Phil Doye hit the headlines earlier this year when he returned to the industry with his acquisition of SBL. In his latest interview with CRN, Phil discussed his growth ambitions and plans for SBL, as well as sharing his thoughts on the wider industry as a whole. Here are some of the highlights.
1. What Phil’s done since selling Kelway
“I am naturally inquisitive and during three years out, I really enjoyed looking at lots of different areas, investing in a whole range of things and discovering some of the areas that previously Kelway had provided IT to enable. These have included fintech, renewable energy, the sharing economy, AI, healthtech, biotech and a number of consumer apps and platforms. Most of my time was spent just learning how to become an investor, rather than a manager of a business.”
2. What he’s missed the most
“There was always one thing that really nagged at me as the thing that I missed. I could make an investment in something and maybe that investment will go up and I’ll be happy, or it will go down and I’ll be annoyed. But it’s very, very passive. I missed being part of a team, a company that actually was trying to do things.”
3. There’s a lot of opportunity for SBL
“If you look at the size, it’s already a top 20 VAR by size. With the recent MoD contract, in terms of revenue – and you can take or leave whether revenues are important – it will be well within the top 20 in the CRN list: somewhere around £220 million revenue for this year.
It’s clearly very well established and respected in the markets that it serves and has been for a very, very long time.
However, it has some very under leveraged parts of the business. Its services businesses is sub-scale, and there’s an opportunity to grow that. The customers have a high degree of trust in SBL and are very prepared to work with us to create new solutions and services, so there’s a really good opportunity to grow.”
4. How the industry has changed
“There’s obviously been lots of steps around diversity and women in tech, and CRN has led with some really positive initiatives. Actually, when you go to partner forums, you look around the room and you’re still looking at the same set of people. I found it incredibly depressing – just coming back and thinking, ‘goodness me, this hasn’t changed; it’s just the same’. It’s not just gender diversity but also age and cultural diversity that needs better representation.”
5. The most overrated buzzword
“I think AI is definitely misunderstood and overrated in the industry. If you asked people to just explain what AI is, very few people can verbalise that in any credible way at all. We’re great at these buzzwords – ‘we’re going to be AI-first and we’re going to do this we’re going to do that’. Yeah, I would say AI is underrated long term, but short term it’s overrated.”
Oh, one more thing… Mopane worms?
“Why come back into the industry that I originally left? I think there’s a very simple answer to that. Although I’ve become an expert in other areas, I don’t live and breathe that. I felt coming back into an industry which I really understand made more sense than trying to go and buy a business that was doing something completely different. Farming Mopane worms in South Africa was definitely not an area of expertise!”