Can This Software Builder Make It in the "New Web World"?
Andover Tech got on the Net and created a new business model
In the mid-'90s, Bruce Twickler, the president of Andover Advanced Technologies
Inc., a multimedia software publisher in Acton, Mass., saw the Internet
coming, like a giant tidal wave. He figured he had better ride with it
or be wiped out entirely.
The problem? Multimedia software publishers were starting to distribute
software samples over the Net, and some specialty software retailers were
closing their stores entirely. Hoping to sell and promote its graphics-intensive
software online, Andover first launched a Web site called DaveCentral.com,
a virtual buffet of shareware for visitors to download and sample. DaveCentral
lured thousands of techies a day and helped sell some of the company's
own licensed products.
But the real payoff came in late 1996, when it dawned on Andover that
advertisers would actually pay to reach the tech-savvy professionals who
visited its Web site. Andover jettisoned its licensed software products
and reinvented itself as an Internet publisher aiming at information technology
professionals. "I was disappointed that the Internet so completely changed
the software business," concedes Twickler. "But we picked up the challenge
and opportunities of the new Web world."
Twickler and his seven employees used their sales, marketing, and technical
experience in software publishing to create a site that people would come
back to time and again. They replaced a contract sales force with independent
publishers' reps, and by the end of April, 1997, they had attracted 20
online advertisers. Then, the company launched Andover.Net, which offers
visitors a variety of E-tools, shareware, and news pages -- plus, of course,
DaveCentral. It also dishes up free online goodies, such as an animation
program and a Web-page builder that you use while logged onto the Internet.
Andover's advertisers include Compaq, Gateway, Silicon Graphics, and Sun
This month, the company will move from its 2,500-square-foot offices
in an old house with crystal chandeliers to a space five times that size
in a nearby office park. They've staffed up to 34 employees -- and are
Although Andover lost nearly $445,000 last year on total sales of $1.4
million, the company's investors haven't flinched. Venture capitalists
have injected $4.8 million to support the company's growth in three rounds
There are no guarantees, of course, that this reinvented business
can make it, but trying is half the fun for Twickler -- who's on his sixth
business. Like many an Internet hopeful, Twickler's aiming for the brass
ring -- an eventual initial public offering. Only one thing is for sure in this fast-mutating
business: There's no turning back.
By Greg Sandler in Northampton, Mass.