Some would say that the time to start a company focused on business
acceleration supporting technology companies with international
growth aspirations was not early 2002. But that is exactly when
Gareth White and Glenn Hardy decided to make the leap and set up
a new business called Simentra - the name representing Strategic
investment for Market entrance. And, so far, despite all the challenges,
Simentra is fast becoming a real story about developing an international
business and brand.
A year and a half on, Simentra has offices in Northern Ireland,
Bracknell in the M4 corridor near London (England's Silicon Valley)
and San Jose, CA. These are called Business Resource Centers or
Business Acceleration Centers. The firm managed to attract Fred
Hoar, a Silicon Valley icon and former VP Communications at companies
like Apple, Fairchild, RCA and Genetech. A founder of the Silicon
Valley Band of Angels, Fred joined the team as a main board director
and drives the company profile in the Valley in addition to some
international initiatives with regional development agencies for
foreign direct investment plans.
When he accepted the appointment, Hoar made clear just how enthusiastic
he was to be joining the Simentra team. "I have been very impressed
with the Simentra business model and the opportunity that exists
to exploit their business acceleration products and services. It
is imperative that this cost effective and reduced risk process
to market is applied in modern technology business practice. To
realize a more fundamental return on investment, companies need
to adopt a process that identifies the most cost effective and reduced
risk to achieving sales revenues. Simentra has a model that has
global impact, in a business world that increasingly looks to international
sales as a parameter of success. The Simentra team is extremely
well positioned and has had an impressive growth since inception
and I look forward to being part of the team. This is a very exciting
venture and I believe that there are exciting initiatives already
Simentra has, among other projects, been appointed by the Welsh
Development Agency in California to promote a series of state-of-the
art business incubator facilities called Technium, based in Wales.
Early stage technology companies entering the European market have
utilized the services - with initial clients including iPIX, Aligo
and Support Wizard. It has signed a deal with a leading UK University
to support R&D based early stage companies looking at expanding
Late last year it was gold sponsor of Cal-IT 2002 in London. Cal-IT
is Europe's opportunity to meet the very best of California's new
technology start-ups. Organized by the State of California's Technology,
Trade and Commerce Agency (CTTCA), Cal-IT introduces the most promising
young technology companies to the European market each year. Over
the last six years Cal-IT has proved to be an unbeatable event -
previous presenters have included representatives from Clarent,
Inktomi, eGain, PacketVideo, Portal Software, LoudCloud and Vicinity.
Evidence of the commitment to California and Silicon Valley came
in December last year when Simentra opened its business acceleration
unit in the International Business Incubator in San Jose. According
to Hardy, "We recognized the need for localized European sales
and marketing expertise to accelerate high tech companies international
expansion. Our sales and business development team utilize the San
Jose office location to develop our business and partner network,
establish relationships with the key industry players and promote
the use of our Technology Sales Agency process as a means of minimizing
the risk and accelerating the growth for international sales contributions,"
All in all, not bad for a company that kicked off in the midst of
one of the worst IT recessions to be remembered.
The founders have been round the blocks a few times and know all
about the trials and tribulations of establishing a company and
maintaining its viability for the long term. They have also faced
the challenge of marketing and selling technology products and services
in international markets for a variety of companies such as Cognos,
the Business Intelligence firm and Lumioo, an analytical CRM start-up.
Having worked with large companies with mature technology and invested
and driven smaller companies with little market presence or gravitas,
they are familiar with the challenges being faced by their clients.
According to White, this combined experience has given Simentra
an edge in supporting R&D based firms with great ideas but little
street savvy. "We work very closely with academic research
departments that spin out great potential business concepts. However,
commercializing those concepts and putting them into markets is
a great challenge for early stage companies. Part of what Simentra
does is help with the transformation process. We help get products
market ready and then we will work with entrepreneurs to get them
sales revenues in a number of markets."
"We believe that there is a great opportunity for businesses
and academic institutions and business incubators to share knowledge
in order to encourage trade. Even though Silicon Valley has a more
advanced funding engine for R&D based businesses, often these
businesses flounder when seeking partners or channels in Europe.
Conversely, European companies often overlook the networking and
support opportunities that exist in the valley when they decide
to enter the US. We aim to provide a bridgehead."
Simenta now formally addresses these strands by having dedicated
business units with senior team members focusing on technology areas
- including Health Sciences, Telecoms and Software - and on government
and academic institutions that work with R&D based early stage
businesses. The challenge is to get the strands to cross-fertilize
each unit and create a set of processes that support clients' needs
for international expansion - the company having recently signed
new partnerships in both Canada and Australia.
Simentra has developed product packages that describe their offering
succinctly. Similar businesses have failed in the past because business
objectives have been laudable but understanding the offer was difficult.
Simentra offers packages of services aimed at early stage market
entry. These programs (Charter Series and TechStart) provide companies
with the early stage due diligence work and help with marketing
and sales planning. Simentra Tech Sales is a technology sales agency
that allows technology companies to penetrate the markets in the
UK and other key European regions.
Simentra has a vision of becoming a truly international start-up
very quickly indeed. It has already established an interesting portfolio
of business and an impressive line-up of senior staff. The company
is entirely self-funded - which gives it the opportunity to define
itself as the senior management team sees appropriate. Like all
companies focused on the ICT space, it will have its fair share
of problems convincing cash strapped businesses to part with cash
for external support. But, so far, Simentra has put itself on an
international map and for that alone it deserves every credit.
"Across the Pond - A Transatlantic CEO's Perspective on Establishing
A Global Business" is a monthly column that takes a look at
an emerging technology company whose business needs require establishing
operations in some other part of the world. Whether it's a Silicon
Valley company setting up operations Europe, Asia or Latin America
or an overseas company establishing a presence in Silicon Valley
-- Barbara Kohn in SV and Jeffrey Peel in Northern Island -- look
at the steps - and missteps - companies make when going global.
More about Barbara & Jeff...