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Retriever Communications was founded in 1996 by Mary Brittain-White to be a company solely focused on wireless field automation technology. The company was able to attract significant institutional funds for intellectual property development and today has ING, Venture Capital Partners, Momentum Fund and ADI amongst its shareholders. .
With success secured in Australia, Retriever and its partner network moved to market their wireless field automation solutions around the globe with current offices in Milan Italy, Houston Texas & Sydney Australia.
MO: Where did the idea for Retriever come from? Can you talk about the process from having the initial idea to developing it into a proven platform for your clients?
Mary: I had worked in a Silicon Valley startup in wireless email in the early 90s which taught me the cloud model and mobile data well before general market knowledge. But working in wireless email it became apparent to me that it did not have a direct bearing on a company’s profitability – to do that we would need to automate the field work of people delivering a company’s services remotely. So having had that idea I approached the VCs backing the company I was part of, they said great go and get the people and some IP and we will back you, so I picked up Apple’s Centre of Mobile Excellence which had a wireless platform and staff and got the funding.
MO: What problem or set of problems is Retriever solving?
Mary: The average company takes 20 days from when paperwork is created in the field till when it is entered into their accounting or asset systems. By making that data immediately available companies shorten their accounts receivable cycles, remove data entry costs and management can see what is happening in their business immediately. The ROI on wireless field automation is generally a few weeks only which in comparison to just about any other IT project is blistering.
MO: How does Retriever continue to prove itself as an industry leader in field force automation?
Mary: A Retriever customer who deployed a solution with us 5 or 8 years ago on Windows or Windows Mobile can today run that App on Android or IOS or Windows 8………..we have a Lifetime Warranty on our apps that they will always run on mainstream operating systems and devices at no additional cost or effort by the customer. We think that is unique.
MO: What has been your strategy for capturing an international audience and client base? What are the first steps a company needs to take when considering international expansion?
Mary: Our strategy has been to lead with support, based on the assumption that you need to show commitment to a country set up by having support staff in place BEFORE a customer will have faith in your local capability.
Also, International expansion is simply expensive for the first few years. Retriever has not started until we had a strong home country base to fund the first few years of expansion.
MO: Companies typically need to pivot and evolve their business model over time, especially as customers start to use the product. Can you provide some advice or lessons learned to entrepreneurs on pivoting while keeping your business moving forward at the same time?
Mary: We have had a cloud model since 2000, so the fundamental model has not changed. However, over time how you express what your offering is changes, reflecting market maturity. In addition you need to develop additional capabilities as specific market concerns arise. In our case Microsoft leaving the mobility market in 2010 and Android and iOS taking their place meant that independence from the operating system was the key risk perceived by the customer, so we needed to be able to guarantee longevity of Retriever apps across any OS.
MO: What is one mistake you’ve made that our readers can learn from?
Mary: International expansion before a market arrives is a waste of effort….and remember markets don’t arrive at the same time in different countries.
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