Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Meridio & Northern Ireland Software

Yesterday I wrote a piece on CMS Watch regarding the acquisition of Meridio by Autonomy. This brought back a bunch of memories from the time that I consulted to Meridio (then Kainos) for Ovum. Traveling out to Belfast was always something to remember - the staggering (and unexpected) beauty of the countryside, the deeply oppressive feeling in the city, the sight of Loyalist and Republican wall murals yards from each other....things are getting better there, and if you live there then of course you see more depth and community than any visitor can imagine. However to the visitor it is a stark place to spend time in - a city that truly carries the weight of its violent past.

Kainos, as they were known then were a funded subsidiary of Fujitsu out of Queens University in Belfast, and when I first consulted they were looking for a strategic direction prior to spinning the EDM (Electronic Document Management) capabilities out to what would become Meridio. At the time they were looking to become a Documentum & FileNet rival competing in the Imaging area, my advice to them was to go more for a niche that they could own - Records Management and Compliancy. Though they took that advice and built on it considerably, I take no credit for their success, other than pointing them in a particular direction, they worked hard and built up a solid business with a global reputation, good people whom I have always liked and respected.
Yet like so many before them they hooked their wagon to Microsoft. This was never a move I feel comfortable with, except in the short term. Microsoft is the best of partners to vendors, until they are not. Then you are out in the cold - Microsoft has a well established and well earned reputation for stringing small vendors along with the carrot of a lucrative acquisition - the acquisition of course seldom ever occurs, and once Microsoft knows all they need to build their own solution you are dropped like a hot potato.
So to see Meridio acquired was bitter sweet news - good to see them find a long term home and make some money in the process ($40 Million US), but I can't help but wonder if they couldn't have gotten to a stage where they themselves were the acquirer.
Finally I will never forget looking out at the Swan and Hunter Shipyard from my Suite at the Belfast Hilton ( I had been upgraded after a previous huge row with the hotel!) - a magnificent contemporary suite that symbolized all the future hopes of Belfast, with a view of an infamous industrial workplace that had been the scene of way too many disturbing news reports on TV whilst I was growing up.
It's good to see something positive coming out of such a traumatized place, Northern Ireland has lost out to a large degree on the growth in Eire - hopefully successes like Meridio will become and inspiration for others to follow.

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