Interview with Patrick Barnert
Patrick Barnert was a founding member of Unic and in the management team of Open Text. He travelled with Swisscom to Silicon Valley as CEO of startup Qumram and told of his impressions.
Hansjörg Honegger, 24 October 2016
You were in Silicon Valley with Swisscom as part of the StartUp Challenge. That was probably not a new experience for you as an old hand in IT?
Patrick Barnert: On the contrary, the experience was very interesting for me as well. As a part of Open Text, I was in Silicon Valley on a regular basis, but I was never there as a representative of a startup. We had to try to position the small Swiss Qumram with large US banks and investors.
Were you successful?
It was very worthwhile, at least for me personally. I learned a lot and we got a great opportunity. Only time will tell whether the week in Silicon Valley was economically successful. One thing I have to say at this point: We startups were given a great opportunity. We held initial talks on the C-level, which would have been unthinkable without the help of Swisscom.
In 1996 Patrick Barnert founded Unic AG, which specialised in digital marketing and digital commerce. He headed the company successfully until 2004. Then he went to work for the Open Text Alliance, where he established the international SAP business and rose to the ranks of management. Since 2014 he has been CEO of the Qumram startup, a provider of compliance solutions.
«Swisscom gave us a great opportunity»
How is this different from Switzerland, when you are negotiating in the US with potential investors?
I can boil it down to a simple formula: Be aggressive! In the Valley you need to sell a “game changer”; you are changing the world with your solution. You can’t claim any less than that.
Did you have to completely change your personality to get the point across?
No, but I had to be a tad more aggressive.
Qumram has existed for five years and you have a nice portfolio of large customers. You are nevertheless participating in a Startup Challenge. Are you still a startup?
How do you define a startup? Is it the age of the company, is it the culture or financial situation? The Startup Challenge competition suited us. The fact that we were among the top five proved us right.
How big is Qumram?
We are now 28 people, spread over five locations: Zurich is the headquarters, development is done in Barcelona, marketing and sales is in London and in the US we have sales in San Francisco and more recently in New York.
Why is development in Barcelona? For cost reasons?
Barcelona is clearly less expensive than Switzerland and has a similar mentality, culture and quality. Moreover, it is easier to recruit good people internationally to Barcelona.
The product allows your customers to record their entire online communications according to law. There is a need for this?
Yes. In regions such as CH, EU and US, it is required by law. Our customers must record 100 per cent of the relevant data and store it according to law. We make this possible with our solution and ensure compliance with the global compliance directives for our customers.
Our solution also generates significant added value. In the security area, where we document online fraud and thus have a preventive effect. And we help to improve the customer experience, as you can see exactly what customers do on the web or mobile applications. Our Qumram customers gain valuable insight into customer behaviour thanks to the new data. This transparency of customer behaviour is often used in call centres to offer better service.
How is that possible?
It is often very difficult for the call agent to find out what exactly the customer has a problem with. What did he click on, what did he do exactly? With our solution, the agent can play back the online experience from that contact as in a video and see every click the customer made.
But someone in the call centre should not see the account information.
Of course not; the information is shown or not shown depending on authorisation, this is a matter of configuring the tool.
The recording of the customer contact is a moving image. I see how the mouse moved, and what the customer wrote. Explain the technology behind it. A video would create far too much data.
What data volumes are we talking about when the entire online communication of a major bank is recorded?
That would be a data volume in the hundreds of terabytes.
In ten years.
That’s actually acceptable.
It of course depends greatly on the application. If only text is changed, the data volumes are rather small. If images are affected, the volume grows.
Authentication by video is coming. Will that also be possible with your solution?
Sure, that is also data that we can record. But that will of course increase data volumes by quite a bit.
How much time does the customer need to invest in the configuration?
This depends to a great extent on customer wishes and how the tool is used. It may mean investing two weeks of work if the customer books our cloud solution with simple use cases. It can also take up to one year if the customer wants to use their own hardware and storage. For example, if a large bank wants to record the complete internal and external online communication across all channels, backed by certain alerts and integrated with existing systems, then the project is correspondingly more complex.
What do you mean by «all channels»? Including LinkedIn or WhatsApp, for example?
Yes, we have this possibility as well. Basically, Qumram records everything online – web, mobile apps and social media.
The compliance rules are changing very fast. How do you stay up to date? Do you also employ your own lawyers?
We concern ourselves very much with the changes, but as a relatively young startup we do not yet employ our own lawyers. We consult lawyers as needed.
«We discover new use cases for our solution every day»
What is your business plan? Where do you want to go?
We are focused on our customers and the structure of the company. We discover new use cases for our solution almost every day and must take care not to get bogged down. We are doing very well in Switzerland, and we are in the midst of building the business in the rest of the DACH market. The UK and US are important markets for us. This year we got our first customers in the US and UK.
Where do you look for your customers?
Banks and insurance companies as well as government institutions. Regulated industries where compliance is given a high priority.
Let me pose a personal question: You have been in the industry for 20 years...
...that can’t be.
But in 1996 you cofounded Unic. That would be precisely 20 years.
I didn’t want to know that quite so precisely (laughs).
Your career is interesting: After 8 years at Unic, you went to work for Open Text. Why?
I became a father in 2004. I realised that this was not compatible with my work at Unic, where I sat in the office seven days a week. I wanted to have time for my family.
You pursued your career at Open Text and left that major corporation in 2014 to join startup Qumram. Why are you doing that to yourself again?
Actually, it was again my family that moved me to the decision. I worked internationally and collected 13 days of pure flight time in one year. My kids said to me during my holiday, it would be nice if I would have time for them now. That was a shock and I knew I had to change something.
But the change to a startup that operates internationally is not associated with any less work.
Yes, that’s right. Last week I was in Silicon Valley, before that in New York, yesterday in Frankfurt next week in Toronto.
Soon you’ll be right back to 13 days pure flight time...
Yes, that's something I have heard recently...