"We were green before green was cool," says alumnus Ian Easton of his company, Canvas Systems.
(published November 2009)
Ian Easton, BSM 1993, turned the dotcom bust of 2000 into a boom for his business, which refurbishes used IT equipment and systems for resale. "We never envisioned it taking off so fast," Easton says. "But there was a flood of equipment on the market after the bubble burst so the timing was great for us to grow."
Started by Easton in a hotel suite with a fellow Georgia Tech graduate, Ed Flachbarth (IE 1990) and three other partners, Canvas Systems has grown into a global supplier of used server-level networking hardware.
With 2008 revenues of $200 million, the Norcross-based business now has offices in London and Amsterdam, a joint venture in Singapore, and representatives based in many major U.S. cities. As the business world becomes more environmentally conscious, Canvas Systems is seeing its business continue to grow. "We were green before green was cool," Easton says.
What equipment the company can't refurbish, Canvas Systems sends to be recycled down to its basic components. "We follow it all the way downstream to make sure it's being reused or disposed of responsibly," Easton says. "We make sure we're not contributing to rivers of molten plastic anywhere in the world."
Even a downturn in the economy hasn't been all that bad for Canvas Systems. "We have gained some business because people want alternate channels to buy or lease less expensive hardware as well as save money on services," says Easton's partner, Flachbarth. "We have also built a growing services business around the data center, including hardware maintenance, disaster recovery, rentals, leasing and data erasure."
With more than 100,000 square feet of storage space in its Norcross facility, the company carries more than $100 million worth of equipment by such manufacturers as IBM, Cisco, HP, Intel, and Sun Microsystems that can be shipped overnight to more than 70 countries.
It also employs teams of certified engineers who are able to fix all types of hardware for clients when the need arises. "Don't let the Hawaiian shirts fool you. These guys are great engineers and their expertise is second to none," says Easton.
He and Flachbarth both entered the computer equipment field soon after graduation. While the two only briefly crossed paths during college, they were both recruited by the same company to work in roles involving the buying and selling of hardware and management of vendor relationships.
When that company began moving in a different direction, they decided to strike out on their own. They both now specialize in sales as co-owners of Canvas Systems and several subsidiary businesses, including Optimus Solutions, Corus 60, and IT Financial Solutions.
A native of Atlanta, Easton initially explored engineering at Georgia Tech but soon discovered that the management major better suited his interests and goals. "I really found my niche in the Scheller College of Business and thrived in that environment," Easton says. "It really prepared me for the business world and especially sales, where it takes a competitive edge to survive."
Because of the Scheller College of Business's strength at developing business leaders possessing both technological and managerial know-how, Canvas Systems regularly recruits at the business school as well as the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering. The company is also an active partner in the Co-op program for Georgia Tech students.
"We love to hire Georgia Tech graduates," says Easton. "Over the years, we have hired more than 50 employees from Tech."