Anatomy Of A Startup

How top technology exec ken coleman developed a novel software product and used his business network to launch a revolutionary enterprise in silicon valley

want to buy the knowledge and the ability to use that software to create success.”

Sounds like a tall order for a startup, but Coleman is committed to the vision of serving customers’ needs. He tells his employees, “I will never apologize for telling you to stop whatever you think is important to serve a customer.” Coleman, who interviews every new hire, further asserts, “If that bothers you, this isn’t the company for you.”

Coleman has been known to hop on a red-eye to meet with clients to ink a deal or to simply provide the comfort of a face-to-face meeting. At age 61, he amazes fans and critics alike with his boundless energy.

It’s late in the afternoon at ITM. From a small conference room, the sounds of a fisherman’s bell come tolling in. It’s a signal to employees that the company has struck a deal. The group of 30-plus employees gather around to hear the news. And this is a significant one with a large customer. It is the second such deal completed during the course of the day, and it seems that ITM is on target to reach its goal of earning more than $10 million in revenues for this fiscal year, twice that in the next. “A year from now we should be up to 100 people,” Coleman speculates. “I’ve set this up to say that I want to create four to five times forward-looking revenues approximately two years from now. … It’s a reasonable thing to do, but it’s not something I’m working on right now. What I am working on is creating a successful company that produces that option.”

Wash agrees with that assessment. “We think of investing for a period of three to six years, but we normally look for the ability to achieve liquidity within that time frame,” he adds.

Can, or will, Coleman be able to do this? “The winds of success are fickle; sometimes it’s about timing, sometimes it’s about luck,” says Gibbons. “But he, in my mind, has proven himself. Never mind the fact that he’s got skills. He has to [succeed] with the meagerest of resources. And he has to walk the walk.”

Adds Coleman, “I don’t have any energy tied up in success or failure. That’s not what motivates me. I’ve always said that whatever I would do next had to be a big idea, global in scope, intellectually challenging, and it had to make a difference.” There is no doubt that ITM has taken on a monster of a problem. But the question remains: Can it meet the next big challenge?

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