CEO Briefing: From a ‘USB on steroids’ to a multi-million pound deal with AMD – Norman Shaw is not your normal start-up founder & CEO.
When we think of a start-up, many quickly draw upon the stereotype of a group of twenty or thirty somethings pitched up in a trendy loft or accelerator, surrounded by ironically giant and plush furniture. The imagined narrative then moves from start-up success and unicorn IPOs, to the business being swallowed whole by a tech giant.
However, there is one UK company which has rewritten the entire start-up narrative – with a plot twist which involves a deal with the second biggest computer chip maker in the world, second only to Intel.
Disregarding the hipster stereotype of start-up founders, Norman Shaw is a self-described ‘old geezer who loves his garden’, who, at 63 years old, is the driving force behind ExactTrak.
The start-up differentiator when it comes to Norman is not just his age, but the business and technology experience he has gained in those 63 years. 10 years at Sony selling future products around the world, then establishing European franchise centres for Entre Computer Centres, has afforded him a two factor head-start on most start-up founders.
A world away from Shoreditch or Silicon Valley, ExactTrak exploded into the market when the then two-man team near Banbury, Oxford, launched, what Norman calls, ‘a USB on steroids.’
The mission-impossible style USB, which contains GPS, GSM and self-destruct capabilities, won recognition from around the industry, catching the particular attention of AMD, the US behemoth of chip and semiconductor manufacturing.
That attention, however, was not captured by a viral video, modern marketing or Kickstarter pitch – simple, old fashioned word-of-mouth led to the deal.
"Our accountant was talking to some American venture capital people generally and they just said have you seen anything of interest and our accountant said there is this small company that does this. Next thing I knew AMD was in the line-up."
"[AMD] are looking at not just being the low cost manufacturer of processors; they want to put an ecosystem around it.
"One of the core areas is security so they found this tiny little company in the UK and the rest, as they say, is history."
AMD’s interest was piqued, but the partnership, or ‘courtship’ as Norman puts it, was slow to materialise.
"It has been a two year courtship because AMD have had a lot of senior management changes and only in the latest incarnation have they said this is how we need to go forward…then all of a sudden it has happened in the space of six weeks."
Although no specific numbers have been put on the deal, Norman has said that the AMD-ExactTrak tie-up is a multi-year, multi-million deal, predicted to generate over £100m in the next four years.
At the core of the mission-impossible style USB is technology which allows users to understand where data is, what’s been accessed and by whom. It is this technology, which Norman emphasises is a service, not a product, which AMD has bought in to.
The company’s new Pro A Series Mobile Processors are the first to feature ExactTrak’s technology embedded in the hardware and offering the same features and benefits of the USB device. The Pro A series in the first in the deal, which is expected to extend to all AMD processors in the future.