate in 2014. Snapt now provides load balancing and acceleration to more than 10,000 clients in 50 countries. High profile clients include NASA, Intel, and various other forward-thinking companies. A self-made, serial entrepreneur from Johannesburg, South Africa, at 11 years old Dave was the youngest certified computer technician globally. At 13, he was certified as a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, the youngest person certified at the time in the southern hemisphere. Today, Dave has evolved into a leading open-source software-defined networking thought leader, with deep domain expertise in high performance network systems, management, and security solutions. He is a passionate advocate for advancing South Africa's start-up ecosystem and expanding the global presence of the country's tech hub. 


Eurostar: The Fast Train to Data Center Transformation

Antoine de Kerviler Shares his Perspectives

At a time when many CIOs struggle to keep the business side satisfied, Eurostar CIO Antoine de Kerviler, boasts that his team no longer has that problem.

“We are completely aligned on the vision, the strategy and the objectives,” he says. “We co-manage roadmaps and budgets. Operating in the cloud has allowed us to be extremely fast and reactive, faster than our business colleagues expected us to be, and to innovate with new services for our customers.”

The secret to his success may stem from Eurostar’s new approach to managing the flood of data that keeps the trains running on time.  Instead of relying only on the company’s three traditional data centers, Eurostar has added cloud services to support its customer-oriented data, including passenger identities, tickets orders, train schedules and much more. 

The system includes using to manage customer relationships and Amazon’s Redshift to store and analyze other data.  Eurostar is still using its datacenters to run certain business processes, but things have gone so well that de Kerviler hopes to modernize the entire system.

“When we can, we will all be in the cloud. Everything will be in the cloud,” he says. “We are a train company. Our job is to run and operate trains, it's not to run and operate computers. And there are people out there that are doing it in a much more efficient, greener, faster and more professional way than we can or we'll ever be able to.”

Knowing the Passengers

The rosy future is a contrast with data challenges that are now being resolved. For example, most companies now are collecting more and more information about their customers. But Eurostar sells many tickets through travel agents who don’t like to give out the names or contacts for their clients. Without that information, Eurostar can’t contact the customer to let them know of service delays or other problems.

“There are about 40 percent of our clients for whom we don’t know the name, we don’t know the address, we don’t know the phone number, we don’t know much about them,” says de Kerviler. That can be a problem in a number of ways.  For one thing, not knowing who is on the train is a security issue.  If there is a wedding party, Eurostar doesn’t even know the name of the bride or groom.  In the near future, Eurostar will start requiring passengers to provide a phone number or an email, which will help identify and contact specific passengers, in particular, in case of operational disruption.

“In a way, we’re going to try to behave like an airline and improve the quality of data we have so that we’re in a position to improve the quality of services,” says de Kerviler.  As part of that, Eurostar will ask passengers for their preference in communication channels, whether it’s a direct message on Twitter, email, phone, text or another channel. 

Cloud Support

“All the customer intelligence is in the process of being transferred into Redshift. It’s all in the cloud,” he says. “And then we’re collecting a lot of data for the customers about travelling – whether your train is late, whether your train is on time, which train, when and so on.  We’re cleaning up all that data and putting it in Redshift.”

All this is focused on providing the best possible customer service, he notes. “One of the things we’ve done is to tell people in IS that there’s no such thing as an internal client,” he says. “There’s only one client – the person who sits aboard the train. And we’ve done a number of things to align in this way.”

Contributed Article

The New Era of Global Supply Chain Ecosystems- Complex But Strategic

A Perspective from Mark Millar from his New Book 'Global Supply Chain Ecosystems'

Supply Chains are the arteries of today’s globalised economy – they enable the international trade flows that empower global commerce. Today’s Supply Chains are evolving to reflect the increased complexity of world trade – a highly competitive, super connected, fast changing and increasingly volatile global environment, which is progressively more difficult to predict. Supply Chain Management has now become an essential topic across all spheres of management and a strategic agenda item in every boardroom.

Global Chain Ecosystems | BPI Network - BrainwavesTwenty-first-century supply chains have evolved into world-wide inter-connected supply-and-demand networks with profound interdependencies - comprising vastly more complex operations and with greater exposure to the vulnerabilities of our uncertain world. This is leading to greater use of collaborative partnerships, frequently involving outsourcing and off-shoring, creating elongated networks of organisations comprising multiple stakeholders, which require more sophisticated management, control and communication than ever before.  Consequently modern supply chains have become complex, multi-layered and inter-connected distribution systems that enable companies and countries to trade more effectively and efficiently.

Developed by innovative, competitive and ambitious practitioners and business managers, these ecosystems have become the essential enablers of international cargo flows around the world, bringing economic and social benefits, and leading to a steady improvement in the standard of living for millions.

Confirming how these networks enable business in an increasingly connected world, the Financial Times’ (FT) lexicon describes how “businesses operate in a broader network of related businesses offering particular products or services - this is known as a business ecosystem”. They further define this business ecosystem as “a network of interlinked companies, such as suppliers and distributors, who interact with each other, primarily complementing or supplying key components of the value propositions within their products or services”.

From the supply chain perspective, Cranfield’s Dr Martin Christopher adopts an end-to-end perspective of the flows of product and accompanying information from the source of raw materials to delivery to the end customer - and sometimes beyond - to develop a definition of supply chain as: “the network of organizations that are involved, through upstream and downstream linkages, in the different processes and activities that produce value in the form of products and services in the hands of the ultimate consumer”.

This notion of networks is particularly important, with Christopher reinforcing the key message that modern supply chains are no longer simply linear chains or processes, “they are complex networks - the products and information flows travel within and between nodes in a variety of networks that link organisations, industries and economies”.

Supporting the concept that your supply chain drives competitive advantage for your business, the FT lexicon explains how “Ecosystems also create strong barriers to entry for new competition, as potential entrants not only have to duplicate or better the core product, but they also have to compete against the entire system of independent complementors and suppliers that form the network”.

The linear concept of a chain is therefore no longer adequate to describe today’s complex international networks of suppliers, partners, regulators and customers – together collaborating to ensure the efficient, effective and competitive movement of products, services, information and funds around the world.

These extended multi stakeholder networks have continued to evolve as supply chains have become increasingly strategic, complex and global - we are firmly in the era of Global Supply Chain Ecosystems.

Global Chain Ecosystems | BPI Network - Brainwaves

Supply Chain has become Strategic

Leading companies are increasingly considering their supply chains to be strategic - as a business enabler, as a revenue driver and as a differentiator. In several sectors, companies compete on the basis of their supply chains, as much as on their actual products.

For many businesses – particularly those in high tech and consumer electronics - time to market and effective distribution channels are critical success factors, and therefore supply chain management capabilities become a source of competitive advantage.

The supply chain embraces every single activity that enables getting products to customers and consequently touches the vast majority of functions within and across a company. World class organisations no longer perceive the supply chain as merely tactical support for business as usual, but take a holistic position that their supply chain is what drives the business. The latest thinking is that the supply chain is the business.

Supply Chain in the Boardroom

A growing trend in recent years is the presence of supply chain managers serving on the board of directors with the role and title of Chief Supply Chain Officer (CSCO). Standing agenda items for senior executives now include supply chain strategy, supply chain execution and supply chain risk.

Research led by Professor Alan Waller OBE of Solving Efeso, in collaboration with Cranfield School of Management, found that - in stark contrast to just ten years ago – amongst well over half of the companies surveyed, the most senior supply chain person now sits on the Board of the business unit.  The research report surmised that this trend is accelerating and concluded that ‘the supply chain is an intrinsic element of the enterprise; its ability to adapt quickly to changes in the commercial environment is critical to the financial and market performance of the business’.

A high profile example of supply chain in the boardroom is Apple. Prior to becoming chief executive, Tim Cook was an acknowledged expert in the often low profile but absolutely critical world of supply chain management. His level of operational expertise and experience is essential for Apple’s continued leadership across global markets with global products amongst global competition, where the supply chain drives competitive advantage through time to market, finely tuned global operations, economically efficient logistics networks and simultaneous worldwide product releases.

Having an increasing presence at-the-table in the executive suite means that supply chain leaders have to learn to speak the language of the boardroom in order to operate effectively and succeed.

Supply Chain and the Chief Financial Officer

Even with many companies having supply chain representation in the boardroom, in reality there is still some way to go before the whole board considers supply chain to be a substantial driving force for the business, in which case there is a real risk of sub-optimising from a strategic planning perspective.

In terms of meaningful engagement with the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), in reality the supply chain has significant material impact on multiple aspects of the balance sheet and profit and loss statements. Supply chain managers can therefore readily translate their activities, influence and results into the business language most suitable for the CFO and the rest of the boardroom – where inevitably money talks!

From the profit and loss perspective, the supply chain function will have a material impact as follows on the business’ income statement:

Profit and LossSupply Chain Impact
Revenue: Customer Service
Cost of Goods: Sourcing & Procurement
  Capacity Utilisation
  Operational Efficiencies
  Inventory Management
  Warehousing and Transport
Admin Expense: Order Processing
Interest Expense: Inventory Financing

Likewise, supply chain activities will impact throughout the Balance Sheet. Accounts receivable and cash assets will be impacted by order fill rates, invoice accuracy and order lead times; whilst balance sheet inventory will be influenced by supplier relationships, supplier management strategies and inventory policies.

The fixed asset categories of property, plant & equipment will directly reflect a combination of the company’s warehouse network, insourcing-outsourcing strategies and build-buy-lease decisions. Order quantities will affect current liabilities whilst the financing arrangements for inventory, plant and equipment will influence long-term debt and shareholder equity.

We still have to question whether supply chain is taken seriously in the board room, maybe the complexity of today’s supply chain ecosystems in fact makes the board of directors bored?

However, when things go wrong, supply chain definitely becomes front and centre on the senior executives’ radar! Somewhat ironically, when in fact perhaps more director level attention to - and participation in - supply chain strategy, supply chain execution and supply chain risk discussions would help to avoid some of the disruptions that impact supply chain performance.

Furthermore, when CFO’s recognise that their company’s supply chain is responsible for between 63 and 90 per cent of a company’s total spend, depending on type of business (according to research by the Supply Chain Council) surely they will then engage more actively in dialogue with supply chain management.

Supply Chain as Competitive Advantage

In our world that is complex, connected and changing fast, the supply chain is more and more being recognised as a key source of competitive advantage and differentiation. Companies strive to build powerful supply chains that will enable them to get their products to market faster, more efficiently and more economically than their competition.  Businesses are now competing on the basis of their supply chain management capabilities almost as much as their product or their brand.

Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link – and it’s the same with a supply chain, except that within a supply chain ecosystem the linkages are not consecutive and not linear; there are numerous multi-dimensional connections with profound inter dependencies.

Nevertheless, the strategy of achieving continuous improvement through consistently and persistently working on strengthening the weakest link(s) still applies, and companies adopting such an approach will leverage their global supply chain ecosystem for competitive advantage in our complex, connected world.

 Mark Miller - Global Chain Ecosystems | BPI Network - BrainwavesMark Millar is the author of Global Supply Chain Ecosystems - commissioned and published by Kogan Page of London - in which he presents detailed and practical insights that help companies capitalise on market opportunities, overcome supply chain challenges and make better informed business decisions. Acknowledged as an engaging presenter who delivers a memorable impact, Mark has completed over 350 speaking engagements at corporate events, client functions and industry conferences across 23 countries. A Visiting Lecturer at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Mark is recognised in the 'China Supply Chain Top 20', as one of ‘Asia’s Top 50 Influencers in Supply Chain and Logistics’ and in the 2014 USA listing of 'Top Pros-to-Know in Supply Chain'. Learn more at

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