Software entrepreneur Carl Rodrigues has always done things differently. It’s a deeply ingrained trait from childhood, which he credits for his success in business.
"When I was a young kid, I was always looking at things differently. That way of thinking usually got me into trouble," Rodrigues tells The CEO Magazine.
We have done a lot of things very differently, things that a lot of people question.
As an entrepreneur and executive, doing things differently has meant cutting a contrarian course through the technology sector. He built Canada-headquartered SOTI from scratch by spurning venture capital (VC) funding, not establishing a board of directors and challenging the status quo.
"At SOTI, we have done a lot of things very differently, things that a lot of people question," says Rodrigues, President and CEO of SOTI. "People will say to me, ‘Hey Carl, why are you doing it that way? It doesn’t make any sense. That’s not how other companies do it’."
But doing things differently has paid handsome dividends for Rodrigues from the moment he incorporated SOTI in 1995.
Rodrigues was initially drawn to wireless devices, mobiles and personal digital assistants, and developing a system for operating them remotely. He targeted the consumer market but enterprise clients came calling, especially with the advent of smartphones. They told him they needed that technology to remotely support their people in the field.
"That front line of your business is working everywhere," he says. "And whole new lines of business have evolved around mobility."
The COVID-19 pandemic provided another push toward mobility with the rise of remote work. It prompted Rodrigues, who couldn’t travel due to Canadian restrictions, to upgrade an analytics platform now known as SOTI XSight.
SOTI XSight gives customers the tools to remotely manage remote devices, according to Rodrigues, along with providing intelligence gathered from those mobile devices in the field.
"They needed data from these mobile and rugged devices coming back to IT teams so they could understand it, chart it, get insights and predictions," he explains.
TRG Solutions, a 10-year SOTI customer, described SOTI’s products as "an integral piece of TRG’s lifecycle device management solution, that includes deploying, configuring, managing and retiring of business-critical mobile devices." As SOTI continues to innovate its products, "TRG is able to offer differentiated added value to their customers."
The relationship with companies such as TRG underscores the importance of partnerships for SOTI. Over the years, the company has developed a strong partner ecosystem, which has allowed it to become a global player, according to Rodrigues.
"That ecosystem is really the lifeblood of SOTI and that’s how this Canadian company has become global, working with a network of partners around the world," Rodrigues says. "You always have to deliver value if you want partners to sell your product, because there’s always something else they can sell."
SOTI has developed its sterling reputation through operational excellence. Rodrigues only needs to point to SOTI’s financials for proof.
"We don’t know what it is to lose money. We’ve never had a losing quarter in the history of SOTI even right through the pandemic," he says. "There’s no external investment. We take what we make and we reinvest it into the company. So I think those are pretty good signs of operational efficiency and excellence."
Simplification, it means big problems actually become much smaller problems.
The lack of external investment is rare for technology companies, but Rodrigues wanted to make an early statement on how SOTI would do things differently.
"Whenever you get absorbed into a bigger company or you take VC money, the focus changes because these people have to answer to shareholders, the VCs want their money back in two, three years," Rodrigues says. "There’s no long-term vision. It becomes too much about money. It becomes too much about a quick profit."
Back to basics
Rodrigues is a big believer in keeping it simple, which dovetails with his ethos of doing things differently.
"Simplification really means we can do some crazy stuff. We can move fast. We don’t have to waste our time talking to shareholders, sitting in boardrooms, explaining to outside investors why we’re doing it and begging them to support that vision," he says. "Simplification, it means big problems actually become much smaller problems."
Doing things differently also challenges the status quo, fitting with Rodrigues’ definition of a changemaker.
We have to just look at what cards we have on the table and make innovative decisions, not the same decisions that someone would’ve made yesterday.
"We have to just look at what cards we have on the table and make innovative decisions, not the same decisions that someone would’ve made yesterday," he says. "That’s what a changemaker is. You just have to be able to challenge the status quo."
Or, as Rodrigues might say, it’s doing things differently.