Progressive Computing, Inc.

June 27th, 2012 by Ken Categories: 4) Other No Responses

I consulted for Tom Blog’s start-up while he was still holed up in his apartment creating one of the first PC-based wide area network (WAN) protocol analyzers. At the time, I was living in West Lafayette running my consulting business and teaching at Purdue’s School of Technology.

When Tom finished the product and had some initial sales, he  wanted to build a team. In 1989, I moved back to Glen Ellyn and became VP of Marketing, joining Bob Everhart running sales and Tom Stelter as President. I was accountable for product management, pricing, distribution and marketing.

Under my leadership, we increased prices and focused on building more niche-driven specialty products for which we could generate more pricing power. This led to our “LM1 Olympic Edition.” ISDN tel/scope ISDN analyzer and CompaSS7 SS7 analyzers that drove profitability and complemented the original more volume-driven flagship analyzer, the LM1.

I ran our international distributor network. One quirky accomplishment was that I wrote a help system in C that could plug into the executable so that Tom’s engineers didn’t have to be bothered with writing help screens. We used that to translate the products into French and German which gave us an edge in those markets. At the time we sold the business, international contributed about 40% of our revenue.

We had pursued a project to develop an ISDN terminal adapter (the “tel/adapter,” a PC-based ISDN telephone) and won the PC Magazine Editor’s Choice, which was a big deal back then. It was a tough choice, but we divested it to Digi International so we could focus on the protocol analyzer business in which we had our core advantage.  The funds from that sale helped us accelerate our growth.  We also launched a patented, hand-held protocol analyzer called PocketScope that operated via the parallel port (remember those?) of any PC-compatible computer.  This product won “Product of the Year’ honors from Data Communications Magazine, further credentializing the business, not to mention our marketing communication chops.

We sold the business in 1992 to Network General (later: Network Associates) having increased sales five-fold in 2 1/2 years. We correctly anticipated the convergence of WAN and LAN testing. The value of our $10m in NGC stock quickly grew as NGC’s stock price soared from $9 per share to $40-something.

From Chicago, I served a one-year employment contract as Director of WAN marketing, managing the now branch office and spearheading the integration of the PCI product line into the Network General product line and authored the firm’s WAN strategy. One of my product managers, Bakul Mehta, relocated to Menlo Park and eventually became president of the Sniffer Technologies division until its spin off in 2004 as a reborn Network General.

In 1993, I decided to ‘retire’ to focus on home life (Soren and Eric, at the time 9 and 11), involve myself in the local school system via school board leadership and pursue musical interests. I did occasional consulting for projects related to the Progressive Computing experience, but ultimately NGC phased out the WAN analyzer software products and closed down the WAN operation around the time of their own acquisition by Network Associates.