Creating An IT Titan
ndtArtemis’ Proctor and Soper Make Better Partners than Rivals
Back in 1970, the NFL (National Football League) merged with its rival, the AFL (American Football League), and soon passed baseball as the national pastime. Still growing in profitability and popularity after more than forty years, the NFL demonstrates the old adage that what two can be together is often greater than their sum separately. Such was the strategy behind the recent merger of netDirective Technologies and Artemis International Technologies.
Both D. Travis Proctor, the founder of Artemis, and David Soper, who founded netDirective, watched and admired each other’s businesses, like a coach scouting a rival team. Both men combined that rare synergy of business acumen, entrepreneurial confidence and technical savvy that enabled them to build highly successful IT management businesses during a time when other companies were manning the lifeboats.
Why Compete When We Can Pool?
Proctor was quick to point out, “We have been in a competitive space for a number of years, but we both had a healthy respect for each other’s organizations and had a couple of opportunities during that time to get together and talk. But David’s brainchild – of building a first class data center here in Brevard – created an interest on our part to utilize those services and to ask the question, ‘What would a strategic partnership look like?’ As we started learning more about each other’s business, each other’s philosophy and how we were both trying to achieve our growth objectives, we discovered there were a lot of synergies between our two companies. Also there were services and talent sets that complemented each other, instead of directly overlapping.”
At the time Soper started netDirective with one other partner, he considered Artemis, “the 10-ton gorilla in the area,” but found Proctor’s success to be a motivating factor in building his business. As he explained, “Not so much in a competitive sense, but I realized we were close in age, with similar skills sets and I thought ‘If he can do it, I think I can do it too.’ Then, when Travis and I began talking about the data center almost immediately I began to think, ‘Why are we competing?”
Before the merger, netDirective had more than twenty employees and was growing; Artemis had over thirty, with the same consistent growth record. Soper began to conclude, “Why don’t we each give up the controls we have over our small pies for the much larger pie we could build together? From my perspective there were no downsides.”
Soper began hosting his customers’ websites and email as a way to provide better service and to avoid having to go through another third party host to troubleshoot difficulties clients were encountering. Initially, it was more of a customer service tool. However, the market for a sophisticated data center, offering multiple services, not only in this area, but in various locations nationally and internationally soon became apparent.
Initially netDirective used another data center to host its services; then built their first center, which was 1,000 sq. ft., four years ago. “As the client base grew from our web hosting and other services, we realized this was growing very quickly as the market for cloud computing services began to mushroom,” Soper explained. [Cloud computing refers to the delivery of computing and storage capacity as a service, like you have on an Android or iPhone, which will soon make, if it hasn’t already, the local server stored in the business environment, as well as the typical computer, obsolete.] “As we analyzed current customers’ needs and the needs of potential customers we kicked around various sizes, which ended with the current data center that is 25,000 sq. ft.”
Soper jokes, “I’d like to tell you I predicted all the Microsoft cloud computing commercials, but the timing couldn’t have been better for us.” This combination of technical expertise and vision made Soper a natural for the new role as Chief Technology Officer for ndtArtemis.
Proctor, who is now the Chief Executive Officer of the new company, adds, “Where a small or midsized company may have restricted access to capital, the idea of leasing not only your storage needs, but software and all the related services allows them to leverage top of the line, continually evolving equipment and technology on a lease or rental model. These companies are utilizing our capital investment, which makes a world-class infrastructure available to businesses, which in all likelihood couldn’t afford it. One could compare it to the ability to buy a Honda Accord to now enjoying an affordable lease on a new IT Ferrari.”
Making the Match
As they compared strengths, Artemis had two divisions netDirective didn’t have – their telecom division handled structured cabling, phone and alarm systems; and they had another division that handled web, mobile app and software development. Overnight, netDirective’s clients had access to services that formerly had to be outsourced. Even more alluring to Soper was Proctor’s top shelf management team, which had been honed and solidified through years of growth and success. For both, the idea of focusing on their core strengths and being freed from some of those necessary, but distracting, tasks inherent in running any business was also attractive. Though both laughingly admit it may be awhile before that dream is realized.
Soper was glad to surrender the motivational and public face of the company to Proctor, who is now focusing on developing the process and procedural foundation that will support the astonishing growth they have experienced and expect in the future.
Proctor reflected on the merger process and the companies approach: “Our goal is to build a long-term relationship with our customer; it isn’t just about technology. It is talking, understanding and identifying those technologies that will make our clients successful, and then building it. It is similar to the process David and I went through leading up to the merger. For six months we met every week and just talked about our dreams, our expectations and even our fears. It was a slow, methodical procedure, but we learned about each other’s strengths, our core principles and our preferences.”