Leadership Corner: Ho'ala Greevy
Interviewed by Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer
Title: Managing member, founder
Organization: Pau Spam LLC
High school: McKinley High School
College: Bachelor of science in geography, Portland State University
Breakthrough job: Being a system administrator at Critical Path, a dot-com company in San Francisco, just after graduating from college. "It was my ultimate dream to work at a dot-com in the Bay Area," Greevy said. "We had that feeling, working there, that we would change the world."
Little-known fact: After breaking his right wrist twice, Greevy can now write with both hands.
Major challenge: Getting everything done. "There's only 24 hours in a day," Greevy said. "That's not enough time."
Q. You started your company, Pau Spam, in 2002 to filter out junk mail and viruses sent to business e-mail accounts. How has your business grown?
A. We started with five clients; now we have over 100. Since we hired Gordon Bruce (former chief information officer for the Estate of James Campbell) to help with sales and marketing in October 2003, we've grown 700 percent.
Q. What's been the difference?
A. We call it the "Gordo Factor." He knows everybody in town. He's got a good reputation with everybody. He's honest, he's a good guy.
Q. How large is the need for the solution you offer?
A. Eighty percent of all e-mail trying to pass through our systems is spam or viruses. ... Pau Spam is a subscription-based spam-filtering and virus-scanning system. There's no software to install, no hardware to buy. And it offers seamless integration.
Q. Marketing something highly technical can't be easy, especially when you're trying to sell your product to business owners who may not understand the technical aspect of what you provide.
A. We used to make fun of the sales guys at Critical Path (his former employer). Now I'm buying the same sales training CDs they were listening to. (Selling) is a learned art or behavior. The most difficult part is getting in the front door. But Gordon is an expert at that.
Q. How much do you get involved in sales and marketing?
A. As much time as I can give it. ... I've made a conscious effort to learn (that aspect of the business). If you're the CEO and you can't sell, I see that as a weakness.
Q. How did you lure Walter Dods, chairman and CEO of First Hawaiian Bank, to take a role on your advisory board in August?
A. I was pulling an all-nighter and I get these e-mail updates from the local newspapers. I read that he was retiring and he wanted to serve on an advisory basis to young entrepreneurs. Right there I e-mailed him I guessed every combo possible (for his e-mail address) faxed him, snail-mailed him. I even switched banks. I pretty much harassed him.
Q. Is it easier now to sell your product to businesses because of widespread understanding and annoyance of spam and computer viruses?
A. It's getting easier and easier. Everyone understands e-mail. Our last hurdle is the Mainland. It seems like the logical step.
Q. What's the biggest challenge you face in marketing your product to Mainland-based companies?
A. There's bigger fish out there, like FrontBridge (Technologies Inc.) and Postini (Inc.), who offer the same thing. They have larger market share and more money.
Q. When you moved back to Hawai'i in 2001, you started consulting with businesses on the Linux Operating System. Was it hard going out on your own after working for a large dot-com in the Bay Area?
A. I saw that no one was doing Linux consulting for businesses here. I started my business from scratch. On my first tax return as a self-employed (business owner), I could've made more money working at McDonald's.
Q. Why Linux?
A. It works, it performs better under pressure, it's more stable, it's cheaper. It's Microsoft's main competitor. No one owns it. It's a worldwide effort of people creating software.
Q. If this operating system is more stable and affordable than others, why is it less popular than Microsoft and Unix?
A. There's a steep learning curve. But once you climb it, it's an awakening. You need a critical mass of people to know it for (the operating system) to pick up steam.
Q. Do you still offer Linux consulting services to businesses now that Pau Spam has grown?
A. I have about 60 clients now, but it's really taken a backseat. It would be more, but I don't pursue it as much anymore because Pau Spam is taking up a lot of my time.
Q. What are your short- and long-term goals for Pau Spam?
A. My short-term goals are to continue to gain market share locally and expand to the Mainland in 2005. Anything over five years is completely unpredictable in this industry. We will continue to adapt to market conditions and create products according to what our customers what.
Q. What has been the most rewarding aspect of your job?
A. We produce world-class software from Hawai'i. We are a brain gain (the reverse of brain drain) success story. We are an Internet software company powered by time-tested business ethics and practices. Plus, too, I always get a kick out of explaining what 'Pau Spam' means to people on the Mainland and abroad. We are Hawaiian digital ambassadors.