Even after the ‘marriage proposal’ was turned down, the two are best of friends.
Golden, award-winning partners, in fact.
Mississauga-ON-based mobile application developer SOTI Inc. has again been honoured by Microsoft for its success in developing business and personal solutions for mobile device management.
SOTI won both the 2010 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Mobility of the
Year Award, beating out over 3,000 international competitors, and more recently, the Microsoft Canada IMPACT Award for Best Mobile Application of the Year.
Yes, the big boys wanted to buy the small fry, but they were turned down – twice!
SOTI’s amazing success means other big companies try to buy it, too – with a Honeywell or Motorola among them.
But SOTI is still owner-operated and proudly Canadian, it’s still coming out with strong product offerings, and it is still working closely with the companies it once turned down.
“I could be sitting on a boat right now, but that’s not for me. I run a business because I enjoy the challenge of the game,” said company founder, CEO and President Carl Rodrigues.
“When they (Microsoft) came to us, it was a tough decision. But, in the end, I got into this business not just to cash out. I got into to it to do something challenging, something I can take pride in. I can’t take pride in selling out.”
He can and does take pride in solving the challenges faced by others when managing, securing, supporting or tracking their mobile and desktop computing devices.
Rodrigues knows that companies around the world use mobile devices in fleet management, logistics and shipping, travel and transportation, health care, law enforcement, manufacturing, retail and lots more.
SOTI counts some 80,000 of those companies as customers, and they in turn rely on SOTI to help reduce the time and expense associated with managing mobile devices.
SOTI has developed both an enterprise solution for mobile device management (its flagship MDM product called SOTI MobiControl) and a consumer-based remote control tool, SOTI Pocket Controller-Pro.
Functioning like an on-demand helpdesk and maintenance technician, the products provide comprehensive tools to help monitor and support mobile computing devices, smart phones, even desktops and servers.
Its newest MobiControl version, just released as V8, has added a user friendly Web Console module, designed to facilitate helpdesk capabilities over the Internet, along with the ability to provision devices by simply scanning a few barcodes.
The company’s Pocket Controller-Pro lets users to control their smart phones without even touching them. From the desktop, you get remote control, presentation and synchronization tools.
At the core of the technology is control into your mobile device remotely, Rodrigues describes.
“You can see into your mobile device, and see your mobile device screen on your PC. You can control your cellphone from the desktop, make your calls, completely drive it without touching it; it’s in your pocket,” he says, smiling. “When a call comes in, you can go into the program and answer. You can move files, bring photos from device to PC – it’s a productivity device.”
For just one device, that’s pretty cool. For thousands of them, it’s an amazing idea with tremendous potential. And the idea and initial product development came about in Rodriques’ basement!
Yes, the company started below ground, but it and its software have not yet stopped growing. Today, SOTI employs about 90 people, and it’s looking for even larger facilities in the neighbourhood from which to operate.
The growth understandably excites Rodriques, and keeps his commitment level high.
From zero sales to more than $30,000 in revenue in the first few months of basement operation, the company today counts it revenue in “many millions.”
And that growth understandably attracts corporate suitors and acquisition offers.
“My vision is about wanting to build something I can really put my heart into,” Rodrigues describes. “As I grew up in this space, I found it a bit weird that whenever someone grew their company to some decent size, some company came along to buy them out.
“Myself, I resist that; I want to build a successful Canadian company. What is the measure of success …to sell out? Or to continue developing, growing credibility, building consistent relationships?” he asks rhetorically.
On-going relationships with valued partners like Microsoft, then, can be as rewarding as selling the company to them.
And relationships with valued customers can be rewarding by saving them money.
Rodrigues recalls that before working with SOTI, a major fast food client would have to send out a mobile device technician to remedy problems in the field. “They’d fly guys out there, find out nothing was wrong with the device that a little training wouldn’t fix. Now, with our remote device management software, they can save thousands.”
Or like a major courier company, which has acquired nearly 40,000 SOTI licenses in order to remotely manage all those mobile devices that customers sign when receiving their package.
If the device doesn’t work, or can’t be operated properly, there can be a screaming customer or a lost package somewhere. With MobiControl and MobiAssist software, issues can be managed and help desk assisted remotely and immediately.
SOTI has built up a global network of literally thousands of partners it relies on for the international marketing, distribution and reselling of its products. Interestingly, SOTI also relies on global connections to source its employees.
Prefacing his story with some pointed remarks about the poor state of fundamental math, science and engineering education he sees in this country, Rodrigues mentions that SOTI has recently hired six new software developers from the Ukraine.
“We brought them and their families to Canada, and they are settled here now. One of the most expensive things we do is to find talent. It can be hard,” he bemoans. “There’s not as much talent in Canada as we’d like. We look really hard here at home, but more recently we are looking abroad. It’s getting to that point where we have to do that.”
You can tell he’s not happy about the situation (even though the new hires are by all accounts working out just fine).
There’s that loyalty to the company, and a real sense of connectivity with the country and the community in which it operates (SOTI sponsors a local men’s soccer team, for example).
So don’t try and buy the company – but if you need to manage your own smart phone, or a lot of mobile computing devices, you might want to check out the products.