Thursday, March 31, 2016

Amalgamate all the things - biometrics, geospatial, and the buffet

So, where will we be five years from now? Will we have a number of companies providing everything to everyone, or will we have a myriad of specialty firms?

(Me, in 2011)

There are several different ways to organize businesses, ranging from the Mita model (we only do one thing) to the Beatrice model (we do everything). While the tail end of my Motorola years certainly exposed me to a trend toward the Mita model, I've been seeing a lot more of the Beatrice model lately, where dissimilar businesses end up as part of one big happy business.

Take my industry, biometrics. When I joined this industry in the mid-1990s, Digital Biometrics, Identix, and Printrak were three separate companies. Now all three of them are just a very small part of Safran.

I just ran across another example in the geospatial industry. You'll recall that I recently noted that Pitney Bowes, more commonly known for postage stuff, acquired the geospatial company MapInfo several years ago. But I have also run across another example [DISCLOSURE: I have worked with CACI in the past]:

CACI International Inc. announced it has been awarded a $180 million contract to provide Joint Geospatial Analytic Support Services (JGASS) to US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

So how did CACI get into this business?

Through its acquisition of TechniGraphics, Inc. in 2010, CACI has more than 20 years of experience providing geospatial services to the federal government and has become an industry leader in the production, analysis, and dissemination of geospatial data. The company's highly trained and cleared professional staff possesses a deep understanding of geospatial analysis and geospatial imagery intelligence.

Of course, the greatest example of diversification can be found in Warren Buffett's (two t's) company, Berkshire Hathaway. If you look at its list of subsidiaries, you can see that Berkshire Hathaway offers a buffet (one t) of different products and services. I won't provide the entire list, but let me just cite three examples:

  • Acme Brick Company (presumably a spinoff from Wile E. Coyote's supplier)
  • Kraft Heinz (I didn't even know those companies have merged)
  • Pampered Chef (chances are you know someone who works with Pampered Chef - but she can't sell you Acme Bricks)
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