James Grcic, founder, and CEO of CSSi is an IT Personality 2018 finalist.
Born and bred in South Africa, James Grcic left the country in 1996 to take up a tennis scholarship in the US. He returned in 2000 with a BBA degree, and a $35 000 offer to open the local office of a multinational group called Computer Storage Services.
He was offered a 40% equity to launch the company, which he did from his parents’ garage in Midrand. “We paid back the loan capital in three months, and had R1 million in the bank in 18 months, so we rented an office.”
In 2002, the company branched out into data recovery. “At first, the entire board of the company said no, but I offered to invest my dividend payout back into the company to start this division. By 2004, it was the most profitable division of the business. We developed technology there that helped us recover the voters’ roll for the elections in Malawi, which had disappeared because it wasn’t backed up properly. No one thought it was possible to recover data off drives with bad sectors, but we did it.”
At the end of 2005, Grcic led the buyout of CSS for $1.9 million and bought a piece of land in Midrand, which is where the company remains today. He went on to found CipherWave, which became a leader in the datacentre, fibre, and ISP market. ‘We currently have about 600 servers running approximately 17 000 virtual machines in South Africa.”
Despite several buyout offers, Grcic says CSSi decided to remain independent. “We have about R1.2 billion in total turnover, and some 220 staff members worldwide today, made up of 75% previously disadvantaged individuals.”
The company develops all systems in-house, and believes in the I3 concept of ‘inspire, innovate, improve’.
“We use technology to unite talent and automate processes. People believe that automation destroys jobs, but it’s the opposite. Using technology and automation creates more opportunities to grow and upskill. Only mundane jobs are automated.”
His organization also offers training, which is transparent and gives staff the freedom to develop their skills and move upwards in the organization accordingly. “It’s about the spirit of the business, and the spirit inspires people to do better.
“I’d like to change the way people view technology in SA. We need to up education, show there is a way. The world is changing. We are a village in a big world, and we need to change the way we view services, labour and work ethic.”