Instant messaging is not just for gossip-crazed teenagers; it's also an important application for business users. Microsoft veteran Francis deSouza has developed the technology that made IM systems more secure, more manageable—more businesslike. Early customers include Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Reuters.
CEO, IMlogic Inc.
FROM FRANCIS'S ORIGINAL ENTRY:
Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
Francis deSouza is the founder and CEO of IMlogic, a provider of software infrastructure to allow enterprises to manage instant messaging (IM) usage and leverage IM's presence and real-time capabilities in business-critical communications and applications.
By 2000, corporate IM usage was on the rise. Market analysts estimated 60% of enterprises had IM in some form, but growth was largely grassroots and IT departments were typically unaware of the growing employee usage behind their firewall. The first challenge was to convince IT departments that IM was being used in their companies and it was not something they could simply ignore. In addition, the general lack of understanding perpetuated myths that IM was not as manageable or secure as e-mail and real-time IM applications were many years away. Additionally, new SEC regulations on archiving e-mail and IM communications increased the level of liability for enterprises, particularly in the financial services area.
What was your moment of truth?
Three moments of truth solidified the importance and potential of enterprise IM for Francis:
1. In 1997, in thinking about a startup, Francis remembered how quickly Zephyr, a LAN-based IM product, became pervasive among MIT students in the late 1980s. He felt IM's presence and real-time messaging capabilities could make IM a "killer app" for the enterprise market and started Flash Communications, which provided enterprise-class IM solutions. Microsoft bought Flash in 1998, and Francis ran Microsoft's real-time collaboration group, delivering Microsoft's enterprise IM solution.
2. In 2000, AOL released a statistic that people were spending more time using IM than e-mail or browsing. Now he knew he was onto something really big.
3. Francis then realized that almost every application has a component that needs to be real time. He believed IM was the only real-time, scalable client on the desktop that could network to any device (cell phones, PDA, pagers) to truly deliver the dream of the "real-time enterprise" and "conversational applications."
In 2001, Francis started IMlogic, pushing IM a step further by offering an infrastructure to allow IT to provide management, security and application integration that would allow companies to really take advantage of the potential of IM.
What were the results?
Francis deSouza transformed IM from insignificance to a quantifiable business communication asset. His foresight and unwavering belief evolved the industry and helped businesses unleash the potential of IM infrastructures.
At Flash Communications, he developed the world's first patented, federated enterprise IM client/server product. At Microsoft, he played a key role in Exchange 2000 IM.
deSouza established IMlogic as a key player in IM, delivered award-winning products, formed partnerships with leading players, and won marquee customers (Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns). He raised $18M from Venrock, Goldman Sachs, General Catalyst and Kodiak Venture Partners.
Analysts believe IM is the fastest-growing communication vehicle, expected to surpass e-mail by 2006.
What's your parting tip?
Reward the risk-takers, especially if they fail—people need to know that risk-taking is vital to a company's success.