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Where's the Money!

There was a time, when Quebec was unique in Canada because it allowed business to count money received from other governments as part of a business's investment when applying for R&D funding. If the Feds put up a dollar, Quebec would match it and the business's cash out of pocket would be nil. They certainly created some greenfields!

Of course the well would eventually run dry. There always came a time when the business was expected to succeed. If you wanted to stay on the gravy train you needed to come up with a new angle or Quebec would stop throwing good money after bad.

I worked for an organization built in this way. They wanted to take their mini-computer, parallel processing technology, apply it to PCs, and enter the video server marketplace.

As it turned out, they just couldn't make it work. They did however attain extraordinary performance over various networks (ATM, Ethernet, Fiber Channel). With this capability we were able to create two uniquely high performance, cost effective work-group solutions.

The first was a video server for learning applications or entertainment (movies). We proved the technology by creating a system for a Korean training facility that fed video to 100 workstations concurrently. This was twice the performance of the competition. La Bibliothèque nationale de France bought a system.

The second was a solution for real time video editing for news channel applications. Although the work groups were small, the bandwidth was immense because the files were virtually uncompressed (MJPEG). There was a small market for this but one that could be highly profitable.

We were doing great, but there was one problem. We weren't delivering parallel processing. Because of the company's branding, our client conversations were full of smoke and mirrors and prospects were wary. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't shake the fact that clients expected a parallel processing solution not a network integration solution.

It would have been so easy. Create a 'Division' and change the brochures and website to explain that what we had learned in parallel processing gave us a competitive advantage in creating advanced PC's with advanced network integration. Unfortunately we didn't do this.

In retrospect, I now understand that the Company's financial strategy relied on being a leader in parallel processing. About a year after I left, once the current R&D funds had expired, the company moved to France. I suspect to secure a more lucrative R&D market.

I learned to make sure that I know the business I'm in if I want my efforts to have a long term impact.