At HIMSS this year I spoke in the Dictaphone booth regarding our experience with their EXSPEECH voice recognition system. It was a good project that had a solid ROI (less than a year). We implemented the system while their then parent company, Learnout & Hauspie, was going through bankruptcy in 2001. This turned out to be a good move since we got a great deal of support. Like your financial portfolio, your IT portfolio should have some agressive, high risk investments.
This year there was a sense of deja vu in the Dictaphone booth as they were being acquired by Nuance. Nuance holds much of the same assets held by Learnout & Hauspie (e.g., Dragon Naturally Speaking) when they acquired Dictaphone in the 1990s. The primary difference in the 21st century is that Dictaphone sold out for 1/3 the price.
A couple of years ago I had dinner with Rob Shwagger, the president of Dictaphone. Rob was on a low-carb diet. As he ate a cheese platter for dessert he told me a great story about the Learnout & Hauspie acquisition that really captured the spirit of the Internet boom. This is the story as I remember it:
Apparently Rob and another Dictaphone exec were meeting with the L&H principles in a Belgium outdoor cafe. The L&H dudes wanted to know the selling price for Dictaphone. Rob threw out an amount he considered to be outrageous, just to test the waters: $1B, as I remember it.
The L&H executives excused themselves and walked into a nearby farmer’s field. After a few minutes they returned to tell the Dictaphone executives that they accepted their offer.