Three TU Delft students, one dream. When Robbert van Geldrop in 2004 and two fellow students of Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis & Management wrote their first business plan for a company that would offer back-up services in the cloud, he was convinced that it could become a modest success. Reality proved better than expected.
We predicted annual profits between 300,000 and 400,000. We were young and ambitious, and we thought that this would be feasible’. Ten years later, Robbert van Geldrop, one of the founders of the YesDelft-startup BackUpAgent, looks back with a smile. The company was one of the first worldwide cloud backup suppliers in the market. Current profits amount to between two and three million dollars per year – ‘we never state the exact amount’. ‘We established a serious company that, as of the takeover date, was protecting data for more than 50,000 companies around the world, in addition to free users’.
With a nose for business, he was thus able to sell his first company at the age of 34. The American industry counterpart Acronis, a worldwide supplier in the area of back-up services, repairs and file allocation, saw potential in the activities of the TU Delft alumni. Aiming to become the leader in the commercial market, what could be better than to bring the star players in this area into the company? The takeover was completed last September. Van Geldrop and his partner Roland Sars, who studied aerospace engineering for two years (the third partner left in 2012), will remain on board for the next 18 months. The office will remain open, and the old name will be maintained for the time being. After this period, BackUpAgent is expected to be fully integrated into Acronis with regard to services and name, and supplemented with services for broken PCs.
Not too bad for a company that only entered the market in 2009. Van Geldrop: ‘It was actually a bit earlier; we brought out our first product in 2006. We were collaborating with Surfnet and other partners, and we had recruited Paul van Keep, one of the founders of Exact, as an investor, but it was not yet mature. In 2009, we had everything worked out in our business model. Until that point, we had been accustomed to having software companies pay a one-time licence fee for our services, which we would then develop. By changing that to monthly billing for the software that we would deliver, we ensured a constant flow of income. The only problem was that this eliminated our buffer for the next three years (as companies were paying large sums in advance) in one fell swoop’.
This temporarily resulted in a 30% drop in profits. ‘We had to let some people go, but we always kept our eyes on the big picture. It proved relatively easy to bring in big players, like international telecom operators’. The secret to our success? ‘No consultancy services, no projects – just one product, which can be sold hundreds of times. A good business plan should fit on the back of a beer mat’.
And now? ‘The sky’s the limit’, laughs Van Geldrop. He is not afraid of getting bored after the coming two years. ‘Moreover, we knew from the start that we would be selling the company. It just came sooner than we had expected. Things worked out well for Android when it was taken over by Google; I’m sure if I do my best in the next two years, my baby will survive’.
Name: Robbert van Geldrop (34)
Degree programme: Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis & Management
Product: cloud back-up services and software
Profits: 2–3 million dollars per year
Mission: ‘To compete with with other commercial back-up services in the cloud’.
In 5 years: ‘… BackUpAgent will have been fully incorporated into its American industry counterpart Acronis. Maybe I will be on the board, or even start a new company’.