TransMedia Corp.—makers of Glide, the online operating system and collaboration environment—was literally born in fire. The company launched on Sept. 7, 2001, in offices located below 14th Street in New York City, just 4 days before the 9/11 terrorist attack. Verizon, the company’s internet service provider, had offices in the World Trade Center, so for its first 2 months in business the company had no internet access.
Not exactly an optimal way for a company that was hoping to make its living on the internet to get started but Donald Leka, CEO and chairman of TransMedia says that his company had a plan and they weren’t about to let the inauspicious launch get in the way. The company’s vision was to provide a compatible and integrated platform. "Those two themes were always central to anything we’ve ever done," explains Leka.
From these two basic principles, the company built five integrated technologies that form the foundation of Glide: synchronization, compatibility, productivity and collaboration, mobility, and integration.
Leka and the founding members of the company, all of whom still hold the majority of the company stock, decided not to take any venture capital money, instead relying on angel investors to keep the company moving forward. They felt in this way they could maintain their independence and achieve their goals.
"We avoided venture capital and we focused on raising money from angel investors—individual, strategic investors—and from [inception] until today we have raised $8.4 million. That’s basically how we financed the company." He adds, "No disrespect to the venture capital firms, but we wanted more independence in developing this platform. We didn’t want to be politically restricted by the platforms we could develop for. How you finance yourself has a lot to do with how much independence you have."
That independence has yielded tremendous flexibility. Glide works on all major operating systems, including Windows, OS X, Linux, and Solaris, as well as many phone operating systems, including Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, iPhone, Palm, and Symbian.
What’s more, Glide comes with 20 full-featured productivity applications, including word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation programs in online and offline versions. Leka says that when the company went offline with its applications it made a conscious decision not to use Google Gears or develop a browser plug-in. "Our view is the browser is limited long-term. Since we had the synchronization and compatibility engines in place, we decided if we developed native C++ applications, these applications could become significantly more robust than competitors who have strictly browser-based applications."
Security is another key differentiator for Glide, especially in the business version of the software. "Our view is that if you are an employee, being paid, working on the company’s time, that data is the company’s data. Glide provides a centralized place where corporate administrators can access every document, image, video, contacts, calendars—all communications, online meetings, and group discussions—and see what devices were used and what time the document was accessed." What’s more, the administrator can expire a document’s rights at any time for any individual.
Leka emphasizes that they take the exact opposite view with consumer data, where the philosophy is that data belongs to you and you have complete rights to access and use it.
TransMedia has a global strategy for selling and distributing Glide, which Leka believes will help insulate the company from the economic problems in the United States. TransMedia has a five-continent approach, and Glide has been translated into 18 languages. Leka says the company anticipated the economic problems and deliberately looked to global markets. "We are an American-based company from an innovation standpoint, but for funding and distribution, we have looked globally."
Glide is now at version 3.0 and TransMedia is working on deals all over the world. There are plans in the works to white label it and deliver it as part of a package of services with several well-known media and mobile companies in several global markets, as well as to continue to deliver it to consumers and businesses under the Glide name. For now, TransMedia will be gliding along smoothly, as a result of its forward-thinking fundraising strategies and its clear vision of where it wants to go.
Fun Fact: TransMedia is known for its exotic VIP product launch parties. It has held major events at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif., and at the exclusive Bellagio Light Nightclub in Las Vegas, which featured a live performance by Wyclef Jean.
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