Mizan Rahman is not your typical entrepreneur.
Most of the small businesspeople I’ve talked with over the years limit their operations and vision geographically. They believe it’s easier and cheaper to survive locally when you have limited resources. By default, the rest of the world is left to the large, public companies.
But Rahman, a software engineer and Georgia Tech graduate student, built his small but growing Dunwoody biometrics firm by embracing the global economy – first for R&D and then for sales in 90 countries. In fact, his company, which has grown to $5 million in annual revenue, would not be thriving had he not thought big, even though he’s small.
After selling an online business, Rahman, 38, invested $1.5 million of the proceeds to launch a software firm, M2SYS Technology. (The M2 in this intimidating moniker is because he and his wife, Mohu, have first names starting with that initial. The SYS, of course, is for systems.)
While he and a few colleagues had a number of promising ideas, they needed to see which one could be commercialized successfully. Instead of relying on a handful of U.S. engineers, Rahman was able to do far more extensive R&D for the same amount of money by tapping 30 engineers in his native Bangladesh.
“For us, every dollar was a big deal,” Rahman said. “You can have the best engineering idea in the world, but without [the right] execution, it has no value.”
They decided on a ready-to-plug-in software system that can identify people through a fingerprint, finger vein, palm vein or iris scan.
The system, which can switch among the various ID forms, is used by a wide range of customers, from prisons wanting to ensure that the wrong inmate isn’t checking out, to workplaces experiencing punch-clock fraud and fitness clubs shedding membership cards.
Last month, Rahman was among 10 recipients of InfoWorld’s “Technology Innovator of the Year” award.
“What in retrospect seems obvious is that no one technology is perfect in all cases or appropriate for all populations,” InfoWorld wrote. “Rahman saw that and came up with a multimodal approach to biometrics in which sensors could be switched from one form of scanning to another as needed. … The technology is new and unproven, and M2SYS’s success is far from assured, but Rahman deserves credit for seeing the bigger picture, then finding a way to give it life.”
So far, giving it life has meant teaming up with large software companies around the world to add this security feature when their sales forces are selling other packages, such as time-and-attendance systems. In the U.S., which accounts for a majority of the firm’s sales, some local governments are now requiring pawn shops and gold dealers to capture a digital fingerprint of their customers.
There are obvious invasion of privacy concerns. At the same time, Rahman said, the systems are used internally by the customer and do not connect to an unrelated third party or government agency, unless the government is the customer.
The industry is in its infancy, so the upside may be substantial.
“The market is huge,” Rahman said. “Very untapped.”
- Henry Unger, The Biz Beat
For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.