The news as of the first coffee this morning here at Radio KCRM 98.6, All Aimee Mann All The Time:
We're big fans of the detective fiction genre, would much rather read anything by Raymond Chandler than Moby Dick and eagerly await Robert Parker's next Spenser novel. So imagine our pleased surprise to see JX2 Technologies, a business software company owned by Macdonald and Spillane, two of the greatest names in American 20th century crime fiction.
John D. Macdonald created the towering Travis McGee character, endlessly imitated but never improved upon, and Mickey Spillane's creation, Mike Hammer, is one of the most well-known fictional crime-solvers not living on Baker Street. JX2 Co-Owners Jim Macdonald and Jim Spillane share McGee and Hammer's sense of justice, so we sent the Radio KCRM sound truck for an interview and to get the hubcaps stolen.
"For decades, wealthy companies with Information Technology departments were the only ones that could afford the huge cost of integrating and implementing software of this caliber," says Macdonald, drinking low-rent whiskey in a lower-rent office in the lowest-rent part of town where if you could just get the cockroaches to kick in their fair share of the rent you'd be able to upgrade to the office closer to the water fountain, or one where the radiator worked.
Feet up on the desk, battered fedora fending off the glare from the single light bulb lit as a sentry against a deep darkness which takes no prisoners, Macdonald says JX2 is hoping to change that by offering the same quality of software without the demanding price tag.
"Software as a Service, or SaaS, is the key for small businesses," he notes, cleaning the barrel of his .45 automatic which, if not technically legal, does have the benefit of winning most arguments it's called upon to settle. "There used to be a huge gap in the quality of software available to large versus small businesses. But now the SaaS model takes enterprise-quality software and moves it off-site, lowering the risk and eliminating the overhead of expensive equipment and maintenance."
A silhouette appears behind the frosted glass on the door, and either Macy's mannequins have learned to walk but don't know what parts of town to avoid at night yet and are going to go back to work missing a few pieces, or Barbie's come to life and on the way to her Dream House her Corvette's broken down outside and she's left Ken in the passenger seat to pat down his surfer hair and cool his heels while she goes in search of a telephone.
Barbie opens the door, inquires if this is Madame Sosostris's Clairvoyante Parlour. Macdonald says yes ma'am, you got the right place, Miz Sosostris is out right now getting her crystal ball polished, but if you take a seat she'll be back shortly, cuppa coffee? Barbie wrinkles her nose, says nice try loser, and slams the door as hard as she can slam, which unfortunately is hard enough to shatter the glass but which fortunately slams on the foot of Jim Spillane instead, sparing the glass.
SaaS is basically an on-demand model for delivering software over the Internet, Spillane explains, hobbling into the room and setting a bag of doughnuts and two Styrofoam coffees on the desk. Macdonald opens one of the coffees, tops it up with whiskey and takes a satisfied sip. A black cat -- "name's Dashiell" -- comes in with Spillane.
The software architecture is designed "from the ground up" for speed and flexibility, Spillane says, solely intended to be used in "this on-demand environment. JX2 provides the implementation of SaaS applications, training, daily operation, maintenance and support to their clients in exchange for a monthly fee."
See, what gets Macdonald and Spillane out of bed in the morning, besides the fusillade of knocks from a shockingly underpaid landlord, is "the whole idea of small companies controlling costs and limiting the risk and exposure of their data makes this solution ideal. Ongoing costs are fixed, but more importantly, a catastrophe that may wipe out the physical location of a business won't affect the software since it is offsite in a tier-one data center, well protected from catastrophic failure."
Even in the worst-case scenario of a flood, fire, hurricane, Democratic presidential administration, if an office is destroyed, employees could go back home to do their work until the office is up and running again, Macdonald explains, putting some whiskey in a small saucer for Dashiell.
Spillane and Macdonald have been keeping an eye on the evolution of business management software over the past several years through the bent slats of the Venetian blinds looking out on an urban vista Edward Hopper thought was too depressing for Nighthawks. "We've seen dozens of really good solutions, but a company could easily spend $100,000 in up-front costs just to get the ball rolling," says Macdonald.
"Quarter," Spillane says, mouth full of apple doughnut. Outside there's the sound of a 1961 Corvette revving to life, the 315 horses waking up being the most lifelike sound from the street all night. Dashiell flicks his tail, jumps to the top of the rusted file cabinet in the corner, turns around twice and settles down for a nap.
Macdonald rolls his eyes, digs a quarter out of his pocket and flips it across the room in an old spittoon perching on the water cooler. From the ching as it hits it's obviously among friends -- lots of them. "Every time I use a pretentious word like 'solution' for 'product,' or 'utilize' or 'leverage' instead of 'use' I have to feed the kitty," he explains.
Spillane grins. "It's his retirement plan. If he ever has a career to retire from."
"Anyway, most small and medium businesses simply don't have $100,000 in up-front costs. We were looking for solu- products that would better fit our small to medium business clients, and then the whole SaaS thing began to really take off."
That's when JX2 began changing their business model from hosting and developing web sites and custom software to also offering on-demand, Spillane says. With over one hundred small and medium business clients throughout the country, JX2 needed to stay focused on their market while bringing on complementary services to an already successful business.
From outside there's the sound of a woman's shrill, rather uncomplicated instructions to someone named Ken, the sound of a car door slam and a Corvette getting real scarce real fast. The three of us in the office shudder -- another man down, and it wasn't pretty.
"It's amazing," says Macdonald. "We go into companies and it's always the same story. Running old business management software, or no software at all. There is usually no sign of organized customer relationship management or strategic marketing. Nobody knows what anyone else is doing, which makes it hard to run a business. Unfortunately, this scenario is common in the small business world."
So Macdonald and Spillane set out to change that. "Thank NetSuite for the spacious accommodations," Spillane says, waving powdered sugar around the room. "We're the only authorized solution provider in the Lehigh Valley area for the NetSuite product line, including CRM, and ERP software."
"We're hitched to a pretty good horse, put it that way," Macdonald says, taking a strong slug of the spiked coffee. "NetSuite's the fastest-growing software company in North America, and JX2 offers NetSuite as well as several other 'best of breed' sol- tools for CRM, email, Internet and Intranet portals, online marketing, blogs, communities, and other hosted applications."
"This is the future," Spillane says, nodding. "SaaS is moving to the forefront as the preferred software delivery method for small and medium businesses and will only become more popular as -- "
A knock, the door opens, and an impossibly handsome tan head pokes in the door. "Uh, sorry to bother you guys, but my… um, my car's… broken down, I was wondering if I could call a cab?"
Pity in his eyes, Macdonald gently turns the telephone around, stands up and fingers the Venetian blinds apart to gaze out on a city not at sleep, but in a drunken coma from which it will soon awake. And when it does it will not be in a good mood.
"Nice Corvette," Spillane observes as Ken finishes the phone call.
Ken smiles, reaches for the whiskey and takes a slug. "You should see the pony."
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