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TECHNOLOGY: Space Age Reaches For The Sky


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SPACE Age Technologies, a medium-sized IT services provider based in Stellenbosch, has built a name in the industry for being at the forefront of IT technology, an innovator of solutions and their delivery.

The fact that the company was started back in 1994 by two engineering students from Stellenbosch University – Mark Geschke and Mathias Tölken, and later joined by another electronic engineer from UCT – Chris Welham, has probably contributed to their strength with technology.

Despite the lure of offering their high technology skills to large companies, Space Age has remained true to their mission of ‘providing enterprise-class IT platform services to small and medium organisations’ (companies between 10 and 250 PC users). Managing director, Mark Geschke, explains that the company wishes to make a difference, by empowering companies of 250 PC users and fewer (SMEs), with the IT solutions and services they provide. In addition, the aim is to become the top of mind provider of IT services to this market : “the DiData of the SME,” he says.

From as early as 2001, Space Age was providing remote monitoring of their customer’s networks, 24x7. In those early days, the concept of monitoring a customer’s network to provide proactive support was unheard of in the small and medium market. Very little software was available to achieve this – at least, software that was affordable to a small service provider such as Space Age. Undeterred, Space Age built their own solution, using a few off the shelf components, but largely through inhouse development. The product became known as SATAware.

As differentiators, SATAware, 24x7 monitoring and support and the business level engagement that Space Age offered were unequalled in the early 2000’s. The innovation and desire to remain “at the forefront of technology” did not stop there. Being first, or one of a few other leaders, was something the company drove hard, and still does today. The most recent innovation was the introduction of a ‘Virtual Chief Information Officer’ – a service offered to ensure small and medium businesses derive maximum value from their IT investments, that risk to the business is properly managed, and over time, IT becomes a strategic asset to the business, says Geschke.

Growing and nurturing the business has not been plain sailing, however. In the early days, there were times when payment of salaries was in the balance, owners Geschke and Tölken took little or no salary and family loans kept them going. But growth has been steady: by 2007, Space Age had grown to 26 people when they merged with Genesis Systems, a similar IT service provider, with nine people. The combined entity has almost doubled to a current size of 60 people over the past three years.

By 2004, the company started generating a small profit and this was followed by strong growth. In 2005, they reached the R5 million turnover mark, doubled this by 2007, and doubled again in 2008 to over R20 million. Last financial year, despite very tough conditions, turnover grew again to almost R35 million. There is a feeling in the company that this momentum is picking up, and there is much more to come – in terms of growth of both turnover and people, and of continued innovation of technology and business services.

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