F for fake

Clever marketing can conceal both the bad and the good, so take a close look at what’s behind the curtain.

Th 0604vsd Andywilson

Clever marketing can conceal both the bad and the good, so take a close look at what’s behind the curtain.

Some years ago, a consultant friend of mine had a really good idea for a new product-one that would surely make lots and lots of money. Unfortunately, that was one commodity he was very short of. Convinced the idea would work, my friend designed a CAD drawing of the product on his home computer to prove the concept. But what was really needed was about $1M to build the electro-optic device.

Luckily, the person in question knew some people in very high places at a large Japanese consumer-electronics company. And so, after a few letters back and forth, he flew to Japan where, in the presence of about 10 executives, he presented the plan and how people in “his company” could bring the product to market in about a year. Of course, the Japanese gentlemen were rather cynical. But because they thought the product was a good idea, they decided that, before handing over the $1M, they would send a team to the USA to look around my friend’s company.

On the way back to the United States, my friend thought over very seriously about the predicament in which he had just placed himself. First of all, he didn’t have a company--no office, people, computers, water coolers, or even coffee machines! And the people from Japan wanted to visit him the following month.

Being an English-educated lad, my friend decided that to save face he would invent a company. And so, two weeks before the visit, he rented 10,000 square feet of office space for two weeks. And just two days before, he enlisted all his friends to populate the company with their home computers, drives, coffee machines, and water coolers.

On the day of the visit, the Japanese contingent was smartly shown past some very busy people furiously typing into computers and into a conference room by a very pretty young lady hired that same day from an escort agency. After an hour’s presentation on the company-its goals, ambitions, future directions, and product plans-the Japanese people left for the airport in a very large limousine paid for by you-know-who!

After a few drinks to celebrate the event, the people, computers, coffee machines, and water coolers were returned to their original owners. And one month later, a very large check cleared the company’s bank account.

Of course, not being a criminal, my friend did develop the product. It was just that he was the only person on the company’s payroll. The rest of the job of fabricating, designing, and producing the product was farmed out to third-party vendors. And the product was delivered on-time, much to the delight of the Japanese. Eventually, however, they decided not to incorporate it into their product line. But the whole exercise did result in a very nice BMW 700 Series for my friend.

REALITY CHECK

Today, with the advent of the Internet, posing as a company that is far larger than reality is very easy. Go to your local computer store and purchase a low-cost server. Then develop some really nice-looking, virtual machine-vision applications. Claim that your company is capable of building such systems, and Bob’s Your Uncle! Load up your Web site with lots of technical information taken from other sites, and you will look even more respectable. And you will not even need to visit Japan to watch business pour in the door.

Unfortunately, entrepreneurs developing such Web sites have compounded the problems of end users who are trying to decide on which machine-vision system integrator to trust. Many system integrators perform truly valuable work, but, being small, they cannot afford the time, effort, and money to produce sophisticated Web sites. The result is that many system integrators who have built some very sophisticated systems remain anonymous to potential buyers.

For the end user, the solution is simple. Rather than rely on electronic propaganda, he or she must telephone any respectable system integrator, demand to see how they have built specific systems, and even tour their production facility. Although this may seem old-fashioned, it will never result in the purchase of a semi-integrated machine-vision system from someone’s basement!

Th 0604vsd Andywilson
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Andy Wilson
Editor
andyw@pennwell.com

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