Thomas W. Loker

Tech Business Innovator


Tom’s hi-tech career began at the outset of the personal computer industry. His experience in hi-tech has spanned almost forty years. Today as an Angel Investor, Mentor and Advisor, he has a level of experience and perspective, on both the business of technology and the development of technology companies, few others can match. Tom has written numerous papers and articles in the areas of technology, personal computers, technology economics and sales and marketing. He is currently working on a new book – a revision to one of his earlier papers – called, Sun Tsu: the Art of War – Sales and Marketing Management: The art of competition.

Tom’s experience in the computer industry ranges almost the entire spectrum of the various segments of hi-tech including: retail sales, franchising, distribution, manufacturing, development, design, and marketing. Tom has developed and/or or operated hardware and software companies. He has been involved with companies at the very earliest, start-up, stage as well as companies ranging into the billions of dollars in sales per year. Tom has not only been involved in the earliest stages of development of the retail marketplace for technology, he also recognized early the potential of the internet for sales, marketing and support.

In the early days of the tech industry, he developed a significant insight into the market place for PCs that led him to develop the original Computer Market Index (CMI) that allowed assessment of sales potential for the U.S. and Canada granular to the local zip code level. Tom’s understanding of the history of technology has allowed him to help others understand where the industry has come from, what has worked, and more importantly, why companies fail. Tom not only understands why they fail, he understands what they need to do in order to survive. He has learned that the keys to survival are based on good initial structures, proper checks, balances and measures, good policies and procedures that provide guidelines and eliminate mistakes, access to experienced mentors in order to get timely and proper answers for the questions that arise, and a network of efficient and effective providers of goods and services that help build lower and more competitive cost basis for the company.

In the area of business planning Tom has written, or helped write, hundreds of business plans. He has been developing business financial models since the inception of the first spreadsheets. While most business models are symmetrical and linear, with each key metric or projection often driven by a single key assumption, Tom’s models are typically asymmetrical, non-linear and multi-variant models. As a result, unlike other models which often look great almost regardless of the input assumptions, Tom’s react more the way real life businesses operate. In Tom’s modeling method, when a change to an assumption breaks the model, it can be used to not only understand why it’s broken, it can be used to provides the key to how to modify the other assumptions to find corrections for success - something most linear models simply cannot do.

TimexSinclair 1000
Epson QX-10
Cellphone Earpiece
Internet

Experience



St. Marys College of Maryland Bookstore – Bookstore Manager. Not only did Tom develop one of the first for profit college bookstores in the U.S., he led the revolution of the campus bookstore from a place to purchase athletic-ware, textbooks and school supplies to a location to purchase a wide variety of products. Tom pioneered the sales of personal computers in the college bookstore.

Tom really began his career in retail at the bookstore under the tutilage of Jack Andrews - Vice President of Administration. Jack was also retired Chairman of Federated Department Stores. What Tom knows about retail today, he credits to his early mentoring by Jack.

He offered the first sale of computers on any campus with the offering of the Timex/Sinclair 1000 in 1982. Selling out the initial inventory of forty-eight units in less than two weeks, this rapidly led to the offering of additional computer products, including the Commodore VIC-20, Commodore 64, DEC Rainbow, Dec Mate, DEC Pro-350, TI-99, Osborn 1, Kaypro, Epson QX-10, IBM PC and many others.

Tom led the activities to connect the campus' Epson QX-10s via dialup modems to facilitate the sharing of files and connected communications via a forerunner of today’s e-mail. This led Epson America to come to the campus and produce a documentary film about the revolution that occurred on this small college's campus. Faculty, staff and even the maintenance department were able to send documents, post messages exchange spreadsheets, create graphics and easily share their results with each other; all this before the first advent of today's personal computer network systems.

Tom also developed the first on-line Epson bulletin board system. This system allowed Epson owners from around the country to dial in to SMC's Remote Bulletin Board System (RBBS), post messages, download files and programs and gain access to support documents as well as make connections with other Epson users across the Unites States.

Epson America – V.P General Manager Epson Mid-Atlantic Region. Tom’s success selling Epson’s products, particularly in an academic environment led Epson to recruit Tom in 1983. Tom led the initial efforts to develop what became one of the first dedicated education focused sales and marketing efforts of any PC manufacturer in the U.S. Tom, continued to innovate methods and concepts to drive sales to new markets and to increase sales beyond the education space while at Epson.

Epson, a manufacturer of Personal Computers and Printers, was a  pioneer of the what is the distribution model for the entire hi-tech industry. Tom's Epson experience taught him first hand what it takes to build effective, efficient and profitable distribution systems.

Tom helped increase sales in the mid-Atlantic retail markets by targeting “B” and “C” level dealers and providing the support to help them become “A” level dealer with Epson’s products. Tom developed the “Dr. Chips” printer promotion – an innovative approach to stimulate the sales of Epson printers by offering cleaning and repair clinics at retail locations. The stores customers could bring in any printer, regardless of make or model, and qualified Epson techs “Dr. Chips” would clean and rehab the printer, free of charge. Of course, this also led to the offer of a trade in allowance for a new Epson printer. This trade in program was the first of its kind in the industry at that time.

Tom also was instrumental in identifying the opportunity to increase federal governmental sales and helped establish Epson’s government sales office in Washington DC.

Computerland Corporation – Director of Target Markets and Strategic Programs. Tom arrived at ComputerLand with a unique set of experiences and skills. He had been one of the early people in the nation to sell computers at retail due to his experience in the SMC bookstore, he had also gained significant experience at Epson on the manufacturing and distribution side. This perspective provided valuable insight to ComputerLand and its franchisees during his tenure.

ComputerLand  created the first fully assembled personal computer for sale, the IMSAI 8080. They also became the largest chain of franchised computerstores in the world; growing to over 800 locations worldwide.

Tom joined ComputerLand in 1988. His initial role was to focus on the rehabilitation of a number of ComputerLand’s then 800 stores worldwide. The Computer industry in that period was suffering a rapid retail price decline and many stores were selling much more product but, at the same time, were suffering an overall rapid decline in gross revenue and profits. Tom helped set up programs to retrain ownership, focused to first identify the problem, and then, to redesign their business to take advantage of the changing industry trends and return to profitability. The key was a change in product mix and sales strategies to focus more on selling higher margin accessories and services to rebuild profits lost to the declining gross revenues. Tom developed a set of tools that helped franchise owners learn to manage, not simply to a profit and loss statement but, also to be able to identify how to change their business to affect their balance sheet as well. Adapting the standard Dupont Asset Test, Tom redesigned the output to help ComputerLand store owners understand how to change their business practice in order to decrease cash and asset demand while increasing profitability.

During this period Tom also helped Identify an approach to significant growth in ComputerLand’s network by changing the focus of expansion from targeting the similarly sized competitors of Businessland, Sears, and Inacomp (about 18% of the Industry) where all players had the same buying advantage and little competitive edge, to address the capture of the independent computer dealers (about 88% 88% of the industry) where ComputerLand had significant advantages including, margin, location, financing sources, and brand awareness. Within 2 years, ComputerLand had grown their sales from about $1.2 billion to over $3 billion, mostly through the aggregation of independent dealers into the ComputerLand network. As he did for Epson, Tom was instrumental in establishing ComputerLand’s government sales office. Tom also pioneered an innovative agency agreement with IBM that allowed ComputerLand the ability as a franchisor to sell products through its franchisees to the federal government and provided a more efficient and cost effective method for franchisees to sell products to national accounts.

Integrated Business Solutions – Co-founder. Applying lessons learned in the rehabilitation of ComputerLand’s franchise network, IBS offered a unique type of consultancy to businesses. IBS focused on helping bring integrated pragmatic answers. Tom learned at ComputerLand that business owners often had very limited views into how the segments of their business interacted and how these interactions could affect their viability and profitability.

Tom's experience gave him unique insight. He learned it wasn't the answers that were important, it was asking the right questions. Tom adapted many of the tools he had alredy developed to further assist businesses to ask the right questions and get good answers.

Using tools like the ComputerLand Dupont Asset Test, the Computer Market Index, as well as other business analysis and modeling tools, Tom and his partners assisted numerous companies, large and small, in finding more sales, more efficiencies and rehabilitating their bottom line results.

Tom and his partners gained recognition throughout Silicon Valley and the investor community for their suprb leadership and packaging of startup companies. They also gained an impressive reputation for reviving struggling companies that were close to shutting down. Tom specialized in providing "Tiger Teams" that consisted of an extensive group of experienced professionals that served as a temporary executive team. These teams managed the growth of start-ups and the revitalization of distressed companies.

A partner at IBS once remarked to a prospective client, who had asked about the types of clients IBS helped, “We have clients from the penthouse to the outhouse!” This was in reference to a portfolio that included clients in the highest echelon of the technology world to companies based in the sanitary and wastewater industry.

A partial client list includes:
NEC Technologies, Cannon Computer Systems Division, Commodore International, MZ Group, Merrin Information Systems, Celluland, iPlanet Corporation, Toshiba, REST Computer Products, SafeBridge Consultants, Broadview Networks, Moose Logic, Spectra Plex, Mylinx, Cycore International, National Pools Corporation, Genesis Technology, MGV International, ICOMMM, RedZone Robotics, and many others.

Power-up Software – Vice President Marketing. PowerUp was a maker of software products and a mail order catalog company. Retained along with the CEO as a team to rehabilitate and/or sell the company in September of 1990.

Tom was responsible for all areas of marketing including product specifications, sales projections, pricing matrices, product development, corporate strategic planning and tactical implementation for both domestic and international business.

Mr. Loker was also a key advisor to the President and CEO for most day to day business decisions and a key participant in the sale of the company

Powerup was a classic business rehabilitation opportunity. The team successfully turned around the company and completed the sale to Spinnaker Software in the spring of 1991 at three times the initial expected sales price.

At PowerUp prior to the advent of the Internet, Tom recognized the value of the national interconnected network of Remote Bulletin Board Services (RBBS) and developed a plan to offer for sale PowerUp’s catalog of software products through this semi-connected network.

While, the team was able to sell the company before the implementation of this program, it formed the basis for Tom’s early recognition of the potential of the Internet as a potent sales, marketing and support system.

Tom took more of the lessons learned at Powerup and applied them to IBS beginning what became a successful offering of two types of discrete team based services:

  • Incubator Services - For start-ups, IBS offered a temporary structured team approach to bring in senior executive talent to work alongside the founders of a company to help get the proper structure, policies, key metrics, checks and balances and board of directors in place to help increase the long term viability of the enterprise.
  • Iron Lung Services -  Recognizing that most companies failed due to bad assumptions, poor structure, inactive boards, and lack of key metrics and oversight, IBS provided this similar incubator type approach to failing companies.

SyberSay Communications – Acting CEO. Sybersay was the early pioneer in the development of active earpieces for cell phone communications.

Sybersay was formed from a group of people experienced in the hearing aid industry and was a key innovator in the provision of earpieces for cell phones that provided active sound processing and enhancements to improve communications.

Sybersay’s first products, wired, were small, lightweight and comfortable devices that could be worn behind the ear all day. They provided active wind and noise cancellation technology. In one dramatic display of SyberSay’s technological lead, a driver of a convertible was able to have a conversation with another party while driving and the receiving party was unable to hear any of the background wind or car noise.

Tom was initially retained through his consulting arm and was responsible for all operations within Sybersay. He was soon appointed acting CEO. Tom oversaw the development of the company to a full manufacturing, sales and marketing operation. He recruited most of the key staff. He developed a number in innovative sales and marketing programs including the SyberSay Demo Bus, oversaw the development of an innovative wireless system (prior to Bluetooth) using the body’s natural capacitance to generate the carrier wave and successfully developed SyberSay’s second productline the Earlite series.

Other Recent Activities



SountFit

Advisor to Board of Directors / 2013-14

SoundFit is revolutionizing the 3D industry. They have developed 3D scanning technology to a state where it has applications in a wide variety of industries and markets. While their focus is currently on the audiology marketplace, they recognize that this technology can be applied to an unlimited number of applications, and ultimately has potential in many yet unrecognized markets/applications.

Inoviva

Advisor / 2014

Inoviva is a company developing a patent pending unique contextural discovery engine using natural language. This engine provides contextual, rather than general, consumer ratings, reviews, and skills of practitioners for its users. The dynamic contextual intelligence simplifies the process for a user. This helps users easily research, validate the practitioner in detail on the platform rather than go to multiple sites to check their profile, work and reviews. This platform enables users to find detailed information about practitioners, read patient reviews and practitioner blogs, and set up consultations all on one platform.Initially targeted at the healthcare space this technology has many applications beeyond healthcare.

ForeFront Telecare

Director / 2013-14

Forefront TeleCare, Inc. is a pioneer and U.S. leader in the delivery of behavioral health services to small, rural healthcare facilities via our unique HIPAA-compliant TeleCare service which incorporates software, hardware, and comprehensive service protocols. Our current specialty services include psychiatry and clinical psychology, and we expect to begin delivering both physiatry and advanced wound care services by early 2014. Our client facilities include skilled nursing facilities and clinics in 18 states from coast to coast. Our Forefront Provider Network currently includes psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and psychiatric nurse practitioners.