Evaluating the WAM!PLAN
Ed Driscoll, CEO of WAM!NET, talks about 4-Sight's better-than-anticipated integration (despite some amusing cultural glitches), what the file transfer giant's plans are for digital asset archiving, why he can't wait to take on healthy competition and how come the Internet is so darn neato!!!
BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO
It takes energy to talk to a man like Ed Driscoll: He's funny, he's hyper, he's quick to talk about almost anything, he gets off the track with a joke or two, he even tries to trick you (if you allow him), and this is all in good fun. Despite his every inclination, Driscoll can become very serious if the topic takes him there.
The direction of WAM!NET is one such serious topic.
In the past six months, the company has swallowed 4-Sight's ISDN power and the Internet talents of FreeMail—virtually simultaneously. In doing so, WAM!NET launched itself into the global market, maximizing on British-born 4-Sight's prime directive, iSDN Manager.
WAM!NET's absorption of 4-Sight was logical, though perhaps surprising. The two were slugging it out for some time in the U.S. market until both fronts realized each could move faster and further by working together. Merging WAM!NET's managed network philosophy with 4-Sight's dial-up ISDN solution made sense.
Why FreeMail? WAM!NET plans to integrate technologies created by FreeMail, chiefly electronic job ticketing, into its Industry Smart network services and applications.
With flexible job ticketing—which includes FreeMail IFO (Intelligent Form Objects) technology—WAM!NET customers will be able to create their own customized data delivery and back-end processing systems for all of their digital shipping and receiving needs.
Recently, WAM!NET announced the WAM!BASE MasterMind channel program, a key component in the company's strategy to become not only a (make that the) leader in digital file transfer services, but also a solution for asset archiving.
The MasterMind channel program—available this month and the only sales channel for 1998—targets prepress, printing and service vendors in North America that are already heavily involved in digital asset management.
Not bad for half a year!
"Would you like to hear about the WAM!NET summer bash we're having this weekend? We expect more than 300 people—families, kids, dogs, cats. It's going to be a great time. We've got a blues band coming in; you should fly out for it," the WAM!NET boss invites. "The people make this company; it's not just me. It's not just the top management team—it's every single person here."
Driscoll's modesty is refreshing, but the prime directive this moment in time is getting him to answer questions about the burgeoning company, which he founded with technology guru Allen Witters.
Is WAM!NET getting too big?
"Are you kidding? No way," Driscoll states. "We're moving in the direction of digital asset archiving and we're maximizing customers' abilities to utilize the Internet. At the same time, we're expanding our portfolio of digital file delivery solutions."
Yes, but no one else is as big as WAM!NET. Where is your competition? What won't WAM!NET get into when it comes to digital assets?
"You can be certain WAM!NET doesn't want to be a player in the digital asset management tools arena. There are more than enough solid players there; we are just interested in keeping our pipes and tanks filled with digital assets," Driscoll assures. "We view the Internet as a tool—not as a competing vehicle—and we plan to maximize the power of the Internet for delivery of e-mail and small files."
What are your views of the Internet, its position within the graphic arts and its position relative to WAM!NET?
"The Internet is an awesome communication medium," Driscoll says. "WAM!NET is an awesome transportation medium—a special purpose network that interacts with and is fed by the Internet. Different types of networks are used for different purposes, just like different roads are used for different purposes: a highway, for example, as compared to a residential road. You couldn't have a superhighway without on-ramps or feeder streets."
How did the merging of 4-Sight go? Everybody happy?
"All has gone well," Driscoll reports. "Thanks to 4-Sight's power in the UK, we are now operating a subsidiary that is fully functional, which has accelerated our business plan by a year or more.
"Some of the most striking attributes of 4-Sight, quite frankly, were not so much the products they sold, but more the people they had—like world-class entrepreneurs Dave Townend (now director of WAM!NET UK) and Lyndon Stickley (formerly president of 4-Sight, now European marketing director for WAM!NET)."
Did you encounter any cultural difficulties in the merging of a U.S. team with a British-born corporation—any glitches along the way?
Driscoll laughs at this one. "Well, people in the UK like to write everything down and plan, plan, plan. They are very paper-intensive; whereas in the United States, we're more flexible. It's a different approach," he explains. "So, what happened at first was this meshing of approaches with them asking us, 'How can you get anything done when you don't plan anything?' and us asking them, 'How can you get anything done when you're always planning?' "
What's in store for WAM!NET for the near future? Any more acquisitions on the horizon?
"You know I can't tell you that," Driscoll drones. "All I can say is that we are still growing, especially in Europe. We're still moving and we welcome any and all competition. A whole bunch of announcements at IPEX and Graph Expo will demonstrate our acceleration."
It will be very interesting to keep an eye on WAM!NET's evolution, from a moderately known, managed network to a global file transfer provider, now moving into asset archiving and Internet facilitation. If the company's employee summer bash went well, expect WAM!NET to add event coordination to its ever-expanding portfolio.