Cloud Computing

Exact: Aggressive cloud growth & a Grand Prix mascot

Max Emilian Verstappen, who at 17 is the youngest World Championship Grand Prix driver in the history of the sport, may seem an unlikely mascot for business software. But Exact CEO, Erik van der Meijden, is adamant that “mentally we’re very much a fit”. This is because they are both fast, ambitious and prepared to take risks.

Exact is a kind of Dutch version of Sage. It was founded by six students in 1984 and is currently on an aggressive, 50% year-on-year growth path, which puts the cloud at the heart of its operations.

Van der Meijden joined Exact in 2012. This was an antidote to some earlier financial difficulties and resulted in a clear strategy which saw the organisation broken into three separate groups – one of these was cloud. It presented a conscious move away from the far more lucrative on-premise products.

“The aim is to build an exponential organisation,” Van der Meijden explains. As detailed in the book of the same title this is a method by which companies can accelerate growth through the smart use of technology.

Exact Online was the pre-existing product which was rolled out in the US, Germany, UK and most recently, France. Because, just like every other company out there, Exact wants to produce a global product. Yet local regulations and languages make this a challenge.

“This is the reason why an international roll out takes time… and why growth is at 50% instead of 100%,” he says.

To facilitate the strategy, Exact was taken over by Apax last October for $930 million. This has “boosted growth ambitions,” explains Van der Meijden. This is because previously it was a constant balancing act between what the shareholders wanted and building out a long term plan. Now Exact is in a better position to prioritise growth.

But what about the many small business customers that fear the cloud? “We have no experience of this,” says Van der Meijden. “We made it clear to customers that we would support their [on-premise] needs.” The company has no plan to stop any time.  The cloud is a separate division which forms the long-term strategy.

“There are two types of customers,” he adds. Those with one to 200 employees, which tend to do better on the cloud, and larger organisations which need less flexible solutions.

Exact is looking to attract new customers through a blend of marketing and sponsorship – but unlike Sage’s high profile partnership with Salesforce – has no plans to hook up with other tech companies.  

The company made a “conscious decision” not to do this when it implemented its new strategy three years ago, explains Van der Meijden. “It is better to use existing architecture,” he clarifies – other tech partners may not work with the company’s own strategy.

So, aggressive growth aside how does the company plan to differentiate itself in a crowded space?  “We have a more integrated solution,” Van der Meijden says. “Customers don’t want to pick ten apps and glue them together.”

From looking at his competitors he concludes he has been “underwhelmed by the lack of integration”.


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