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Happy 17th birthday GCOMM 5

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Peter Thompson

Wow, sweet 17. Yes, that’s right. June 18th, 1996 was the day when GCOMM (known then as Data FX Online) was founded. It seems quite a long time ago. I must admit, I find it hard to step back in time and imagine what I was thinking back then.

At 23 years of age, I was sure thinking something different than I am today. Sometimes it’s not easy to share experiences that are personal, but I think storytelling and understanding the journey makes the connection with GCOMM much more interesting.

I thought I would share some behind the scenes events that helped shape GCOMM into the organisation it is today. It would be nice to say that everything was perfect all of the time, but of course it wasn’t. In fact, it was far from it. Some events you choose to remember and others you reflect positively on. Here are a few of the more interesting ones that have made our history.

The theft

I remember in 1998 when we took occupation in 50 Appel St. As you well know, moving from one location to another is quite annoying and after a week of being in our new premises, someone smashed the windows, broke into the office and stole some of the computers. It didn’t end our existence but it was unpleasant and an unhappy moment.

The ISP version 1

I never intended to form an ISP. It started in 1999 when a colleague was telling me it was the future and was definitely something we should be considering. Our first ISP consisted of a digital 56kbps modem bank, a basic Cisco router, a PRI (for the dial in), a few homemade servers running Linux and a connection to who were later acquired by AAPT.

Now, none of us at GCOMM had any idea about Linux, how an ISP might work and how to measure and charge for the service. If you can believe this, the initial configuration of the ISP was made by a blind guy whose computer used to talk to him via headphones. Given it was 1999, I think that’s quite remarkable.

The creation of MIS

As the ISP started to grow, it became more difficult to capture information. Recurring revenue billing with rate plans is complicated. Customers have included quantities of data, overage, inbound and outbound calculations, full month, part month and contract terms. Now that really became complicated as the business expanded. But the story behind the initial MIS is rather remarkable. I spent around two years dictating the functionality of the CRM component, service management and billing platform to an Indian based programmer over Microsoft Messenger who I’ve still never met.

Day in, day out I would specify and test the software until we had developed something that would automate, measure and invoice as we required. I am still rather surprised it managed to remain relevant for the last 12 years. Sure we made some modifications over time, but the primary core, the look and feel and the functionality have not changed much at all.

The debt collector

In 1998 we were having a financial dispute with a supplier. I can’t even remember who they were but there was some legal discussions and general unpleasant communication. As you would know, it distracts from the day to day activities of just doing business. On one occasion, I was having a meeting with the team (only 6 or so people then) and we received a knock at the door. I went out to investigate only to find a heavy dressed member of a bikie gang making sure I personally received the last legal letter. What kind of message is that?

The aggregated model – the ISP version 2

In 2004, I was in Australia for one year. At that time, I wanted to expand the ISP. I began by drawing a diagram that was composed of Internet POP’s located in data centres with a robust core network in between. On the edge of the network would be upstream connections to carriers offering our customers a wide and diverse access to carrier infrastructure, whilst creating a private network via the GCOMM core. With some brilliant ingenuity and engineering from Mick Bellears we began to offer a much more advanced broadband service that still forms the basis of our proposition today.

A breakthrough moment with Q1

In 2004, we entered into negotiations to provide Internet services to all of the rooms of some of the largest towers in QLD that were under construction at the time. There were a lot of switch ports, cabling, configuration and billing systems to make. Certainly they were some of the largest campus area networks we had ever been involved with. Q1 was the largest residential tower in the world at the time and it was a great feeling to be a part of the project.

Just dreaming and believing

I think that some of the greatest moments come from just having ideas, sharing them with colleagues, getting their input and their buy in. With limited capital and the competition that is the size of global enterprises, it’s an interesting company to be a part of. The majority of worlds largest companies are in IT and it’s amazing how the industry is evolving.

My prediction is that the IT generation has just started. With the money we have invested over the recent period and the refocus we have applied, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out sometime in the future that GCOMM had outgrown us and went on to live its only life without its founders. Now, that would be something.

Happy 17th birthday GCOMM! You have given us some challenges and stories to tell.

♦ End

About Peter Thompson

Peter Thompson
Peter Thompson founded GCOMM in 1996. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering/Information Systems from Griffith University and his MBA from Nyenrode Business Universiteit in Holland. He believes in building great teams of people, both in business and socially.
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  • Michael Bellears

    Really good article Pete – We certainly have come a long way in the last 17 years!

    • Peter Thompson

      Yeah it’s been a journey hasn’t it Mick 🙂

  • Vicki

    Happy 17th Birthday GCOMM, great article Peter,I enjoyed reading it and learning a little more about the early days.

  • Happy Birthday GCOMM!! As a loyal supporter it’s fantastic to see you guys succeed! Great article and great milestone guys! Hears to the next 17 great years!

    • Peter Thompson

      Thanks Nic. That’s really kind.