Karim Nejaim is the CEO of ActivePort (ASX:ATV), an Australian company that provides a software-defined networking tool and open SD-WAN, to help companies run their technology their way and facilitate global connectivity.
What’s your journey in becoming a Chief Executive Officer?
I have been around Software development, IT and Telecommunication for over 25 years. I joined the SingTel Group at Optus as a mid-level network engineer in 1999 and finished up in 2014 as Group Vice President for Optus before moving to Telstra as Executive Director of Product Engineering. The move into executive roles came naturally as my focus was always on the big picture and customer outcomes. My personal mantra is that great technology isn’t great until a customer says it is, and it’s this customer obsession that brought me into my role as CEO for ActivePort. I saw an opportunity to run a company that is focused on simplifying networking and the use of technology and where we can positively disrupt in a market by talking less about the technology itself and more about solving customer business problems.
Tell us a bit about your business and how you are commercializing?
ActivePort is all about making it as easy as possible to connect globally. Our CTO, Mark Middleton, has created software that makes the very complicated job of building networks globally, managing legacy and new technology, injecting cloud services and automating, all from one screen. ActivePort’s SD-WAN 2.0 gives enterprises, telecoms providers and resellers access to the latest generation of hardware agnostic SD-WANs, where you can connect, configure and activate the edge in minutes with complete independence from big vendor applications, hardware and proprietary licensing. We’re focusing on rolling this out globally and are collaborating with Console Connect by PCCW Global to extend the availability of our SD-WAN solution worldwide.
What’s the most exciting thing about running your business?
The most exciting thing about running ActivePort is that we are giving control back into the hands of customers. Nothing beats the delight of customers during our software demos which is typically accompanied with comments like “oh, wow, we can do that!?!”. Secondly, the enjoyment of speaking to customer in places like South America, Asia and the US and discovering the ways our whole network orchestration and SD-WAN is suitable for lots of different markets. Also, as a leader of a young company it is fantastic to see the buzz and energy in our team when we land new deals or receive feedback from customers.
How do you measure success?
There is no way around it – heading into an IPO and in the first couple of years we have to prove our value in the market and that will be driven by business success and, largely, revenue growth. We are very focused on escalating revenue growth from our monthly, re-occurring software licensing and the company is geared for growth on the back of the monthly re-occurring licensing.
The precursor to any business success is ensuring that we are delivering value to customers and helping them solve their business problems, whether that be helping them increase revenue, decrease costs or balancing growth. The greatest “lead indicator” I can think of is customers telling you that they love your product. It is important to remember that great engineering is not great engineering until a customer tells you it is!
Lastly, I want ActivePort to be regarded as an employer of choice. Without the people in ActivePort there is no ActivePort. Our company is not just about software; it is about the people that are making the ActivePort journey a personal one for them.
What do you think is the most important quality of being a CEO of a listed company?
There are a large number of skills required to sit in the CEO chair – strategy and vision, innovation, the management of competing priorities, growing the people and the company. The most important for me comes back to people and a simple “mantra”: Hire the best people, give them space to do their thing, and listen to them. There are very, very few CEOs (and I would argue none) who are experts in all aspects of a business – listen to your people and then make the call.
What is your favourite book?
I love non-fiction books about major events in people’s lives, the way people think about the past and the future. To pick a few: Thomas Friedman’s “Thank you for being late” which is about the massive growth in technology and where it may be taking us. Craig Challen and Richard Harris’s “Against all odds” is another favourite with its balance of heroism, compassion and the science required to save the group of schoolboys from the Tham Luang cave. My favourite fiction book is Shantaram by David Roberts.
What message do you want to send to our readership in Asia & Australia?
ActivePort is setting out to make global connectivity easier, faster and better – for less. We are going to disrupt in several areas and we are doing it for one primary reason: To help the world connect and make it simple. That’s why, instead of adding yet another solution for each business challenge and juggle the integration, ActivePort offers whole network orchestration, SD-WAN, real-time provisioning and firewall, all from a single screen.