Build It Once and Sell it a Hundred Times

Pick up pre-paid mobile phone, dial number and you’re using very sophisticated technology. When you use that phone the telecom software must identify your number, track your call, how long you talk for, and debit your account accordingly.
Making it all happen, seamlessly here and around the world is the basis of growing business for six former Telecom workers, who struck out on their own in 1996.
Spotting the enormous potential of creating products for telecommunications companies worldwide, the six called their company Global 8 Laboratories.
“We had no contracts, no money, nothing really. We named the company Global 8 Laboratories because eight is lucky number in Asia and one of the guys wanted to work for company with Laboratories in the title,” says one founding partner, Jonathan Couper.
What they did have was great deal of intellectual talent. Another of the founding partners, James Roberts handled the setup of the business and business contacts, while the programmers started work on product they knew could be big.

Their first product was Advanced Calling Services, an application that allows companies to build their own telecommunications services.
For example when you call Pizza Hut, where does your call go? Well, that depends on the programme handling your call. In complicated system of call logic, your call will go to whichever Pizza Hut can handle your order at that time – if for example, one restaurant is closed or overloaded.
What’s more, the Advanced Calling Services application could be used by the marketing department of any company to customise their own call plan – in the past that sort of thing would have to be done in computer language by an experienced programmer.
With ACS, Couper says they had the first product that would prove to be mainstay of their business. product that could be sold over and over again, worldwide. “Build it once, sell it hundred times,” notes Couper. It’s good business.
At the same time Global 8 needed constant cash flow – and that came from taking on jobs for telecom companies over the world.
“James Roberts was knocking on doors at Unisys and Stratus, and eventually we got our first job designing product for Hong Kong company. The six of us went over and jammed into one hotel room and one apartment, working non stop for six weeks. With couple of hundred thousand (US) we got from that, we were in business.
“Our strategy was controlled risk taking. We would take on any job. You have to remember that we were never the first choice for these big telcos, we were third or fourth, and only after the big companies had given up on the job. In Belgium, for instance, we took over job where they had 50 people working on it, we had 10, and for fraction of the original budget and we delivered it on time and on cost. We have that Kiwi attitude, we get stuff done, and very quickly. In three and half years we’ve never failed to deliver.”
They forged ahead with twin strategies – custom work for big telcos that want specific product that only they can use, and the products like ACS that could be sold to many different companies.
In their first year their revenue was one and half million dollars. In the second year, four and half million, and by the third year it had jumped to 12 million. General manager in NZ, Peter Curran, says profit was always running at about 40 percent of revenue.
Last year in an effort to grow the company even further, and leapfrog several years of business growth, they merged with larger Australian company to become eServe, company that marries Global 8’s software solutions with IT hardware sales and technical services. The new company listed on the Australian stock exchange late last year.
It hasn’t been totally bump-free ride though. Couper laughs ruefully. “Our shares listed at A$1.88, but since then we’ve tracked down with the Nasdaq, and now we’re down to 80 cents.”
Curran counters this, “We haven’t posted our first financial year results yet, but we’re projecting revenue of A$60 [million] and it will be what we deliver at the end of the year that really determines how the market sees us. At the moment we’re just lumped in with all the dotcom companies.”
Along the way they’ve learnt some lessons. Couper says the value of staff is one. “In four years we’ve only ever had two resignations, out of 40 people. We’ve set up share plan in NZ for staff so they have stake in the growth of the company.”
Also they developed close relationships with the bigger contractors they worked with. “We didn’t have worldwide presence but these companies did, and by sticking with them, they could do some of our marketing for us. After all, clients have the choice of hundreds of companies worldwide so by developing alliances we had chance to grow.”
Though the founders are now part of larger Australian company their shareholding is about 40 percent of the company – and they haven’t lost any focus on their business. “We’re still not big enough to fail,” says Couper. “Every project is critical to us.”
Much of their growth has been about controlled risk taking. “My advice to others is to find an opportunity and pursue it with everything you’ve got, and once you’ve got something worth losing, don’t take so many risks,” says Couper.

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