Lead Interview: Justin Day, Cloud Gateway

Our lead interview in the INNOVATE issue of Norfolk Director Business Magazine is Justin Day, CEO of Cloud Gateway.

Published in Norfolk Director Magazine Autumn/Winter 2020
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Create, Develop and Deliver

“I like people and it’s very important to me for people to like me. I get a real buzz out of someone enjoying my company and wanting to spend time with me.”

If you had asked Justin Day, CEO of Cloud Gateway, what he wanted to be when he grew up, a stand-up comedian may well have been his answer. It certainly wouldn’t have been an IT networks engineer.

“Growing up, the thing that was most important to me was standing out in the crowd; not in an arrogant big-headed way, but I just enjoyed being around people and making them happy.” Justin explained.

“I grew up on the Norfolk Suffolk border with my mum, Marijke, who is Dutch, my dad, Billy and my brother Sorren. I also have a half-sister Lorraine and two half-brothers, Gavin and James. I went to The Old School Henstead, an independent prep school. I was considered a gifted child, and this resulted in me being put up a year and gaining a scholarship to Norwich School, where I started at 10 years old.

“I liked school and at Henstead, as it was smaller, I was able to stand out by joking around and making people laugh. It was a different story when I started at Norwich School. It was much bigger, so I was a smaller fish in a much bigger pond.

“Out of school, I was very close to Dad. Having had a stroke early in the nineties, he had given up work, so we would spend a lot of time together.

“I didn’t particularly like studying, I am just lucky that I can remember and retain things. I drifted through school, and because of that, I sat very much in the middle academically.”

“I loved Mathematics though and still do; I love numbers, as well as the concept and logic.”

However, Justin realised, even at this young age, that he had a valuable skill, and that was being able to interact with people.

“I found it easy to get on with others and I set out to establish a camaraderie with those I spent time with.”

Reaching a crossroads

A pivotal moment came in 1998 when Justin collected his GCSE results from Norwich School.

“Although I was pleased with my results, I was taken aside by one of the teachers and told that they weren’t good enough to go on and do the A Levels I wanted to do. The vibe wasn’t great and I realised that it was more important for the school to be seen as the best in the city for overall performance, rather than working with the kids individually, to encourage them to get to where they wanted to be.

“So, I decided to enrol at City College in Norwich to take my A Levels. This was a turning point for me, as the move meant I now had complete freedom. I wasn’t constrained at the college. I could wear what I wanted: I could even turn up for lessons when I wanted.

“As a result, I didn’t go, choosing to spend my days wandering around Norwich instead. So, at Christmas, I got kicked out. Undaunted, I decided to restart the next year and got kicked out again.

“I’ll openly admit at this time in my life, I was a layabout, doing nothing but playing games, sitting on my backside, not going anywhere.”

Then in 2000, Justin reached the ultimate crossroads when his mum started circling job adverts in the Eastern Daily Press and pushing him to decide on what he wanted to do.

“I realised I had to do something, and because Dad came from London, I had a fascination with the City. Growing up, I was always hyper-independent and had been travelling to London on my own since I was 14. My half-sister Lorraine, lived in Barnet, and as I couldn’t go to City College, and a move would give me a chance to get away from everything, I decided to go and do my A Levels at Barnet College.”

However, then Justin’s mum saw a job for a Junior Marketing Executive at Moneyfacts in Norwich advertised in the EDP.

“I applied for the job and got invited along for an interview on the same day I had my interview at Barnet College. Fortunately, one was in the morning, the other in the afternoon. I remember turning up at Moneyfacts expecting a traditional interview, but I was shown to a large room with around 14 others who were all being interviewed at the same time.

“We went round the table introducing ourselves, and although I gave it everything I had, I didn’t think I stood a chance of getting the job. I even came out, got picked up by Dad and told him in the car, we should prepare for Barnet College.

“A week later, Moneyfacts called and said they had some good news and bad news. The bad news was that they had offered the marketing executive role to someone else. The good news was that they were impressed with me and wanted to know whether I would be interested in a new role they had created in the marketing department.

“Maybe they saw something in me and realised I could play a part in the development of their IT and digital marketing which was an emerging area for businesses at that time. So, they asked me to come back to and do a presentation on something of my choice and I did it on websites.

“It was only a couple of days later that they rang me and said, again, that they had good and bad news. The good news was they wanted to offer me a job, the bad news was that they thought I needed to improve my telephone skills. So, although I would be employed by the marketing function, they wanted me to spend some time on the IT helpdesk, offering support and guidance to people that had purchased Moneyfacts products.

“This was in the days of modems and dial-up internet access and here was when the pedal hit the medal. When something interests me, I need to understand it and know everything about it. Everything around IT grabbed me, and I literally spent all my free time studying and learning, so I could get better at what I was doing.”

It obviously worked as within six months Justin was promoted from IT helpdesk to IT support, helping people with their PC problems.

“The promotion coincided with a request by Marketing that I returned to their team. However, IT and its infrastructure was really taking off at that time and it was becoming crucial to the business, and I wanted to stay in desktop support, which I was allowed to do.”

Towards the end of 2001, Justin was offered the opportunity to either specialise in servers or networks.

Lead Interview: Justin Day, Cloud Gateway 1

“This was an easy choice, as my true love for numbers is binary and networks did that for me, as it had all the logic. Networks is the mainstay behind IT and systems; without it nothing works. It involves the underlying connectivity infrastructure for all other aspects of IT. It’s the widgets that get the signal from A to B.”

As part of the job role, Justin was enrolled on a two-year evening course at City College, run by Cisco Systems, the biggest networks company in the world. He qualified as a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) in 2003.

“I had set myself up for a big year that year. I turned 21 and had completed my CCNA course. I was looking to the future and thinking about moving to another company to grow in my experience. But then my dad died, and I started to plummet; He was a role model, my best friend, and my hero.”

“A mantra instilled in me by Dad was: In striving to be the best, when you reach the number one slot, you need to look for someone else to learn from so you can grow both professionally and personally.”

“As soon as I got my CCNA qualification in June, I left Moneyfacts and took an IT contract job at Bernard Matthews for a few months. Then in 2004, I got another contract job, but this time at Norfolk County Council in their IT team. I was working solely on networks and as the council had multiple sites all over the county, it was a fantastic experience for me.”

After 12 months, Justin was offered a permanent role, but he decided instead to go and work with Cable & Wireless (C&W) as a Network Project Engineer.

“This was a step up for me. I was terrified and totally out of my comfort zone. But I learned that if I was honest about my capabilities when talking to others and asked them to help me learn, they gave me the support I needed.

“At that time, our major account was with Norwich Union (now Aviva) who were a fantastic company for investing in new technologies. As they got each new technology in, I was in a prime position to learn all about it. Norwich Union retained C&W to provide all their IT support and infrastructure. If they wanted something new, they had to come to us as the incumbent to design, deliver and support the new platforms.”

Becoming a disruptor

“It was 2011, and having spent five years at C&W, I realised that I wasn’t happy with sitting back and doing what I was asked to do. I wanted to be proactive and suggest ways in which we could improve. I wouldn’t accept the norm and that the way things were done was necessarily the best way. I was continually questioning and challenging my employers about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’.

“I look back and can see now that I was becoming a disruptor. I wanted to look after my colleagues and protect them.

“There are many ways you can make people feel better, rather than just paying them more money. I don’t believe in doing things one way because that’s the way we’ve always done it.

I was reprimanded and given warnings, but I didn’t buckle. And, as I wanted to gain more experience and increase my learning, I eventually voted with my feet, left C&W and went to work in London.

Lead Interview: Justin Day, Cloud Gateway 5

“I had an idea in my head that I wanted to start my own business, but instead I went backwards to come forwards and joined Deutsche Bank as a Firewall Engineer. I was there three months before ironically going full circle and joining Aviva in London as a Network Architect.

“This is where fate interjected as a friend who I had worked with at Aviva in Norwich, Neil Briscoe, was now at Aviva in London and he wanted me in his team. We were good friends and worked well together. He was, and is, better technically than me, but I was a better people person.

“We realised we wanted to set up a business together but decided to take our time.

“In 2015, Neil had left to join Capita and I was unsettled. I wasn’t learning anything. By now, I was sharing a flat in London with Neil, and I discovered that he was bored with what he was doing, so we decided that the time was right to start something together.

“Almost unbelievably, straightaway two roles came up for Network Architects at the Ministry of Justice. As well as giving us valuable experience in a government department, it allowed us to spend our free time working on starting a business. We went back to basics on where our skills sets lay; establishing what we did and didn’t like about our industry.

“We knew that incumbent contracts, depleting skills and a lack of proactivity were bad things, but as a business what were we going to sell?

“We decided to be consultants and opted to work in cloud computing, which was on an upward trend, and a dark art that no one understood. We could see that there were massive problems on the horizon, with no one out there to help and support businesses.”

“Neil and I had already gained huge provenance helping Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure with their cloud connectivity, security and networking and they were coming to us to ask us to work on their projects.

“We knew this was what we needed to take forward and build on. I had an idea and spoke to Neil about building a cloud connectivity system. As the tech guy, he was straight on it and accelerated the building of it. Although I do get involved in the design, I wasn’t interested in the build. I was interested in the people bit, the consultancy aspect.”

The first build was finished early in 2016 and Neil and Justin soon realised that what they had created was the crux of the business.

“The product we had developed was a connectivity platform solution that provided businesses with both the mechanism and resource support to adopt, develop and operate Cloud, Hybrid-Cloud and Multi-Cloud environments. We knew what we had wasn’t just a disruptive technology, but a disruptor for the entire IT industry.

“We called it Cloud Gateway and our first customer was the Ministry of Justice who awarded us a £2 million contract over two years.

“The product is innovative, and we have no direct competitors. Cloud Gateway is government accredited and continues to be a work in progress. Our USP from a tech perspective is that you can buy what you want and scale it to what you need at the touch of a button. The platform is unique and allows people to make changes tomorrow that they didn’t know they needed today. The business USP is our people. You get access to everyone in our business and no matter what level you are, we all work together to get it right.

“Another great thing for us was that we didn’t need a big capital outlay to get the business started; we just paid as we went along.”

A tempestuous journey

“When we got started our intention was to build a company around the consultancy aspect, and a personal goal for 
Neil and I was to earn enough to pay our mortgages off in two years.”

“Then when we were awarded the Ministry of Justice contract, we decided to build the company around the product and sell it to other people.”

“In that same year, 2016, we were having a conversation with 6point6, a technology consultancy company and we mentioned our plans for our business, and they offered us seed funding for a 50 percent stake in Cloud Gateway.

“This enabled us to drive the business forward, hiring people, developing the product, and investing in marketing.”

“I learnt so much in our first year about sharing your company with an investor and it was quite challenging and tempestuous. However, by the end of the year our relationship had matured enough for 6point6 to take more of a backseat, leaving Neil and I to steer the company.”

Personally, Justin is married to Emma and they live on the Suffolk / Norfolk border with their two children: Billy and Evelyn. In his free time, and as a result of being dragged through arcades in the eighties, Justin is a keen video gamer. He has his own ‘man cave’ at home, which as well as housing his office, is packed full of pinball machines and arcade video games such as Bubble Bobble, Rainbow Islands and The New Zealand Story.

Another big interest is football, and he supports Norwich City. He also coaches two football teams: Earsham FC and Diss Town under 10s. Yet perhaps Justin’s biggest love is American Football. He is an avid spectator and holds a season ticket for the New Orleans Saints, although due to the pandemic he can’t get over to the States to watch a game at the moment.

Lead Interview: Justin Day, Cloud Gateway 9

“On average including my work hours, I can spend up to 80 hours a week in my ‘man cave’. A typical day for me is totally different to what it was a year ago, and the 25-yard commute is a definite improvement. I start at 9am sorting out emails and reviewing social media. As a small company I get very involved in the technical sales and business development, but as that’s an area that really interests me, I don’t mind doing it as it’s a key activity for developing the revenue growth of the company.”

Today, Cloud Gateway employs 22 people who operate from three hubs in London, Norfolk, and West Yorkshire. Their business strategy has three phases; Build, Grow, Sell.

“We are currently in the first third of the Grow phase. The product has expanded from originally being cloud only, to become a physical presence in data centres throughout the UK. Our plans for the future are to keep developing the product and driving efficiencies. We have a succinct roadmap, and we are visionary about remote working; in fact, I don’t think we should use the word ‘remote’ at all, we should just call it ‘working’.

“We are growing our revenue streams through product development and increasing our sales in other markets and internationally. There are no borders to what we do. Organic global growth depends solely on our understanding of the political, economic, cultural, and environmental factors of the countries we are entering.

“What is pretty mind blowing is that, as long as I am connected to a network, at the press of a button, I can be opening Cloud Gateway to any organisation anywhere in the world, and that’s not a bad achievement for someone who grew up wanting to be a stand-up comedian!”

WANTING TO SECURE FINANCIAL INVESTMENT: SOME KEY POINTS TO CONSIDER.

If you are looking at ways that you can grow and develop your business, an option worth considering is gaining additional financial investment from an external source. This can come in many guises such as a bank loan or overdraft, a government grant or tax credit, or from private equity and crowdfunding investment.

Cloud Gateway attracted seed funding from 6point6. Seed funding is when an investor injects capital into a start-up company in exchange for an equity stake.

Having first-hand experience of this route, Justin has some key points to share with others who may be considering giving away part of their business in exchange for any financial investment.

1. Disconnect emotionally: You need to think with your head, not your heart and separate the personal from the professional.

2. Establish what you want: In any deal there is an offset against what you’re giving and what they’re getting. So, you need to be clear on what you want the money for. Is it growth, improved cashflow, asset investment etc.?

3. Establish what they want: Get the investor to explain what they are bringing to the table and what they want to do, and how they want to operate in your business. Do they just want to scrutinise how you operate the business and what you are doing, or are they going to play their part and help you with their skills set and / or contacts? Then make sure you get it all down in writing before agreeing to the deal.

4. Set up the legalities: Ensure you have the Articles of Association drawn up. This is the document that lays down rules about running the company which are agreed by all the shareholders and directors.

5. Confirm the common values: Establish whether you can work with the investors and do they ‘buy-in’ to your drive, passion and goals.

6. Understand the decision maker: Is the key person heading up the investment company aligned to your approach and culture.

7. Know your way out: From the off, you should have an exit strategy in place, even if you have no plans to do so. Remember, if it’s there, it’s a lot easier to change your mind and do a U-turn, than backtrack on the deal later on.

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