The lobby of the Metropolitan hotel on Old Park Lane seems stuck in
a futuristic timewarp. The decor is minimalist - dark wood and cream -
and the walls are adorned with modern, textured paintings. The ambient
chimes of a keyboard can be heard over loud-speakers, synthesised chords
that play in a never-ending loop. The music says The Future, but this
future sounds tedious and monotonous - charges that cannot be levelled
at Netscalibur and its Italian founder and CEO, Francesco Caio.
Caio is a tall, thin, black-bearded man with large square-framed
He bears a passing resemblance to the Italian professor of semantics
Umberto Eco, author of The Name of the Rose. Indeed, just as Eco is an
expert in his field, Caio shares his specialist background and vision -
where Eco mostly casts his gaze back, however, Caio looks into the
Netscalibur is, Caio claims, a new type of company. Its core buzzword is
akin to that of the public relations industry - communications. This
applies in terms of what it offers and the manner in which it does
Netscalibur avoids the use of technical jargon and 'uses the language of
business', Caio says. It is a company that sells communications and
technology solutions, with a consistent identity throughout Europe.
'There is value in being local and European at the same time,' Caio
says. 'Our programme ensures that experience in the UK is taken through
to Italy and Germany'.
Netscalibur is known as such across all its markets and offers companies
internet-based communications solutions. Rather than maintaining comms
systems in-house, Netscalibur enables businesses to outsource their
web-hosting and e-mail services. It says this offers the client a more
secure and efficient network at a fraction of the cost of private
On 2 April the company launched a dollars 15m pan-European advertising
campaign, created by Euro RSCG, aimed at strengthening the brand and
driving home the message that Netscalibur's services can help businesses
become industry leaders. This has come at a time when many companies are
cutting advertising spend and highlights the company's assertive
attitude to the internet protocol (IP) market.
The ads play on the relationships Netscalibur has formed with its
customers - indeed, the corporate reputations of its clients are
integral to the campaign. The ad's strapline is 'Work with the best. We
do' and cites well-known brands that employ Netscalibur's services. In
the UK, the campaign features companies such as Siemens and The Daily
Telegraph, in Germany the Berlin Philarmoniker and in Italy the
Caio says: 'We are proud of our customers and more businesses - not just
large corporates but also small and medium-sized companies - are joining
us every day. The campaign is a critical part of telling European
business that Netscalibur is a proven internet services company,
completely focused on helping companies reach their commercial
Netscalibur does not have a head of communications at present and is
using the services of communications consultancy Blue Rubicon. The
agency reports to Netscalibur head of business development Axelle
Vialla, who is also responsible for co-ordinating marketing. Each of the
three European markets has its own marketing manager, who is involved in
weekly updates with Vialla. There is a focus on internal communications,
with information being disseminated to staff from the ground up, keeping
everyone in the know.
To date, the PR drive has focused on the financial press, communicating
the story of Netscalibur's formation and keeping the media informed of
the company's expansion. Netscalibur's strength in PR terms is that it
has a strong management team and financial backing, and will maintain
its value when the market corrects itself, while internet stocks might
suffer from inflated market evaluation.
'The economic logic of outsourcing increasingly complex web hosting is
undeniable,' Caio says. 'Businesses are looking to the net to provide
accelerated growth and enhanced competitiveness at lower cost.
Netscalibur is helping companies to do both.'
The facts seem to back this up. Already the company has 10,000 business
customers and employs nearly 400 people across Europe.
So what about the brand name? It was developed with the help of brand
design agency Wolff Olins. Netscalibur, Caio says, can be broken into
two components. 'There is a duality about what we do,' he says. ''Net'
refers to the internet and 'scalibur' to customer care. We are a safe
harbour, a host for applications that also inspire companies to do
better in business. We not only host connectivity but are a hero in
improving profitability.' The brand name, Caio says, was pre-tested
across all its potential markets.
The key differentiator between Caio's venture and traditional telecoms
companies is the the lack of a weighty and cumbersome structure. Through
leasing what Caio calls a 'commoditised bandwidth', Netscalibur can move
free of a heavy, bricks and mortar infrastructure.
Most telecoms companies spend lots of money laying cables in the
Netscalibur's growth model is based on acquiring expertise rather than
making heavily geared investments in readily commodotised
This allows the company to be more dynamic than its traditional
Netscalibur is constantly growing, snapping up companies with a
voracious appetite. But Caio's is not a company that is growing for
'We are investing in knowledge and expertise,' he says.
The company's aim is to bring the fragmented business IP market
To do this, Caio is buying up knowledge and experience across
Caio's track record is impressive and highly relevant to the concept of
Netscalibur. He holds a computer science degree and an MBA and worked as
a management consultant at McKinsey in London for five years in the
He ran Olivetti subsidiary Omnitel, Italy's first mobile
telecommunications company, for three years. He was then made CEO of the
Olivetti group, a position he held for just three months, at which point
he was head-hunted by white goods manufacturer Merloni, owner of the
Indesit and Ariston brands.
While at Merloni, Caio introduced English as the working language among
its senior managers and instituted a 'knowledge audit' of the company's
non-manufacturing staff to test their potential for new jobs and
At the beginning of 2000, Caio stood down from his job at Merloni and
announced that he was starting up his own project. The venture was
backed by dollars 235m from Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Capital Partners,
TLCom Capital Partners and Goldman Sachs. It is one of the largest
private equity ventures in Europe. Its directors include Adair Turner,
deputy chairman of Merrill Lynch and former director general of the
Confederation of British Industry.
Caio places great emphasis on recruitment and internal communicaitons.
The company's pan-European stance is mirrored in its management
structure. 'I personally believe that to create value you need a
cultural mix of people at the top of the company,' Caio says.
Netscalibur this year won the Internet Service Providers Association UK
Internet Industry Award for Best Business Customer Service. The award
emphasises Caio's central principle of service. His investment in
expertise means that staff are treated well. 'Happy people developing
professional skills in an environment they want to work in,' he
In his time at Merloni, Caio oversaw a management recruitment drive,
recruiting staff from the UK, The Netherlands and Portugal. He intended
this to produce a 'Euro-culture', reinforcing the concept by holding
meetings with top managers in Moscow, Paris and London.
Caio also conducted a survey of the company's 2,500 non-production staff
to establish their capabilities and brainstorm their ideas. '(The survey
was) to discover what people want to achieve, their competencies and
their attitudes,' he says.
Many of his ideas are linked to Caio's previous experiences at Olivetti
and McKinsey. 'I learned how to listen,' he says. 'You have to hold up a
mirror, have a discussion and balance the wisdom of what people are
telling you with facts.'
Caio aims to encourage people to be less passive and become 'thinking
His vision for the future inevitably means further acquisitions. The
company has already spent millions of pounds acquiring expertise across
Europe. Most recently, it bought Munich-based company Securitas Internet
Systems, which specialises in advanced web-hosting. In July last year it
made its first UK acquisition when it bought ISP Direct Connection and
Nevertheless, the company retains its status as a single brand - all its
acquisitions are rebranded as Netscalibur. 'It's not easy but it is
feasible to integrate into one brand at speed,' Caio says.
As someone who has experience of both the old and the new economy, Caio
has already built a brand that ranges from its London headquarters over
the North Sea to Germany and then to Italy. Its list of clients is
impressive and includes Orange, Sony, Panasonic, Kodak and Harvey
Netscalibur aims to open in other European markets too - offices in
France, The Netherlands and Spain are planned. Caio believes that large
businesses will increasingly outsource their e-mail and web hosting and
that Netscalibur will be able to grow at between 40 and 50 per cent a
The company had a revenue of dollars 40m in 2000 and is projected to
break even within the next couple of years. With the launch of the
advertising campaign, it is now up to the supportive PR drive to tell
potential customers and the media that Netscalibur represents a new
model telecommunications company.
Judging by the success of Netscalibur to date, it seems that Caio is
well able to continue his storming of the IP market.
1991: Assistant to Chairman, Olivetti
1994: CEO, Omnitel
1996: CEO, Olivetti group
1997: CEO, Merloni
2000: Founder, Netscalibur.