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Continuing to help companies realise their Digital Transformation dreams in a time of war

Intellias is on a mission to breathe life into great ideas through the power of digital technology. The Ukrainian company has clients all over the world and celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. It has four offices in Ukraine and although it had to evacuate staff across the country when Russia invaded, its Business Continuity plan worked incredibly well, and the business has continued to expand. CEO, Vitaly Sedler, spoke to Intelligent CXO about how well the company has coped during full-scale war and how Intellias will continue to grow.

Can you tell me more about Intellias and what it does for its customers?

Intellias is a global technology partner, an IT services company that provides software engineering work for our clients globally. Our key markets are Europe, including the UK, North America and the Middle East. These are markets that are investing a lot into Digital Transformation and into software engineering. We are a partner to those clients who have great ideas, and we help them breathe life into those ideas. Our mission is to breathe life into great ideas through the power of digital technology.

Myself and my partner, Michael Puzrakov, founded the company in 2002 – 20 years ago. We have grown the business from a two-man company to more than 3,000 colleagues today. We built our competence around key verticals – transportation, financial services, automotive, telecoms and digital. Currently, Intellias has about 140 clients, starting from the smaller start-ups with great ideas up to Fortune 500 companies in different sectors.

How did it start and how has it grown since then?

We started in 2002 and at that point of time, we were young 25-year-old software engineers. So, we said to ourselves, we love what we do, we have great passion for technology, great passion for coding, for engineering. And it was with this in mind, we started our own business. We didn’t have huge plans of growth – we just wanted to do what we love to do. We wanted to work with clients. We wanted to do software engineering, to do coding. And that’s what we started to do. And of course, for many years I have not been coding at all, I miss those times. I think I would be even happier if from time to time, I could have the chance to sit at a keyboard and code something, some modern programming languages for our clients, but that’s not the case – we have a business to run.

The company was founded in Ukraine and has four offices there. How has the company coped with the war and how is it coping with the war?

Full-scale war is not something that we expected. We hoped that this would not be possible at all in the 21st century and it’s ridiculous. It’s unbelievable that this could happen. We are a European country, just like Poland, like Romania, like any other Eastern European neighbour. And when the war started at 5am, I would say this came as an unbelievable surprise. We did not believe this was going to happen. On the one hand, of course, we are a big company, and this means our business continuity plan (BCP) was in place for many years. When we started, there was political tension. When we saw the political tension had started to intensify in the summer of 2021, we updated our business continuity plans. And in February of this year, we were quite well prepared.

I was awoken by a phone call at about 5am saying, ‘OK, there are explosions in multiple cities in Ukraine,’ and I said, ‘OK, we need to start execution of the BCP’. And four hours later, so at 9am, the first buses with our colleagues and friends and family members had already started to leave central, eastern, southern parts of Ukraine with people being evacuated to western parts of Ukraine and also abroad. Overall, we have relocated more than 1,400 colleagues and family members. Four hundred of them were evacuated outside of Ukraine, mostly the women and kids. Men could not leave the country.

Looking at the first weeks of the full-scale war, I’m very surprised to see how well we performed. After four days of evacuation, 85% of our people continued to work. Even in this moment when we were moving hundreds and thousands of people from one region to another region. And then two weeks after the war had started, we were at 98% so almost 100% of people were able to work. This surprised not only me, but also our clients. Our clients could not believe that in the state of war, business can continue.

Looking now at these nine months, another unbelievable fact is that this year, there has been 70% growth and at least 50% of this is organic growth. We continue adding clients, we continue growing on existing clients, we acquired another software company during this year in Poland, in Ukraine, in UK. Despite the fact that there is war in Ukraine, the resilience of IT business is still very high. Intellias is very clear proof of that. I think growing 70% in revenue is not something that you would expect in time of war.

How are you supporting staff in the country?

We are supporting our colleagues in different ways. One of them is as I mentioned, relocation within Ukraine and outside of Ukraine. We organise everything, we organise buses, we organise hosting, we organise accommodation of people when they move from one region to another. And we also support them with money – just to help with the financial resources needed to relocate. And we also put quite a lot of focus on the mental health of our colleagues with different mental health programmes, so that people are not only physically safe, but also that they are mentally safe.

We now have Russian attacks on civil infrastructure and energy infrastructure of Ukraine, so we also respond to this. We purchased additional equipment like powerbanks, power generation units and Starlink hardware so that they can have uninterrupted energy supplies and internet connectivity. It’s in addition to what we do in our offices. All of our offices are equipped with independent power generation units and four or five connections to different internet providers so there was always power and always internet connectivity in our offices.

What kind of support does Ukraine need during this time of war?

You’re seeing quite a lot of support from so many different countries today – there is military support and intelligence support. But as I am coming from the business side, I always say, looking at the IT industry of Ukraine, we don’t need money, we don’t need donations, because we are one of those industries which continues to work and continues creating jobs and paying taxes in the country. My call for my colleagues in technology sectors everywhere is to continue working or start working with Ukrainian companies, with Ukrainian engineers, because by doing that, you support the country economically. Ukrainian engineers have such a strong reputation worldwide as being very talented. Maybe now it’s a good time to try working with Ukraine engineering talent.

How did the acquisition with Digitally Inspired begin and what will it bring to Intellias?

We always look at potential synergies that every acquisition brings to Intellias and in this case, the synergies are very clear. Digitally Inspired has a very strong vertical of retail, so with this acquisition Intellias has got this competence and can further develop retail business. Another very good synergy for Intellias is building a stronger presence in United Kingdom. Digitally Inspired is historically focused on this market with a strong client portfolio in UK. We now have very good presence in UK.

What’s the focus for the next few years for Intellias?

Continuous organic and inorganic growth. I think organically we can still do 30 to 40% growth by growing our current client portfolio by acquiring new clients. We believe that the global Digital Transformation still has a lot of potential to continue and a lot of potential to expand. According to different reports, IT spend globally will continue increasing by eight to 10% year over year. The market is expanding, and this means for a great and competent company like Intellias, there will be a lot of work going forward.

We continue our organic growth, focusing on key verticals that I mentioned earlier, maybe adding one or two more verticals, maybe looking into healthcare, life sciences and business. Another thing is that we invest a lot into our technology office and building our technology competencies, right across a number of areas – Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, IOT, cybersecurity, cloud computing.

Also – organic acquisition. We have an appetite and we have capital for continuing acquisitions, and our next focus will be looking for companies outside of Europe probably – looking at the American market and India.

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