Tech entrepreneur taps overseas talent, markets for success

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.

Mizan Rahman

Mizan Rahman

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

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15 comments Add your comment

TTT

August 16th, 2011
8:55 am

It’s a shame that more American engineers weren’t used for whatever the reason.

tk

August 16th, 2011
9:37 am

The reason is that American engineers cost more than foreign engineers. As Americans, we are overpaid. As are many professionals in many European countries. We’re spoiled. If we worked for half as much and got it out of our head that we deserve a house and deserve a BMW and quit being such a consumer economy, then we’d never lose a job to overseas talent. That being said, the we’re in a minor correction at the moment. So, as jobs become more scarce, labor costs are going to drop to a level that justifies keeping work here rather than sending it overseas.

TTT

August 16th, 2011
9:53 am

While it is true that American engineers are more expensive than Bangladeshi engineers, it is not always the case that foreign engineers are an employers ONLY option. Owners may choose the least expensive option to increase profits and, in turn, their own compensation. That’s their right, but not their obligation. There are examples of businessmen who put the interests of Americans and American society first.

Tech '10

August 16th, 2011
10:07 am

While mildly disturbing that more Americans were not utilized, it’s not like a guy that grew up in Atlanta did this. Rahman is from Bangledesh and reached out to his friends or connections through friends. Are you telling me that if you lived in Bangledesh that you wouldn’t reach out to familiar faces here in America? The company is based here, so they are paying taxes and they selling to predoimantly American consumers. I would have liked to see at least a mix of engineers, but considering where the guy is from and who he sells to and pays taxes to, I think he did alright here.

tar and feathers party

August 16th, 2011
10:14 am

Once not too many years ago, a BS in any engineering field from any American school was better than a Masters in Engineering from most any foreign engineering school. That is no longer the case, as American engineering degrees have been dumb-ed down along with the rest of the American education system. Just look at the number of course hours required for a BS and compare it with the number in 1970. Meanwhile, the quality of foreign engineering schools has increased greatly over the last 40 odd years. The future is not so bright for America if we must depend solely on the American education system for the skills necessary to compete in the world.

Que'Shayda

August 16th, 2011
11:22 am

“Last month, Rahman was among 10 recipients of InfoWorld’s “Technology Innovator of the Year” award.”

IIRC Mr. Rahman also invented the noodle.

John Trader

August 16th, 2011
12:00 pm

I am the Public Relations contact here at M2SYS and I wanted to make a few comments to clarify points based on what others have said. First, we used a majority of foreign engineers at the outset of our company’s launch to get on our feet simply because we recognized that we could obtain the same level of R&D talent for lower labor costs. Our engineering department was and still is headquartered here in Atlanta, we have several U.S. engineers working in our offices and as a matter of fact, are looking to hire more.

We had several different product ideas at the birth of our business (several of which were trashed) where the R&D was performed in Bangladesh and if we would not have planned the strategy to use lower cost Engineers for this from the outset, there is a very good chance that we would have never succeeded at all. Essentially, the fact that we were able to leverage this talent allowed us to stay and be successful in the U.S. in the first place.

30% of our sales come from overseas and I can assure you that we package, brand and sell our technology as American because it is and creates a competitive advantage in foreign markets because of that fact.

Thanks to everyone for voicing their opinions on the post.

TTT

August 17th, 2011
11:11 am

I hope Mr. Rahman has massive success and becomes a businessman like this:
http://www.amconmag.com/blog/2011/01/03/requiem-for-a-patriot/

John Trader

August 18th, 2011
11:26 am

Thanks for the comments TTT – very interesting article that you posted to. I think very few people know of Roger Milliken’s life.

AK

August 18th, 2011
2:12 pm

John Trader, I am sending you my resume and hope to hear from you soon. Thanks.

salary $

August 19th, 2011
6:26 pm

american engineers: their salaries are 60% higher than engineers in india—why waste money for the same product?

independent

August 19th, 2011
6:55 pm

Cat. Equip. CEO Oberhelman says… they have manufacturing jobs in Illinois.. . posted for months.. $ 50 to $ 75 K + great benefits… BUT applicants need mechanical/engineering abilities… not just liberal arts… GET qualified Vo TECH.. mechanics.. electricians.. plumbers.. hands on workers please… jobs are there !!!

independent

August 19th, 2011
6:59 pm

John Trader is looking for them here in Atl… check out Ga. Tech.

Bob Walters

August 20th, 2011
2:52 am

Facts are Americans are just plain lazy. Foreign engineers work 30% more hours for 1/3 the pay. Why would ANY company EVER hire American. Did the American public step forward and buy American made clothing at triple the cost to support the American textile workers forty years ago when their jobs were moving overseas? Heck no! So why would anyone with a pittance of business acumen start a business in the US, given the high cost of labor?

Face it, the party’s over. If you were too stupid to save your funds when the money was easy, that’s your fault. A lot of folks have realized $10/hour is not looking so bad these days, regardless of your profession.

Karl Marx

August 23rd, 2011
9:19 am

salary $- That would be just fine if you were selling the product exclusively in India the problem is you send the product here to sell to people who lost their jobs and businesses to people who can’t afford to buy the products.

And Mr. Bob Walters Don’t worry once the government realizes their revenue stream is being shipped overseas they will take steps to “protect it” then their goes your market and we will all welcome you to the soup line with the rest of us.