Carlson and Independence

By Karen Cummings • July 3rd, 2014
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A July 4th Message from Bruce Carlson, president and founder of Carlson Software, who wishes all a fun and safe “Independence” Day!

July 4th is celebrated for the Declaration of Independence.  The Revolutionary War continued for years afterwards, into the 1780s.  The Battle of Blue Licks, fought  in 1782  just 20 miles south of our home office in Maysville, Ky., was considered one of the last battles of the Revolutionary War, although the main combatants were pioneers and Shawnee Indians with some British leaders.

Carlson Software is an independently owned company.

Carlson President Bruce Carlson with the park near Daniel Boone’s tavern behind him.

The pioneers were ambushed and lost badly—Daniel Boone survived but his son Israel was killed and later buried just 100 feet from our current office, from where I am writing this.  A year later, Daniel Boone moved to Maysville and ran a tavern (near our park and new office still under construction). He did surveying.  The Mason County Fiscal Court, in 1785, issued a warrant for his arrest for overlapping and poorly registered surveys, and he left town a fugitive.  So did society honor the great frontiersman.  He moved to Missouri and made good on any claim anyone had who visited, valid or not.  He had personal honor, but was not suited for civilization.  We plan a statue of Daniel Boone in our company park—eventually.  Perhaps I’ll include on the plaque a mention of the warrant for his arrest at the foot of the man who truly made a difference, who ventured into the wilderness of Kentucky to establish the first settlements.

July 4th is about freedom and about casting off tyranny.  There is a parallel, at some level, to what we are about as Carlson Software.  Our industry is consolidating at a record pace.  Marc Cheves of Cheves Media (American Surveyor) told me that Trimble has purchased over 80 companies in just the last few years.  Hexagon and Topcon have bought up a similar amount together.  Gone are Sokkia and Ashtech as independent companies, who before were close partners for us.  With consolidation and size, power is concentrated in the few remaining players.

A view of Maysville, Ky., onetime home of Daniel Boone and current home of the independently owned and operated Carlson Software.

A view of Maysville, Ky., onetime home of Daniel Boone and current home of the independently owned and operated Carlson Software.

Consolidation is not good for the consumer.  In Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal editorial pages, there was an article about the lull in innovation inside Silicon Valley.  Large tech companies are not innovating as much, getting their innovation through purchases of small start-ups, and the only goal of small start-ups is to have enough innovation to get bought, driven on by venture capitalists wanting to make a giant return on investment from the sale.  Now, almost any small start-up is getting scrutinized for value and getting bought, at the very least, to keep the technology away from competitors.  Customer benefits, the inherent value of the technology, are secondary considerations.

We have a role to play in this market.  We represent the antidote to consolidation; choice to the customer.  We have the scale needed to innovate, and are well-established enough that our goal is not to get bought but to make a difference, to provide better service, and ultimately provide better solutions, competing against the mega-firms.  We ourselves are free, and we offer more freedom, freedom of choice, to our customer base.  In a world of entitlement and regulation, I would say that Carlson Software in part represents that spirit of freedom that we celebrate here in the U.S. on the 4th, a freedom not many people know outside of small to mid-sized businesses.  The spirit of July 4th is alive here.  It is appropriate that we set a record week, in a record year, today.


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