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ISYS software
Information retrieval software

Ian Davies had always wanted to develop commercial software, so in 1987 he quit his job and worked part time to leave more time to think of new ideas. He was inspired by the requests of clients to develop text retrieval software that was powerful but easy to use. All other software available was either too hard to use, or not powerful enough for large searches.

The prototype of the program he developed was called Homer, later to be called ISYS. He tested it with customers and they loved it. To sell the product he formed a company in 1988 called Odyssey Development with investor Sean Howard. Ian spent every spare hour for 4-5 months to finish the product and began sales by putting a floppy disk on the front of Australian Personal Computer magazine. To add to the products appeal Odyssey provided outstanding technical support to users, something that was not the norm.

Once the company had started up in Australia, it looked for opportunities in the US market. In 1990, Steven Smith and Christine Hopkinson were sent to the US to set up an office. The company struggled to survive. Distributors weren?t interested in their product because they had no sales figures, and they couldn?t get sales without a distributor! Costs were expensive and the Australian office couldn?t cover them.

In 1991, Smith met the reviewer for PC Week magazine. He convinced the reviewer to include ISYS in an upcoming review about text retrieval software for the magazine. The reviewer billed ISYS as the equal winner for the review. Suddenly other magazines and companies were interested in the product. The PC Week approval gave ISYS the credibility to get sales started.

It took eighteen months before the US office could support itself and 4 years before it was doing well. The company moved offices from Los Angeles to Denver where costs were much cheaper. By 2001 the US office was bringing in two-thirds of the company?s total revenue.

All Odyssey product development is done in Australia and ISYS has expanded its range of products to include network and Internet applications. Versions of ISYS exist for Canadian French, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Simplified Chinese and Korean. ISYS can also index Cyrillic Russian, Dutch, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, French, Thai, Italian, Bahasa and Arabic.

By the end of the century, Odyssey had approximately 9000 registered customers in Australia and the USA. These ranged from single users to the USA Federal Bureau of Prisons with over 10 000 users. The estimated number of actual users was 120 000 in more than 40 countries. They had offices in Sydney Australia, Denver USA and Chester UK, with distribution arrangements in New Zealand, Canada, England, India, South Africa, Holland, Germany and throughout Asia.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
Odyssey Development Pty Ltd : research, development, marketing
Key People
Ian Davies: developer of ISYS, Managing Directory of Odyssey
Steven Smith: set up American office
Christine Hopkinsons: set up American office

Further Reading
Business Review Weekly,
November 9, 1998.

Odyssey Development - ISYS home page

ISYS Desktop Spider is one of Odysseys products that searches the Internet for information relevant to a business and then incorporates it into the local ISYS index. Courtesy Odyssey Development Pty Ltd.
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