Peter Thomas doesn’t just have an eye for business. He has an eye for rapid growth business, which saw him get into the ISP market when that was hot and get out of it when it approached maturity.
He did the same with web development, before getting into automated backup long in advance of it becoming a must-have component of sound technology practice.
But before all that, the general manager of KeepItsafe started out on an entirely different career path.
“When I left school, I trained as a baker, of all things,” Thomas remembers. “But, becoming more and more interested in the technology side of the business I was working for, I deciding to join the IT sector in the late 1990s.”
Dial up was a big deal then and Thomas bought a Quick Internet franchise. “That was a pretty steep learning curve as this was my first direct involvement in the IT sector.”
As connectivity moved towards commodity, Thomas sold the business in 2003, contributing to the natural consolidation of the market.
“Part of what we’d done in the increasingly competitive ISP market was diversification, so we’d started working with web developers to provide hosting and other services, so with Chris Sefton I formed Internet Business Development Group.”
It was here that he became aware of the widespread problem of poor backup processes. “A lot of businesses didn’t have suitable solutions, so we launched an add-on service take care of it.
"We soon realised this was a business in its own right; demand was higher and bigger than that for web development,” Thomas explains.
Thus was born Nexus Data Security and the foundations of KeepItSafe New Zealand laid. By 2009, Internet Business Development Group was sold in favour of Nexus; Thomas’ commercial nous saw the company grow quickly, by targeting industry organisations instead of individual customers.
“For example, we realised that the medical industry has a regulated need for data protection – if we could meet the needs of this vertical, we could probably meet any need.”
Nexus therefore developed a solution and forged relationships with organisations including the NZ Medical Association, soon tapping into closely related sectors such as the pharmaceutical industry.
By doing backup (and restore, Thomas hastens to note) well, Nexus soon started catching the attention of larger players in the international market. An approach by cloud services company j2global saw Nexus rebrand to KeepItSafe, with Thomas staying on post-acquisition in his present position.
The grunt of a bigger company has borne fruit, too. “well, in terms of performance, we achieved 750% growth last year, some of that by acquisition, and other organic,” Thomas confirms.
Most of that is still in New Zealand, with firm plans to ramp up operations in the much larger (and possibly more competitive) Australian market this year.
While backup may still be seen by some as a grudge purchase, Thomas says when it is done well there is a huge amount of satisfaction that comes from ‘picking up the pieces when everything has fallen apart’.
“Modern, cloud backup means the ability to restore even small data losses at a moment’s notice. Or big ones, in periods of minutes or hours.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, his mantra is that “Everything is an opportunity. We might deal with doom and gloom a lot, as our customers usually need as at what is a difficult or desperate time for them, but we generally turn that around for them,” Thomas says.
For a definition of success, he says getting those customers back to where they were before a data loss incident as quickly as possible is about as good as it gets.
As a family man with three very sporty kids, fun revolves around them. “I reckon for everyone who has children, once they reach their teen years, this becomes your focus outside the office.”