Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Startup Weekend Tacoma This Friday


Here are the logistics to this weekend's get together.

Place: Suite 133 on Pacific Avenue

Derek Young and company are graciously hosting this weekend at their location. There sponsorship for these kinds of grassroots development and business efforts should be fully appreciated. They loaned out their digs for the first barcampTacoma and it worked quite well. Given the loose structure of the upcoming weekend, it is good to have had that experience under out belts.


Friday at 6:00pm. Arriving to the suite at 5:15pm or so I will have made my way down from my office at the Institute of Technology to the premises. We will hopefully have a critical mass of interested folks by 6:00pm, which is the official start time.

Saturday: We will start at 9:00am, but you are free to come and go as you please.

At 10:00am I will be going over a business plan template. I have started, ran or advised on boards for tech companies in the double digits, so hopefully I can impart some modicum of wisdom on the topic. Other speakers, a la barcampTacoma will be scheduled during the day.

Sunday: We will play it by ear, but at 11:00am, John Dimmer of the Tacoma Angel Network will be giving a talk on financing.

I anticipate Clint Nelson of startupweekend.org one of the organizers of Startup Weekends will be there Saturday or Sunday, if they are back from New York from a similar event.

And that, my friends is about it.

Hopefully, we will launch a company or product at the end of that time.

How many folks will be there, I don't know. I have gotten email responses from at least one dozen folks so far, so that should make for at least two to three teams.

They first year that the 72 Film Festival ran, I remember hoping for at least three teams and even organized one myself. Twelve teams participated with eleven of them submitting films at the end of the weekend. If we managed half that it would be very cool.

What to bring:

Your enthusiasm. Your ideas. Your strengths and your weaknesses.

A laptop if you have one. Paper and pencils if you don't.

I will bring some water and soft drink from Costco for the offset, but we will be going out for meals and drinks on our own dimes. The official events that we will be exploring for late Summer or Fall have entry costs that cover meals and T-Shirts. I am all over the t-shirt idea but they will need to be an individual or group effort on its own as well.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Vadium Technology - Company Profile Number Three

We in the South Sound almost got to hear from Rod Nicholls, President, Chief Financial Officer and Director of Vadium Technology on an afternoon panel at this years South Sound Technology Conference (SST2010). Unfortunately a company wide issue (mysterious, yes) made his participation impossible. I thought it was a shame not only because I like these guys, but because many of you may have never heard of them.

They provide next generation digital security and privacy solutions utilizing their technology called, AlphaCipher, which is a Digital One-Time Pad (D-OTP) that enables, "secure, dynamic, multi-point communication structures by integrating unbreakable encryption, strong identification and authorization with multi-factor authentication into one easy to use, robust solution". AlphaCipher is part of an application development solution which protects against network and cyber attacks.


Given the stories we hear on an ongoing basis regarding digital based attacks whether on financial institutions, governments or Google, you can easily imagine the value here.

They are a privately held company and are headquartered in Tacoma, Washington, where they were founded in 2001.

The founder and Chairman of the company Wolfgang S. Hammersmith invented the AlphaCipher Encryption System, and developed the current product and associated Key Generation Systems over eighteen years prior to founding the Company itself. His bio includes an amazing array of interests outside his expertise in security including including being a licensed Ship's Master, a licensed Armed Private Investigator and Agency Principal in Washington State, and a helicopter pilot.

Their CEO is José Antonio Ríos who has more than 30 years of international experience and worked in senior executive capacities at multi-national corporations such as Global Crossings, Telefonica, S.A., Hughes Electronics and the Cisneros Group.

Their product suite revolves around their encryption solution, Vadium’s AlphaCipher which they provide an SDK (software development kit)for so that security solutions on networks, PCs, laptops, removable media, wireless and handheld devices can be created.

Specifically they provide:

* File and Folder Encryption with Authentication
* Key Creation and Management
* Custom Applications

I had not heard from them for awhile after the conference and just as I had decided to create a profile on them, a press release came out from the company announcing a sales agent and reseller agreement with Grupo Colvista, the largest government systems integrator in Colombia. This makes sense as a lot of their customers are international.

Internet traffic and e-commerce are growing rapidly across Colombia's highly developed broadband infrastructure. As increasing amounts of sensitive information are digitized by Colombian enterprises and government agencies, there is a rapidly growing need to secure sensitive digital data and communications.

Because of the sensitive work they do, they are keenly aware of international ethics and compliance issues that their company and its employees face, even devoting a section of their website to the issue.

In terms of employment, they have several job openings listed including in sales and software development but the majority were posted a while back. However, the company says it is always interested in "visionary, skilled and enthusiastic team oriented professionals".

No sign of a Twitter account but when I searched for Vadium it produced many tweets in regards to their recent reseller agreement, in several different languages.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ron Kornfeld and the All Important Business Plan

The Entrepreneurship in Technology class got a treat yesterday with the visit and guest lecture by Ron Kornfeld. I met Ron many years ago when he was a fellow board of directors member for the WSA (Now the Washington Technology Industry Association - WTIA). He remained active with new and emerging companies throughout the dot com era and when he was not directly involved with any, he was consulting with them, emphasizing the importance of business planning and helping with ideation (the process of creating new ideas).

I asked him to come speak to my class eight years ago as he was one of the authors who contributed to the text of "Cracking the New E-Conomy" with chapters on that all important business plan. In fact, it was the business planning template that he provided for free from the Normandy Partners web site that the class was using in building out their own plans. It is also the business plan template I will be presenting on at the Startup Weekend Tacoma.

Since then he founded PersonalGrid, a start up that provided a first-of-its-kind consumer web service for sharing, managing, storing, and publishing digital information. He was also co-founder and EVP of Product Strategy at SchoolSoft Corporation, a start up developing the first adaptive web service to teach children in precisely the way that they learn best. He conceived of the innovative initial product plan, product roadmap, and go-to-market strategy. The company has evolved into a tremendous resource for teachers and students based on the efforts of the team who succeeded me.

So after couple of companies and successful exits later, he is back to the consulting field, though now the company is called NimbleSource LLC. According to their about page NimbleSource is describes itself this way:

"Business success is about speed: to market, to revenue, to profitability. Maximizing speed means fault-tolerant planning and agile market management to remove the friction in your business model. At NimbleSource, our principals have decades of experience in business planning, product management, marketing strategy, and sales excellence. We help entrepreneurs turn ideas into opportunities."

The business plan template and the advice provided along with the document are still quite valuable. If you go to the resource page of the site it will provide you access to the document. If that doesn't work go to the resource page and look under business tools.

We still use this template in the class, and will be using it during the Startup Weekend on Jan 29th, 30th and 31st. I have had a number of folks already send me their interest in participating to my gmail account. droid116@gmail.com

Next week I will lay out more on the logistics including a map and directions to Suite133 and some general requirements of what to bring and what to expect.

You may want to take a look at the business plan template in the meantime.

Friday, January 15, 2010

IdentityMine - Company Profile Number Two

IdentityMine was another company in the South Sound that was founded at the onset of the Dot.com meltdown. Headquartered in Tacoma (1015 A Street,Suite 1200) with offices in Seattle, Pleasonton and Hollywood, California and India, it provides a product and service approach to user experience solutions.

Integration of deep technical expertise and rich engaging design through the use of Windows Presentation Foundation, Silverlight, Microsoft Surface and Natural UI technologies set us apart. We facilitate the inevitable convergence of IT, traditional operations and marketing efforts to make a truly memorable and intuitive user experience.

I like that they have a mix of both services and products.

As they describe their services:
IdentityMine offers services that span from very short-timeframe demo application development to full project outsourcing requiring many different disciplines over an extended period of time.

The products are pretty interesting and include "Blendables" a set of tools and components that help in design and development and "Surface Skins" which creates a customized look for a Microsoft Surface Table.

The Blendables products come in three varieties which according to the site is:

- The Essentials Mix is a set of 10 controls which span all aspects of design and development in Windows Presentation Foundation.

- The 3D Mix is a platform for easily creating immersive 3D application experiences in Windows Presentation Foundation.

- The Layout Mix is a set of layouts which leverage the Panels technology used for application and content layout in Windows Presentation Foundation.

If you are interested in learning more the product line has its own web site at www.blendables.com.

The Surface Skins is an extension of a Microsoft product and is a design project described as such: "Our designers work with you to evaluate your location, the function of your Mirosoft Surface and your target audience to create the perfect match."

For a better understanding you can read this 2008 press release which gives an example of what they do. In part it reads:

Hotel 1000, downtown Seattle’s premier luxury destination and a leader in hospitality IT, and IdentityMine, the leader in User Experience, announced today they have partnered to release one of the first customized versions of the latest Microsoft Surface applications. IdentityMine designed, developed and installed the customized applications for Microsoft Surface specifically for Hotel 1000.

I don't have any information on how many employees they have as the spread I found on a Linked-in page was 11-50. However they appear to be quite busy.

According to a post on their blog from last week, they were in New York showing off a new product solution, the IdentityMine Retail Map.
“The IdentityMine Retail Map is another solution in a set of solutions focused on the retail vertical,” said Chad Brown, SVP of Sales and Marketing at IdentityMine. “Recent focus by retailers to increase the enjoyment of the shopping experience has lead to entirely new thinking about user experience (UX). By leveraging our expertise in Microsoft Surface and Windows 7 Touch, IdentityMine is uniquely positioned to create new interactive experiences across multiple physical environments.”

As long as you have Microsoft's Silverlight loaded their web site shows it off nicely. Some examples of their work on this page.


Mark Brown
CEO | President

Chad Brown
Senior Vice President Products & Services

David Meunier
Senior Vice President Operations

David Fitzgerald
Senior Vice President HR & Staffing

They have a blog for Blendables http://www.blendables.com/blogs/

They have a blog for the company IdentityMine http://www.identitymine.com/forward/

Check out their videos on Vimeo http://vimeo.com/identitymine

There is also a Twitter account, but no Tweets to speak of recently. Best to search on the company name.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bootstrapping a Business

"Bootstrapping — the practice of launching a business with personal funds, credit cards, hard work and chutzpah — has long been a catalyst of Silicon Valley's dynamic economy." starts an article by Scott Duke Harris of the San Jose Mercury News. It was carried by the Seattle Times on December 7th and it got me thinking about the nature of entrepreneurship in today's economy.

One of the reasons that comes up frequently when discussing why companies fail is that they did not have enough capital. Often it is the case. But when loans and investment dollars are short on supply and the economy is stagnant at best, there is a requirement to build from the ground up. That is when bootstrapping becomes a more common phenomenon.

You obviously start at a disadvantage and eventually money has to come in from revenue and potentially investors, but the friends-family-self funding stage is where a great deal of groundwork needs to be laid.

Ben Parr of Mashable outlines some of the realities of bootstrapping in his December 8th blog post.

Bootstrapping is the art of building a startup with little to no venture capital. You’re creating your company as leanly, efficiently, and cheaply as possible. Perhaps it’s because you need a viable product before you can obtain investment or because you don’t want to give away 20% of your company to a VC. Regardless, bootstrapping is becoming a more popular option for many entrepreneurs.

Though he mentions that it is becoming a more popular option, the tone does not pull any punches as to the difficulties involved.

However, if you have an interest, join me on the 29th, 30th and 31st of January at Suite133 to discuss bootstrapping, prototyping, business planning and many other tech start up topics. This is an informal event, but it is important to know who can make it and how many may come. You can email me at droid116@gmail.com.

If there is enough interest and the weekend goes well, we will likely be able to land a few sponsors for the next go round and may even be able to involve the folks from StartUp Weekend. If you are interested in what kind of companies could possibly launch from three days worth of exploration and prototyping, check out the list of companies that have successfully launched from their events.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Optic Fusion - Company Profile Number One

When I visited downtown Tacoma around 2000 I was looking to create a hosted application location for a company called Lariat Software. I was hoping to establish it here so that I could eventually transition to running it, allowing me to work near where I lived. There were a number of software and technology companies downtown at the time, so I felt that it wasn't out of the question to establish a business in the technology sector that could succeed. Not only that, but with a huge investment by the city in building out the infrastructure, Tacoma was being touted as America's most wired city. We ended up hosting a server for the media reporting solution at ATG and began testing the waters as to whether a hosted application would work in the emerging opportunities provided by the World Wide Web.

And then in 2001 and particularly after September 11th, the dot.com boom collapsed and the dot.com fever of that had produced so many companies broke, taking down with it companies that never should have existed, as well as many that were solid and held real promise. ATG closed it's Tacoma location, though it was profitable.

Downtown Tacoma appeared to be a ghost town as far as tech companies were concerned.

Yet it was in 2000 when Tacoma native Rick Shanaman founded Optic Fusion with the goal of providing carrier-class colocation and network connectivity to the Tacoma market. Currently the company's President and CEO, and along with John C. Kois (Director of Business Operations), Eric Stockwell (Director of Products and Technology) and Randy Stockwell (Director of Facilities and Construction) they provide a state-of-the art, carrier neutral colocation facilities located in downtown Tacoma at the Perkins Building, and in Seattle at the Westin Building.

There promise as a host and colocation facility is to guarantee 100% uptime to every customer in all of our locations.

As described by their website
Optic Fusion provides solutions for every business with IT infrastructure. From Design to Connectivity, Optic Fusion is the one-stop local solution. Our Design and Build division provides high quality network infrastructure and wiring throughout the region, as well as large project fiber splicing. Our Consulting services leverage the resource of our 24x7 NOC to provide everything from network design, installation, and troubleshooting, to outsourced Help Desk services.

Initially, Optic Fusion also provided web design and development as part of its services in a subsidiary of the company called Dynamics in Design. I imagine that diversification of service provide flexibility during the early 2000's when business was very tough. In early 2006 Dynamics in Design was merged into another standout Tacoma company, Sitecrafting which enabled Optic Fusion to focus on its core customers and business. Companies in the South Sound leveraging each others strengths is a good thing. As evidenced in the example of these two companies again in 2008 when Optic Fusion helped SiteCrafting implement a data center expansion mentioned in this Aug 2009 press release:

SiteCrafting partnered with Tacoma-based Optic Fusion to design the scalable and robust system. The new data center is load balanced with clusters of highly available web and database servers, similar in structure to what Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Google and Amazon use.

When I began working at the Institute of Technology and taught a class called Managing Technical Teams, one of the students asked me for help in finding an internship. I met with Rick and talked about the students and wondered if internship potential existed at the company. The student applied at Optic Fusion and was hired as an intern. He was hired at the end of that internship. With the establishment of the ITS program at the Institute, I imagine there is a possibility for many more over time.

Since the companies inception, it has expanded the data center to twice its size, featuring humidity and temperature controls, back up power and HVAC systems, video surveillance, fire-threat detection and suppression, and secured access. They have expanded into the Westin building in Seattle and continue to man there operations 24 hours a day with Optic Fusion's Technicians.

They also provide consulting and IT outsourcing services for small to medium sized businesses, including help desk services, network design and installation and network troubleshooting.

Optic Fusion's consultants all have the necessary training, certifications, and experience to provide any IT support service. From Microsoft Windows environments, to Unix/Linux/BSD and OSS, to Cisco and HP network devices, we can support any project and problem on any platform.

You can follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/OpticFusion

According to their web site, Optic Fusion is always looking Support Technicians.


During the course of the year I hope to provide a short profile of an average of one Pierce County technology company per week. By years end there should be an ample supply of names and data to help folks who are looking for partners, jobs, internships or the products and services they supply.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Start Up Your Company in Late January

There is a group that is headquartered in Seattle called Startup Weekend. They put on "start up weekends" all around the world and are trying to schedule 50 out of 80 applicants for 2010. Read more about them here.

To get them here in Tacoma by January 29th, 30th and 31st would not be possible.


That doesn't mean we can't take the idea for a dry run. Hey, we organized a 72 film festival in 2006 that is going strong into its fourth year and getting better all the time. Maybe we can do the same for businesses.

For those of you who participated in the Tacoma barcamp, expect the same great networking and do it yourself type of organization.

In fact, it will be held in the same location, through the generous sponsorship of Suite133. Maybe a company or two that comes from the exercise will end up working out of the suite.

The general idea is to bring people of different strengths, ideas and ambitions together for three days, starting on Friday evening. At the end of the weekend, hopefully, companies will launch from the effort.

Paraphrasing how the Startup Weekend folks describe it.

Friday at 6:00PM
Everyone meets at the Suite133 offices and introductions are made. Within the hour people pitch ideas for products, businesses or expound on something they wish personally to pursue.

At 8 o'clock we will self sort into teams based on interests and skill sets with the intention of coming up with a product or company idea. By nine or ten o'clock we break off to groups and either carry on or go home to rest for the next day.

NEXT DAY: On Saturday we meet up by 9:00am and get working on development, prototyping, business plan development and by the afternoon, even some possible coding or web development. Break off and go to lunch at noon.

By six o'clock everyone meets up for a recap of what they are working on and how it is working out. Think refined pitches, but now with prototypes.

By eight, nine or ten: Break for drinks or off to bed.

On Sunday the projects are being developed and even some live web sites are possible. As the Startup folks say, this is "sink or swim time for a weekend launch".

At the end of the day, presentations are made from each company about what did and didn't work. Contact information is exchanged and agreements are made as to what will move the product or company forward.

What else can be expected? Well, I will line up guests where I can. I am trying to arrange for an Angel Investor to come by and talk. Maybe I can get someone from the Tacoma Angel Network. I will see if one of the folks from Startup Weekend wants to visit and gives us some direction for a later event. I would like to see someone from the Amazon or Microsoft cloud computing initiative introduce their services. Maybe the William M Factory folks can introduce the facilities for their new Technology Incubator building. (they have already expressed interest but I would need to schedule it)

At the onset, I will introduce a Business Planning template I use in one of my classes and give a short presentation on how to build out a successful plan.

You don't have to be there for every moment of every day. You can come and go. But if you get passionate about an idea, expect that there won't be enough time in the weekend.

If you are interested, send me an email at droid116@gmail.com.

Hopefully you have seen the press release from the EDB about Infoblox renewing its lease in Tacoma for another six years. Growing from sixty...