Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jonathan Gilliam of OneAccord Talks about his Startup Experiences

How did you get to Austin?

I attended UT-Austin and was one of the lucky few who got to stay after graduation. All my college buddies in Dallas and Houston are envious. But there are sacrifices – execs in Austin know to do well here usually means you’ll have to travel.

What is your background?

I am a business development guy, sales and deal-making are in my DNA. During the 90’s like many Austinites I morphed into the tech business and have hung around it most of my career. It’s a lot of fun.

What was your first startup?

I was a co-founder of Hush Communications. We provided encrypted email service that was end-to-end, meaning only the sender and recipient could read it. At the time, Bill Gates was defending his email in court and people were starting to realize the Internet was not as private as they had thought. We promoted “privacy” as a right and were a bit ahead of our time, it took a while for people to really care about their security online. The company is still doing well, more focused on businesses now.

Facebook changes all that, of course. I think people have just given up on privacy and are more concerned now with controlling their personal information rather than trying to hide it.

Later I spent 6 years at Deloitte in their data forensics group leading national business development for their fraud detection product, and then to another company in town doing large-scale data mining for the government.

So I sort of went from “fighting the man” to “being the man”, career-wise at least! I still believe privacy is something to be cherished, especially having seen it from the other side.

How did you get your startup funding?

We closed our last round of funding two weeks before the tech crash of 2000, and promptly moved the business to Ireland where the encryption laws were more friendly.

Interestingly, our last round was through an “online investment bank” called OffRoad Capital (get it?). We were one of the last deals they did before the crash, our “road show” was streamed online – imagine the video technology back then– and our deal actually went to a unique auction phase giving us something like a 25% higher valuation than we expected.

Wonder when someone’s going to bring that back! It was great for startups.

What are your current interests?

With OneAccord I’m focused on helping companies ramp their revenue and build out their sales and marketing strategies. I recently joined an awesome online marketing agency called Idea Interactive and last year founded an association for complex sales professionals called the Society for Business Development Professionals. So it’s been busy!

I hear you’re a blogger. What do you blog on?

My blog until now has been a grab bag of my thoughts on a number of start-uppy business topics, but more and more I’m focusing on information for companies wanting to “blow out” their top line.

What are the top three trends in the business development space?

It is an incredible time of transition for going to market. The days of calling someone you don’t know up and getting them to spend a lot of money with you are simply dead. Try calling an CIO and selling them something today; voice mail and email filters mean never having to talk to a salesperson again.

All companies need to take a hard look at leveraging new “Sales 2.0” strategies to have a chance of succeeding. This is actually a wonderful opportunity for those willing to be creative, invest and step up to the plate. More than ever it’s about relationships and trust-building and leveraging networks.

Another trend is the rising need to be information savvy. It’s less and less what you know but who you know and how to quickly find out what you don’t know. It’s just as important to have a search window at our fingertips as having an encyclopedia in our heads. This changes not only customer activity but business activity in general.

I recently blogged about another opportunity in the chaos of the financial crisis. As competitors do the drill of reigning in spending and scaling down, smart companies are stepping in and acquiring other companies on the cheap, gaining market share and taking advantage of more favorable terms. This crisis is one of those rare game-changing opportunities, if we can overcome the fear and hype.

Best regards,
Hall T.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Eric Stumberg of Tengo Internet Talks about Tengo Internet and Municipal Wi-Fi Implementations

What does TengoInternet do?

We provide high speed internet management services for outdoor parks and campsites.
It’s mostly amenity internet with added business applications, so we provide members all the deployment and management and support networks.

Do you cover the Texas Parks & Wildlife?

We are operated a 3 year pilot with them. The pilot proved that their users wanted it; but the state parks decided that they wanted to actually manage that project internally.

Do they pay for it?

We’re ran a guest-supported pilot for three years. We use satellite to handle the remote locations. Normally when you are remote like that, you need to share the back haul costs with your regular applications. The back haul is a big component.

Sounds similar to municipal Wi-Fi. What ever happened to that?

The business model is challenged. No one wants to pay for it, except for municipal services. It’s consistent with a lot of the municipal Wi-Fi deployments – there is no quality of service or revenue guarantees - EarthLink tried to use an advertising and subscriber model in a couple of areas. They failed. If you have an anchor tenant it works. If you don’t, it won’t work.

What are you working on these days?

The extending the reach of WiFi into our customer’s networks, expanding our media platform for advertising directly to our subscribers, integrating social networking tools into tech support – such as Twitter, and others..

Where do you see Tengo Internet in 5 years?
Bigger and deeper in an expanded space. We will become the dominant player in outdoor hospitality network management services.

Best regards,
Hall T.