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MICROSCOPE: Old heads on young shoulders

MICROSCOPE: Old heads on young shoulders

You'd be mistaken for thinking "start-up" equals pimple-faced teenagers launching the next dot-something revolution. The ones who have come up with the odd killer app - Napster springs to mind - have either run out of money or been closed down by their parents' generation (who didn't understand where the idea was supposed to clip the tickets).

These days, in the channel at least, the next generation of start-ups are generally well backed or well thought out business models with a sound commercial infrastructure underpinning them. They're headed up by people who've been around for years, done apprenticeships with major multinationals and are looking to go it alone.

The following companies are either fairly new - or have carved a niche in an industry that dictates either moving fast, adapting to change or getting the hell out of Dodge.

Contemporary People (www.contemporarypeople.com)While it might be easy enough to call Julia Ross to find an office temp for the day, it's not so easy to find qualified, experienced IT staff. This is especially the case if you're a reseller trying to maintain service level agreements for a major outsourcing contract that took two years to win. But there are companies that do just that: provide IT professionals at a drop of a hat to resellers and end users to either maintain an IT environment or integrate a new project.

Contemporary People, based in Parramatta, NSW and founded by managing director Val Whellens in 1993, is a company exploiting a niche created by the IT skills shortage. With 600 IT professionals in its database representing a plethora of certifications in networking, e-commerce and software development, Contemporary People follows whatever's hot in the industry, be it ERP, CRM or IP telephony.

Whellens says the catalyst for forming the company came from his previous existence as an accountant and project manager. His gripe was that while a lot of services companies and vendors had good resources in-house, they never seemed to have the people on hand to service the project. "Frankly I felt I could do a better job," says Whellens.

The company has since moved into placing permanent staff in addition to temporary recruitments, and Whellens claims the important thing is to treat its contractors as much like clients as the companies it's working for.

Excido (www.excido.com)

From vendor land to channel world, Excido's principle directors draw on years of experience "working for the man" before venturing out on their own. Founded by managing director David Savill, an ex-Web consulting entrepreneur, Excido prides itself on moving fast. David Parrish, ex-IBM GSA, joined Savill as technology director, and Nathan Kulinitsch is IT support director and a former Cisco engineer.

The company marries a healthy dose of traditional network integration with a liberal splashing of software development, Unix and Windows consulting, e-commerce and B2B applications and network security services. While it derives the bulk of its revenues from support contracts, it is unafraid to match it up with the big integration and development firms, which can have whole departments dedicated to specific project elements.

"Having worked in the corporate environment I'm opposed to waste - waste of time and waste of money," says Parrish. "In those [IT services] companies that have separate teams, people tend to sit around a lot and say, ‘hey, that's a cool idea'. But if we think of a good idea, we don't have to wait for it to go through five levels of management before getting the go ahead to take it to our customer."

RequestDSL www.requestdsl.com.au

Backed by the Telecom Venture Group (TVG), RequestDSL is a distributor with a difference - it wholesales DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) services to ISPs, ASPs and network integrators rather than straight hardware, software or services.

The company has begun hooking up DSL exchanges throughout Australia's capital cities and is gearing itself to take systems integrators to the next level - branded carrier LAN and WAN services. In turn, the company is branding itself as a new-generation start-up, with the majority of its 45 staff coming from an engineering background under the helmsmanship of Phil Sykes, RequestDSL CEO.

RequestDSL has ambitious plans to roll out DSL services into 88 exchanges across the country by year's end. But with 10 in place already, 10 to be completed by the time you read this and a further 14 slated for the end of the month, its marketing guru Garry McCarten, general manager sales and marketing, claims RequestDSL is putting its services where the other carriers' mouths are.

As a wholesaler, RequestDSL is also out to protect its growing number of channel partners with a reseller portal and a simplified way of doing business, says McCarten.

"When we needed to draw up a contract for our partners, I told our lawyers, ‘make it short and something you don't need three months to read'. They came back with something that was 50 pages," he says. "Now it's two."

T-Systems (www.t-systems.de/engl)

In a world of increasing globalisation, international companies are starting to look towards international channels to support them. Combining this with the ever-shrinking distinction between technology solution providers and telco solution providers creates a recipe for spin-off companies to emerge from worldwide partnerships.

T-Systems is one such company, resulting from a partnership between German giant Deutsche Telekom and massive European systems integrator debis Systemhaus (DaimlerChrysler Services). With deep pockets, the spin-off company has set its sights on Australia as a potential feeding ground for expansion.

Debis entered the Australian market last year through a merger with AST Consulting before it launched T-Systems with Deutsche Telekom in Australia in February.

The company intends to blitzkrieg its rivals in the high-end of the telco, higher education, automotive, mining and finance verticals with a host of services including ERP consulting, outsourcing and voice/data over IP integration.

The company already has more than 37,000 employees worldwide, $20 billion in revenues for 2000, and about 2200 international and national corporate customers making it a substantial threat to the staid service providers in an already saturated high-end enterprise market.


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