Markus Mannheim June 11, 2012
Brand Hoff, co-founder of information technology business TOWER Software, is on the Queen's Birthday Honours List. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
Few would associate a government town like Canberra with an IT start-up that conquered business giants such as IBM and General Electric.
But that's the story of Tower Software, a ''$2 company'' that became an international success.
Tower's co-founder, Brand Hoff, who set up the then-tiny firm with his wife Peta in 1985, will become a member of the Order of Australia for his services to the technology industry and to the ACT community. Mr Hoff also chairs the Canberra Business Council and is a founding board member of the IT research centre, NICTA.
The 64-year-old said he was ''chuffed and proud'' when he opened the Governor-General's letter.
''I felt a little small; I was humbled by it. I've really just been doing my job the whole time,'' he said.
Tower was best known for its record-management software TRIM, which dominated government markets in several countries.
Mr Hoff was unlike the young entrepreneurs behind today's Silicon Valley giants; he was an experienced federal public servant before he began his business.
''Like any small company, we had our struggles to get contracts,'' he said.
But the business eventually outmuscled its much larger, multinational rivals, eventually securing up to 80 per cent of the Australian market.
''We didn't have any trouble competing with them. In straight-out shoot-outs on functionality, quality of service and cost, we were always much better than the others.''
The Canberra company employed about 240 staff, about half of whom worked overseas, when Hewlett-Packard bought it in 2008 for more than $US100 million.
Mr Hoff was also recognised for his support for the ACT's research industry and for mentoring other business people.
He believed the city's private sector had a bright future if it focused on Canberra's strengths.
''The opportunities here are in the research that comes out of places like the ANU and the CSIRO. If we can commercialise that research and then export it overseas … we can really grow our economy.''