Terry Matthews is a living legend in communications and I suppose the only person I will get to meet with a “Sir” in front of their name. For years many people have told me I must meet Terry and for one reason or another we just never connected. Over the years Terry has started 66 companies and only 3 have been unsuccessful meaning they were subsequently rolled back into other companies in the “Matthews family.”.
We often hear of serial entrepreneurs but what separates Terry from virtually all others is his staggering success rate. He not only starts companies at a rapid pace he starts companies that succeed. How many people can boast such a success rate and furthermore in primarily one industry such as communications?
After my meeting in Kanata, Ontario at Mitel’s headquarters, I left feeling more like I had the honor of breaking bread with a celebrity than listening to someone tell me about their company. Terry certainly gave me a great overview of things he feels are important in the market.
Terry being Welsh has an accent that reminds me a great deal of Sean Connery (who was actually born in Scotland – but hey, I am American and we aren’t supposed to be able to tell the difference). So it was as if 007 was explaining the world of telecom to me. And although Terry’s viewpoint resonated with me it paled in comparison to the enthusiasm with which Terry spoke. It is important to point out Sir Terry Matthews is a billionaire and doesn’t need to work. He works because he loves what he does. He obviously really loves what he does and it shows as soon as you meet him.
Perhaps this is the reason my meeting was like trying to drink from a fire hydrant and I felt as if each sentence Terry spoke had half dozen hyperlinks in it. Throughout the conversation there were references to this company or that and the myriad ways they work together and fit into the telecom ecosystem. I wish I could have slowed Terry down by about 75% and then Googled every fifth word so I could ask the most intelligent questions possible. As I think back to the meeting I still have the lingering feeling I had in the meeting. I sort of had a rush of energy coupled with intense brain activity. This is the same brain rush feeling I got when I decided to cram for a Civil Engineering final with nothing but bottles of diet soda and bags of family-sized potato chips.
But you didn’t come here to learn about the Rich Tehrani finals diet (one that ensured you passed but also gained 10 pounds a year) – you want to know more about Terry and his suite of companies. So as my brain rush subsides I get to thinking Terry not only sees a vibrant telecom ecosystem, he has developed an ecosystem of companies who fit into his own telecom ecosystem meaning they work and play nice with each other. Terry has encouraged all the companies in the family to work together on interoperability but one of the company founders told me financial prudence dictates his company work together with other family members when it makes sound business sense — such as when a customer immediately benefits from such collaboration. You can imagine the development costs of each of these companies ballooning out of control if they were forced to work with every other company in the family right off the bat.
Still the companies function loosely in the style of a Japanese keiretsu where a central bank supplies a group of companies across industries. These companies work well together and rely on the central bank for support. In this case, Terry is the bank and certainly understands the industry as well as any of the people in his massive group of companies. This understanding of the industry is what differentiates Terry from a run of the mill bank making investments.
One of the areas of excitement for Terry is certainly Mitel –perhaps the crown jewel of the family. Terry enthusiastically discussed the company’s latest PBX which can scale to 60,000 ports eliminating the need to have multiple PBXs in the product family. This saves development time and makes it much easier to do things like Microsoft LCS integration. Feel free to contact Mitel directly for details
In addition Terry extolled the virtues of one of the newer companies in the family, New Heights. The company makes products which allows service providers to communicate with enterprise equipment in a controlled way across the DMARC or the interface point between the customer and provider. This allows you to get around the data problems of firewalls and the refresh rates of a PBX. Using the company’s products for example a company could access hosting services from Broadsoft or Sylantro while allowing these hosted services to communicate with LCS, Lotus Notes or any other server which may consist of important information such as directory services.
There is so much more but while I took copious notes, TMCnet’s Group Editorial Director recorded the meeting and has a bit more. Sign up for a TMCnet news alert on Terry Mathews to be alerted when this article comes out.
I am looking forward to speaking with Terry in the future and the next time I will have to remember to carry a recording device as well. I just hope my path crosses Terry’s before he launches another 66 companies. But still at this rate that may just be a few short years from now.
Also see sidebar: Kanata’s Landlord