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Brian Dorricott – the Founder & CEO




In 1995, armed with a £6,000 loan from my father (equivalent to three months’ income), I embarked on my first entrepreneurial venture. This initial investment, matched by my own savings, granted me a year of access to a 64K link to the internet – a valuable resource in the early days of the digital era.

Facing the question of what to do next, I explored various ideas like Bed & Breakfast and real estate online, but none resonated. It wasn’t until I recognized the widespread struggle with the basic infrastructure of the internet that NTMail was born. Offering a revolutionary solution, NTMail could send emails within milliseconds and boasted a quick and easy 5-minute installation – a game-changer compared to existing email systems.

NTMail found its home on the first version of Microsoft’s Windows NT, where file names were limited to 8 characters. The first sale to Falmouth College (Cornwall, UK) marked the beginning of an extraordinary journey. Achieving an 80% conversion rate from trial to buy, I rapidly expanded the team to 10 people within a year, with an impressive turnover of £800K. Remarkably, everyone worked remotely!

Originally named “Internet Shopper,” a misleading choice that prompted inquiries about selling the internet itself, the company underwent a strategic rebranding to “Gordano” later on. The product was renamed “Gordano Messaging Server” or GMS to reflected this transformation.

The pivotal change in architecture came with “NTMail v 2.08C,” strategically named to encourage seamless upgrades while actually being a complete overhaul. This allowed us to introduce pioneering features like anti-virus and anti-spam – global firsts. In 1999, we integrated calendaring, yet another innovation. Our customers could access their email through the web – before And the whole system was configured entirely through the web, an intricate process in the era before PHP, requiring us to develop our language – the Mail Meta Language.

Beyond product innovations, our Sales, Support, and Development teams boasted cutting-edge systems. I personally developed a CRM system, making our office truly paperless. Every document, except cheques, was scanned, attached to a customer file, and shredded. The automated phone system, asking for a contract number before connecting to an assigned support person anywhere in the UK, was ahead of its time and built from scratch. Similarly, a source control and continuous compilation system tailored for low-capacity, fragile internet links was another pioneering feat.

In my nine years at the helm, we secured over 200 articles, 4 patents, and numerous “best product” awards. By 2003, when I handed over the reins to the management team, we had garnered 13,000 customers worldwide, including prestigious names like the US Army, IBM, Oxfam, and Telstra.

My father’s investment was not only repaid in full within a year but, he told me, also turned out to be the best stock he ever bought – though I suspect some parental bias might be at play!

The journey with Gordano is brimming with memorable stories – from Murder Mystery weekends to quirky journalists lining their baths with foil to block radio waves. Stories like the journalist who provided insider information on Microsoft’s plans for MS Exchange, the toothless threat from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the customer seeking a refund three years after purchase (denied), and the lesson on why developers shouldn’t conduct user acceptance testing. I’d be happy to share these anecdotes over a beer sometime!


The genesis of my second venture, DeeZee, unfolded through a collaborative effort with a co-founder. Representing the ‘D’ while my co-founder was the ‘Z,’ our partnership originated from a value gap analysis of Cisco Systems’ technology landscape. Our plan was to create a product which we could sell to Cisco Systems and make a handsome return on the way.

DeeZee’s primary focus was on crafting a security product designed to address a specific niche identified in Cisco’s technology portfolio. Leading the charge, I spearheaded the architectural design of the security solution and invested in assembling a skilled team of developers. The result was a web-managed product that exerted control over internet access no matter how people chose to connect. It simply worked – install it and within minutes you had a working authentication system.

Our unique challenge lay in convincing Cisco Systems to adopt our product. While seemingly tailored exclusively for Cisco, offering the potential to significantly enhance their market presence, the reality was that Cisco had the capability to engineer such a solution in-house. However, what set us apart was that we already had a functioning product with a satisfied customer – the largest ISP in the UK.

Remarkably, a mere 25 months after the inception of DeeZee in 1998, Cisco Systems acquired the company. Recalling the sentiments of our customer when we sought their reference remains a poignant memory. Their words echoed admiration for our collaborative approach, praised the excellence of our product, and expressed a commitment to support the sale. However, they harboured concerns about Cisco acquisitions as they had seen no software from Cisco that worked without a lot of consultants requiring payment to make it work.

The success and sentiment attached to DeeZee’s acquisition by Cisco evoke a mix of emotions, reflecting the journey’s challenges and triumphs.


The wealth of experiences in my entrepreneurial journey has fuelled my desire to explore avenues for improvement. It was during this quest that I encountered the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), a comprehensively structured approach to managing a company. In Gino Wickman’s book “Traction,” the culmination of insights from management luminaries like Verne Harnish, Jim Collins, Patrick Lencioni, Todd Sachse, and Jack Welch is distilled into a practical and effective business framework.

EOS provides a blueprint applicable to any Small or Medium-sized Enterprise (SME). Its efficacy lies in facilitating the establishment of a capable management team, streamlining work priorities, and harnessing the entirety of intellectual assets within a company. This encompasses not only the product but also extends to how it is sold, marketed, and the industry-specific knowledge amassed over time.

The beauty of EOS lies in its pragmatic application. One doesn’t necessarily need a deep theoretical understanding initially; that can be acquired later. Reflecting on my own entrepreneurial journey, I can’t help but wish EOS had been available during my tenure. EOS was first published in 2011, nearly a decade after my time at the helm of my companies.

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