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From square one

Although in the beginning he didn't understand how computer software was written, Cliff Eala went on to build a successful software services company
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Cliff Eala liked the idea of being able to reengineer business processes for greater efficiency, so he set up a company in 1998 to provide that kind of service. This company was to become the forerunner of Stratpoint Technologies, a multimillion-peso company that currently services the automation and mobile solutions needs of major telecommunication, pharmaceutical, and beverage manufacturing firms.

Before venturing into the information technology business, however, Eala was already an entrepreneur dabbling in one enterprise after another. He recalls: "I learned the concepts and practices on running a business from school, but it is from experience that I learned the more valuable business practices and lessons. Right after getting out of school, I did work for the corporate planning unit of the Center for Research and Communication (CRC), then taught the first batch of students of the University of Asia and the Pacific [what CRC later became]."

Way back in 1989, Eala founded and managed Christanelle International Inc., a direct importer and distributor of promotional items from China and Hong Kong back. While running the business, he also conducted workshops on hypertext markup language (HTML)—the language of the World Wide Web—when the Internet was still in its infancy in the Philippines. He became a frequent resource speaker about the subject in local and international conferences and workshops run by such major entities as the Asian Bankers Congress, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, and Intel.

When he saw a business opportunity in using software to reengineer business processes, he set up his own company offering to develop software for client servers and web applications. He used P100,000 to P150,000 of his savings—earned mostly from selling real estate and insurance—and money he had borrowed from his parents. He invested mostly in hardware and started with three employees in a 60-square meter space in Makati (now a city). After two years, he moved his operations to a duplex apartment in Estrella, near what is now the Power Plant mall at Rockwell.

"In the beginning, I really didn't understand how software was written," he admits. "I thought I could just wing it by just asking the developers to explain to me as we went along. Later, however, I realized that I really needed to know how to write code and design software systems, and this, in fact, is what I ended up doing. I picked up the books and learning kits, put in the hours, and got myself certified as a Microsoft certified solution developer."

He says that what proved to be a major hurdle in the beginning was his lack of track record in his line of work. He recalls: "I had to invest to prove what I can do, building prototypes for potential customers even without their purchase commitment. I just made it a point to choose very carefully which prototypes to build so I could have a higher probability of success and satisfactory closure."

This strategy worked and soon enough, a number of large corporations got interested in Stratpoint, contracting the company to do projects worth an aggregate of over P1 million. "We were among the first companies to do high traffic SMS [short messaging service] applications in the throughput range of 100 messages per second," he says. "High-traffic SMS applications started to gain tracking after we did the 'Coke Sarap' project with Globe Telecom, Coca-Cola, and McDonald's."

This big break enabled Eala's company to later build local mobile sales force automation solutions for six leading multinational corporations in the pharmaceutical industry. The company has since been working with the domestic telecommunication giants Globe and Smart Communications, and has also developed systems for deployment by wireless carriers in the United States and in Europe.

In the pharmaceutical sector, Stratpoint Technologies has built systems for Roche, Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, Zuellig Interpharma, and Glaxo SmithKline. In the banking sector, the company's clients include the Bank of the Philippine Islands, the Metrobank group, and Equitable PCI Bank (which recently merged with Banco De Oro).

In recognition of his achievements, Eala was named as a Microsoft "Most Valuable Professional" in 2002 and was a finalist in the Ernst & Young search for "Entrepreneur of the Year" in 2004. Stratpoint Technologies has also been able to able to get substantial funding support from venture capitalists.

"I believe in building a solid, sustainable, and growing software services business," Eala says, "and this is what I have actually always focused on as I serviced the Philippine market. I think the venture capitalists currently supporting our company see the business as a springboard on which they could build a software services company that would address the global market.

"When we started, we were focused entirely on the local market. When we got venture capital investment, however, we started to penetrate the US market, with the focus on the company shifting to mobile and web-enabled applications and services."

Indeed, according to its website, Stratpoint now carries out solutions for streaming music for mobile applications and for mobile advertising campaigns.

Eala attributes his company's success to its highly innovative and competent people, and he describes his management strategy as customer centric, open, performance-driven, and people- and team-oriented.

"We strive to build on the quality of our people and processes, and consequently, on the quality of the software services we provide," he says. "That quality should permeate the entire customer experience, from presales all the way to delivery and post-delivery. Since the quality of the customer experience relies on the quality of our people and processes, we work toward ensuring that we bring in the people with the right technical skills, that we equip them with the required soft skills, and continually improve our delivery processes."

When asked precisely what benefit his company's services provides its clients, Eala explains: "Mobile applications enhance the agility and responsiveness of a company as it serves its customers. By giving employees mobile, immediate, and accurate access to company information, customer service levels increase, and the company's overall market competitiveness improves."


CONTACT DETAILS:

Name: Cliff Eala, president and CEO of Stratpoint Technologies, which provides mobile and web-enabled solutions to local and international companies.

Contact details: Address: 7F Net Square, 28th St. corner 3rd Ave., Crescent Park West, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Telephone: (02) 856-0781 to 84; Fax: (02) 856-0564; E-mail: info@stratpoint.com; Website: www.stratpoint.com

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