I had the pleasure of sitting down with Bill Sorenson, CEO and Co-Founder of IVDesk for an interview. Mr. Sorenson and his co-founder, Jim Polakowski, started IVDesk in 2001 as a cloud service provider that is safe, reliable, and a great investment for companies looking for security with their cloud provider.
“A desire to provide small-to-midsized businesses with the IT once only accessible to Fortune 500 companies led IVDesk founders Bill Sorenson and Jim Polakowski to develop a first-of-its-kind outsourced solution in 2001.
“Our goal is to reduce IT headaches, surprises and costs so that our customers can focus on running their business without being dragged down by an expensive and unreliable in-house IT operation.” – IVDesk.com
Tell us about IVDesk
“The company started in 2001. We started off as what is termed today as a cloud provider, or wholly hosted IT service. We hosted all desktops, and today we are a private cloud provider. Our target client base is small to mid sized companies, from 15 employees up to 250. We pick up all of their applications, data and desktops and move it to our tier 3 data center and then run it for them so that they can connect with any device everywhere.
“Whether it is a Mac or PC computer, or even a smartphone or iPad, they can get their full desktop with their applications from anywhere. We also provide a 24/7 help desk. This is all on a pay-per-user account process.
“We provide our service for clients primarily in legal, accounting, financial services, as well as a variety of other industries.”
What is your role at IVDesk?
“I am the CEO and one of the two co-founders of the company. We are in the process of becoming a public company, which is very exciting for us. This process started in September of 2012. After two successful rounds of fundraising efforts we have seen company growth and are on the brink of becoming a publicly owned company, and we are greatly anticipating this new step.”
How big is IVDesk?
“We’ve got 24 people working for the company right now with a handful of job openings. Quarter over quarter, we have seen a growth of 30% for the last few quarters. We historically have been a direct sales company, but are moving toward becoming a channel partner for sales. We want to work with management service companies to sell our product.”
Tell us about your background. How did you arrive at the position you are currently in?
“I am an accountant by schooling and trade, and in the early 1990’s I moved over to IT and computer services for Travelers Express and Moneygram. I worked with them for roughly 10 years holding a variety of senior level IT positions, then in 1999 I moved to one of the internet companies called WebHelp.com in the IT department where I ran that department for a couple of years before the company moved to Canada. At that point my partner and I started IVDesk in October of 2001.”
What makes for a good client fit when working with IVDesk?
“A really good fit is a company with 30-200 people. We work well with companies with multiple locations that are struggling to access to applications from various locations.
“Generally, most companies will make for good IVDesk clients. Timing wise, prospects that are looking to replace existing equipment are good candidates. Those who are looking to spend money on equipment and computer hardware, we provide all of this with our monthly service.
“We currently work with clients across most every vertical, but a majority of them are clients that work in legal, accounting, or financial services and we work especially well in situations where there are multiple locations.”
How many companies are you currently providing your service for?
“We are currently working with over 200 companies.”
It is impressive to see that IVDesk has seen the growth that it has experienced. What does the future look like for your company, and for your industry?
“We view it like this: Companies can use any of three major approaches.
- To pick software service solutions, for example salesforce.com.
- To create a hybrid solution where some elements are hosted and others are held onsite.
- The best approach and the approach that IVDesk provides is private cloud solutions where you can run anything that you are currently running and have it hosted by a cloud provider.
“We see that a lot of the market is moving toward the wholly hosted environment because they don’t want to deal with converting application after application.
“We have noticed that we are having to explain our service less and less, and instead we are seeing a lot more inbound traffic where people are looking for services like ours.”
How long has the industry been around?
“We look at it as a pendulum that swung back and forth. Really, the cloud concept started when the Internet started. Basic websites that stored information. Before that, the time shared mainframe from the 1970’s is the same concept.
“What you see now is individual point applications with remote backup, CRM, HRIS system, so very pointed things that were applications from the 1990’s. Since then companies have moved into this idea of shared space with your basic files and folders, plus all of the different applications that either integrate with each other or run separately.”
How would you describe IVDesk?
“We run all the applications that our client’s have, no matter what they are. We view ourselves as extremely customer intimate, and our back office is very operationally excellent. We are very close to our customers and our users. During training our goal is to make it simple for them to get help, not only answering the questions like, ‘How do I connect?’ but also the questions of, ‘How do I get help?’ on anything.
“We like to instill the idea of whenever clients have a question, ‘Just call.’ We have created a system that is so smooth and runs so well that we are receiving less and less callers with questions, and combining that with our readiness to answer any questions they might come up with creates a very sticky customer.”
When you say “sticky”, do you mean loyal?
“Yes. Since we have started, we’ve had tremendous loyalty.
“On the business side, we are a recurring revenue model. So our mantra is that ‘we sell the customer once and service them for life,’ and that really provides consistent revenue.”
What would you say are the exciting elements of IVDesk and your industry?
“The big thing is the idea that you can bring your own device (BYOD), whether it’s a Mac, iPad, or a PC, and access those business desktops or applications, as well as the increased security that we provide by not having the data go everywhere with you.
“No longer are you carrying around your customer list and all of your private information, but instead it is all hosted and secure, and yet you have the same access from anywhere at any time.”
And how do you keep all of this information secure?
“We’ve got an extremely secure and active edge routing and firewall environment. We are audited and review around 12 times a year by our customer’s vendors, FINRA, SEC, we do HIPAA compliance audits and even more. Everybody looks at us and that oversight from those external audits is part of the process of validation. When we look at the infrastructure and at the amount we invest into security compared to a company with 300 employees would spend, we are buying that enterprise level equipment and configurations that can really protect them where most companies do not have the money to spend on it by themselves, so we provide the level of security that they want.
“Our customers are fanatically loyal. I got a call the other night from the person who is responsible for the Minneapolis police union and he was really just calling to say how dramatically and fantastically better we are than their last vendors and they can’t believe how well it has all turned out. And that really describes us well. Our company from the leadership to the front line are very focused on the customer. We always answer the phone. We don’t make them wait for help, or force them to be on hold. Customers will reach someone instantly.”