I met with Gerry Cohen last week, the founder CEO of BI vendor Information Builders (IB). After 30 years in the business he still has an infectious enthusiasm for software. As has Jim Goodnight, the founder CEO of SAS, and Michael Saylor, the founder CEO of MicroStrategy, who founded his company in 1989. Between them, this …
Customer focus rather than press focus?
Well, I certainly follow Information Builders (http://www.regdeveloper.co.uk/2007/02/11/search_webfocus_magnify/, for example) and I know that Martin Banks follows SAS. We don't write about them constantly because there are a lot of other firms out there to write about too!
But I'd certainly agree with the thrust of this article. One reason these privately-held companies don't feature so much in the press, is that they can concentrate on customers (I was at an Info Builders summit a year or so back, and its customers are certainly both loyal and happy) and longterm strategy - instead of "wasting time" on PR.
While publically-quoted companies have to manufacture press interest in order to keep their share prices going in the right direction - and if journalists are deluged with Microsoft "news" it can be hard to just ignore all of it.
However, there's a risk associated with having a charasmatic leader, even if they're as bright as Gerry Cohen and Jim Goodnight, as they have been known to lose touch with where things are going (again, remember Ken Olsen of DEC and the PC).
But, in my book, there's an even bigger risk associated with making short term fashion-driven decisions in order to move the share price up, at the behest of venture capitalists.
For me, then, private ownership is a good sign, all else being equal. A business doesn't want a major technology supplier changing its technology strategy just to keep some know-nothing venture capitalists happy!