Inspired by his Spitfire-flying mother, Charles Sharland, a former Hewlett-Packard salesman, founded Vistorm in 1991 after raising £40,000 from friends, family and from the sale of his motorbike collection. Sharland rented an office in Manchester and decided to focus on three software products from Sun, Adobe and Insignia. He then moved into systems integration and IT consultancy, differentiating the company from competitors by focusing on network security and server-based computing. In 1999, Vistorm broke into the Application Service Provider (ASP) market. The ASP facility allows companies to run complex software over the internet by logging on to Vistorm’s site, saving them the cost of buying software and running their own IT departments. The move has increased sales by 88% a year, from £2m in 1996 to £13.6m in 1999. With the ASP market predicted to be worth more than £1.4 billion by 2003, the company has decided to expand and in July raised £25m from a group of backers led by 3i, the venture-capital company.
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