Startup of the Day – Frotcom

The BizSpark startup of the day is Frotcom International, based in Portugal. You will find below an interview with Valério Manuel Machado Marques, Co-founder and CEO of Frotcom International. All the best to them and congrats for being the startup of the day!


Interview with Valério Manuel Machado Marques, Co-founder and CEO of Frotcom International

Tell us who you are and your role in the company.

I am the Co-founder and CEO.

What did you do before creating your company?

Prior to starting up Frotcom, I was President and CEO of Quadriga, a company active in the area of mobile solutions. Actually, Frotcom is a spinoff from Quadriga. Before that, I was General Manager at ITEC/ CRPS, an R&D institute.

How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?

Well, although we work for our customers and not for receiving awards or being recognized, it is always great to see our plans succeed and to be recognized by Microsoft Bizspark as the most promising startup. We will strive to deserve your confidence and – who knows – maybe become Startup of the Year!

What is your company’s mission?

Frotcom International is a global provider of vehicle tracking systems. Our overall mission is therefore to assist companies in their efforts to achieve the best out of their fleets, by using a state-of-the-art all-included vehicle tracking system. In order to accomplish this mission Frotcom has focused the development of its solution on maximizing productivity whilst decreasing operational costs.

How did you get the idea for your company?

Frotcom is a spinoff from Quadriga, a company with a larger spectrum of products and services in the area of mobile communications. One of those products was a vehicle tracking system. Being one amidst many products, it did not have the kind of attention it needed, in terms of R&D and marketing. Once we realized its potential, we decided to spin it off and that’s how Frotcom International came to be created.

Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?

Until a few years ago, vehicle tracking systems were usually based on SMS communications between the devices in the vehicles and a computer in the office. Additionally, mapping and fleet control software had to be installed in the computer, from a CDROM. This made communications expensive and maintenance and upgrades a true burden.

Frotcom was then subject to open chest surgery! We improved it strongly by bringing in GPRS communications instead of SMS – a lot cheaper, which for the first time made it possible to have real time control of the vehicles, 24/7 – and proposing a SaaS model in which no longer software had to be installed, upgraded and maintained. This lowered the prices substantially and allowed Frotcom’s distribution network to be expanded quicker and easier. Today, Frotcom is available through a network of Frotcom Certified Partners in already more than 20 countries.

The Frotcom project has been profitable from the beginning and our growth based on self funding. Although we do not discard the possibility of fast forwarding operations by means of additional funding, I would say that in that respect we are not actively looking. But we do welcome any investors who would like to talk with us, of course.

How many employees do you have? How many developers?

Frotcom International currently has a team of 6 people located in Portugal, focusing on product development, marketing and support to the international network of Certified Partners. (Actually we even have on Microsoft MVP on board…) In addition, the Certified Partners network has 30+ people involved directly in sales and customer care. We owe a lot of the success to these great guys.

Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring and where?

It seems we will have to increase the team in 2010. Mainly in the area of software development. For now, hiring is done through our network of personal contacts.

Which platform are you building on? Why?

Our solution is based on Microsoft technology. All developed software is based on .NET and ASP.NET technologies. Our web applications run on top of IIS and data is stored and managed by SQL Server. Our choice was based on several factors. First of all, our development team had a good knowledge of several different platforms and Microsoft was elected as the one that would provide a faster start. The vast community of developers on Microsoft technologies and the availability of ready-to-use components enabled us to prototype our system relatively quickly.

The Visual Studio development environment was another key factor. All project modules can be integrated in one single “solution” helping us maintain everything consistent as we evolve the platform.

Finally, Microsoft Portugal was very helpful providing us tutorial sessions and contacts to MVP’s and other experts. That proved to be useful in the first stages of development because it allowed us to choose the technology, code practices and patterns that were more appropriate to our project from the very beginning.

Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/internet area?

We are 100% focused on the vehicle tracking business. I would just add that SaaS is clearly one of the obvious trends.

What do you think about the BizSpark Program?

It’s a great incentive for Startups. Not only it provides an interesting set of tools, it also increases the networking possibilities for companies when they need it the most – the early stage. I would clearly recommend the program to other startups.

Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?

If you want your company to be known for the best product or service, be focused. Set a goal and plan your way up. Don’t disperse your R&D, marketing and budget. That’s a lot easier said than done, of course, but do try your best not to compromise. For instance, be prepared to say no when you are asked to develop something which is not in the direct path to your ultimate goal. It may seem a little detour, but in the end you will lose focus and time. Remember you are usually not alone in the market; there’s competition. If you pit stop, you will probably get behind.

Who’s your role model?

On a professional level, I admire people like Guy Laliberté and Steve Jobs for their visions and ability to propose something new when everybody thought there was nothing new to be invented. They inspire me to think out of the box and check for new angles.

What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview

Regarding Frotcom, the project is growing quickly and steadily. I believe this is due to an incredible level of commitment from Frotcom International and the Frotcom Certified Partners, as well as to a strong focus on our mission. As for Bizspark, I would really encourage startups to have a go.

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