When we last saw David Cook, he had just left Blockbuster Entertainment Corp., the chain of video superstores he had founded, and was looking for another challenge ("When the Party's Over," July 1987). He found it. His new company, AMTECH Corp., faces the daunting task of growing revenues from $1.5 million to at least $10 million in its second year, and getting its technology accepted as the international standard along the way. Otherwise, Cook may have to start looking again.
The technology uses radio signals to monitor the movement of vehicles -- cars, for example, as they pass through toll gates. Information from vehicle tags is fed to a computer, allowing for automatic billing of tolls. A more significant application is the electronic tracking of railcars, containers, and cargo worldwide, replacing the present manual system, which is both costly and error prone. "It could save us millions a year," says Bill Peterson of Burlington Northern Railroad, "not to mention the goodwill we'd earn from our customers."
But there's a catch: if AMTECH's technology is not chosen by the international standards committees (and several competitors are betting it won't be), the company may falter. It already has one strike against it -- its size. "We're concerned that one company like AMTECH can't manage this industry on its own," says Peterson. The standards committees may feel the same way.
On the other hand, AMTECH's managers are experienced in running large organizations, and the company has deep pockets. H. Ross Perot owns more than 15% of the stock, and Mitsubishi has about 13%. None of them, moreover, will have to be patient for long. "In 12 months, we'll know," says Mike Corboy, AMTECH's CEO. "Either we're a home-run company, or we're not."
-- Elizabeth G. Conlin