Dave Stevinson, owner and CEO of QBS Software is clearly a man on a mission to drive his business forward. Here he speaks about the QBS journey, the company’s commitment to being carbon neutral and what lies ahead.
Dave Stevinson is the owner and CEO of QBS Software and the associated companies in the QBS Technology Group. Stevinson has a background in technology firms and a passion for analytics, SaaS and automation. He holds a BSc (Hons) from Lancaster University, an MBA from Manchester Business School, and is currently enrolled on the OPM course at Harvard Business School.
QBS Technology Group started in May 2017 – you now have revenues in excess of £100M, Can you share your journey?
QBS was conceived to scale exceptionally quickly with 9 acquisitions on top of a very fast organic growth cadence defined by a rigorous focus on delivering value for thousands of application software publishers. We now offer a full service to our publishers, having established entities in 4 discrete market sectors: Consumer Software, MSP/CSP, Value Add Distribution and Software Delivery. Today QBS operates Europe’s largest software delivery platform, representing 9750 enterprise software publishers sold via 6000 reseller partners into 240,000 enterprises across Europe. QBS has offices in London, Paris, Berlin, Cork and is rolling out a European expansion programme. QBS is scaling quickly and has been formally recognised by London Stock Exchange, Bloomberg, Sunday Times International Track, D&B, and several other research firms for its rapid and consistent growth. QBS has revenues in excess of £110million, 150 colleagues and 9 offices in Europe. The QBS platform offers quotation, pricing, deal reg, delivery, billing and renewals management.
How did you expand internationally?
It takes time to do international well; one must understand the culture, logistics, business models and market nuances. The software delivery platform is infinitely scalable and we had already built up a following with several international resellers – so it made natural sense to be in-country. We started by acquiring Siener Informatique in Paris, France to extend our platform into an adjacent geography. Many of our key partners (solution partners, resellers, MSPs and SIs) have pan-European footprints – so by being closer to them, speaking their language and closer collaboration was a model that worked. We then expanded into Russia through the acquisition of UAB Laknova. Since then, we have acquired Compuwave in Munich and Berlin. We believe by 2023 our export business will exceed our domestic business in value. Last month we were recognised by The Sunday Times as the 40th fastest growing privately owned exporter in the UK.
Why the focus on software?
I truly believe in specialising and doing one thing well to be relevant to the reseller. Nobody offers software in the manner in which our software delivery platform does – coupled with the level of expertise that QBS holds. Resellers start by working with our customer success team to quickly get a carefully-curated publisher set live with a reseller and enable that reseller to start winning business and solving their client’s toughest problems with software which gives a monthly recurring revenue and has cross sell and upsell opportunities. Resellers who offer their customers a complete one-stop-shop for their IT spend, are the ones that are growing the most. It is critical to remember that enterprise software offers a market of significant size and I believe we operate in a defined niche in that market and that provides QBS with the opportunity to obtain a relevant position alongside the broadliners of Techdata, Ingram, Westcoast and Exertis.
Your model differs from traditional distribution – what is a software delivery platform?
We deliver our entire product range electronically and in many cases with STP (Straight Through Processing). We have 9750 ‘publishers on platform’ and transact with 6000 partners. We offer a renewals management service, software asset management, dynamic quotations, billing, provisioning, SaaS and perpetual licensing through a single pane of glass. Coupled with experts in telemarketing, pre-sales engineering, implementation and positioning on hand for when partners need a hand with a relevant opportunity. QBS focuses only on software, and in particular innovative Tier 2, 3 and 4 software publishers. We offer a one-stop-shop for our reseller partners to be able to access their entire software stack from a single pane of glass. Although there are many similarities too – actually we have three parts to our business: Firstly, the traditional distribution model where we represent 40 brands such as Kaspersky, DocuSign, TeamViewer, Thycotic and SolarWinds – helping them qualify & grow their partner network, and working with partners on deal origination and enablement. The second part is the delivery of the 9750 publishers, which offer their software via the QBS delivery platform, and finally our special sourcing business unit which obtains, qualifies and supports specific software on behalf of resellers that solves a particular business problem for their clients.
What is the obsession with MRR and ARR?
The beauty is that our partners can now enjoy consistent and predictable revenues and margins. Our platform manages and automates the entire process, including quotation, billing and provisioning, enabling the partner to attach professional services to create the complete solution for their clients’ business problems all via our platform. Our focus is then on helping foster adoption and expansion of the technology through personalised marketing and technical support. The software we deliver has many licensing models – and our platform has successfully managed every permutation so far – all variations of consumption and frequency.
You recently added professional services to the platform– Can you explain the rationale for this?
Yes, the platform needs to be a one-stop-shop for our partners to deliver complete software offerings to their clients. Many of our System Integrators and Solution Partners have the capability to deliver professional services (consultancy, solution development, training, implementation, sizing and chargeable support) themselves, whilst others rely on our ‘white-label’ services delivery. We are hyper-careful not to cannibalise true VARs by replicating or replacing their capabilities and simply moving the profit layer away – so the decision was to provide these capabilities to deliver projects for certain clients around specific publishers.
QBS has made a number of senior hires recently – can you talk us through them?
Certainly. QBS is moving from a start up to a scale up company. This means we need to improve our governance, and as a bigger company we need more staff to share the workload. The motto of QBS is “where great people work together” and our talent acquisition team is constantly scouring the channel for the right people to join our team. Recently we have added Caroline Easton as Group Head of Marketing – Caroline had 20 years growing Hammer to a quarter of a billion pound company, and will lead our marketing and customer experience across the group. Kumar Bhamidipati has joined QBS as Group COO – with his experience running the strategic function for several global enterprises he will lead the group sales, marketing and platform development functions. We have added our first chairman (this was a long process). With the help of London Stock Exchange, we were delighted to have Chris Putt join as our first chairman – Chris has spent 40 years as senior equity partner with one of the world’s largest international law firms and his role at QBS is to improve on our governance and aid our international expansion. Finally, we have just secured the services of James Robotham to lead our SolarWinds business. He has countless years running the SolarWinds desk at a leading broadliner.
QBS takes ESG very seriously I understand – can you explain your stance on climate change?
Rather than paying lip service to the climate emergency, QBS has been one of the pioneers in moving to externally verified net zero carbon. By the end of 2021, we will be independently verified as ‘net zero carbon’ (NZC). Climate risk is more than a regulatory issue at QBS – it is recognised at Board level and sustainability is hardwired into our business model and thus the strategy of the entire organisation. We undertake clear and concise actions, demonstrating environmental integrity with clear documentation and commitments, despite our modest size and perceived low environmental impact. We are not aware of anyone else in the channel that is taking action with the clarity of vision and speed of execution that we are. We are morally against carbon neutralisation (purchasing carbon credits) to offset failure to take the correct action. We are also cognisant that it will be impossible to eliminate all GHG producing activities – thus any offsetting we undertake will be from the most reputable and accredited certification bodies. Including the climate impact of our complete supply chain in our carbon calculations is an incredibly difficult, expensive and time-consuming process for a company of our size and extensive supply base – yet we want to demonstrate to others that it is possible.
We are taking the unique action of supporting and rewarding all of our global workforce with their journey to a personal carbon free footprint in line with their personal wishes and values. Most importantly, we are trying to bring the entire industry with us on this journey. We have invested in dedicated staff, specific budgets and carbon literacy training for our employees, customers and publishers.
We also believe that this decision actually demonstrates significant benefits to our business: cost and efficiency savings through reduced energy usage, compliance to anticipated future legislation, improved stakeholder management, and compliance with the most rigorous tender and pre-tender qualification questions. Ultimately it increases transparency for our stakeholders and demonstrates our core values of responsibility and good governance.
What’s next for QBS?
It is safe to say that QBS is now the dominant software distributor benefitting from the critical mass, with no other entity having the variety, volume and velocity of transactions that flow through the QBS platform. We will continue developing our platform and yet again re-invest a significant proportion of our profits to extend and augment the features and services. This is designed to increase efficiencies through process automation for both our publishers and partners. We will extend our business model into further geographies primarily through acquisition. The latest version of the platform will go live in September with the advanced RMS engine. This system is designed to automate the renewals process and will enable the renewals team to focus on upsell, cross-sell and retention – chasing ever-increasing performances on NRR. We expect to see treble digit growth in our ITOM, automation, DevOps and data analytics SBUs. We are primarily driven by listening intently to our customers and publishers in order to make it easier to buy and sell software.
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