10 years of Dropsolid: a peak into the past

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10 years Dropsolid

Applying for a VAT number, setting up our mailbox, our first logo, the first commercial call on behalf of Dropsolid... It seems like yesterday to us. The reality is that we are now 10 years later. March 28, 2013: our official launch. Although by then, we were already 9 months into the necessary preparations and the elaboration of our business plan.

Dominique and I knew each other for about 2 years in 2013. We had both been in the industry for a while and worked together as consultants for a year on a number of projects. Still fresh in our minds: the moments when we shared our dreams and ambitions. Our common vision was clear: using open-source technologies to create better digital experiences for businesses, organizations, and governments, large and small. All in a sustainable way, with business results as the primary driver and in complete freedom for our customers. The result? Dropsolid. Meanwhile grown into a Digital Experience Company.

The combination of ambition and accumulated knowledge between Dominique and myself was our greatest asset: 20 years of experience in digital strategy and UX plus more than 15 years of Drupal and tech experience. In less than 10 years, Dropsolid grew into one of the main key players in the industry to deliver digital experiences that effectively deliver results. Meanwhile, our company consists of two business units: Dropsolid Digital Experience Agency and Dropsolid Experience Cloud, together Dropsolid Digital Experience Company.

Dominique De Cooman, Steven Pepermans

How it all started for Dropsolid

The ambition to build out platform technology based on open-source technology was already clear in our initial business plan. We knew we would have to bring the right people on board to make this possible and gradually build our platform dream. Not the big-bang with external capital and pursue the hockey-stick effect. We saw it longer term, building something sustainable with a solid foundation.

In 2013, everything started with delivering our open CMS services in the form of projects, consultancy, and training. Services, in other words, with initially a platform that allowed us to collaborate efficiently and deploy projects according to best practices. Specifically, devops tooling coupled with cloud hosting.

Cooperating with our customers is based on open-source thinking and extreme transparency. We share our knowledge rather than hold it in trust. The slogan often used here: "If you give a person a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a person to fish, you feed him for a lifetime." We still apply this vision today and our team lives by it, both internally and externally.

In the beginning, our consulting and solutions services relied mainly on the expert Drupal knowledge we brought to the market. Customers such as Synergyjobs, Boerenbond and Digipolis invested with us in Drupal as their digital platform. We helped other clients, who both needed a solution for a CMS and were themselves involved in building the best possible digital experience, to achieve effective results.

Companies like these were not helped by agencies that took everything off their hands. They needed experts who could co-create a solution with them. In the early years, I supported our clients with the development of their digital strategy and UX while Dominique helped setting up their Drupal CMS and trained their experts to evolve with the platform. In 5 years Dropsolid grew very successfully from 2 to 65 employees with customers such as Beobank, Soudal, Touring and UZA.

Our platform ambitions became tangible

Early on, we discovered that the customers we attracted effectively needed a user-friendly platform with a low entry barrier to streamline development and leverage cloud hosting. So we invested further in our platform, which PMV, LRM, and VLAIO co-funded.

In 2017, Nick Veenhof, from Acquia, became our CTO. We built an R&D team, mapped the roadmap, and systematically expanded our platform.

This big step attracted a lot of technical talent from the Linux and Drupal community. We grew along with the rising popularity of the Drupal CMS and immediately became one of the leading experts in Belgium, and even the EU, by building challenging projects. We soon played an active role in the Drupal and other open-source communities, by sponsoring events such as DrupalCon Europe and DrupalCamps in Europe.

Logo cooldrops

New kid in town: Cooldrops

With the platform's power, we launched a new brand: Cooldrops. Cooldrops used the Drupal cloud platform and delivered affordable enterprise capability websites to the SME segment. All combined with online marketing services to help those companies get the most out of their websites.

Because it was easy for Dropsolid to build small websites quickly, this business model helped Dropsolid grow and cultivate more talent for years. It departed from the idea that SMBs could benefit from the strategic knowledge we gained from our large customers for a fraction of the price. Both strategy-wise and tech-wise.

Although initially targeted at the SME market, the underlying platform is also used by companies such as Soudal, Lotus and Gezinsbond to power their multi-website platforms. We kept this brand in the market until 2020. After helping many entrepreneurs move forward with "making their digital business easy" and "giving away 1,000 websites for free in 2018" we felt we were contributing enough to the SME ecosystem. At the same time, we made the business decision to focus on SME customers who demanded increasingly sophisticated digital experiences.

The kid got a name: 'Digital Experience Platform'

In 2019, Dominique and I attended a Gartner conference in London. At that time, we partnered with Gartner to support us in various areas around bringing our platform to market.

There it became clear what we had been building for several years, a "Digital Experience Platform" or "DXP" for short. Where terms like CRM, ERP, PIM, DAM were already well established, this was a new concept. Companies and organizations no longer had to view their websites as a standalone application, which needed replacement every x-number of years. A DXP orchestrates multiple digital experiences and is no longer limited to websites. To enable that, you have to think in terms of DXP, rather than CMS-driven Web sites. A Digital Experience Platform ensures that everything is linked, that information comes together in the right place and flows through to different channels most efficiently. It also allows for cross-channel personalization.

Our Dropsolid Experience Cloud evolved from a Drupal cloud devops/hosting/webops platform to a full Digital Experience Platform, using other open-source technologies such as Mautic (marketing automation) and Apache Unomi (Customer Data Platform) to form a DXP. It positions itself on the market as the most open Digital Experience Platform with a low entry barrier. We remain true to our vision of bringing technology to small to large enterprises and operating in complete freedom.

Besides innovation, Dropsolid has also contributed a lot to the Drupal and meanwhile Mautic community. Not only do other companies use the technology Dropsolid contributes, customers also benefit, as Dropsolid offers many turnkey implementations. This means that we don't reinvent the wheel for every customer and make them pay for it. With Dropsolid, you don't start from scratch, you actually start with a substantial head start.

The Digital Experience Company

Over the past 3 years, our revenue grew +50% from 5M to 7.5M, and we grew into a financially sound company with a vision to continue investing in the platform. We are not a VC-funded company, and we are more like a zebra: we focus on sustainable growth.

In 2023, Dropsolid is positioning itself as a specialized digital experience company against the conglomerates created in recent years from the many acquisitions in the digital agency landscape and IT sector.

Dropsolid is uniquely positioned as an independent player, with its foundations in its values and strengths in digital experience strategy and technology. Because we remained focused on our capabilities, our company is one company and one team with everyone on the same page. We bring services and products that deliver more value for money and customer satisfaction in speed and agility than silo group companies.

Our multidisciplinary teams deliver strategy, UX, design, development, managed services, platform capabilities, consulting and training to a wide range of verticals. We know our clients and we know their business and ecosystems. Our clients are loyal to us because we are focused on their business. We can truly connect by being one company and one team that not only comes up with the winning strategy, but also executes and supports the solutions with high quality.

DS - teamfoto