By Liz Garone
|GWI's staff assembled outside the company's headquarters in Vancouver, Wash., for a group
picture. Founder and CEO Daren Nelson is in the front row, wearing sunglasses;
development manager Mike Sabin is next to him, on the left; and sales manager Michael
Schenker is in the back row, third from left.
GWI is one of the largest providers of IT help-desk and CRM solutions for Notes,
Domino, and the Web.
Founded in 1992 with $1,200 by two friends, Vancouver, Wash.-based GWI Software had only $60,000 in revenue in its first year
but has grown rapidly every since, ending 1999 with $7.6 million in sales and 37 employees.
Not bad for a company started by a
25-year-old former computer
salesman and college dropout. When
Daren Nelson founded the company
eight years ago with partner Jeff
McDonnell, the two intended it to
be a network consultancy and
value-added reseller of Notes
solutions. But they eventually
changed their focus. In 1996, after
an amicable split with McDonnell,
Nelson relaunched the company as
Called GWI Sofware, the revamped
firm's first product was a help-desk
application, Help! For Lotus Notes.
Today GWI is probably the largest
provider of IT help-desk and CRM
solutions for Notes, Domino, and
the Web, with more than 1,500
customers around the world, including Panasonic and the American Cancer Society.
In addition to Help!, GWI offers a suite of six integrated applications, called the Collaborative Front Office, which automates a
wide range of tasks for sales, marketing, customer service, and IT help-desk departments. The suite, whose component applications
can be purchased separately, is designed for small and medium-sized businesses (SMB), which GWI defines a s companies with less
than $1 billion in annual sales.
While several of its customers are Fortune 1000 companies, GWI
doesn't pursue large enterprises. "They call them the Fortune 1000
because there are only a thousand of them," Nelson explained. "Once
you've sold to them, then where do you go? Even going long-term,
we're really looking for the SMB customer. We're still a shrinkwrap
software developer focused on that market." In a profile of GWI, the
Aberdeen Group, a market research organization based in Boston,
cited GWI's "commitment" to the mid-size market as one of the
reasons for its success.
GWI's growth has not gone unrecognized. In October of 1999, it
placed 156th on Inc. magazine's list of America's 500 fastest
growing private companies. In addition, Deloitte & Touche and Hale
and Dorr, the accounting firms, put GWI on their lists of the fastest
growing companies, naming it the 11th fastest growing company in
Washington state and the 197th in the country.
Headquarters: Vancouver, Wash.
Regional Offices: GWI Software Europe in Hoofdorp, the Netherlands
Number of Employees: 37
Product Lines: Help! For Lotus Notes, a help-desk application, and Collaborative Front Office, a suite of six integrated applications that automate
various sales, marketing, and customer service processes.
1999 Revenue: $7.6 million
Projected 2000 Revenue: $7.78 million
Founder and CEO: Daren Nelson
Quote: "We're dedicated, for better or for worse, to the Notes platform. ThatĚs what makes us successful. We understand that, and we want to keep that as
9105 NE Highway 99, #200
Vancouver, WA 98665
But GWI's growth is slowing down. Expected revenues for 2000 are
up less than $200,000 from 1999, a far cry from the leaps and
bounds of past years. "It's nice to be included on those lists, but it's
impossible to stay on," said Nelson. "I think we've got one more
good year to be on those lists. Then our growth will have slowed,
and that will be that."
Nelson attributed part of the slowdown to what he calls "the Y2K
hangover." "Companies were just so busy last year installing new
software that they are still taking a breather," he explained. He
attributed another part to a slowing in GWI's core market,
companies that use Notes and Domino. "Over the last four years we
have picked the low-hanging fruit. Now we are having to work
harder to find the companies that don't come to us. It is a typical
process that all businesses go through as they mature."
But Nelson doesn't appear too concerned about the slowdown. "I am not so bent on growth as I am on profitability. Honestly, I
don't care if we do $10 million or $2 million. I don't have an overwhelming desire to be the biggest, from a revenue standpoint.
Rather, I just want to have the best products with the highest profit margins."
LIZ GARONE is a freelance technology writer based in Oakland, Calif.