How Ukrainian Ajax Systems continue to grow despite war

Resilience is essential for business continuity. One company that really excels in this is the Ukrainian security manufacturer Ajax Systems. Although the war causes many problems, customers will not notice anything. SecurityNews.nl spoke exclusively with founder and CEO Alexandr Konotopskyi about how this is possible.

Alexandr Konotopskyi founded Ajax Systems in 2011 and developed the company with his team into a multinational with more than 1.6 million customers worldwide. Formally, “Steve Jobs of the security industry” is not allowed to leave Ukraine, but the authorities gave him a special permit to participate in SmartSD’s SST event due to the economic importance. This took place on June 21 and was visited by more than 1000 security installers from the Benelux. SmartSD had arranged for an interview with SecurityNews.nl to take place, which is not a matter of course, because Ajax Systems’ CEO does not like to come to the fore. He believes that this honor belongs to his team.

What has happened to Ajax Systems since the start of the Russian invasion?
“We faced some new challenges as the war is extremely violent. As a result, we were forced to immediately evacuate our people from Kiev and Kharkov. Our R & D department is located in Kharkov, and the factory and offices are in Kiev. Both cities were hard hit by the war. Therefore, we first brought our people to safety and then what it took to continue our business. If our buildings are destroyed, that’s not the biggest problem. You can move to another location. But without people you are nowhere. When they were brought to a safe place, we moved our machines and materials. 160 trucks were needed. We got it fixed quickly, because we have always foreseen an invasion. Remember, Ukraine has been at war with Russia since 2014. You can see us as a kind of Israel. War is for us what rain showers are for England. That is why we have built our business in such a way that we can always respond very quickly to an emergency.

You can think of us as a ‘producer in the cloud’. Although we were physically located in Ukraine, our infrastructure is mainly located abroad, as is 90 percent of our sales market. We were also prepared for a quick move. Therefore, we were able to continue our activities in the relatively safe west of our country two weeks after the start of the invasion. During that period, we had also moved the warehouses to a warehouse in Poland. And from April 1, we were up and running again, albeit with fewer people, because some chose to enlist in the army, while others did not want to leave their hometown. So we had to look for new employees very quickly, because the demand for our products just keeps growing. We now have 1200 employees in the factory and 900 in R&D centers and offices. We are now also starting production in Turkey, which requires 400 new employees. We expect the first products to come out of the Turkish factory within two months. So there are many challenges, but our people are also very motivated because they know that their efforts benefit not only our company but also our country. We are also very pleased with the support from the West and especially from the Netherlands. It inspires. And inspiration is very important when you are dealing with an enemy that is much stronger than you. Then it’s nice when you feel that the whole world is behind you. ”

How can you be so extremely flexible?
“We have always lived with this paradigm. So we said if we need a new factory, it should be available within three months. Now it went faster because we still have all our machines and materials.

I think we have become world champions in dealing with national risks. And that was only possible because we do everything in the cloud. Our entire factory is controlled from a cloud environment. Give us a pcb machine so we can get back to work. That was already the case in 2014, when we were still a 100% Ukrainian company. We did not want to leave our homeland, but we wanted to be independent of it. ”

Do the users of your systems have nothing to worry about?
“Definitely not! Our servers are located at Amazon in Ireland with backups in Germany and the UK. As long as these three countries are not leveled at the same time, no one needs to worry about our products. And if they do, there are other things to worry about. We are currently expanding to North America.There will also be servers.Ajax Systems is like a plane.If something goes wrong there is a backup and if the backup fails there is another backup and so on.We also have quite experienced “specialists in all kinds of cyber threats. Not a single problem related to Ukraine can disrupt our business. So far, not one user has encountered problems with his Ajax system.”

Will the development of new products continue despite all the difficulties in Ukraine?
“Development has even accelerated. It has now become much easier for us to find technicians. Everyone wants to do their best out of patriotism to support our economy.

Last year, we already employed 350 engineers, and we expect to have 700 to 800 by the end of this year. Even though we lost a month due to the relocations, we are now in full swing again. The biggest problem now is getting electronic components, but manufacturers around the world are suffering from this. ”

Just another topic. How was the design developed, which is apparently appreciated all over the world?
“At that time, we started with equipment from China, for which we developed our own software. We were just not happy with the quality of the hardware. We wanted more accurate detection, better range and longer battery life. Therefore, we also started to develop electronics ourselves. It got better and better and at one point we found that it no longer suited the rather ugly houses. People have emotions. They want a good but also a beautiful product. This also applies to installers and their customers. You want to give them the comfortable feeling that you get when they see a beautiful product. So we started redesigning all the houses. We have a fantastic designer for that, who now lives in Estonia. What is so nice is that the beautiful design has also had a positive impact on our own employees. They are like: You can not place bad electronics in such a nice house. Everyone got the feeling of creating something special. Not just another white box, but something very special. This even applies to the packaging. Of course, our sales and marketing people love this too. In this way, design has become the common thread throughout our business operations. It motivates everyone to perform even better. ”

What message do you have for installers who remain suspicious of wireless alarm systems?
“Their question is probably about how reliable the connection is, and I would say, try it! It’s a different level than what they are used to from wireless products, and I can demonstrate why wireless can be more reliable than some wired ones. analog systems. In this way you can externally see the complete status of all components. And all parts are Grade 2 certified by an independent laboratory. In addition, the amount of users and installations shows that it is proven technology. For homes, but also to large factories where Ajax was chosen because of its capabilities and reliability.We come from a country where extra consideration must be given to sabotage and cybercrime.So in the design of our systems we assume this will happen.Do not think “Then try it. You will see that you have a wireless system with the reliability of a wired system.”

Ajax now has pretty much everything in burglary and fire detection. What else can the market expect in the near future?
“There is still a lot to do in burglary detection. Belgium, for example, wants us to be certified by Incert, and there are more countries with national rules. Especially in fire detection, you often have to make changes for each country.

We have also taken our first steps in the field of home automation. We will expand this further this year. And there are even more concrete plans that I will not say anything about right now. In the beginning of October we come again with a Special Event with a lot of announcements. Then it also becomes clear that in the coming years we will grow by a factor of ten into a global company with more than 20,000 employees. We will continue to focus on security and home automation. On the other hand, people are quite hesitant about new technology, which means that developments such as the Internet of Things in the field of home automation are slower than elsewhere. So we remain a security company, because I think it’s better to focus on what you’re good at. We would rather be a Japanese sword than a Swiss army knife. ”

What are the biggest challenges now?
“People. My job is to build a new world for our people. And building is always challenging. People sometimes have their own ideas and are not always happy with your ideas or they are afraid of change. But you can not build a new reality without people.There is a lot of pressure on our team because of all the terrible events in Ukraine.It does not matter much that they themselves are a safe place.On the other hand, our team is more motivated than ever.They know that it is very important for our country to contribute to our economy.They also know that this will not be the last war.I am now 36 and have already been through two.We can not change our neighbor.So we will have to to make sure that we ourselves remain strong and become stronger by working hard, achieving good results and attracting new talent. ”

How do you see Ajax Systems in 2023 and beyond?
“We have huge growth ambitions. We want to grow at least 50 percent every year with new products, salespeople and marketers. So it’s go go time. The market potential is huge and everyone is looking for new solutions and someone who can deliver them. We will let the market determine our limits and offer what is in demand.

There is no point in lowering your expectations. Nobody is waiting for that. We started this business because we like challenges. So if there are, do not shy away from them. We do not have to become the largest company in the world, but we must become the company with the best story, written in a book where each page is a new challenge. That’s how I feel about it, but so are all the others at Ajax Systems. If I stop, the others continue. Everyone in our company is like me. We are convinced that Ukraine will win the war. And we must win the international security market. Also in the United States, which so far not a single European manufacturer of safety equipment has been able to achieve. ”

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