Marten Davies was employed as a consultant for Dr Ederyn Williams (General Manager of BT’s Information Services division) when he was tasked with setting up an office for TelecomSoft in the United States.
Marten arrived in the US on August 5th 1985 and started the company out of the basement of a rented house on Church Street, Ramsey, New Jersey.
The first few months were literally funded by using an American Express card to buy fax machines, computers, paying for travel costs, and so on. Paul Bader was the first hired employee, tempted away from an educational book publishing company to become National Sales Manager.
The operation had to be set up at some speed, as the newly formed company needed to hit the Christmas market that year. It was therefore incorporated as Firebird Licencees in September ’85. Back in the UK office, John Fletcher burned the midnight oil to get the packaging, advertisements and software compatibility issues sorted for the US products.
The first shipment of products went out on October 8th, just two months since Marten set foot on US soil. Amongst the initial releases were the Commodore 64 and Apple IIe conversions of Elite. The Apple version had to be recalled soon after release when it was discovered that it didn’t work on the Apple IIc (due to the Caps Lock key not being disabled). Thankfully, a swift fix and turnaround remedied the situation.
The company began to expand quite quickly. They migrated from the basement office in New Jersey to a slightly larger lean-to office in a wood yard, but still in New Jersey. Someone was hired to look after the accounts, and various family members were also drafted into various roles.
Rather than hiring a group of Sales people, they decided to hire reps for the entire country, working on commission. The first rep group was Target Marketing, run by Steve Routman.
The first advertisement published in the US was for Elite, with the heading …
20 million Americans are about to become dangerous
The amount of interest the advert generated helped kick-start sales, especially when a major US distributor (Computer Software Services) signed up after seeing it.