In 2003, FrontBridge emerged as the leader in Enterprise Email Border Gateway Services. As spam was emerging as a huge problem for businesses, the most popular Enterprise server software, Microsoft Exchange, had no native support for spam or virus filtering. Led by Steve Jillings, FrontBridge positioned to go after this market with extreme effectiveness. On the heels of that success Steve asked me to look ahead to the next nearest market opportunity.
I established processes for the company to objectively look at new opportunities, and to solicit input from the breadth of the management team for new initiatives, and then walked a number of ideas through that process. What emerged from that exercise was a strong interest in chasing after the Email Archiving marketplace. Very complementary to FrontBridge’s existing core business, archiving leveraged journaling functionality within Exchange to securely feed archives of a company’s email to an outside server. This was required of public companies and government by regulations from NASD, FINRA, the SEC, HIPAA, and others.An example preliminary business case is available here: BC-Archive-ibell-0404
Once you’ve decided as a company to go in a specific direction, there follows the Build/Buy/Partner discussion. After pulling together a business case for building our own compliance archiving service, which is of course the default path for a successful startup, we stumbled upon a similar service operated by a company called MessageRite in nearby Irvine, CA. The company had excellent technology, strong customer leads, and a very good leadership team. At the first meeting I asked Kevin Merrit, MessageRite’s founder and CEO, if he would consider selling the company at this stage. His answer was an emphatic “No”.
Five weeks later, as a direct result of the persuasiveness, leadership and vision of FrontBridge CEO Steve Jillings, MessageRite was acquired by FrontBridge. The combined company itself was acquired by Microsoft a year later.