Red-M or Dead-M?
U.K.-based Red-M made a notably arrogant early entry into the wireless enterprise market at last year's 3GSM annual get-together in Cannes.
This year, Red-M will not be in the south of France. In fact, it's undergone a total transformation, cutting more than half of its staff in a move that sends a warning to other companies looking to make a killing from the burgeoning, but over-crowded, 802.11 market (see 802.11 WLAN Shipments Double and WLAN Switch Shakeout Looms?).
Red-M's biggest mistake? Blowing its first-mover advantage by failing to successfully communicate what it was doing and what it was offering, says current CEO Karl Feilder, who took over in December.
"This company was no good at communicating, pure and simple. But there was no shortage of good technology and no lack of talent," says Feilder, though others might contest the good technology point (see Bluetooth Security @ Risk).
[Note: Unstrung can testify first-hand to the terminal ineptitude of Red-M's former marketing team. At last year's GSM event the company's head of marketing, a.k.a. "Ginger Nut," rebuffed Unstrung's attempts to meet with the young company, not once but twice. His reason: "I've already told you I'm not going to meet with you, so why are you here?" ("Shut up!" he explained.)]
That failure to properly market its products led to a strain on financial resources and a purge of "the entire management team" during the second half of 2002, says Feilder.
He believes any negativity about the company in the market at present is the work of "disgruntled" former employees.
"My job has been to cut costs -- and we're cutting a lot of costs -- and refocus the company on its strengths. We are not going to the 3GSM show this year because it's not as relevant as it was; we're not coming at the market from the telco angle. Our focus is on data networking and wireless security [802.11i] and control for the enterprise, so we're launching a new product at the VARVision show in Orlando in March."
Red-M chairman Mike McTighe adds that the company is well funded for the coming year and has the backing of venture capital firms Apax Partners and Amadeus Capital Partners Ltd. Strategic investors include Intel Capital and Madge Networks.
McTighe is predictably upbeat about the company's prospects, averring that Red-M "is not anticipating any problems at this point."
That point might come if business is not brisk by the end of 2003. A lot of cost has been stripped out of the firm, and competition is increasingly tough in all aspects of the enterprise wireless space. And while McTighe says there's enough cash in the bank to last for the rest of 2003, a former supplier to Red-M (who requested anonymity) said he "wouldn't be surprised if the company was facing money problems," as financial issues were given for the severing of that particular business relationship in late 2002.
Like many in the increasingly crowded 802.11x space, 2003 could be make or break for the revamped Red-M.
— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung