In this four-part series, we chat to CEO and founder of RealVNC Andy Harter about how he grew a small tech startup into a future billion-dollar company.
Let's face it: in any kind of business, developing products and innovating is hard. There are so many ways to get it wrong. Too much diversification, constant service, product changing and fashion-chasing, all adversely affect businesses big and small. Companies such as Google have money to burn in their Google X research labs, but for the small and medium enterprise (SME) with much tighter budgets, developing new products can be like playing Russian roulette.
One important but hardly mentioned component of a successful business is "focus". Focus is especially important in this data-abundant world. People are paralysed by the sheer number of options, strategies and variety of services that could be created for their business. Without focus, it's easy to get distracted and pulled off-track from core business products, processes and activity.
In the late 90s our publisher, Net Communities, was set up and ITProPortal was born. The founders spent a huge amount of time discussing and introducing innovation and additional services. However, although much of this innovation was useful, the processes required to integrate the innovation destroyed the focus on the core product set and caused tremendous problems in the early days.
A single goal
One company that we can learn "focus" from is RealVNC. In the words of their CEO Dr Andy Harter, "every system that has a display or screen, we want to enable remote control of that device."
RealVNC has focused on their core product set; remote control. To the average person, there is nothing sexy, unusual or even interesting about "remote control". Remote control has been with us for decades, for instance in the remote control of computers via Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection and other technologies, many of which are based around the open source VNC product.
What has focus achieved?
If Dr Harter wanted, his team could easily sift through the volumes of data, and I'm sure could build several world-changing applications. Instead they've remained totally focused on the creation of a technology that can be built into any software or hardware to provide that product with remote control ability.
Imagine what it would be like if your smartphone could control your computer or even your car... well that technology is here.
We can see that the focus on remote control and embedding remote control into as many applications as possible RealVNC can create solid growth without distraction. Diversification requires; creation of product, marketing, advertising, sales, education and development processes, all which take vast amounts of resources.
Focus is essential for reaching your goals, in business, departmental projects and personal development. Know what you want and stay focused. Don't be distracted by additional services, more money, other opportunities and so on. Focus on the four "P"s developed by Dr Jim Taylor, adjunct faculty at the University of San Francisco:
"Perform: When you are going to begin a project, such as a sales report, strategic plan, marketing analysis etc, ask yourself what you need to perform your best and then create an environment that will allow for optimal performance.
Process: Focus entirely on what you need to do to complete a high-quality product without concern for the outcome.
Present: Focus on the here and now rather than on what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future.
Productivity: Focusing only on those things and blocking out distractions that will enable you to be the most productive you can be."
In part two of the series, Dr Harter reveals his techniques for growing a tech startup into a billion dollar company, in part three, he explains the pros and cons of your financing options, and in part four details when you need new tech and when you absolutely don't.