When Mansour Salame was 13 years old, he and a friend bought used computers from London businesses and sold them on the secondhand market. This entrepreneurial debut launched the career of a man who would later become a business technology consultant, a black belt in karate, the focus of a bidding war between tech giants Cisco and Alcatel, and the president and CEO of CRM upstart White Pajama, in Hayward, Calif.
And all of that by the ripe old age of 30. It's obvious that Salame is a man on the go. Born to Lebanese parents in Washington, D.C., Salame grew up as a child of the world, living in both France and England before returning to the United states to study electrical engineering at Northwestern University in Chicago. "I came back to America to have a lot of independence," he says. "America is encouraging of new ideas. In Europe, it is difficult to do things outside the system."
America, it seems, has been very encouraging of Salame's new ideas. After a couple of post-college jobs working with call center systems, he set out on his own, founding NextAge Technologies, which offered forecasting and scheduling software for the call center market. Salame chuckles as he describes NextAge's success. "In 1999, there was a bidding war between Cisco and Alcatel. We thought it was rude not to sell."
Fresh from this success, Salame founded his latest project, White Pajama, which offers hosted CRM solutions. Why CRM? "Managing customers is such a broad problem," Salame says. "Everybody has customers, so the potential market is so huge. It also uses a lot of interesting technology."
White Pajama's technology offerings focus on the call center, with a component lineup that includes telephony, e-mail, chat, IVR and an automatic call distributor. It also offers online training for call center reps and call center management support.
White Pajama offers these and other services as an application service provider (ASP), a model that some question, but Salame champions. "There has been a lot of hype surrounding ASPs," he says, "and many of the goals set for them were unrealistic. But there are ASP models that work. In the next 10 years, the majority of end-user apps will be delivered in ASP form."
Salame seems fully prepared to make this prediction a reality by taking on the dominant "host your own technology" mentality most companies embrace. His strategy draws from education, work experience and a respect for perseverance, which he learned in martial arts training. "In karate you are always pushing your limits," he says. "It forces you to practice, to persevere. The same goes for business. If you don't get something right, keep on kicking until you kick it right."