The first part of this story can be read here:
Going Global on a Shoestring – The Start
What made Dataco so incredibly successful? How could we launch a complete LAN/WAN product line and achieve global coverage in less than two years and reach a position to sell the entire company in just four years?
The Dataco team was incredibly talented.
Critical product strategy decisions had already been made before I joined the team. It was decided that we should not move into application software. Our products should support software from Novell and other network operating systems and application stacks.
It was “in the air” using a reseller channel although the final decision was left with me. Michael Mathiesen and Bent Henrik Madsen were co-CEO’s and had provided most of the funding through personal loans. Peter Videcrantz was VP R&D and had a fabulous team of engineers working day and night. Allan Koch was in charge of production and logistics. Later Mogens Hansen joined me as support manager and after an internal financial crisis Steen Bergholdt joined as CFO.
It was a committed and powerful team capable of making fast and bold decisions and getting them executed.
Incentive schemes were in place aligning ambitions for the company with remuneration for key staff members. If we could make the company rich we would also get rich. We were motivated to put in long long hours.
We didn’t have much money and we were constantly short of cash. Lack of funds makes you more innovative.
We wanted to exhibit at the CeBit Fair (Hannover, Germany) in 1987. We got floor space in hall 12 and Jan de Black made a booth of unplaned boards painted gray (our company colors) with a slightly elevated floor hiding the cables and a meeting room with an overhead projector.
It was the ultimate low budget booth, but it made us look different and entrepreneurial – we were clearly the new kids on the block. We had big posters on the walls explaining what the products did and a big white board where we could take visitors to discuss his particular issues and how to solve them.
Potential big ticket customers and potential resellers were allowed to sit down in our small meeting room.
It was a huge success and we returned with tons of leads and potential reseller opportunities.
The timing for the type of products, which Peter Videcrantz was the architect behind, was exactly right. Combining PC networking with IBM 3270, 31xx and 34xx, DEC VT100 protocol conversion in an affordable ethernet based product line hit a need in the enterprise market. Using the ISO/OSI label to make it appear as based on official global standards helped big enterprise IT executives (with notorious risk aversion) decide in our favor.
Moving packages with data and converting data transmission protocols is the same all over the world. Moving into a new country didn’t require any other changes to the products other than a translation of the control program and the documentation. The advantage of starting in the Nordics is that you can use English as the common language. It was only when moving into Germany and Southern Europe that the language became (a small) issue.
Our channel approach was successful in many ways. The starter packages generated cash that we desperately needed to fuel further expansion. My focus on the partners’ P&L and Mogens Hansen’s focus on helping our partners master our products accelerated the learning curve.
To be continued