Case Western Reserve UniversityChief Information Officer Lev Gonickis the man behind the curtain;He spearheaded the launch ofOneCleveland and acts as the go-toguy on a myriad of tech questionsfor the city at large. He sat downwith us to talk about OneCommunity, fads and sexy tech equpiment.
Q: What are you tired of talking about?
A: I get tired of having to convince some in the Cleveland area that [OneCommunity] is more than a kind of passing fad. There are some who are still convinced that the Internet is a passing fad. There is no other alternative for Northeast Ohio than to have an aggressive pursuit of this not-so-passing fad.
Q: What are you not tired of talking about?
A: About innovation and creativity as the only strategy for Cleveland and Northeast Ohio when it comes to its economic future.
Q: What’s the fastest Internet connection you’ve ever been on?
A: On my machine it’s one gig per second. Even in this environment — the free, wireless Internet in University Circle — you have 54 megabits per second, which is probably 15 times faster than what you have at home.
Q: If you were a part of an ultra-broadband network, what part would you be?
A: I would think of myself as a router. Not because it’s a particularly sexy piece of equipment, but a router is the heart and soul, has the ability to connect people to each other.
Cell-based-therapy company located in the BioEnterprise Incubator, 11100 Cedar Road Cleveland. It aims to generate new blood cells in muscles and tissues damaged from a stroke or heart disease. Arteriocyte was the first spin-off from Case’s Stem Cell Research Center, and was one of the first in the nation to complete a human clinical trial of placing mature stem cells into damaged tissue to foster healing.
IT support company located at 1250 Old River Road Cleveland that provides non-profits and public agencies from Arizona to Pennsylvania with IT service and support. “PerceptIS actually grew out of a need that Case had in providing cost-effective IT support services to various campus populations,” says Edward Neelley, executive vice president of marketing and sales. In its last fiscal year it logged $18 million in sales.
Internet-content-management firm in downtown Cleveland, 1940 E. 6th St. It provides institutions of higher learning and high schools as far away as the United Kingdom with Web site development and maintenance services. Campus EAI launched, and fully funds, NorTech Innovation Award winner Open Student Television Network. “Every viewer learns that OSTN is located in Cleveland,” says Prashant Chopra, Campus EAI chief architect.
Here and Now
These companies have made Northeast Ohio their home, but the world is their oyster.
By Joe Frey
For Jeff Rohrs, president of Optiem LLC, Jones Soda Co. is an inspiration. “They have tons of crazy flavors like turkey and mashed potatoes,” he says. “That’s the kind of outside-of-the-box thinking we try to bring to clients.”
Although Optiem originated from the effervescent atmosphere of Web development in 1999, the company is now “media agnostic,” says Rohrs, putting the right media to work after determining how to solve a client’s problem.
When Optiem began building a Web site for a new client, the Ohio Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Foundation (OTUPCF), the designers found that the state-run fund suffered what Rohrs calls a “brand issue;” their acronym was a mouthful. So Optiem suggested the snappier and less clumsy OTPF, and the foundation adopted the new name in mid-2006.
“It’s all about the idea and how it transforms the business,” says Optiem executive vice president Clyde Miles. 1370 W. Sixth St., Third floor, Cleveland; www.optiem.com
“Grow or die” was once the universally adopted business mantra. “The imperative today is change or die,” says Dr. Jim Hill, managing director of the consulting firm Entara Technology Group.
“Failure rates on big information technology initiatives are said to be at four out of five,” Hill says. “Is it because the technology is bad? Is it because the company can’t manage? It’s our argument that the organization side is the failure. Organizational change is hard.”
Entara is leading a project in Indiana designed to tie together the trial courts in all 92 counties. Once Entara shepherds the project to completion, judges and clerks across the state will be able to see all the trial info by court. Although the Indiana project will take approximately seven years to wrap up, Entara doesn’t need to wait until 2009 to find out if it’s a success, Hill says. That the company is signing on other big clients across the country for similar projects is proof enough.
9251 Sprague Road, North Royalton; www.entaratech.com
The Tech Whisperers
Local retailer Carter Lumber wanted to share and analyze same-day sales information across its 280 stores, and slice those reports by district, region and regional president. “They knew it was possible,” says Rainmaker Group president and CEO Chad Symens, but they couldn’t dedicate the manpower to get it done. Rainmaker Group built a custom reporting system tied directly to Carter Lumber’s data systems and delivered it within six weeks. This type of project easily spans between six and 12 months in the data-analysis business, Symens notes.
“A lot of our clients haven’t done anything with their data assets,” he says. “We are trying to get them to think in bigger and more strategic ways — hence the name ‘Rainmaker.’ We have ways of making their data talk.” 2740 Core Ave., Akron; www.rainmakerworks.com
From New York to Singapore, more than 4,000 schools, government agencies and public libraries use software created by Independence-based OverDrive to deliver e-books, solidifying the company as the “epicenter of the digital media business,” says Steve Potash, OverDrive’s President and CEO. Odds are better than 2-to-1 that thee-book you’re reading online is beaming from itswarehouse.
Potash has been crafting his business like a great American novel since 1986. The company has developed software that allows publishers to ensure their works are copyright-protected while at the same time giving consumers access to the media — whether audiobooks or the old-fashioned printed ones — in electronic form.
In practical terms, that means library card-carrying Clevelanders can go to cuyahogalibrary.org and “download thousands of best-selling new books and read them immediately,” explains Potash. 8555 Sweet Valley Drive, Suite N, Cleveland; www.overdrive.com
August 14, 2003 — Blackout Thursday. The day we realized how attached we’ve become to our gizmos, because we were forced to live without them.
Only the electric company can fix a power outage, but over in Hartville, an international organization is going about the business of reducing risk and helping its members cut costs by educating all of them on how best to manage their IT assets.
The International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM, pronounced “eye-tam”) boasts roughly 2,500 member companies in the United States — including a virtual who’s who of Fortune 1,000 organizations — and a handful of others around the globe. The group offers several certification classes for IT professionals interested in improving their companies’ bottom lines. “It’s about running technology like a business instead of a fire station,” says IAITAM president and co-founder Barbara Rembiesa.
IAITAM is doing its part to bolster Cleveland’s technology profile abroad, too. Its fourth annual conference, attended by hundreds of IT professionals from around the world, came to Cleveland in mid-October. “We wanted to showcase Cleveland as a whole,” Rembiesa says. “There are a lot of capable people and businesses here.” 1915A Gingerich St., N.W., Hartville; www.iaitam.org
In a region starving for top talent in high-technology areas — life sciences, software development and engineering — it takes intimate knowledge of the human psyche to land a high-profile difference maker.
Fifteen marathons and three ultra-marathons have reinforced the foundation of Jim Herget’s career as an executive-search consultant. “You get in sort of this Zen zone of altered consciousness,” Herget says of running ultra-distance races. “It’s a tremendously leveling experience.”
Placing executives requires a grounded mindset, too — and empathy. “When you’re approaching technology [executives], you have to understand that they are very much lifestyle-driven,” Herget says. Knowing what the candidate enjoys on his or her off time is paramount.
Most of the 10 to 12 placements James Herget Ltd. organizes each year for are for companies outside of Cleveland, but when he has a chance to land an executive in the region, he starts in Chagrin Falls. Potential executives are drawn to the Rockwellian atmosphere; affordable housing relative to other parts of the country sells our region, too. The biggest potential deal killer? If you don’t treat the spouse as though he or she is the candidate. “They’re not divas,” Herget says, “but they want to be treated with respect.” 4415 Euclid Ave., Suite 306A, Cleveland; (216) 906-4415
There’re Klingons off the starboard bow and the engine room’s givin’ it all she’s got. Sounds like a job for ... lawyers?
Tom Zych, chair ofthe emerging technologies practice at Thompson Hine LLC, and his colleagues want to be the Mr. Spock to an entrepreneur’s Enterprise. “We [should be the] firm a person needs to keep the ship going in the right direction,” Zych says. “The Enterprise would have veered off course if Spock weren’t there.”
Thompson Hine was there in 2004 to assist Case Western Reserve University’s successful spinoff of Arteriocyte, an umbilical stem cell research firm in town that focuses on growing new blood vessels in patients who suffer from insufficient blood flow.
These barristers are hardly Trekkies, though. “We don’t have a small cadre of geek lawyers,” Zych says, noting that the tech lawyers are required to demonstrate expertise in other types of law to meet customer demands. Across all practices, “our goal is to live inside our clients’ expertise,” Zych explains.
3900 Key Center, 127 Public Square, Cleveland; www.thompsonhine.com
Is there anything a computer can’t do? (Maybe give you a hug when you’re feeling blue, but some squad of geeks somewhere is probably working on it.) Now, Cleveland-based InfoTelis is making it easier to dodge long-distance charges: Just use your laptop.
The technology is called Voice-over Internet Protocol — VoIP for short — and Infotelis offers it to small- to mid-sized businesses. “The stigma is that VoIP is [of] poor quality, that it’s not ready for primetime,” says Peter Sandrev, president of Infotelis. “The statistics show that’s not the case.”
A study by Infonetics Research shows that 14 percent of small businesses — notorious for being slow adopters of new technologies — currently use VoIP, and by 2010, that percentage will triple. InfoTelis currently serves approximately 8,000 “phone extensions” throughout the world, and its location on Cleveland’s warp-speed Internet connection make it ideally suited to service growing demand here and abroad. 1228 Euclid Ave., Suite 370, Cleveland; www.infotelis.com