Ojo leverages IT legacy
FREMONT, Calif.--Here in the heart of Silicon Valley, it once seemed like the good times would never end for an IT firm.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We had a great run in the late 1990s,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Angie Wong, founder of IT house Network Designs Integration. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Our revenue grew from $5 million to $14 million in two years ... Then, in 2001, we did $3 million. It was like the lights got turned off.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Luckily, NDI didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have a lot of debt, but Ã¢â‚¬Å“70 percent of our revenue came from dot-com start-ups,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Wong, Ã¢â‚¬Å“and they all went away, just gone.Ã¢â‚¬Â
With business lagging, Wong decided she needed to reinvent the company, to go from being a jack-of-all-IT-trades to being the best at something very specific. For a year, she and her staff did almost nothing but due diligence, looking for a market primed for growth where they could leverage their existing skills, but still had a barrier to entry so every IT firm wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t quickly follow them.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“And it had to be something we loved to do,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Wong. Ã¢â‚¬Å“One of my business development reps suggested that we specialize in providing business services to law firms. I said, Ã¢â‚¬ËœNo, I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t deal with lawyers all day.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã¢â‚¬Â
Following 9/11, Ã¢â‚¬Å“we could get compassionate about providing more security,Ã¢â‚¬Â though, she said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“it could really make us feel good, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s how we got into video surveillance.Ã¢â‚¬Â Well, that and a little help from Verint, an IT-friendly manufacturer that helped Ojo enter the industry.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“They went out and recreated a whole new portion of their business,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Mariann McDonagh, VerintÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s vice president of global marketing. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t found many companies with such a good blend of both sides of their company.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t easy,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Wong. Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re IT people. WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re very good in front of a computer, but then we had to go out in the field.Ã¢â‚¬Â She remembers the companyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first prospective project was a surveillance system on a concrete block in the middle of the ocean, as part of the Bay Bridge renovation. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We went out there and my engineers almost quit on me,Ã¢â‚¬Â Wong laughed. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The physical aspect of our job became overwhelming.Ã¢â‚¬Â
But Ojo hired 10 people, with a construction background and an electrician, Ã¢â‚¬Å“and now weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re comfortable with that.Ã¢â‚¬Â
There were other things they needed to get comfortable with, too. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Our installation team wanted to use a clipboard and forms, and just write things down,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Wong. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The rest of the company wants everything electronic. On the IT side, they can work all night, but theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re late starters. The installation team wants to start work at 6 a.m. and be done work at three ... We have to talk about those cultural differences.Ã¢â‚¬Â