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September 02, 2009

Sir Terry Matthews at ITEXPO: No Better Time than Now for Tech Growth

By Michael Dinan
TMCnet Editor

The technology space has never been more fertile, and the federal government should interfere less with the small businesses that drive the economy, a technology entrepreneur and billionaire told a crowded auditorium of more than 250 IP communications and IT professionals moments ago at the Los Angeles Convention Center during ITEXPO West 2009.
In a stirring, often funny keynote address, Sir Terry Matthews, chairman of investment firm Wesley Clover and founder of nearly 90 companies by his own estimation (including Mitel (News - Alert) and Newbridge Networks), emphasized the importance of developing products quickly and going to market when the time is right.
“Timing,” Matthews said simply. “Timing is almost everything in life. I don’t care whether it’s sex or a new product, you must get your timing right. You must.”
A self-described engineer, businessman and salesman, Matthews said he founds about four companies per year these, and that he applies similar principles to each venture – including a focus on applications, content and transactions – or “ACT.”
“I’m here (at ITEXPO) because I’m an enthusiast,” Matthews said. “I’ve never seen more opportunities. There are so many facets and changes. And whenever there is change, there are many opportunities. Some people will fail and some people will make it.”
During his address (see video here), Matthews estimated that he himself has seen four of his roughly 89 companies fold, “so my ratio is pretty damn good.”
One of the companies Matthews highlighted is Dragonwave, which does backhaul work in the area of 4G wireless – a rapidly developing segment to which an entire conference is dedicated here in Los Angeles.
“We have a whole range of new developments in 4G wireless,” Matthews said. “You can see Clearwire cranking out 4G perhaps more than anyone else. I think there’s a war coming up over the next few years between WiMAX and LTE. Consider the huge user demand that’s pulling on bandwidth. That move alone to LTE and WiMAX is fueling that, as well as a huge deployment of WiFi (News - Alert).”
AT&T is seeing a huge WiFi deployment now, Matthews noted, and so are Cablevision and Time Warner.
“Because there is so much congestion – and why is there congestion?” he asked. “Look at the growth in iPhones, of the (App) Store, of smartphones. It’s quite unprecedented. So there is a huge shift going on in the underlying network. Humans are using iPhones and BlackBerrys, but at the end of the day the simple use of this mobile bandwidth is driving huge user demand and that, in turn, is driving a huge investment in networks.”
Investment is something Matthews knows more about than most.
Matthews’ successful business ventures include selling Mitel to British Telecom and, later, selling Newbridge Networks to Alcatel. After being sold to BT, Mitel’s PBX (News - Alert) division and name were sold back in 2001 to Matthews, who still serves as its board chairman.
In 2001, Matthews purchased the worldwide communications systems division of Mitel, and the Mitel name, and is now owner and non-executive chairman of Mitel Corporation, a company focused on providing next generation IP telephony solutions for broadband networks. He also serves on the board of directors and is chairman for a number of high tech companies including Bridgewater Systems (News - Alert), March Networks, Solace Systems and Counterpath Corporation.

After relaying an anecdote about his business foray into China with Mitel (which was the first company to set up switching systems in that nation), Matthews discussed his strategy of employing new graduates for the companies he develops and giving them an ownership stake in those outfits, which drives them.
“That’s the way to win,” Matthews said – and that kind of approach should be encouraged on a large scale.
“In the entire United States, there has to be an understanding that new companies must be stimulated,” Matthews said. “Don’t make it difficult. I’ve had it with Sarbanes-Oxley. It’s complete dumb-dumb stuff. It’s like a wet blanket on the whole industry. Somebody should put a bullet through its head.”
“And this stupid thing with SEC (News - Alert) approval required for private equity,” Matthews continued, buoyed by intermittent cheers and applause from the audience. “This society grows not because of the big companies, but because of the little guys who are fighting. Don’t make it tough.”

Follow ITEXPO on Twitter: twitter.com/itexpo

Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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