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This article was prepared for the December 5, 2001 edition of U.S.

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When Technology Shifts Move Fast & Keep Selling

Dean Guida, president and CEO of Route 130-based

Infragistics, Guida bootstrapped his company to profitability. But

it wasn’t easy. "Next time I would take the venture capital,"

says Guida, at 37 a veteran of 12 years in the software business.

Guida talks about how he keeps his company growing in a difficult

economy on Tuesday, December 11, at 4 p.m. at an NJIT event, "IT

Success Stories," at the Fort Monmouth Officers Club. Cost: $70.

Call 856-787-9700.

Infragistics was formed from a recent merger of Sheridan Software

of Melville, New York, and ProtoView Development Corporation, which

Guida founded in 1989. Growing steadily, it is up to 60 employees,

and is about to triple its office space to 15,000 square feet with

a move, scheduled for December 14, to Windsor Corporate Park in East

Windsor. The new space accommodates up to 95 people, and depending

on the economy, Guida hopes to employ that many within two years.

Infragistics publishes software components for COM and Java

development

environments, and is about to start marketing components written in

C# for Microsoft’s upcoming .NET environment. Developers include

these components in software. An example, says Guida, is energy

company

Exelon’s use of the company’s InterAct data visualization tool. Exelon

subsidiary, PowerTeam, sells and trades energy, and uses the

Infragistics

tool to track its movement, minute-by-minute, across a giant map.

Other Infragistics customers include Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley,

and Fidelity, which include the company’s software components in

building

trading tools.

Guida is proud to say that his company had a role in restoring

telecommunications

to lower Manhattan after the attacks of September 11. Verizon used

some of its new .NET components in putting phones back online.

Infragistics is a private company, and Guida won’t disclose revenue,

but he does say that it is profitable, as was its predecessor,

Protoview.

This would have been a "blow out year," he says, but the

economic

downturn did hurt. "Some customers cut orders in half," he

says. Yet, with the merger and the move to .NET components, he expects

to grow revenue 30 percent next year.

Guida has seen a number of software companies go under. One reason

for failure, he says, is coming out with a great product, and then

resting. "Building a better product is your ticket to the

game,"

he says. "To win, you need strategy. You need to know how to

market

and sell. All elements have to be successful."

These elements include:

Picking the best people. "In software, people are

everything," says Guida. Products only take you so far. They need

fixes, upgrades. You need to have smart people around to make them.

As important as brains is motivation. "You have to have people

who need to succeed," he says.

Maximizing sales. "All profit is how much you can

sell between releases," says Guida. "It’s all about

volume."

It doesn’t cost much to produce software, and the smart company will

strive to put out and sell as much as possible, exploring every

market.

Going global. Infragistics has a sales office in London.

Its role, in part, is to supervise distributors throughout Europe.

Selling abroad is a way to leverage R&D expense, says Guida, who

points

out, "If you’re only selling to North America, you’re only selling

to half the world." Having an overseas office is a good

investment,

because it allows the company to be in-tune with the needs and buying

patterns that are different than those of North America.

Picking a partner. The merger that created Infragistics

was good for ProtoView, the company he founded, says Guida. The two

had some complementary technologies, but more significantly, they

had some competing products. Instead of going head to head, each

expending

marketing and sales dollars in search of the same customers, it made

sense for them to join forces.

Watching for the curve ball. In the software business,

nothing stays the same for long. "I’ve been through four or five

technology shifts," says Guida. "The first time, it nearly

killed us. I mean really killed us, out-of-business killed us."

At that time, the company derived 80 percent of its revenue from a

C++ visual development tool, and, says Guida, "Microsoft and

Borland

decided they had to be in that space." Analysts, and then the

media, declared his company irrelevant. Despite the fact that sales

remained strong, Guida knew he had develop other products — fast.

That is when he started to make components.

Managing through crisis. Getting through a technology

shift is a life and death juggling act. "You have to shift

marketing

dollars," Guida says. "You have to tell everyone `we’re going

to be fine; we’re going to make it." Sales have to be kept up,

but at the same time, investments have to be made in future products.

And, says Guida, "you have to leverage customers into the new

product offering."

Guida has kept all the balls in the air several times now, and says

the shift to .NET, which his merger positioned him for, is one of

the biggest technological shifts yet. "It’s like going from DOS

to Windows," he says.

Having braved a number of crises, and run perilously close to

bottom, Guida says his company is in position to capitalize on the

.NET shift. And while he says he couldn’t go through the stress of

another bootstrap start-up, he points out that there are advantages

to building a company bit-by-bit from its profits. There is equity,

of course. But there is more.

"There’s a lot of satisfaction," says Guida, a father of

three.

"You know you did it by yourself."


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