Within a few years Mitel was sold to BT and Whyte made the move, with Matthews, to a small startup, Newbridge Networks. From initial fledgling company, under Whyte's expertise international business turnover reached £100m within four years.
In 1995 Bert moved to Newbridge affiliate ACC: the company which was the first to install a node on the internet. Whyte overhauled the firm and presided over its now famous $400m acquisition by Ericsson in 1998. 1999 saw Whyte move again, to become president and chief executive officer of Net.com.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going, or so it is always said. Although we were told that in 2002 the networking market would get better, things are still tough. Witness the recent first-quarter revenue pre-announcements and the rash of recent next generation startups hitting the wall of bankruptcy.
None of the incumbent carriers are making major purchases. Many next-generation carriers are either filing for bankruptcy or under investigation by the Securities Exchange Commission.
Long-distance carriers are like 'deer in the headlights', not knowing what to do, and the enterprise market has dried up as corporate America can see no real signs of growth. The situation has become worse not better, and it probably won't get better until 2003. Some are even suggesting 2004!
But there is something I love about this environment: the strong win and the weak fail.
Previously, anyone with a decent story managed to succeed. It brought everyone to the same level, making it difficult to know who was best. It was hard to know whether a product, a person or even an idea was the right one. You would look at a salesperson's CV and not know if they were successful, because they had all just closed a $100m deal. Or they had just arranged for the acquisition of their company.
Every new product was a disruptive technology that was going to revolutionise the networking world. A decent slide show was good enough for the sales pitch. Forget that, the product needed to work!
People would judge a company's performance by how well their PR was doing or by what banker was following them based on some juicy opportunity. You could ignore whether the company had a plausible business case.
It's different now. We are back to a real world that is about solid business fundamentals. It's not just whether you have real revenue and your revenue is growing as your expenses decline. Today, you have a clearer picture of what works and what doesn't: who's strong and, most importantly, who's weak.
This environment allows you to detect the bullshit and decide whether a person is going to contribute to your success or just be a burden and hard to manage. You can take a hard look at a product strategy and say bluntly that it is not going to succeed. It might be a great idea, but it's too early in the networking cycle, or not what the customer really wants.
This tough environment has also reduced the networking operators you can expect to sell to. The ones left standing are principally the old incumbents which are not spending much. As we all know, these guys make serious buying decisions, unlike many of the fly-by-night, now-gone next-generation carriers who would buy product because of their venture capital.
Also gone are the companies with imaginary business plans, startups which suggest they are building the next Saturn rocket. And by the way, many more will crumble during this year as the market stays tough.
I am glad the industry is back where it was five years ago. Clearing the decks of the rubbish and focusing on real opportunities is the only way to create real wealth for employees and investors. (By the way, these two groups have become more practical in their thinking as well.)
Now you can have sensible discussions with customers who are not deceived by the hype and are focused on gaining benefits and revenue from their networks. We're separating the men from the boys.
I just love this industry.
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