At a time when Malta was only just beginning to explore the digital world, Agilis CEO Marcel Cutajar decided that he wanted to be an entrepreneur within the ICT industry.
“After completing my studies, which included a scholarship with a large international ICT company named Tata Consultancy Services, I returned to Malta in 1991 and realised that I wanted to set up a business within the ICT sector,” he recalls. “It was still early days for the industry as Malta moved towards digital organisation but, through my first company Value Plus, I negotiated substantial contracts to deliver training to the civil service on automation, project management and digital skills. Then, in 1996, I merged the company with two others to create Powerserve, which focused on software business solutions, training and IT managed services.”
However, two years later, Marcel decided to cut short his steady progress in the field of training due to a downturn in the local economy. “Training was one of the first areas to go in many organisations’ budgets, so, in 1998, I pulled out of Powerserve and set up Key Services, a group which later evolved into PwC Technology when it was acquired by PwC.” Marcel’s entrepreneurial ambitions were still not yet satisfied, despite his success with PwC. “I was exhilarated by the kill, the conclusion of a successful project, the execution of a contract. By 2015, I felt it was time to move on to new pastures and take advantage of the now-growing ICT industry, so I acquired 6PM Commercial, and renamed it Agilis.”
Since Marcel took on Agilis, the company has continued to spread its reach within the digital services world. A main area of focus for the company is blockchain-related solutions and services, and assisting companies to move into the area. “This country is now seen as a serious player in the international blockchain market,” he explains. “Plus, almost everything now relies on software products, whether it’s banking, insurance or anti-money-laundering, to name but a few.”
With such an impressive history, Marcel still maintains that his key to success is surprisingly simple. “I’m a people person! I feel that my unique selling proposition is that I understand business people and their requirements. It’s all about having the ability and the drive to go out and network with people, to quickly react to changes in the industry, and then to bring the opportunities home.”
This agility and talent for effective communication with business people also inspires Marcel’s approach as he leads his own team at Agilis. “A CEO is the go-to person for staff if there are issues beyond them to solve, and so I want to make sure they are comfortable to do that. Following the Agile methodology, we have a daily ‘scrum’ with all the different development teams at 9am, during which each individual can share what they did yesterday, what they plan today, any blockers to achieving this and if they are on target,” he explains. “It makes sure that everyone is aware of the bigger picture and promotes a great team spirit, with no prima donnas or anyone left unsure of their role and value. It is a fantastic methodology for any business.”
Learning to effectively lead a team has been another milestone in Marcel’s entrepreneurial career. “The beauty of starting your own company is that, at first, you must play many roles and do a lot of the work yourself. But with more clients comes the need to have more staff on board. As the team grew, I understood that I needed to take a step back and focus on managing the staff humanely and effectively – as a CEO you have a vision, but it’s only possible if you have a team with the same vision.”
The chance to offer opportunities to those just starting out in the industry, as he once was, is also a great motivator for Marcel. “When I was studying ICT, jobs were few and far between. Over the last 25 years I have been given opportunities, and I believe the more you give the more you get. Today, the market is great for anyone willing to learn and look for opportunities, with various EU funding and Government schemes, and there is certainly demand for new staff in the ICT sector.”
In keeping with the name of the company, Marcel finally highlights that remaining agile is one of his key priorities as he looks to the future of Agilis. “In October we are moving to new specially-designed corporate offices, where I want to continue to build our brand, ensure that the digital word is spread across the whole country, and become a major solutions provider in the blockchain and FinTech markets, both in Malta and internationally. I would like to be remembered as someone who helped map the way forward for Malta’s ICT industry.”
MaltaChamber.org.mt is proud to be serialising MaltaCEOs 2019, a high-profile publication consisting of 50 in-depth interviews with leading CEOs in Malta. Celebrating the most influential business minds in the country, two different interviews will be featured on this business news portal week by week. MaltaCEOs was created by Content House Group in collaboration with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise & Industry.