February 22, 2011

Converge: A Recipe for Success in the Global Electronics Industry

Don’t you love the business success stories that start with two regular guys in an unlikely location with little money and a far-fetched dream?

We all know the story about the two guys who started a computer company in a garage back in 1975; the accomplishments of Bill Gates and Paul Allen have become the stuff of IT legends. In more recent digital-era folklore, there is the tale of a kid named Mark Zuckerberg and what he and a few of his college buddies developed in a Harvard dorm room (it was a little social media application known today as Facebook). There was also the Stanford dorm room start-up that turned into Google. But do you know the story about the global electronics company that started with two guys in a kitchen?

Back in the early seventies, two guys named Henry Bertolon and Jeff Filmore worked together as Radio Shack salesmen at a store in a Boston-area strip mall. There, they started to tinker with early versions of computers and fell in love with technology. In 1980, Bertolon convinced Filmore that there was a huge market for helping technology-driven companies to fill shortage electronic component shortages. Using Filmore’s kitchen, a small line of credit from a bank, and $22,000 from the sale of Bertolon’s house, they started a company called New England Circuit Sales. Their mission was to deliver “quality products on time.” By the end of the year, the small Beverly, Massachusetts, start-up was making headway.

Bertolon and Filmore were visionaries in the field of electronic component distribution. Early on, they had recognized that one of the biggest problems facing value-added resellers was getting hard-to-find electronic components delivered on time. They realized that sometimes manufacturers needed to be able to go outside of their partnered network to order necessary parts, whether it was due to a shortage, a need for faster delivery, or just to save money. In 1994, the pair coined the term “independent distribution” and changed the company’s name to NECX Exchange. To Bertolon and Filmore, there was a clear distinction between an independent electronics distributor and a broker. Brokers did not inventory large amounts of product, guarantee internal quality inspections, or offer any high-touch services — but independent distributors did, and built customer loyalty in the process. NECX continued to build a large network of global clients.

In the 1990s, NECX established additional offices overseas, including headquarters in Amsterdam and Singapore, in order to better serve its global client list. Even after Filmore and Bertolon sold their shares of the business in the late nineties, it has continued to grow exponentially. Of course with growth, often comes change. Over the years, NECX was sold and renamed as Converge. New segments of the company have been developed to provide reverse supply chain solutions and IT asset disposition, both of which are essential components of running successful technology-driven companies. Most recently, Converge was acquired by Arrow Electronics in June 2010, and is now under the umbrella of a Fortune 200 corporation.

One thing that has not changed is that Converge has continued to stand out as a leader in the global electronics industry. Over the past three decades, Converge has established the broadest, deepest, and most dependable electronic components distribution network in the world. While some companies currently are talking a lot about their new quality measures and advances in counterfeiting techniques, Converge has been leading the way in quality control for well over five years. Visionary … once again.

In 2010, Converge celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of its founding — that great “two guys in a kitchen” moment. Thinking back on everything that has happened since then, it’s almost hard to not be amazed. Who knew that helping companies find the right electronic components at the right time could turn into this? However, every business that starts with a great story also starts with identifying a real need in the marketplace and finding a way to fill it while meeting customers’ needs. That’s what Converge has done. As long as that need exists, we will continue to provide our customers with up-front, proactive, and responsive service, and an unwavering commitment to quality. It is a continued recipe for success.