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CUTTING EDGE SPECIAL: HIGH TECH IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

DogByte's Greeting-Card Software a Howling Success

March 17, 1997|JENNIFER OLDHAM

Mark Wong wanted to send a note and a few pictures of his dog to an ailing friend, so he jumped on his computer and designed a jazzy get-well package, envelope and all. The letter was such a hit with his friend that he decided to start his own company.

Three years later, Los Angeles-based DogByte Development is nipping at the heels of much larger rivals in the market for greeting card software and other programs that let people create scrapbook pages, T-shirt appliques, labels, even comic strips.

In the brutally competitive consumer software industry, DogByte's sales soared to $2.7 million in 1996, up about 300% from $900,000 in 1995. The privately held firm now employs about 55 workers and 17 outside contractors.

As in so many areas of life, timing was everything for DogByte. Wong, 39, hit on his idea for an easy-to-use greeting card program just as low-cost color printers were becoming commonplace in homes.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday March 24, 1997 Home Edition Business Part D Page 2 Financial Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Photo caption--The caption on the picture of employees at DogByte Development (March 17) misidentified Donna L. Sechrist. She is a director of product management. The caption failed to identify Dereck Wong, DogByte's vice president of sales.

"I wanted to look at nontraditional markets for color printing," he says. "I believe color printers will be like color TVs--by the year 2000 a lot of people will have one."

Indeed, more than 80% of all new printers purchased for the home in the fourth quarter were color inkjet printers, according to La Jolla-based research firm Computer Intelligence InfoCorp.

To get its products to consumers, DogByte relies on exclusive distribution agreements with Canon Inc. and Avery Dennison Corp. It produces 10 applications--including Stationery Store, Sticker & Label Store, T-Shirt Store and Comic Strip Store--as part of its ColorStore package, which is bundled with other software titles and sold with Canon's color printers.

It also licenses the rights to Stationery Store to Essex Interactive, which packages the application with other titles and sells it to Target and Kmart, and to GT Interactive, which sells it to Wal-Mart. Stationery Store was one of the best-selling personal productivity titles at Toys R Us in November and December, selling 800 units, Wong says.

DogByte's Frame-It--an application released in January that allows users to choose from 2,000 templates to create themed frames and scrapbook pages for their photos--is the first title the company is distributing itself.

DogByte has plenty of well-financed competitors. Micrografx Inc. of Richardson, Texas, has teamed up with American Greeting Cards Corp. to make American Greetings Creatacard Plus, and produced Hallmark Connections Card Studio with Hallmark Cards Inc.

Hallmark chose not to renew its contract with Micrografx last fall, instead joining with Microsoft Corp. to design Microsoft Greetings Workshop.

Those three titles commanded 89% of software sales in the greeting card category in 1996.

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