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THE BIGTIME INTERVIEW

Bonnie Belvedere interviews John Hassett of Radius

10 November, 2003

John Hassett, managing principal of Radius Advisors, LLC, in Marblehead, Massachusetts has had a storied career in the the conferencing industry. Hassett founded MultiLink in 1984, one of the first conferencing bridge manufacturers and conferencing services providers that started the audio conferencing industry when AT&T divested. Hassett eventually sold MultiLink - which at one time had 70% of the worldwide conferencing bridge hardware market. MultiLink today is Spectel, and the company remains one of the leading conferencing solutions companies. (Octave, which recently merged into Voyant Technologies, was founded by Art Leondires, Hassett's first engineering hire at MultiLink and friend of his). In the early nineties, Hassett financed a Boston area conferencing services bureau ("for the fun of it" as he says) and then saw an opportunity to acquire multiple conferencing services providers across the country in what became Vialog in 1997.Vialog was, at the time, the largest independent conferencing services company. As the financier and business strategy architect of Vialog, Hassett took the company public in 1998 and engineered the sale of the company into Genesys in 2000. For the last two years, Hassett has been the head of Radius Advisors, LLC, an advisory services firm - managed with principals who include former MultiLink and Vialog executives - with a focus in the telecom and conferencing industries. Recently, Radius Advisors managed the sale of ConferenceCall.com to West Corporation's InterCall division.

Bonnie Belvedere: In my research for this interview, one person called you a Godfather of the conferencing industry. But I can't help asking, why are you still working?

John Hassett: Who says I'm working?! Work is when you actually run something on a day-to-day basis and I gave that up once I hired the right management team for Vialog and got the company financed and operational. And that was back in the mid-nineties. Today at Radius Advisors we are helping entrepreneurs in conferencing and telecom navigate through the process of the getting value for their sweat equity. Though I no longer burn the midnight oil in my work, many of our principals and affiliates here at Radius do, once we spot an opportunity and pursue it. And as far as being some "Godfather," let's just say my star has risen in conferencing, but there are many others in this industry today more worthy of such accolades. Besides, I'm not that old to be called such a term!

Bonnie Belvedere: Oh spare the modesty! So tell us about your recent client engagement with ConferenceCall.com. What exactly was Radius Advisors' involvement in the ConferenceCall.com sale to West?

John Hassett: Our team at Radius Advisors, and in particular one of our principals, Glenn Bolduc (former CEO of Vialog) from our office, helped Kevin Scherer, the founder and CEO of ConferenceCall.com, find the right buyer and negotiate the best terms of a sale. West got a great company at the right price and Kevin Scherer got his just well-deserved deserts for pioneering web marketing for teleconferencing and adroitly running a highly profitable operation.

Bonnie Belvedere: How many other conferencing companies are there out there for sale, and who are they?

John Hassett: We represent several, and it's all on a confidential basis, of course. There are only a few companies left of any meaningful size to interest the large acquirers, and I think these remaining firms will all be acquired in the next year.
Bonnie Belvedere: You've been around the conferencing industry since its birth in the Big Eighties. What's your take on its current state?

John Hassett: That's a big question with many perspectives from which to answer. But in a nutshell, the industry is now past its adolescence and moving into a state of maturity: smart new offerings such as web collaboration, integrated messaging, scheduling, and presence detection tools along with fused video, and a business environment of naturally compressing prices, increasing margins as labor is wrung out of the P&L, and of course consolidation. But because the industry is maturing doesn't mean there isn't decent and sustainable growth ahead of it for the large conferencing vendors. There will be continued success in this business, but size, scale of operation, and national and international footprints will matter more.

Bonnie Belvedere: Who will be the winners in 2005?

John Hassett: Talk about a loaded question! From where I sit, by 2005, this is going to be a genuinely mature industry - I don't want to say boring, but certainly not as dynamic and exciting as today. It's good news for the largest players, and bad news for the medium and smaller players. Again, size and operating efficiency will win out. Net margins will settle in at around 16%, growth will slow to about 12% and this will become a really predictable business with three or four dominant players and only a very few niche smaller companies still hanging in there.

Bonnie Belvedere: So where is the technology going?

John Hassett: First, let me say that successful implementations of conferencing and collaboration technology will always be delivered to the customer as a service, and not as software and certainly not in a hardware environment. Starting with that as a premise, the full suite of services will combine voice, web, video, messaging, presence detection, with computer-based collaboration offerings, Today, these are still separate. Lotus Notes and its offspring, for instance, have been delivering powerful collaboration tools for decades and never the twain has met. This coming together of communications and computer collaboration will be the last big technology development in this market. Microsoft and IBM are both bumbling around this concept, but eventually a few large players will get it right and cash the last big checks.

Bonnie Belvedere: Thanks, John. Continued success with Radius.

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