Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Tale of Two Entrepreneurs

Walking the floor of a trade show exhibit hall is a marketer’s dream.

For starters, there is the assessment of each company’s brand and positioning, based on their booth, signage and staff presentation. Then, you get to dive into specific corporate and product messaging through dialogue with the sales representatives and engineers working the booth. Is what they say consistent with the brand strategy?

The government information technology conference FOSE held this past week in Washington, DC is one of my favorites. Its broad scope opens the door to all types of exhibitors, from open source software firms and security providers to hawkers of developer tools and network infrastructure products.

I set aside about four hours to scan the more than 200 vendors exhibiting at FOSE this year. My expectation was I’d come away with content for a blog post about the innovative technologies being shopped by government buyers. Yet, what stuck with me this year was two dramatically different entrepreneurial stories which I suspect will one day share a common positive outcome.

Concept Solutions’ Phong Mai has the Silicon Valley techie vibe down pat. He is energetic and intense, and committed to the belief that his views represent where the market is headed.

Unlike most west coast-based entrepreneurs, Mai didn’t take a dime of venture capital to bring Turbo Enterprise to market. Rather, he bank rolled development from the consulting fees his firm rang up building Web 2.0 applications for government agencies.

Mai is now shifting much of his time to a product focus with a solution that helps developers create Internet applications using AJAX. His company has already stood up CRM and task management applications using Turbo Enterprise and from speaking with Mai you get the sense this is just the beginning to an exciting story.

If you Mai as being in the third inning of his entrepreneurial venture, then Alan Dabbiere should be in the club house doused in champagne celebrating a championship. The founder of supply chain powerhouse Manhattan Associates, Dabbiere owned a majority of the company when he took it public more than 10 years ago.

However, rather than investing his time on corporate boards and perfecting his short game, Dabbiere was there in the Airwatch booth shaking hands with prospects and espousing the value of the company’s software.

Airwatch certainly plays in a hot market. The company has developed an enterprise application that monitors, manages and maintains wireless networks and devices, while supporting the activities of mobile workers – all from a single console. They’ve gained sales traction in a number of vertical markets and are now turning their attention to the government space.

“You really must think this company has something special,” I asked. This is going to be huge, Dabbiere responded with the same confidence projected by Concept Solutions’ Mai.

Two entrepreneurs at FOSE who are at different points in their careers. Yet, their stories are the same.

1 comment:

Beth with Gold Star Referral Clubs said...

Marc, interesting blog. Enjoyed it. I admire business people who live passionately and boldly go where most people don't have the guts to go. God Bless 'em.

Beth Davis
"Why just survive... when you can thrive?"