“We’ve done business in all manner of currency,” said Alan Greig, chief executive of Australian software development tool vendor Prophecy. “We’ve been offered goats skins, camels and even ex-army helicopters, but we generally insist on currency payment.”
The idea behind Prophecy is simple, provide ready-made building blocks of code to facilitate the software development process. However, rather than look to their immediate surroundings and wrangle for market share, early on Prophecy set its sights on the horizon and began developing technology for a polyglot, multi-currency global economy.
While Greig confirmed he had been forced to draw the line at payment in goat skins, the Prophecy business model is specifically designed to take local customs and business norms into account.
“In the US, we look like a US company,” explained Greig. “Even trivial stuff like the size of printed sales material can make a difference, so it is important to get a lot of local know-how through local staff and partners.”
Such partnerships have seen Prophecy products deployed in places as diverse and far-flung as Barbados and Bulgaria.
“We have even been approached by Zambia Telecom,” Grieg said. “A spread like this makes marketing roles extremely challenging, but we always had this idea we would have to sell to the world market and not just locally.”
Beginning in Adelaide in 1980, from the early days Prophecy was breaking with the traditional development plan which saw software companies establish themselves in Australia, then attempt to tackle the US market.
“Australia was just another market,” according to Greig. “We identified a niche market and aimed to create software packages which could be reproduced many times over, designed to work with different languages and different currencies.”
By 1983 Prophecy opened its first offshore office in Singapore, in the early days when the island was becoming an economic focal point in Asia Pacific. Leveraging off a partnership with the then British ICL, Prophecy managed to make inroads into Asian and later European markets, with its third office opening in London shortly afterwards.
“We moved into Eastern Europe mostly through contacts in the UK, and rolled out a lot of products into utilities,” Greig said. “To a certain extent we had to make a decision regarding the geographical area we wanted to cover, and then actively canvass partner relationships in those areas.”
Greig is looking at a similar approach for the rollout of Prophecy’s latest offering, Velatte. In the same way Prophecy’s earlier offering e-Foundation provided a framework within which users could develop applications either for direct use or resale, Velatte does the same but created Java-based applications.
With offices now established in the US, UK, Malaysia and Australia, Prophecy will be aiming the Velatte offering at more mature markets, while maintaining its support for the other products in its offering, through a plethora of partner relationships throughout the world.
“Java represents a whole new level of complexity to most developers, and Velatte is designed to make their job easier,” Greig said. “This is our heritage, we are doing exactly what we were doing before, but now we are doing it with the language of the Internet.”