TECHNOLOGY:Firm’s new software culls relevant content from the Web

TRAVERSE CITY – Ever wonder just how much time your staff spends surfing the Web at work? Join the crowd. Traverse area software developer, ProMarks, LLC, feels your unease, and offers a solution.

In 1999, the company launched its first turnkey solution for increasing Internet productivity in the office environment. LexMarkers, geared toward the legal profession, is the first on ProMarks’ list of products to help professionals clamoring to find relevant content on the World Wide Web.

Gary Kendra, a practicing attorney with Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer & Weiss, P.C. in Detroit, had the idea for LexMarkers while conducting technology training for lawyers.

“It became apparent that people have a hard time finding resources on the Internet–valuable resources that is. It can be a very big time drain. My goal was to come up with something that was quick and easy to use, so attorneys and staff could spend less time on their networks.”

The result is a database of pre-selected legal, business and government links that users access from their Web browsers’ Favorites or Bookmarks. It contains an intuitive, cascading hierarchy of categories, each “level” more and more specific, and ultimately links to relevant sites.

“A large part of (our work) is filtering tens of thousands of legal Web sites and selecting them based on utility, i.e. separating valuable sites from junk,” said Kendra.

Once he developed the product, Kendra approached Traverse-area entrepreneur, Michael Kittendorf, to help bring it to market. Kittendorf now serves as the company’s COO, and oversees a Traverse City-based staff of developers, Web designers and marketers.

“What really excited me is the need for information it addressed for professional markets,” said Kittendorf, who knew from his own experience in business and in the health care field that, “search engines often serve up more distraction than pertinent information.”

ProMarks’ staff also includes actively practicing legal professionals who continually review sites and determine their applicability to courts, corporate legal departments, law schools and libraries, law offices and solo practitioners.

“What differentiates LexMarkers is that we tried to design a product for everybody, from the judge and senior partner to the paralegal and office administrator,” said Kendra.

Prospective customers often ask how the product differs from Web portals, freely available on the Internet. Unlike portals, LexMarkers is browser-based, residing on users’ desktop or internal network, so speed and ease of use are “noticeably improved,” said Kittendorf. Plus, “LexMarkers offers a better organizational structure that makes it easier to find what you’re looking for,” and content is pre-selected and not influenced by advertising dollars.

Kendra adds that LexMarkers provides general business links and tools, such as online package tracking, virtual phone books, zip code finders and dictionaries–resources that people might not think of looking for on the Web.

LexMarkers’ potential U.S. market is over one million users strong, said Kittendorf. In the health care and general consumer arenas, the potential for additional products is “mind-boggling.”

MedMarkers, an analogous product for healthcare professionals and consumers, is in its final stages, and a dental product is right behind. Other consumer products are in the works, as are Web tools for the development of database-driven Web sites. The tools are being patented and will be marketed to Web developers.

“The tools represent real asset value for the company in the form of intellectual property, which along with the fact that we have real products, separates us from dot-com Internet companies,” said Kittendorf.

As ProMarks raises capital, it will undertake a national marketing campaign for LexMarkers and the other products. Kittendorf is enthusiastic.

“Often at a trade show when we’re demonstrating the product for attendees, they pull out their wallets and buy a copy right there once they see what it will do for them. That’s the fun part, and it keeps the future looking bright for ProMarks.” BN