At Connecting Software, we do not use venture capital or credit
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Interview of Thomas Berndorfer, CEO of Connecting Software
- How and when did you come up with the idea of creating Connecting Software?
The idea of Connecting Software or the Connect Bridge was born in 2009. When we had a service company and thought how to become a product company. We really planned on the greenfield the product based on market requirements. Mostly you build products on projects. But we identified the area of software integration as a good place to make a product. We wanted to make it easier and faster so that all IT projects can be done better and faster.
After a design phase we started to develop in 2010 and started to sell the product 2011.
2. What opportunities did you find in Madeira?
Madeira is a perfect place to work and life. In many areas you have to go to holidays to other places to feel good. Here you have both perfect working conditions and perfect lifestyle conditions. Then the Madeirans are happy to work on the island. Many had to leave Madeira to find work. This helps to create a good connection with the local team and we also look for international specialists who are completing our needed skills.
3. What were the biggest challenges you have encountered along the way?
There are always big challenges but in the beginning it was much more difficult. We do not have any venture capital nor credits. We financed all by ourselves and it was time to time difficult to balance the transformation from a service to a product company. Here you have different attitudes you need different skills and understanding. Then there was the task to have a company on two locations, it is needed to give all a good feeling with these changes. Another big challenge was to find the right way to sell the platform and the solutions. We started with classical sales and developed a new way of digital experience to sell only via the internet. For this you have to adapt to the requirements and the issues with trust and credibility. We did it in a good way that everybody can easily test our quite complex products. We made them easy to deploy, easy to understand and easy to try.
4. Did you launch the company with your own money? How much have you invested so far?
Yes, Connecting Software was fully self-financed and mostly cross financed through other sister companies. We don't use venture capital or credit. In total about 4 Million Euros over the first 8 years. We were happy that we found the first customers fast and grew steadily.
5. How has the pandemic affected Connecting Software's business?
In the first weeks it was a shock and I was very scared about all the consequences. We had to go into lockdown and home office. I am not a friend of it as we lose contact to each other and I see work as a team effort. We win together, we lose together. But it went quite easy. We lost a bit of productivity and as soon as it was possible again, we reopened the office. Based on that we had a bit of a fluctuation as people get easier to distract from the vision. But all in all, we survived it better than expected. From revenue and growing perspective 2020 was a successful year. It is sad that so many other branches have these problems but for us it also brought good new people, who saw that just work is not enough to be happy.
6. How was 2020 for the company, namely in terms of revenue?
We grew about 20% in the group and about 30% with the connecting software products.
7. What has been the importance of organizations such as the International Business Center of Madeira and Startup Madeira for Connecting Software?
So we did not have too much interaction with the International business center but with Startup madeira we had a lot of contact. We rented our first office there and we got a lot of tips and tricks from them. Without Startup Madeira we wouldn´t go so strong into the Portuguese location.
8. How many offices do you have at this moment and which one is the greater impact in terms of the company's revenue?
Currently we have 4 locations, Madeira is fastest growing but to say which one is the most important is not fair. We work over the borders as a team and we are all part of the success or a loss. As the sales and marketing team is mainly in Madeira you can say the importance is in this area higher but the core development and administration is also important.
9. Who are Connecting Software's customers?
We have customers all over the world in any industry or size. We serve global enterprises as well as national departments in more than 7 countries. We are very happy to support the Canadian Government and the some of the biggest companies in the world. But we also have very small customers. Just to drop some names: Governmental organizations in: Canada, USA, Ireland, England, Netherland, Germany, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand in the private sector we serve: E.ON, ZF, Henkel, Infineon, Disney, Thyssen Krupp, Realogic and many many more. Altogether more than 1000 customers all around the world are getting solutions from us.
10. What is it like to work from an island in the middle of the Atlantic and reach customers all over the world?
It is just fantastic. We are motivated and happy to be here and been able to do fantastic things after work or at the weekend. A great thing these days is, that you do not always need to be physical at your customer but you can deal with them over the internet. We are happy to have so many different cultures on the monitor every day and to learn from their needs and their business culture.
11. What are the big differences between the geographies where you are present at the business and strategy level?
These are very good questions. But I always tell the people that in English dominated countries the people are very polite and would never criticize you. Even if they are unhappy they will give you not a negative feedback, in eastern Europe dominate countries you have happy customers when they are not complaining. They will never give you good compliments. So you have to develop a sensitivity for different approaches. The Portuguese language is very polite but not very exact or concrete. In communication sometimes the emotional aspects are more important than the business related ones. So with colder countries (Scandinavia, Germany, USA) you come more direct to the point in warmer countries you talk a lot about other topics. To find here the right balance is an adventure and makes a lot of fun.
12. What products/services is the company's betting on for this year?
We are trying to go this year, next to our standard products into two strategic areas: We have a unique Industry 4.0 solution where we can easily connect the Industry with the business software. The other thing which is even bigger is our Blockchain approach. We are experts in the area of digital blockchain seals. This means we can do any digital file seal and therefore making it tamperproof. This is a real disruptive technology and we see ourselves very ahead of the market. Here we are again in our area of software integration and here we can protect with blockchain technology many things against tamper and fraud. The potential here is extremely high and can be a game changing technology. We have already patents pending in this area and we did not see any other company so far who can make solutions like this.
13. How do you see Connecting Software in one year?
Another year ahead, growing again 30% , reaching more than 50 employees, getting some more big countries as customers and revolutionize the Blockchain technology in the area of business software and Industry 4.0
14. Do you have any new projects on your mind for the future? Can you tell us a bit about them?
This year we will create a couple of standard product in the Blockchain sealing area. Security is another area where we are maybe in short getting an order from a country which will increase the secure communication with software outside secured networks. But this is a kind of a secret thing, so I will not talk too much about it.
15. Is this the first time you have launched your own business? Is it easy to be an entrepreneur in Portugal?
I am entrepreneur since 24 years in more than 4 countries. It is no-where easy to launch a business. We have here some very nice benefits in Madeira, we also have some big disadvantages. On one hand Madeira will be more and more attractive as a digital hotspot on the other side there are public sector departments e.g. customs who live still in the last millennium. Partny break EU law to get a little benefit on the other side they hinder entrepreneurs and people coming to spend money in Portugal. This happens everywhere in the world. But the people in Madeira and in Portugal are very friendly and sympatric people and I found very good friends here and I do not regret any minute to come here so far.
Socialists and war
To play in complicated markets
Business is not everything
Being a successful entrepreneur a good father and a loyal friend for many people in business and privately, being blessed that I can work and live in Madeira