Meet Daniel Thompson, GCOMM’s Director, who I had an opportunity to interview whilst he was in Belgrade, Serbia. Dan has been with the company since 1998 and although his career has seen him exploring business opportunities and work alongside some of the world’s largest global technology and entertainment corporations, he has remained close to GCOMM over the years.
What was your role in the beginning? How has it changed?
I completed a post graduate degree in Science at Griffith University and continued study was an option in the form of a PhD, however I was keen to see how my skills could be applied in the real world. My first job at GCOMM was to work on documentation of procedures and policies. I also worked on Y2K compliance for our customers. We needed to ensure the compliance because there were potential issues that may have led to business decimation from “the bug”. On the night of the 31st of December 1999 I was in the office waiting for all hell to break loose. Nothing happened. As we all know it was a non event, so I went out and celebrated New Years like all the other IT managers and support companies did when they realised the Y2K bug was not going to bite.
Shortly thereafter, no doubt something to do with my successful Y2K effort, I became the General Manager, and Peter Thompson my brother and GCOMM founder who was previously running the business, moved to Sydney and eventually overseas to pursue other personal and business interests.
I managed GCOMM for approximately 8 or so years, which were some of the best years of my life. I oversaw the entire operation and achieved a lot of good work alongside my colleagues. During this period I created some lifelong friendships, both with my colleagues and customers. In 2008/2009, I stepped down as General Manager and handed over the reigns to some of the senior members of the team including Glenn, Michael, Adam, Steve and Craig, and I left to explore alternate opportunities.
How were the things back then? A lot of people from the early days are still at GCOMM now.
The GCOMM team members that are still with us have grown and elevated their positions and standing within GCOMM and the business community as a whole. The business was very different back then; even though we were young and less experienced we did our best at all times. Product wise, we were heavily focused on hardware sales and services. Customers were investing in large server infrastructure and GCOMM provided this and support services to their business. I recall we had approximately 10 onsite support engineers when I first arrived, when you recall back to pre-2000 days supporting servers, software and IT equipment it was complicated. Nowadays it is not as complicated for internal network managers to perform a lot of the technical support functions within the business without having to spend years studying an IT degree. We evolved from a strictly hardware, software, engineering and support focussed business into a services based business, focused more on utility types of services, such as wholesale and local Internet provision, private IP networks, server hosting and colocation, real time offsite backup, cloud based technologies and IT services support and some hardware procurement for select customers that we have had strong relationships with for many years.
You have been involved with other companies over the years. Can you share some of those experiences?
My first venture outside of GCOMM was with a company called Guvera which was a revolutionary way to deliver content for free via branded advertising channels. I was a founding team member and led the global content acquisition strategy and worked closely with entertainment industry, specifically with record companies such as Universal Music, Sony, EMI, rights management organisations like ASCAP, BMI and APRA and many of the Hollywood film studios such as Warner Brothers, Universal Studios and so on. For much of my tenure I was based out of Los Angeles and New York and my primary task was to obtain content licenses for entire content catalogues, which in turn were made available for members of the Guvera platform.
After Guvera, I began working full time in a new technology called Linius, my current employer. Linius is a world’s first patented video language that converts video into data and virtualises video assets. This is brand new technology and approach. Linius is the most efficient way to offer scale to broadcasters and networks and further to personalise video viewing experiences in real time to consumers. Linius eliminates many of the challenges and costs in the online video workflow and creates significant new global monetisation opportunities. I’ve been working with Linius for 2.5 years and have also spent significant time in the US, Melbourne and Singapore working alongside some of the world’s largest technology, broadcast and content companies.
I also provided early strategic direction and support to an Australian song writing and production management team called DTME that I was one of the founders of a few years back. DTME is a very successful in its own right and the DTME roster is filled with very talented songwriters, producers and artists.
What are some of the reasons you have stayed with GCOMM throughout the years, despite your other jobs?
As one of the owners and Directors, I feel like GCOMM is my business and it’s a representation of me. It has been a large part of my personal growth and it’s very much like a homely environment to me. I’ve worked closely with a lot of the staff and in many circumstances mentoring them and elevating them to a level whereby they could achieve more than what they were achieving when they were first employed. I always feel comfortable and happy when I am visiting GCOMM. For as long as I am a shareholder of GCOMM I will always be a part of the company. I’m very proud of each and everyone of the team and they continue to impress me with their talents and motivational spirit.
Is it hard to manage different jobs at once?
No. I don’t have multiple jobs. In recent years with GCOMM I have been operating in a shareholder and Director capacity. My operational involvement over the past few years has been decreasing and I am not involved in the day-to-day operations of GCOMM. I receive a very detailed monthly report from our financial, sales and technical teams. These reports are well written and provide me all the information and tools I need to be able to review the business quickly. GCOMM is a seasoned company and we have the right people in the business, which means that I have the opportunity to keep watch from a distance and allow others to use their creativity and business acumen to do the job.
What are some of the things that differentiate GCOMM in the market, according to you?
We’re a forward thinking company and get our products and services right. As such we spend a lot of time developing our products and making sure they make the proper market entrance and are fully supported. We have a very strong work ethic in the customer service and support teams. I think that the employee retention ratio we have had creates familiarity with our customers, who are our primary source of recommendation. It’s just generally a very well rounded business in a competitive market. We’re still there; we have won multiple awards because we do the little things right and deliver great service to our customers.
What is your favourite memory of working at GCOMM?
I have many, many favourite memories. Aside from the births, marriages and countless great times with team members and customers and ranging anywhere from staff functions, beach boot camps, or late nights discussing “strategy” over a quiet drink, my greatest memory was looking over the financials after building a solid profit/revenue base. To reach that point took years of hard work and it was very complicated and stressful as all businesses are in their early stages. I was blessed to have a supportive team standing by me. It was a time where we ensured that all of our employees were paid on time, our customers’ needs were well looked after and we could increase our creativity as business people. It meant we were on our way towards success.
You mentioned you have been traveling a lot for your other jobs. What are some of the favourite places and spots you always want to go back to?
When it comes to work, for me there is no equivalent to New York City. Many of the world’s most exciting companies are headquartered there. A lot of those companies are customers of the companies I have been working for and I guess I managed to see a side of NYC that was very high end corporate.
In terms of personal travel, I really like Eastern Europe; it’s an interesting part of the world. I have been there 5 or more times. There is a rich history, the people and heartbeat of the countries amazing. I am very fond of Serbia, Romania, Poland and Croatia. However, mind you, Australia is still my spiritual and physical home.
What are your plans for the future?
For the mid term, my plan is to continue on the path I have been creating. It sounds clichéd but I genuinely want to make a difference in the world and I feel like I am doing that. I like to work hard, apply my skills to unchartered emerging markets and work with people that I like. I work with some very intelligent people including friends and family.
However, at some stage I would like to change my focus to more community and charitable work. I feel I can leverage some of the relationships I have made and use some of my skills to help people, the environment and community whether these goals are achieved through charity or other means.