Wayne Richard (BBA '80)
People have often asked me why I decided to start my own company. I suppose every business owner has a specific event or situation that drives him/her to take this risky step. My years at SMU were the beginning of my yearnings to work for myself. The campus environment, the student body and of course the faculty positively influenced my drive to succeed and initially instilled the entrepreneurial sprit within me.
I attended Jerry White's entrepreneurship class where he emphasized the characteristics that were necessary to be a successful entrepreneur. I instinctively knew I had what it took and realized I had an innate desire to strike out on my own. His teachings strongly reinforced my aspiration.
Right out of college, I worked for the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas Texas. Although this wasn't my career ambition, it was quite beneficial. Selling an intangible product is difficult and it didn't take long to recognize service is what differentiates you from the competition. It's a lesson I still try to practice everyday.
I founded ICglobal (www.icglobal.net ) 12 years ago with personal savings and an office in my dining room. My initial business plan was the release of an automated telephone system that would provide entertainment information to conventioneers via the phone. A revenue stream would be generated through the sale of advertising spots imbedded within the audio presentation. It was quite leading edge at the time. However after one final market analysis, I determined a brand new technology called "multimedia" could soon make my business operation obsolete.
Still feeling confident with the basic business plan, I partnered with a software developer and wrote an author-ware package for interactive touch screen kiosks. I named it The MDS2000, or Multimedia Display System. A state of the art solution right out of the gate, the MDS2000 presented full motion video, offered an integrated phone and a printer that would disperse coupons when appropriate.
This concept and the technology were a little ahead of the market. As a result we encountered a few challenges. We spent the first couple of years addressing issues such as prospect education and vandalism of the kiosks. But we prevailed and the business moved forward.
Our MDS2000 research and development introduced us to a radical new technology just finding its way to the general public --- the Internet, a technology I immediately recognized was the future of my company. Once again however, I spent the next year educating prospects on this little known technology. This time however, as time progressed I had a lot of help as the media picked up on this technology and the world was ready to jump aboard.
The velocity of the dot-com revolution surprised everyone. Suddenly there were TV commercials offering instant financial freedom with the Internet in a box product. The number of companies offering web development services seemed to grow exponentially, most working out of their home. In addition investors were throwing cash at start up companies hoping for a quick hit through the ever-tantalizing IPO. Many of these companies had unlimited cash and never had to consider the bottom line. The days of showing a profit seemed to vanish within my industry. All these factors created a market where competition for business was heated and often cut throat. "Give the services away and worry about the bottom line later," was the prevailing attitude. The name of the game was growth, not profits; just be sure to gain market share. After all, wasn't everyone going to get rich with a soon to be announced IPO?
I made the decision to stay the course and maintain control of my company. The philosophy of controlled growth had worked for me so far and I didn't want to give up control. However, ICglobal had matured into a full service Internet provider. Offering website development, hosting and connectivity had increased our expenses substantially. Fortunately, ICglobal had established a niche market several years earlier as an ASP (application service provider). The ASP business model had not been conceived when we established ourselves as the preeminent web developer and hosting company to the relocation industry. Creating the first web based relocation tool positioned us financially for the lean times ahead in competing head to head with the proliferation of dotcoms. It was in hindsight the proper direction for ICglobal. We weathered the storm and emerged financially stronger and won the respect of many of our competitors' clients.
I suppose being first is part of our strength, as ICglobal has once again conceptualized and developed a new web-based solution. The product, eBOARDads is a revolutionary technology that carries web-based advertising to a new level. With eBOARDads advanced functionality, brands and services can now be presented in a media-rich format, on-demand, thereby providing the consumer with "the power to choose". The technology directed solely by the user and is therefore not disruptive to the user experience. Unlike today's web based advertising tools, eBOARDads provides quantifiable real time statistics on all user interaction. These reports are delivered on-line and in a graphical format to clients.
The technology behind eBOARDads is brilliant when compared to today's banners and pop-up ads, and the timing couldn't be better. With the major browsers and AOL including software to block pop-ups, eBOARDads is perfectly positioned to fulfill the demand for advanced web-based advertising.
All in all, my 12 year journey building ICglobal has been both extremely challenging but equally rewarding. The yearning I developed for an entrepreneurial life while a student at SMU Cox, as well as the skills to see my dreams come to fruition, have been invaluable. That is why I am committed to continuing to stay active in the SMU Cox community by supporting events such as the golf tournament and initiatives such as the web site redesign. Given the network and support I continue to receive from the school combined with the resources I am able to contribute as a successful alum, it is a win-win situation.
Wayne Richard's eBOARDads product is entered in the Dallas / Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association Excellence in Interactive Marketing Awards in April. Look for a follow up to Wayne's story as well as many more inspiring alumni entrepreneur success stories in the Summer2003 issue of CoxToday.