Neven Dilkov speaks with startup.info
The Little Thing that Became a big Story: Being Successful in the Telecoms Industry for 25 Years
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Neven Dilkov: In the first weeks of the lockdown in 2020, I was very uncomfortable sitting all day and working from home. Then about the second month, I noticed that I am a lot more efficient working from home compared to the office work. Nothing to distract me, eat lunch for 15 min and then back to work. I would work until 7 pm – 8 pm and wouldn’t notice. I kinda liked that. But after many months with all these restrictions, I am starting to miss human contact at the office and meeting customers. This is bad.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Neterra and NetIX.
Neven Dilkov: I founded Neterra when I came back to Sofia from the USA in 1996. I had graduated my BS with summa cum laude the previous year and had the perfect job in Chicago as a software consultant. However, I quickly discovered that I wanted to do more with my life and also missed life back home in Bulgaria. So I went back and started this business. A lot of things changes since then, but I have never really regretted my decision.
How does Neterra and NetIX innovate?
Neven Dilkov: One area where we innovate is our customer experience: we want to make things as straightforward as possible for our customers, so we’re developing and building our own global online ordering and provisioning portal. With a Neterra or a NetIX solution, we want our customers to connect to us and let us do all the hard work, enabling them to keep focusing on their business, their revenue growth, and their happy customers.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Neven Dilkov: Neterra and NetIX are doing very well. When the first lockdown was announced in March 2020, a lot of our customers implemented last-minute upgrades to make sure their networks could handle the expected increase in traffic. However, I don’t think many expected such a huge surge in required bandwidth. Our network engineering team had to take on a lot – they were configuring, testing, and turning up services for a lot of our customers within 48 hours and yet continued to deliver incredible results. SinceMarch 2020, the NetIX platform has more than doubled peak traffic levels; we’re now regularly pushing 1.1Tb of peak traffic daily!
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Neven Dilkov: At the beginning of 2020, we had started to use Microsoft Teams to help productivity and responsiveness within the company; real-time messaging and quick video calls can save potentially hours of back and forth emailing, especially as we have such a global team from Bulgaria to France, Dubai, Brazil, the UK, and India. And then, once lockdown began, and everyone started to work from home, we relied upon Teams more than we had originally planned.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Neven Dilkov: We have always been known for good customer feedback and service. We have now prepared a special new customer feedback form which we are using to collect information from our customers in these new conditions. The results will be known later in the summer.
How have you stayed connected with your customers in this ‘virtual-only way of life?
Neven Dilkov: The telecoms industry has many global events that traditionally brought together thousands of people all year round, but the Covid-19 pandemic turned this on its head. In February 2021, after missing out on many face-to-face events, NetIX hosted its very first members’ meeting, which brought together not just its members but the NetIX team, prospects, partners, the media, and people who just wanted to learn more about telecoms and the solutions we offer. We invited some well-known faces in the industry to join the panel discussion – it was great to be able to unite people, albeit slightly differently than before.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Neven Dilkov: In a certain sense, we make difficult choices almost every day. No business is so easy as to allow for a perpetual happy life. However, I can also say that all the choices we make are easy enough when we put our focus on our customers and on the core values we continue to develop for them. It becomes very easy then.
Your final thoughts?
Neven Dilkov: We would like to wish everybody in business good luck and offer our help in these challenging times. Everyone can benefit from a bit of better-managed services, better Internet, and better access. This is what we do at Neterra and NetIX.