We have a chat with Digital Cabinet’s CEO and discuss all things from what it means to be CEO, what it was like being a salesperson on the high streets of the UK, as well as his love of growing plants and puzzles.
Just like plants need to be nurtured in order to thrive, so too do businesses. For Daniel Kritzas, business is an organic process and running a successful business like Digital Cabinet can be likened to the act of managing a garden.
Growth is organic. Plants need to be fed and watered in the right amounts, but they also need to be left alone so they can flourish. In the right environment, plants and businesses thrive; in the wrong one, they flounder.
Business is like watching seeds grow
We often forget that all businesses are comprised of people, and, as such, it’s always a fantastic idea to get to know the people behind the business.
We sat down with Digital Cabinet’s CEO, Daniel Kritzas to ask him a few questions and find out more about how Digital Cabinet was germinated and learn about the man behind the groundskeeper.
Daniel also had some inspirational comments and advice about what it means to be a CEO for an IT company and for those that have an idea and want to build a platform and business of their own.
Have a look at what he had to tell us below:
Why do you love your job?
Every client that I see is a new challenge, where I see myself as being instrumental in changing the way that they do things in their business. And it’s actually quite substantial. The clients that we’ve converted to a paperless environment are submitting hundreds of forms every day, which means hundreds of pieces of paper aren’t being printed. So, that’s why I enjoy my job; the reward that I get, what I’m doing for the environment, makes me feel like I’m doing my bit.
What does being a CEO mean to you?
If I could sum it up in a word: Responsibility. Being a CEO [means] making sure that the machine is well oiled all the time; always being the safety net, trying to catch things that others miss—because if you don’t do it, no one’s going to do it.
What role does Digital Cabinet play in your day-to-day life?
Digital Cabinet means a lot to me; I’m truly passionate about the business. I really do believe that we’re doing a good thing out there for businesses. It means a lot to me that our clients are happy, that they’re using the system, that we’re giving them the best possible, seamless user experience that we can offer.
Every single time just a single form has been submitted on our platform makes me happy. It means one more piece of paper was saved and one more process was captured correctly within an organization, and that makes me happy.
What does Digital Cabinet mean to me? It means the world to me. It’s like one of my family members.
Is business always something you wanted to do?
When I got out of high school, my plan was to get into the IT Industry, and that’s what I studied. After that, I went to the UK for two years and caught a big surprise that there were no jobs there at the time [for IT]—it was a tough industry to be in then.
So, I had to get a job really quickly and found one selling gas and electricity on the streets. Virgin Energy had just gotten into the [Energy] space and [Richard Branson] came up with a direct selling model. He used to send me and other people to high streets where we used to convert people to his service. It was a great experience because that’s hardcore sales—you don’t get more hardcore than that—and taught me the confidence of how to sell.
When I got back from the UK after two years, I realised that I was passionate about marketing and sales, so I studied an IMM [Marketing Management]. Then, I joined my father in a business brokerage, selling investments and used to do financial planning.
Through that, the whole idea of Digital Cabinet was born, because I saw a huge need for paperless solutions within the broker market.
How did Digital Cabinet start?
I actually got a company who started developing a software solution for me, but that all fell apart. So, I told Asaf about the idea and I said, “Listen, this is where I’ve gotten to so far and I believe that we should develop a solution so that we can go to any business and make it easy for them to upload to documents to the cloud.” This was about 2007, before Dropbox was launched, or weren’t big yet.
Dropbox opened the world up to the possibilities of storing documents to the cloud. In a way, they are our competitors, but they actually helped us educate the market, and we took that idea and developed it towards being specifically tailored for businesses.
So Asaf, who was a friend of mine, came on board in 2008 and started developing part-time, and in 2011 we got a mini-investment and he left his full-time position and he took this product to market when we launched in 2011.
Where do you see Digital Cabinet going in the future?
The mobile space is growing at an incredible rate. Businesses will be able to digitize nearly every single one of their processes so that employees can transact with just their own personal mobile phones. We are constantly looking at ways of incorporating new technologies (eg. blockchain, facial recognition, AI) into our product offerings.
What advice would have for someone wanting to build their own platform?
Just make sure that you code it for scale. Don’t go to a cheap overseas developer that can get the job done, but does so without thinking about future growth and plugging in new technologies into the platform. That’s a good lesson to learn: it has to be a scalable platform if you’re going to build something; you can’t take shortcuts.
If you had to do it again, what would you do differently?
I would have, in the beginning, rather raised funding instead of bootstrapping for the last 7 years.
In saying that, I still think that bootstrapping was the right thing to do. It taught us about the realities of business. All the things that I’ve learned along the way, you can’t learn in a textbook.
What are the ‘do’s’ of being a CEO?
Number 1: You have to have patience, it’s a patience game. You have to be patient with your developers, your employees, with everything in your business because the minute you start acting desperate, no matter what it may be—if you act out at your employees, if you act out at your customers—it just goes wrong and everything falls apart.
Number 2: you just have to know how to treat your employees well. You have to have that quality to be able to connect with your employees; just let them be and trust what they will do what they were employed to do. You have to have faith in your employees. If you do, they will be happy that you have faith in them, that you’re not breathing down their neck like a hawk.
It’s a balancing act, but if you can’t trust that your employees will get on with [their work], then why did you hire them in the first place?
What inspires you?
I could be very cliche and say “Elon Musk” because he does, I’m sure he inspires a lot of people. Any entrepreneur that’s ‘made it’ inspires me.
But, really, progression and life are what inspire me. Nature and growth. I’m very big into hydroponics—I grow a lot of herbs, like basil, and I do it with a flow system all controlled with my phone.
It inspires me to watch things grow and develop. I love watching a seed germinate and seeing what it develops into and knowing that I created that. It’s inspiring me to watch that [business] is like growing a little family, a little community and is empowering people. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning, to have such a responsibility.
You said in an interview once, “I love building things, be it a card castle or a 3D puzzle. The best thing about building this business is that I get paid for it.” Tell us more.
I definitely think that I’m a logical person. I will always find a solution to an issue when it comes to physical things. When I see something that’s broken, I work out pretty quickly how I can fix it, and how I can fix it well.
I love building Space Rails—I’m going to sound like a nerd—which is like building a desk-sized roller coaster for metal ball-bearings that come in like a million parts. I know a lot of people who got it but never got more than halfway. But, if you build it perfectly, if you put a battery in it and the [bearings] go up the elevator, they keep going around and around until you switch it off. It’s very difficult to get it to that stage because it’s hours and hours of testing and minor adjustments.
So, yes, I love puzzles.
A business is more than just the sum of its parts; it’s made up of individuals, and so too is a garden made up of many varieties of plants that each need their own specific requirements to flourish.
Every plant starts off as a seed or cutting, and every seed needs to first be planted, and when all that is done, in return, the groundskeeper—or the leader—receives the reward of watching them grow.
Vital services like automated workflow and document management solutions can be likened to ensuring that your garden has the most efficient means of delivering it the nutrients and water it needs to flourish.
We hope you enjoyed this insight into one of the individuals behind Digital Cabinet. Next time, we’ll have a chat with Asaf Ben-Nathan, our Chief Technology Officer.
Until then, we hope that your gardens flourish.
You can find out more about Digital Cabinet at www.digitalcabinet.co.za