Technology has always been a keen area of interest for Paolo Storti, the founder of Zextras. He is an IT and Open Source enthusiast and has shared his passion for the same since high school. In 1993, he started using Linux and Open Source software as it allowed more freedom and control. Working on these interests, Paolo started his career by working at IBM in an Open Source team. During that same period, he came up with the idea of applying the Open Source business model to the Public Administration. Utilizing his expertise and experience, Paolo ventured into entrepreneurship and founded the first company in 1998. The company was aimed to revolutionize the Italian public administrations through open source solutions for e-mail and data protection.
While leading the service provider and system integrator company for the Italian Public Sector, Paolo and his team received more requests regarding security, data sovereignty, and added features. “Thanks to that, we became aware that currently available solutions weren’t enough, as the users’ needs were evolving quickly,” said Paolo.
In 2010, Paolo established Zextras with a mission to provide international organizations with complete e-mail and collaboration software. With Zextras the team honed its expertise to reach the completeness of the feature while also offering a platform compliant with data sovereignty.
Staying relevant in this fast-changing market demands continuous learning. Paolo has never stopped studying and his acumen to gather the expertise has helped Zextras gain a strong foothold in the industry. Apart from being a prolific business leader, Paolo mixed up his passion for Economy and Open Source, with a master’s degree in economics and an MBA, he taught the course “Open Source Business Models” at University. His attention to sustainability reflects on the corporate mood and activities, such as plastic-free habits and electric car usage to achieve carbon neutrality. Paolo loves traveling and knowing new people and cultures.
In our recent interview with Paolo, he helped us understand the working of Zextras and how it has become one of the fastest-growing companies of 2022.
Zextras develops cutting-edge open-source email and collaboration solutions focused on data governance and ownership designed for organizations with a responsible attitude about digital sovereignty. Over 100 million people use Zextras technology worldwide. We have premises in Italy, France, Russia, Brazil, and India. Worldwide, Zextras has 120 employees and counting.
Zextras develops Carbonio, the open core software based on our open-source and free version Carbonio CE. Carbonio is the private and complete e-mail and collaboration platform designed to give organizations total control over their data while offering cutting-edge features. Carbonio can be deployed as a self-hosted platform in a private cloud, on-premise, or hybrid. The key differentiator between Carbonio and BigCorp SaaS is that Carbonio allows the customers to control their communications and data. This way they can achieve digital sovereignty.
Carbonio delivers the features that are exactly what the current market is asking for: a secure and scalable e-mail platform with chats and video meetings, file management, and collaborative co-editing on documents. Customers don’t have to integrate different products together as all the features come in a single software.
Moreover, Carbonio offers mobile parity, that is to say, users get the same features both on the web and mobile. This is particularly important nowadays as the world is becoming mobile-first.
Carbonio is positioned as the product to comply with data sovereignty and have all the modern features organizations need. When we released Carbonio, the target customers saw it as the missing piece in the current market. Increasingly more organizations have been switching to the cloud. However, they soon realized the implied issues: public cloud services are incompatible with data sovereignty. That’s the point: while the public cloud seems to be the current and future trend, more and more data laws have been established to demand organizations to keep data under their direct control. However, being compliant with Data Protection Laws is impossible using a BigCorp SaaS.
The free and open-source product Carbonio Community Edition has been welcomed by the worldwide open source community as the necessary platform they’ve been waiting for. Open-source projects often don’t offer the whole set of features; therefore, users are forced to pay to make the product usable. Moreover, we’ve been assisting longstanding vendors that stopped maintaining the open-source version and the on-premise version of their software, forcing users to switch to the public cloud. We don’t want this to happen.
Our field is digital communication, which has been continuously evolving over the past 50 years. Therefore, platforms must develop accordingly. You’ve to listen and work today for tomorrow’s demands. This has been our approach, and it will also be for the future. It is essential to bind the technologies to the changing context. It is not just about producing virtuous cutting-edge software!
We know our market is a mix of different souls: technology, open-source, and growing digital sovereignty awareness. This mix pushes us daily to work differently from all the other companies. We always relate software to these three different aspects. Only placing our software as a necessary but complementary element of privacy and open source can impact people, society, sustainability, and freedom.
We are experts in email and collaboration, open-source and self-hosted infrastructure, and we stick to all these principles being among the few who offer a private digital workplace. I’d sum up it as a mix of foresight and coherence with our deepest values.
We’ve just launched Carbonio and Carbonio Community Edition to answer the need for data sovereignty. We will continue providing new features, sharpening technical details, and ensuring continuous improvements to keep Carbonio the best open-source digital workplace on the market. We’ll make the impact of our professional service division stronger to provide technical support, smooth migration, and consultancy.
However, beyond the product offering and the service we provide, there’s the radicated idea to free organizations, while making their communications better, exiting the vendor locking they are trapped in, and allowing them to choose the private alternative they want.
You’ve to be fast and flexible, put yourself out there, and proactively listen to the users. The IT world is changing fast and unpredictably. You’ve to be ready to change and adapt accordingly. If your goal is clear and your values are strong, you’ll succeed, even if the original project is adjusted based on the reactions from the market and the users.