Has COVID-19 made local government less cyber secure?
I am proud to announce that I have handed over the CEO reins of Zivver to Wouter Klinkhamer. In my new position as CIO I will focus more on where my passion and strength lies: innovation and translating problems into solutions with technology. The new Zivver Meet service for safe video calling is a good example of how quickly we can innovate and is therefore a nice preview of what’s to come. We’re also working on many other cool projects, more on that later.
Over the past five years, as founder and CEO of Zivver, I have proudly seen our company grow. At the time, I noticed that all companies were sharing sensitive information via regular email and free file transfer services. I realized that these methods were not secure enough to meet the requirements of the GDPR. I also found existing solutions to be cumbersome for users and often very limiting. Working effectively and offering users help in making the right decisions was not central to these solutions.
Like many great ideas, my insight came from taking my frustration seriously. I came up with a concept in which safety and user-friendliness were combined and made sure that not the technology, but daily practice was the leading driver. It’s not people who have to adapt to technology, but the other way around. With only a PowerPoint presentation, Lukas Valkenburg and I preached the vision Zivver for two years. We got help in the form of valuable feedback, which meant that we had to go back to the drawing board every now and then. We learned that practice, with all the different habits people have and the systems and functions that were used, was more unruly than expected. We were also described by competitors as 'hype' or that 'we solve a non-existent problem'.
With more than 100 employees in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and England, Zivver now offers more than 3,000 organizations the comfort of secure communication. We are best known for safe emailing and safe file sharing solutions, but recently also for safe video calling. We serve more than 40% of the Dutch hospitals, 40% of the Dutch municipalities, the entire court system and 50% of all insurers in the Netherlands. More than 50% of lawyers now also use Zivver to communicate securely with the court. And many more organizations are joining every month.
Where Zivver is today makes me proud. Because the journey has also had its stressful moments. Every entrepreneur identifies with questions such as 'can I still pay the salaries in a few months?', 'Can the platform handle the growth?', 'Are the customers going to extend their contract?', 'Will a competitor overtake us?', Etc. Fortunately, we have now reached a phase where these questions no longer concern me. Our questions now mainly involve 'how do we find and retain the best people?'. Because everyone understands that we wouldn't have reached this point without a great team. One of the best choices I’ve ever made is to ask Wouter Klinkhamer to step on board at Zivver. Nine months after I started Zivver, I recognized that I did not have all the skills needed to build a successful business. It turned out that some things cost me energy, and therefore I was not able to give everything the attention it deserved. I knew that Wouter, my colleague (actually my boss) at Gupta Strategists for more than 6.5 years, would be the perfect addition. Fortunately, 4.5 years ago he decided to take up the challenge by joining Zivver. Wouter remains one of the driving forces behind our success.
I have been CEO for the past 5.5 years, Wouter was COO. During that period, certainly in the last two years, my role within Zivver has changed considerably. With rapid growth to more than 100 colleagues, my daily work was more about management and less about content and innovation. This management role is not something I am well suited for and it often takes more energy than gives back.
An important turning point came in March of this year. There were many changes that the Coronavirus brought with it. We as a company decided to help our customers by developing a safe and effective video calling solution. In doing so, we decided that the only way to do that quickly and properly was if I focused largely on that. To meet this challenge, I made myself available four days a week for this new initiative and transferred my CEO duties to Wouter. In three months, we managed to create a completely new product and proposition, built on the foundation of Zivver, called Zivver Meet. A solution that is safer, more efficient and more user-friendly for administrators and users than almost all other comparable products on the market. During these three months it also became clear that this is where my passion and strength lies: devising, developing and implementing innovations to bring new products to life. Translating problems into solutions with technology gives me a lot of satisfaction. It also became clear that with Wouter as CEO there was a good, stable captain steering the Zivver ship. Something that I (and most around us) of course knew for a long time, but for which the time and the organization were not yet ripe for.
I am therefore proud to announce that Wouter will take over the role of CEO of Zivver. I am regularly asked if that in any way bruises my ego. My answer to them is that actually it gets a boost. Because what could be better than giving someone a role that matches their talents and experience? So that, not completely selflessly, I can focus entirely on cool new projects. Some ideas we’re currently exploring include developing a secure method for sending questionnaires / requesting structured information. This can help to ensure that digital care, digitization of the legal system and cost savings on legacy systems are accelerated. We’re also looking at ways at permanently replacing the fax and courier. In other words: enhancements that make the Zivver platform even more complete.
As a former CEO and new CIO, I am proud to say that I have been promoted. I can spend even more time on what I'm good at and what I enjoy doing most. If that's not a promotion, what is?