IT Software & Networking
Trendsetters - Feb. 2007
Deterring Computer Abuse
It's easy to see when Doug Fowler's startup software company launched toward the big time. Fowler was working in obscurity making software that allowed companies to monitor their employees' internet use and parents to track their children's online activities. Then in 2000, Fowler's new PR hire, Kasey Sellati, the company's fifth employee, landed the company in an article in the New York Times about people using software to nab adulterous spouses. "It essentially doubled our sales overnight," Fowler says. That led to other newspaper and magazine articles and network news. Since then, SpectorSoft twice has made the Inc. 500.
A New Englander and programmer, Fowler got the idea for SpectorSoft after following friends to Vero Beach in 1993 to work in software. He noticed how easily people were distracted by the internet. Convinced site-blocking filters were too crude to be the answer, he founded SpectorSoft in 1998 as a sort of "VCR for the PC." SpectorSoft software can allow a company or parent to take snapshots at designated intervals of what a computer-user is viewing and can record chat, e-mail and MySpace activity. Its presence serves as a deterrent to abuse, he says. Sales last year hit $13 million, a 33.34% increase.
Though it brought fame, Fowler no longer touts SpectorSoft's utility for wronged spouses. He had testimonials about that use stripped from the website. He believes in employers' rights to monitor company computers and in parents' rights to watch over their children. Spying on spouses is far murkier. He asks customers to inform employees or children of the monitoring. Suspicious spouses probably don't. "We abandoned that market a couple years ago," Fowler says. "It's messy. It's not the reason we created the product, and it's not the reason we founded the company."
When not yet 10, young sailor Baird Lobree would set out upon the waters alone -- a challenging thing for a youngster to do, knowing that getting back depended on his ability to work the wind and boat. Making it back, he says, built confidence.
Lobree, 44, sees similarities in business and sailing. Formerly with Arthur Andersen/Accenture and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, Lobree in 1997 co-founded Auxis, a project-oriented management and IT consulting firm. Middle-market companies are focusing on boosting margins by managing costs better, using outside advisers to run IT and improving the supply chain, Lobree says. Companies are "definitely being much more conscious of returns and going into the details of exactly what they're going to get out of a certain investment," Lobree says.