Tech 12

The following market leaders have been selected as this year's Traverse City Business News' Tech 12 based on their innovation and economic impact, and responses from area business leaders and readers.

What was their 'a-ha' moment? What will be a major technological breakthrough for consumers in 2025? Our region's tech leaders answer these and other questions. Read on with pride of our area's diverse economy…

Constellation Networks Corporation

President: Kristin Grassa

Founded: 2003

Employees: U.S. – 5, Sweden – 2

1. What does your company do?

Constellation Networks provides communications solutions, including voice, data, streaming applications, VOIP and video via satellite to companies worldwide that are limited by infrastructure and/or location. We mainly provide Internet solutions by bundling services and reselling the solutions through a teleport we own in Sweden.

2. Please share your latest company successes/news.

We provide a link for National Geographic in Mogadishu, Botswana at a watering hole called Pete's Pond. A manned video camera overlooks the watering hole and the live video is continuously streamed and available for online viewing at no cost, http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/wildcamafrica/.

We have also been working with Ericsson, a GSM (cellular service) provider, to showcase the possibilities of using satellite for transport of voice and data for several strategic planning meetings of company executives, managers and sales personnel.

We also are discussing providing networking solutions at 11 global locations between Spain and Russia for the upcoming Volvo Ocean Race, the world's premier offshore yachting event.

3. What is the technology trend you're riding/hoping to ride?

Means for communication and access to the Internet is in high demand and only growing as the depth of the web increases, especially with streaming media.

4. What was the 'a-ha' moment, when your company's vision became clear?

The day Constellation was launched. We have a deep-rooted determination to provide personalized customer service to exceed any set expectations.

5. What will be one of the most significant technological or scientific breakthroughs for consumers in 2025?

We can only hope that it is the ability to build, launch, manage and maintain low-cost communications satellites.

eFulfillment Service, Inc.

President: John A. Lindberg

Exec. VP: Jordan J. Lindberg (pictured)

Founded: 2001

Employees: 63

1. What does your company do?

eFulfillment specializes in outsourced order fulfillment, storage, and returns processing services for companies that sell retail products on the Internet. Our clients range from small mom-and-pop home-based retailers to medium-sized online retailers specializing in a wide range of products.

2. Please share your latest company successes/news.

As a company we've never wanted to be all things to all people. As an alternative to that, we've made a real effort as of late to develop partnerships with other companies that provide services to our core client base. We're pleased to announce that one of our more recent partnerships is with Brand Labs in Rochester, Mich. Brand Labs provides design and marketing services for users of the industry-leading Volusion shopping cart platform. We in turn integrate with Volusion through Brand Labs, providing their clients with a way to effortlessly integrate their carts with our outsourced order fulfillment services.

3. What is the technology trend you're riding/hoping to ride?

We're riding many of the mainstream flatteners discussed in Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat," including the proliferating use of outsourcing, offshoring, and supply-chaining; in other words, horizontal collaboration and integration. Technology lies at the heart of all of this – making it possible to plug specialized services like order fulfillment in Michigan together with web development in Bangalore, India, so that even small companies can leverage the power of the Internet to gain competitive advantages on a global scale.

4. What was the 'a-ha' moment, when your company's vision became clear?

Our company's development philosophy has always been fairly simple: Try stuff, and then do more of what works, and less of what doesn't. The fact is that we probably never have had an 'a-ha' moment, but we've had lots of 'duh!' moments. Finding a niche in the global marketplace that you can actually control to some degree is a long, painful process, or it has been for us.

5. What will be one of the most significant technological or scientific breakthroughs for consumers in 2025?

It is really hard to say. I do think that in terms of significance that the areas to watch will be medicine, alternative and renewable energy, web 2.0 technologies as a platform for online collaboration, and – perhaps most importantly – the knowledge market where I think we will see a new paradigm for the delivery of information emerge that will change the way that we think about the form and content of higher education and the costs associated with it.

Electro-Optics Technology Inc.

President: David Scerbak

Founded: 1987

Employees: 33

1. What does your company do?

EOT makes Faraday Isolator components and High Speed photodetectors for high power lasers. Faraday Isolators are one-way light valves that protect a laser from reflections that can damage the laser or otherwise cause it to run unstable. Our photodetectors can change fast laser pulses into electrical currents for light pulses as short as 100 trillionths of a second. These products are used in scientific research and industry.

2. Please share your latest company successes/news.

It is gratifying that high volume markets for laser engraving / cutting / drilling and welding that we have been nurturing for some time are starting to fulfill the potential we saw years ago. We believe this will continue to fuel our growth. These markets are growing fast and are spreading across an increasing customer base.

3. What is the technology trend you're riding/hoping to ride?

We have focused our products to work with high power fiber lasers. Fiber lasers use optical fiber such as is used in the telecom industry to generate and deliver laser light at high power with unprecedented efficiency. Fiber laser revenues continue to grow at a very high rate.

4. What was the 'a-ha' moment, when your company's vision became clear?

EOT started making Faraday Isolators in 1987 in Silicon Valley. At the time we did this out of expediency so that we could land a development contract from a laser company and continue to exist as a company. Early on we saw that Faraday Isolators were only required by near perfect lasers – which, although small at the time, happened to be the fastest-growing segment of the industry with by far the most long-term potential. This was not clearly recognized at the time – which helped us negotiate rights to build and sell these devices ourselves subsequent to the completion of our development contract.

5. What will be one of the most significant technological or scientific breakthroughs for consumers in 2025?

The amazingly small cross sectional size with extreme low loss (and resulting high power capacity) of optical fiber coupled with the absence of any interference from closely spaced neighboring optical fibers leads to a thought. One has to wonder if some day transmission of high power will be via compact optical fiber that can be snaked through secure and/or existing underground conduits rather than high- tension, high-voltage overhead electric lines as are currently used. Rapid efficiency gains in laser sources coupled to such optical fiber seems to plausibly get you two-thirds of the way there by 2025. All that is required is an efficient way of receiving and storing such high power energy transmission, which I believe could happen. Perhaps something crazy like using light power to dissociate ocean salt water into hydrogen (to be stored and delivered as a fuel) and oxygen that could in a roundabout way also desalinate ocean water…?

Hagerty Insurance Inc.

President: McKeel Hagerty, CEO

Founded: 1983

Employees: 379

1. What does your company do?

We are a locally-owned company that provides specialty insurance for collector vehicles and classic wooden boats. We are a highly-automated, data-centric organization.

2. Please share your latest company successes/news.

Hagerty went international two years ago by opening an office in the UK. We continue to grow by double-digits despite a weakening economy and continue to be innovative with our product offerings.

3. What is the technology trend you're riding/hoping to ride?

This isn't so much of a technology trend, but in general people are much more comfortable purchasing services like insurance online, or they will at least research it online prior to purchasing it through an agent or some other intermediary. From an industry standpoint, data mining and data modeling drives most innovation.

4. What was the 'a-ha' moment, when your company's vision became clear?

It has been a long series of "a-ha" moments. Every day when I wake up the mission becomes clearer. I just had another "a-ha" moment last week …stay tuned for more! Okay, I will give you one: Back in 1995 I purchased the web domain Hagerty.com. This is when we realized what the Internet could do, and we have always been far ahead of any of our direct competitors as far as our web technology.

5. What will be one of the most significant technological or scientific breakthroughs for consumers in 2025?

I have some questions pertaining to the year 2025. It is unclear how vehicles will be fueled in 2025, and it is unclear whether we will be able to legally drive without some type of guidance system. On the insurance-industry side, all pricing of risks will be individualized for each consumer, versus standardized risks.

Oneupweb

President, CEO and Founder: Lisa Wehr

Founded: 1996

Employees: 50

1. What does your company do?

Oneupweb has been an innovator in online marketing for more than a decade, creating integrated online marketing plans that include natural search optimization, paid search marketing, conversion improvement, podcast production, social media marketing, media placement and search marketing consultation for in-house marketing teams. The company publishes an award-winning blog and podcast entitled StraightUpSearch.

2. Please share your latest company successes/news.

Oneupweb has recently been recognized for creative excellence in several award competitions. The Business Marketing Association presented Oneupweb with three Pro-Comm Awards, including Best of Division for our electronic newsletter, OneUp Low-Down and our corporate podcast series, One For The Money.

Oneupweb also received an award of excellence for our online marketing blog, StraightUpSearch.com. The American Inhouse Design Awards honored Oneupweb for our Online Marketing Survival Guides and corporate website, OneUpWeb.com. Oneupweb received several Hermes Creative Awards, including a platinum for One For The Money and our Online Marketing Services Brochure. We also received a gold for our Online Marketing Survival Guides and two honorable mentions for OneUp Low-Down and StraightUpSearch.com. And most recently, the Communicator Awards honored Oneupweb with Awards of Distinction for One for the Money, OneUp Low-Down, StraightUpSearch.com and our Online Marketing Services Brochure.

We've added several social media services and a new service that provides consultation for in-house marketing teams.

3. What is the technology trend you're riding/hoping to ride?

Innovation is what makes Oneupweb. It is central to the services we provide, and the atmosphere in which we work and conduct business. And because of this, we're helping to shape an industry. We've developed a leading proprietary tracking technology, ROI trax┬«, and were among the first to develop technology (PodTractor™) to track online audio, video and podcasts.

4. What was the 'a-ha' moment, when your company's vision became clear?

Our vision has been clear pretty much from the start – serve our clients in the ways that will most benefit them, and listen to their needs to define the evolution of our services. In the early days I established small goals and defined how I had to get there – those goals are much bigger now but the drive to meet them is still the same. Oneupweb has been, and will continue to be, a work in progress.

5. What will be one of the most significant technological or scientific breakthroughs for consumers in 2025?

The ability to book hotel rooms, purchase product, download music and more from in-dash devices within our vehicles.

Safety Net

Presidents: Kevin Bozung and Beth Holmes-Bozung

Founded: 2003

Employees: 13

1. What does your company do?

Safety Net is an IT Services firm and Microsoft Gold Certified Partner specializing in core networking infrastructure and managed services (outsourced IT) under the company's Your Net program. Our Software Solutions Group is focused on point of sale solutions for hospitality and retail.

2. Please share your latest company successes/news.

We've added several notable Your Net clients, including Goodwill Industries, Shoreline Fruit, AHSA, RealTourVision, Leelanau Wine Cellars, and some midsized companies downstate. This month we open our first branch office, located in the Detroit area. With this expansion (and more planned), we anticipate the team will continue to grow here in Traverse City, since most user support and even higher-level networking work is handled remotely from our team of certified professionals in the home office.

We've taken steps to establish a Safety Net scholarship for CIS students at NMC, and we've taken on an NMC intern for the summer.

We were honored to be named a Top 10 finalist for the Chamber's 2008 Hagerty Small Business of the Year.

3. What is the technology trend you're riding/hoping to ride?

First, outsourcing IT to services firms. For many small to midsize organizations, it just makes sense. Widespread availability of broadband and advanced monitoring software make it possible. However, in some cases, we work in tandem with an on-site IT manager.

Second, server virutalization. Previously available only to midmarket and larger organizations (due to cost), Microsoft's latest server operating system will include technology that makes it affordable to businesses under 250 employees. This means significantly lower hardware costs, fewer big servers using energy, and better disaster recovery abilities, among other benefits.

One technology trend we have no plans to ride is outsourcing development and support functions overseas. We believe most companies in Michigan want a local partner that is truly local.

4. What was the 'a-ha' moment, when your company's vision became clear?

When we landed our first large Your Net agreement. It put in writing that we are a long-term, trusted partner of that business, which is what a B2B IT provider should be. The client was able to focus on their strategic business goals rather than worry about IT administration and support.

5. What will be one of the most significant technological or scientific breakthroughs for consumers in 2025?

The bigger question is what the technological breakthroughs for businesses will be by then, or even by 2015. Consumer tech may be flashier, but the B2B stuff is our passion.

Salamander Technologies, Inc.

President: Russ Miller

Founded: 2001

Employees: 25

1. What does your company do?

We are the leading provider of personnel accountability systems to track ALL personnel that may be involved in an incident, emergency or disaster: First Responders, Volunteers, or Victims (e.g. patients, evacuees, etc.). Our applications feature high-capacity ID tags (e.g. barcode, RFID, etc.), hand-held computers, wireless local area networks that are deployed in the field, and internet connections to track all personnel "from the tag to the web."

2. Please share your latest company successes/news.

– We deployed our system at Super Bowl XLII where we tracked all First Responders and their equipment over a five-day period.

– We received our largest order today from the City of Houston for tracking evacuees in the event of a major disaster – most likely during a hurricane like they experienced with Katrina.

3. What is the technology trend you're riding/hoping to ride?

The expanded use of automatic identification technologies (e.g. barcoding, smart cards, RFID, etc.) by front-line workers like First Responders.

4. What was the 'a-a' moment, when your company's vision became clear?

We were brainstorming during our early days and used a white board to draw a "what if" system architecture that had four boxes connected:

1. An ID Tag (with barcode)

2. A PDA (hand-held computer to read the tags)

3. A Wireless LAN (to consolidate data at a PC in a command post)

4. An Internet Connection (to display incident data to off-scene agencies)

My partner and I said: "Let's go for it!" And we did.

5. What will be one of the most significant technological or scientific breakthroughs for consumers in 2025?

By 2025 there should be complete convergence between wireless networks and cell phones/internet/GPS devices so that, with permission, consumers could be tracked wherever they are or go. This will allow an array of new services such as setting up a personal profile so that when entering an establishment or business, you will receive special treatment or messages based on your user profile.

Tellurex Corp.

President/Co-Founder: Charles Cauchy

Founded: 1986

Employees: 27

1. What does your company do?

Design and manufacture thermoelectric devices and systems.

2. Please share your latest company successes/news.

Cadillac Escalade Platinum has just introduced their dual hot/cold cupholder which was completely designed here and manufactured in Traverse City. Recently awarded a research and development grant through DoD, DOE and EPA to develop a waste heat harvesting thermoelectric generator.

3. What is the technology trend you're riding/hoping to ride?

Mobile, small heating and cooling and solid state power generation from the micro to macro scale.

4. What was the 'a-ha' moment, when your company's vision became clear?

Clear vision can cause you to see that when there is a fork in the road, you must turn to be successful. In other words, the general vision can remain stable but your focal points must be flexible. There was no single a-ha moment.

5. What will be one of the most significant technological or scientific breakthroughs for consumers in 2025?

Body-powered devices.

Traverse Legal, PLC

President/Founder: Attorney Enrico Schaefer

Founded: 2005

Employees: 7

1. What does your company do?

We are a law firm specializing in Internet law, global online brand protection, cybersquatting, domain name disputes, intellectual property and complex litigation. We are one of the most high-tech law firms in the world, leveraging technology to serve clients from our home base in Traverse City which are located all over the world. Over half of our business is with clients located outside the country. Over half of our business is generated through our various blogs which provide comprehensive niche information about specialized areas of internet law.

2. Please share your latest company successes/news.

We continue to grow, more than doubling our revenue each of the last three years. We have added two partners in the last 12 months, attorneys Mark Clark and Brian Hall. We continue to be internationally recognized for our use of technology as part of a unique business model for law firms focusing on complete transparency to the client, flat fee billing for legal services focused on ROI and our clients' margins, and a completely digital (and therefore green) internal business process.

3. What is the technology trend you're riding/hoping to ride?

There are several trends that Traverse Legal has leveraged to its advantage as it generates business from the Internet and services clients using the latest and most innovative technologies. Traverse Legal generates "best-in-breed" content within its niche practice areas and dominates the search results delivered by Google when people search for "cybersquatting attorney."

Traverse Legal has also tapped into the social networking sites such as LinkedIn.com, pligg sites such as domaining.com and other community-focused web sites which bring both purveyors of services and potential customers seeking services within niche areas into a community-based framework.

Finally, we continue to dedicate our firm to the digital lifestyle, which allows attorneys, staff members and clients to have complete access to their file, comprehensive documentation concerning the matter and the latest collaboration tools available on the Internet. Our lawyers are able to access information and participate in virtually every aspect of a matter no matter where they are located.

4. What was the 'a-ha' moment, when your company's vision became clear?

The 'a-ha' moment for Traverse Legal was the realization that end-users were ready to access and engage with technology in ways far beyond receiving and sending emails. This occurred in approximately 2005 when the average professional, corporate executive, and a large percentage of the population began "working the web" in sustained and interactive ways. To us, this meant that companies from around the world would use Google to search for attorney specialists within niche practice areas, would be willing to engage in an online cases management system which allowed them to see their entire matter unfold, and, more importantly, actively participate in their case matter. This shift in end-user abilities and willingness created a tremendous opportunity for Traverse Legal since few law firms globally were willing to create a business model dedicated to online business, transparency and innovative client service models.

5. What will be one of the most significant technological or scientific breakthroughs for consumers in 2025?

By 2025, most professionals and consumers will be "unplugged" from what we now understand to be computers, desktops, laptops and to some degree cellular phones. The ability to interface with data will be ubiquitous and accessible over TCP/IP through virtually any device, appliance, vehicle, etc. Consumers will receive data as a result of voice requests, as opposed to keyboard strokes.

Versus Technology Inc.

President: Henry Tenarvitz

Founded: 1987

Employees: 47

1. What does your company do?

Versus designs, manufactures, installs, and supports VISion, a real-time locating system (RTLS) in wide use throughout healthcare. VISion provides clinicians with the accurate location of people and equipment, helping hospitals to ensure efficiency and patient safety while saving time and money. In addition, VISion allows hospitals to automatically collect and record data, eliminating error-prone data entry.

Because VISion makes it possible to identify interactions among patients, staff, and equipment, it can also be utilized for infection control.

Versus is installed in hundreds of hospitals worldwide, including Munson Medical Center and Mercy Hospital in Grayling.

2. Please share your latest company successes/news.

The Versus infrared (IR) and radio frequency identification (RFID) locating solution was exclusively endorsed by the American Hospital Association (AHA) this past year as part of their patient flow platform. As such, the AHA recommends VISion to hospitals with patient throughput problems such as overcrowding in emergency departments, patients leaving without treatment, long wait times, and poor communication. Another milestone this past year was the successful rollout of our VISion Clinic RTLS module. We recently completed our first VISion Clinic solution for WestSound Orthopaedics, PS in Silverdale, WA, and are currently collaborating with Cleveland Clinic at their Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute to develop and document best practices related to clinic workflows and automation.

We have added seven full-time staff members and completed a building renovation this past winter to accommodate our growth and a new high-tech training classroom.

3. What is the technology trend you're riding/hoping to ride?

Versus is focused on transforming the delivery of healthcare and clinical operations through intuitive technology. A recent market study estimated RTLS sales to increase 29.5 percent annually and reach $9.6 billion by 2012. The use of wireless technologies, such as RTLS, continues to expand, with hospitals leading the way. In fact, HIMSS Analytics, a healthcare information technology consulting arm, points out that patient and equipment tracking systems are one of the top five sectors to grow within healthcare.

4. What was the 'a-ha' moment, when your company's vision became clear?

Versus has always believed in the benefits that we bring to the healthcare industry. It was more about when the industry would discover how much value RTLS brings to the clinical environment and, more importantly, to their processes. We are as much educators as we are industry leaders, but the benefits are clear. The "ah-ha" moments come when clients "get it" and begin thinking of all the new and creative ways that they can apply location information at their facilities.

5. What will be one of the most significant technological or scientific breakthroughs for consumers in 2025?

All healthcare systems seeking to remain profitable will employ some type of automated tracking system by the year 2025. The healthcare industry, along with nearly every other industry, will be subject to "green" regulations. RTLS will become essential to every aspect of healthcare, including dietary and environmental services, in order to improve efficiency, reduce waste, and monitor inventory and utilization. RTLS will ultimately aid hospitals in improving their "green" footprints.

Additionally, RTLS technology will be very pervasive, not only throughout the healthcare industry, but in other markets where automating processes based on location, time, and proximity will enhance operations, decrease expenses, and reduce manual input.

Village Press, Inc.

President: Dave Moore

Founded: 1969

Employees: 90

1. What does your company do?

Locally, Village Press is an industry-leading commercial printing company. Nationally, we are a magazine publisher, owning nine "enthusiast" publications and custom-publishing over 30 titles for other companies and organizations. We have four new publication concepts in various phases of rollout at this time. And, finally, we are the industry leader in fulfillment and customizable printing. While these appear to be disparate businesses, they require significant data management and IT skills, as well as on-site, state-of-the-art conventional and digital printing capabilities. Our web site-to-digital printing technology, called "Brand Central," is unmatched in our industry.

2. Please share your latest company successes/news.

In 2008, so far, we've added Kellogg's, Dean Foods, and BAE Systems as new clients. Locally, we've announced the launch of our new magazine, The 45th. This new publication focuses on wine, food, and leisure for anyone "within a day's drive of 45."

3. What is the technology trend you're riding/hoping to ride?

Information management is the key to our future. In magazines, finding new readers and subscribers – via direct mail and viral marketing – is essential to our success. This requires perpetual "modeling" and direct marketing testing. Our team is really good at this. For our fulfillment customers, managing their data and helping them create continual "learnings" to improve their marketing effectiveness is a sustainable source of competitive advantage.

4. What was the 'a-ha' moment, when your company's vision became clear?

I don't know if there was a single moment. But, I'd urge any businessperson to read "Blue Ocean Strategy" and "All Marketers are Liars." Blue Ocean helped crystallize our strategy and direction for our employees. Liars talks about refining your company's "story" so it fits your customers' and prospects' reality. Some of these insights really helped us refine our marketing and sales approach.

5. What will be one of the most significant technological or scientific breakthroughs for consumers in 2025?

Since I'm not an expert in technology, I'll stay on-track with comments about media trends. In business, information management will provide businesses and consumers with unprecedented opportunities. Newspapers are in big trouble, because they aren't as efficient or fast as the Internet. News magazines have the same problem. "Enthusiast" media, however, will continue to thrive. Whatever we do with our free time – cook, ski, hunt, crochet, collect cars – is where we spend our money. And, when we can't "do" our hobbies, we want to read about them. Information-gathering technologies will help us identify niches, and capitalize on them, at an increasing rate.

WD Web

President: Michael Connors, CEO

Founded: 1996

Employees: 22

1. What does your company do?

We are a total web-based business that started in 1996 with our first site, www.WeddingDetails.com.

WDWeb.com designs sites for small businesses such as newspapers or magazine web sites. And www.MorePhotos.com helps our photographers stand above the competition by offering a marketing, selling, and workflow solution in one service. With thousands of photographers in over 25 countries and five languages, we are a worldwide industry leading software company. Other owned properties are www.partydetails.com, www.professionalphotographysupply.comand www.labimages.com

2. Please share your latest company successes/news.

We just released a fantastic new array of flash templates, which gives our photographers some of the most appealing sites on the market. We also launched our print service with Adobe Photoshop CS-2 and CS-3, giving their users over 15 labs to choose from for their printing needs. This is our second venture with Adobe. We are working on a third.

3. What is the technology trend you're riding/hoping to ride?

Digital imaging has brought many new opportunities to the marketplace for new companies like MorePhotos, and it is changing at a rapid speed – from cameras to the web. We're looking forward to coming up with new ways to head the next big idea.

4. What was the 'a-ha' moment, when your company's vision became clear?

Two big moments come to mind: The first is when we started to make a profit; photo-graphers were succeeding with MorePhotos. The second was when Adobe Photoshop picked us from all of our competition as being the best and made us a partner.

5. What will be one of the most significant technological or scientific breakthroughs for consumers in 2025?

Everything we use will be reused or recycled and I hope that Michigan will become the leader in this for two reasons. We have huge buildings from our car manufacturing heydays, and we have an abundance of talented people ready for the next wave. We need our leaders to give companies like us a little push and great things will happen. BN

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