This year IBM turns 100 years old, and last week IBM’s “Watson” was named 2011 “Person of the Year” by the Webby Awards. The mere thought of IBM as a start-up (circa 1911) boggles my mind, especially when you consider that this year they reached their all-time high water mark at $205B in market valuation. This feat is even more amazing given the somewhat rocky road that they traveled during the late 80’s and 90’s. Over the last ten years under the watchful eye of Sam Palisamo, IBM is beginning to experience a rebirth. While they are nowhere near the dominant leadership position that they held over the technology sector from 1940 – 1980 when the market was defined as “IBM and the Seven Dwarfs,” today they are beginning to show signs of re-emergence as — if nothing else — the “supervising adult ” that their 100 years of existence entitles them to.
So what keeps an old company relevant after all these (100) years? Probably the same things that keep older people young…they hang out with their kids or grandchildren. In IBM’s case they have learned (over the years) to partner with a few young, innovative companies that are proving to be the new “game changers” in several traditional markets — even in some markets that have long been considered to be IBM’s strongholds. By partnering up with these young “upstarts,” IBM has given their customers fresh alternatives for new technologies and approaches for dealing with a rapidly changing business world. Perhaps even more importantly for many of their customers, IBM is also delivering a much-needed layer of “adult supervision” in this increasingly crowded and complex vendor landscape. Their years of experience enable IBM to become a trusted advisor to their customers on how to navigate through this vendor mine field.
As one those lucky few young upstarts that Grandpa IBM has chosen to partner with, we here at SOASTA get the advantage of their many years of experience surviving and thriving in both up and down markets. We also get to benefit from what may be the greatest technology distribution channel ever compiled, a channel that no start-up could ever replicate organically.
Time will only tell if Grandpa IBM and its young upstart partner SOASTA will make an interesting combination for the IBM nation, but the hourglass has been turned. One thing is for sure, SOASTA is one youngster that is eager to learn from Grandpa.
About the Author
As CEO of SOASTA, Tom brings more than 30 years of experience building early stage software companies, leading two companies to successful IPOs. Tom is a regular speaker at both cloud and testing events, and has become a leading advocate in using the cloud to empower individuals and accelerate changes in how applications are built, tested and deployed. Most recently, Tom served as President and CEO of Kenamea. Prior to Kenamea, he was CEO of Dorado Corp., a financial services software provider. Previous to Dorado, he was EVP of Sagent Technology through its 1999 IPO, entrepreneur-in-residence at Crosspoint Venture Partners, and held executive positions at Digitalk Corp., Knowledgeware (KWI) and Encore Financial Services. Tom also serves on several boards in the Silicon Valley.