The mission of Going Global is to educate and inform Midwest technology companies on what local technology companies are doing internationally so other firms can learn from the successes of like-minded peers.
DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. – This week, ePrairie international expert Michael Muth checks back in with ADVIZOR about how it won BP and AstraZeneca as clients.
Michael Muth: Are your patents just for the U.S. or the whole world?
Doug Cogswell: We have 28 patents. There are two types. The first set we own outright. They are just in the U.S. The second set is a bunch from Bell Labs that we inherited and acquired. They are in multiple countries around the world including the U.S.
Currently, we are not renewing the international ones. Those patents are expensive to maintain and they are too hard to defend since we are a U.S. company with no development presence in these other locations. Because we’re a U.S. company with U.S. competitors, we challenge it here if there’s a violation.
MM: Did Visual Insights have the same international partners as ADVIZOR Solutions?
DC: No. Visual Insights was the predecessor company to ADVIZOR Solutions. The two companies are in different markets and the partners are different.
Visual Insights is in the business of helping people understand and market their Web sites. ADVIZOR is in the business of supplying plug-and-play data visualization or dashboard technology to make business intelligence solutions better.
MM: What international benefits did you gain from having international investors like Dutch bank ABN AMRO, Gulf International Bank and others?
DC: We have been fortunate to be backed by a number of substantial VCs and a couple large international banks. While they have provided some introductions, most of our results have come from our own blood, sweat and tears.
MM commentary: Sometimes well-connected financiers can make great personal introductions that make their investment all the more valuable (especially in hard-to-penetrate markets).
MM: BP is highlighted as a case study on your Web site. How did your relationship develop with them? Did it happen when they took over Amoco and moved to Chicago or prior to that?
DC: Our relationship with BP began about two-and-a-half years ago in the United Kingdom. BP was looking for data visualization technology. They believed their management team could better see what was going on by using more visual displays and interactions.
They did a competitive analysis and we won. They first used us in HR in London. You would walk into their headquarters and see a big IMAX screen with our technology displaying their data in a highly interactive format.
People deployed this technology on their desktops and were very excited by the results they were achieving. Others saw it, too, and the relationship progressed to other functional areas in the United Kingdom, the U.S. and around the world.
I think they originally found us with a Web search. The fact that we were a U.S. company and they were in the United Kingdom didn’t matter. We have people in and out of the United Kingdom all the time. Supporting them on global basis has just not been a problem for us.
MM: Dealing with a Swiss company like Winterthur (another firm highlighted on your Web site) can be difficult because they use three official languages. Did that pose any problems for you?
DC: Again, no, because they work with insurance claims data. The text that comes up in the graphs is pulled up from their own data. It displays in whatever language it’s in.
MM commentary: Again, for more text-oriented software developers, this could be a real hassle.
MM: Are you getting any synergies in Europe?
DC: With regards to Europe, we have another large European pharmaceutical account with AstraZeneca. They are rapidly becoming one of our largest customers. Their Boston office bought our software a couple years ago. They do molecular design for new drugs.
Our United Kingdom partner had a relationship with them in Europe. We got a call to do a prototype.
They’re using our technology to manage the research, development and clinical trial process of drug development. This is a complex process that spans many steps. They are trying to identify best practices and outliers. ADVIZOR is ideal for doing this.
Now that we have several large customers and a strong partner in the United Kingdom, energy is starting to multiply.
For example, when AstraZeneca was in the buy process, they happened to go to a technology briefing at BP and saw ADVZIOR in the BP widescreen theater. That was the absolute best sales tool – to see our technology in use – and we didn’t even orchestrate it.
BP is now hosting a United Kingdom customer advisory board meeting. A number of our United Kingdom accounts and prospects will be there. That creates more buzz about us.
Our goal is to build markets one at a time to get sustainability.
For example, we’d rather penetrate London well than have a little bit going on in multiple locations throughout Europe. When AstraZeneca can see us at BP, it answers a whole bunch of credibility questions. We can now go to other pharmaceutical companies and gas companies.
MM commentary: This is just another example of how small and interconnected the world is becoming and of how powerful that leverage can be.
MM: Do you see any technology differences between countries?
DC: No. There are almost the same business issues and problems and the technology solutions are very similar.
MM commentary: There are differences such as the fact that Linux is being adopted by foreign governments to cut costs. This is leading companies that work with them to install Linux. This also provides a way to reduce Wintel dominance.
MM: Which countries have you considered?
DC: We look at our markets more from a metro-area focus rather than a country focus. Our primary focus is on Chicago, New York and London metro areas. We really want to get these working before we extend even to other U.S. metro areas.
Obviously we recognize a deal [when we see one], and if something is ready to move forward and pay us good money, we’ll go for it. For example, while people poo-poo Mexico, it’s a very large country that is fairly easy to develop because almost the entire economy is in the Mexico City metro area.
We have a strong partner in Mexico City and are doing good business there. Germany is tough. It’s scattered all over the place. The United Kingdom is mostly London with some Manchester and some Birmingham.
MM commentary: While I generally agree with ADVIZOR’s metro focus, I disagree on an exception basis. For example, Germany is still the “engine of Europe” and is too big to ignore just because it doesn’t have one big city that dominates. The same is true to a lesser extent in Italy, Spain and other countries.
Tune in next Tuesday for part three of this Q&A where we will explore
how ADVIZOR developed specific partnerships and the terms they entail.
Michael Muth is managing director of GATA, an international business development consultancy that helps technology companies build international partnerships. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for Muth’s full biography.
Q&A: ADVIZOR Solutions CEO Doug Cogswell on Global Software (6/29/2004)
Q&A: CEO Terry Howerton on Why Chicago, Ukraine Made FastRoot (6/22/2004)
Q&A: FastRoot CEO Terry Howerton on Blended Chicago Approach (6/15/2004)
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