From Australia to North Dakota: An Interview with Martin Olsen from eOne

From Australia to North Dakota: An Interview with Martin Olsen from eOne

Written By: Eric Gjerdevig

from October 27, 2015

Eric Gjerdevig (EG): So, how does an accountant from Australia end up owning a software company in Fargo, North Dakota and living here?

Martin Olsen (MO): I studied accounting with a computer minor. I worked for a partner for a few years but then left to start a Microsoft Dynamics GP reselling partner organization in Australia. That was in 2001. We quickly hired a developer and started writing products to differentiate ourselves in the market. That’s how Extender got its start. Our reselling business grew over the following five or six years, but we kept investing on the product side as well. We had the opportunity to sell our consulting practice and were able to keep the product side of our business. That really was the point we went all-in on products. The decision to move to Fargo came later.

EG: The decision to change hemispheres and continents must not have been easy. There can’t be too many Australians who have moved to North Dakota.

MO: The decision to move was really based on the fact that we needed to grow our team here in the U.S. I felt I played an essential part in that strategy but wouldn’t have been as successful doing so remotely. It’s been a lot of fun and was a great business decision. Fargo is a great place to live, and the large Microsoft presence works in our favor. The Fargo area population being closer to 200,000 instead of the five million in Sydney means we go out more. It’s much easier to get around, and it is calmer. There are four other Australians in Fargo, and I know all of them. Talking with fellow Australians is what I miss most.

EG: In regards to the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem, where do you think things are going over the next few years?

MO: The buying process has certainly changed in the small and medium business space. Customers are finding and researching applications on their own. They are more willing to buy small “apps” and to some degree, they are viewed as disposable. These niche applications for things such as timesheets can be bought easily but still need to be integrated or tied into the core Microsoft Dynamics GP application. This represents where we believe eOne can drive significant value to customers: Facilitating this trend through an easy-to-use, configurable integration tool like SmartConnect. Small companies shouldn’t need to employ a developer to make this happen. That’s our goal.

EG: So has Microsoft’s strategy around SmartList Designer or the Microsoft Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Connector hurt your business?

MO: No, those things have a place; options are important. I think of the Connector as “free” like a “free” puppy. The software may be free, but if it takes you months to get up and running, are you really better off? What we are trying to do is add significant value that drives real efficiency. That’s worth the software cost because it saves you time in both the implementation as well as on a go-forward basis.

EG: How do you spend your free time?

MO: I spend time coaching my boys’ soccer teams, golfing, wake surfing Minnesota’s endless lakes. I also love to watch Rugby League and Australian Rules football (I stream them online), and I’m rekindling a teenage passion for the NBA. There are more Australians in the NBA today than ever in history. I’m a little horrified that one of my sons is now playing hockey and the other just started 7th grade “American” football. Not sure how that happened!

EG: Last question: I see there’s a ping-pong table in your office. Who is the office champion?

MO: Let’s put it this way: Everyone is always trying to knock me off the leader board!

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