Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories on New Entrepreneurs — people who are daring enough to launch new businesses despite the economic downturn.As Ericsson as right-sized, down-sized and whatever-else sized its RTP operations, a group of employees saw the future — and decided to strike out on their own.
The result is llamawerx, a self-funded startup focused on providing a variety of consulting services from software development to business analysis, training to mentoring.
“The group we were part of at Ericsson has been dissolved except for a small maintenance team,” Judy Gerard, president of llamawerx, tells Local Tech Wire. “This downsizing process has been going on for
nearly two years.
“At the height of the development for one of our products, we had a really strong core group of people. However, we realized that we did not wish to remain at Ericsson considering the conditions. During the downsizing process, we started talking about the possibility of forming our own company in order to pursue more interesting work and to have a more active stance in project management.”
The new venture includes Gerard, Doug Griswold as chief executive officer, and Lisa Woodring.
While llamawerx is the first startup for the three, Woodring has experienced a business launch within the family. Her husband, George Woodring, left Ericsson six years ago and formed iglass networks along with Tim Bolden and Jack Woodring.
At Ericsson, the llamawerx team was part of several projects, include base station development and fixed cellular products. The three have more than 40 years experience in a variety of software, management and small- to large-business roles.
Based in part on the rapidly evolving technology world they dealt with at Ericsson, Gerard says llamawerx has taken an “adaptive approach” to help clients.
“Six month planning cycles, followed by a year of development, and three months of testing is not going to allow your business the flexibility to stay ahead and excel in a competitive market,” she said in a statement announcing the company. “Our goal is to stay customer focused, offer alternatives and recommendations, and respond to changes in a manner that satisfies our clients.”
Llamas as mascots
So, how did they come up with the name?
“You know, names can be a tough thing to choose,” Gerard tells LTW. “We wanted something innovative and the industry specific ones just seemed so ordinary.
“Lisa has a real affinity for llamas and alpacas and so we played around with different variations on that theme. And so — the name was born. We think it’s catchy and unique and have made llamas a sort of mascot now. Check the website for pictures of llamas from our travels.”
Given their backgrounds in wireless, Gerard says the three are interested in the field. But they are not focused only on 3G and so forth.
“Obviously, having come from Ericsson, we’ve heard a lot about both markets and have dealt with both to some degree,” she says, referring to 3G and Wi-Fi, or wireless local area network, technology. “However, as everyone knows, the telecom market is rather depressed at the moment.
“Personally, I think the Wi-Fi market is very interesting. It’s much cheaper than 3G and easy for the average consumer to setup and use. I think the growth potential here is huge, but to say that we’re focused on a specific area at this time would be premature.”
More than telecom
Gerard believes the team can help a variety of clients.
“I read an article recently in eweek titled ‘Bridging the Gap’. It discussed the growing demand for liaisons between the technology and
business sides. I think most people who know us would tell you that
this is something at which we excel,” she says. “So many people in IT are unable to see the big picture or the business purpose for the application. They work strictly to a defined set of requirements that someone else has had to figure out and heavily document. Often, what ends up happening is an application, which may satisfy the requirements, but not what is actually needed to solve the business problem.
“We have had success in taking loosely defined ideas and turning them
into an application that solves the actual business problem. So, to
answer your question, one type of client would be someone with a business idea or problem that is loosely defined. We can help that
business refine the problem and then realize the IT solution.
“Another type of client we can help is someone who’s looking for a
quality solution developed rapidly. Our strategy is to focus on early and often communication with our client/partner. We work in iterative development cycles and provide working software to the client in cycles of weeks, not months. This allows for early and frequent feedback to verify that the development is on the correct track, both in functionality and in time.”
Gerard also cautions that the firm’s view is much broader than telecom.
“As far as markets our customers would fall into, this is tougher to answer. It is true that a good portion of our experience is in telecommunications,” she explains. “However, we have worked in multiple other areas, such as biological information systems and government systems. One of our first contracts will be new development of a biological storage system, where biological samples are stored and catalogued in a database and then physically stored in cryogenic freezers.”