Category: News Stories

concept3D adding new dimensions to design

Concept3DBOULDER — Sometimes a great business plan is to follow the smartest people you know in the industry, and in the tech industry who’s smarter than Google?

While Oliver Davis’ business plan has progressed substantially, including a major product launch on June 16, that was pretty much what he was thinking when he founded concept3D.

That business plan began in 2006 when Google acquired Boulder’s wildly successful SketchUp, a three-dimensional modeling computer program for a wide range of drawing applications such as architecture, interior design, civil and mechanical engineering, film and video-game design. Google Earth was just getting off the ground and Davis figured on partnering with the tech giant to create 3-D worlds.

“It was evident that there were no companies doing that,” said Davis, the company’s chief executive. “Our roots are really in SketchUp, and we built Google Earth models. From there we did a lot of work on the Beijing Olympics (in 2008) and a lot of work for South African and European stadiums.”

A services company during its infancy, concept3D still had plenty of steady work early on with offices in Boulder and in Eden Prairie, Minn. Zack Mertz, who was the lead trainer for SketchUp prior to the Google acquisition, was the company’s first hire and runs the Minnesota office as vice president for design and production.

A sample rendering of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., demonstrates the full depth of the atlas3D platform.

A sample rendering of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., demonstrates the full depth of the atlas3D platform.

“Then Disney came along and we started creating campus models,” Davis said. “We were contacted by Boston University (for a campuswide model). We had done some research in ways to make maps and 3D information more accessible, and that was the beginning of our CampusBird software.”

CampusBird, the company’s first product line, provides interactive maps and virtual tours to enrich online visitor experience — and presumably to enhance school enrollment. The company has sold the software to more than 250 universities, colleges and independent schools, but most of the 3-D imagery and mapping, which grew to include facility management services, was created by concept3D staff — meaning there was still quite a lot of reliance on the professional-services business model.

But a number of potential clients also were looking at the CampusBird model and wondering why concept3D wasn’t servicing their industries. One of those was the convention business, which has been using interactive mobile apps with maps to serve its guests, but really needed a more top-to-bottom software solution.

That solution, from Davis’ perspective, is the recently released atlas3D, which he said serves all elements of convention marketing and sales, as well as the exhibitors and guests. “Frankly, there are a lot of applications that work well enough for the guests,” he said.

For one thing, atlas3D addresses interior spaces much in the same way that CampusBird does outdoor spaces and visitation. That allows space planning by the owner or manager of the facility, as well as the host of the convention; marketing and sales by the convention planner, including online sales of specific convention areas; and planning and pricing for participants in the convention.

To top it off, atlas3D largely functions like a content-management website, allowing managers to add content and events, and rapidly change additional locations for specific conventions.

“The sky’s the limit on how much content and how many locations a planner can add,” Davis said. “They can choose what is shared publically or privately, and up to 60 people can be using the application” with specific access to areas they can change.

While conventions are a good example of how robust the atlas3D software can be, Davis said a number of other users have embraced the system in the year before its official release. One is a vacation area in Martha’s Vineyard, and a number of retirement communities already are on board, as well.

“We built atlas3D to provide a competitive edge for any location or facility looking to engage visitors online and promote their space,” said Davis in a prepared statement.

“There is no better way to give visitors, guests and customers an experience that allows them to explore and request more information or make a decision on the spot,” he said. “The atlas3D platform provides a set of tools our clients now depend on, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

While moving from a service provider to software product sales sometimes can be financially daunting, Davis said both the CampusBird and atlas3D business sectors will be positive revenue producers this year. The company doesn’t reveal its overall revenue stream, but Davis said revenue has doubled every year for a company looking forward to its 10th anniversary in August.

The company also has high hopes for its simuwatt Energy Auditor software, a cloud-based, tablet and desktop software solution that provides commercial building energy audits while preserving the data to facilitate reporting, portfolio-wide tracking and reuse. While this is the one section of the business that is not producing positive revenues, concept3D has been working with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to provide a commercial product in the simuwatt Energy Auditor.

The business perspective and client list, certainly have rapidly expanded from what might have been more simple aspirations 10 years ago, Davis said.

“We still do work with Google, started out as a Google partner and were featured at Google IO a few years ago,’ he said. “We have a continued relationship with Google, but at the same time we see the need to be map agnostic.”

Flatiron Park warehouse gets new life in Boulder

Real Deals - Flatiron ParkBOULDER — Construction is under way on a 60,000-square-foot renovation of an old warehouse in Flatiron Park in east Boulder that, when completed, will house employees of Penton’s New Hope Network and Sovrn Holdings, two companies already in Boulder.

The building at 5541 Central Ave., owned by Goff Capital Partners LP, will be called The Loading Dock. Designer OZ Architecture is reusing the former warehouse and a loading dock that will serve as an elevated boardwalk that connects to the indoor office.

New Hope Network, which provides services to businesses in the healthy-lifestyle products industry, will move from its downtown headquarters at 1401 Pearl St. and occupy 30,000 square feet. Tech firm Sovrn Holdings, which helps publishers grow their businesses on the web, will move from 1750 29th St. and will occupy 30,000 square feet. Both firms will be leasing space.

The renovation is incorporating cross-laminated timber, which is made from engineered wood panels laminated together in alternating directions and has the look of heavy, old-growth lumber. Using cross-laminated timber offers waste reduction and environmental benefits because it is sourced using sustainable forestry practices and the boards are precisely pre-cut, which creates less material waste. The pieces arrive organized and numbered, allowing the building to be assembled on site. The primary structure of The Loading Dock will be erected in about a day.

“The look of CLT has captured our imagination because of its inherent beauty and authenticity, as well as the opportunity to provide a built solution that is sustainable and high performing,” said Amanda Johnson, associate principal at OZ Architecture, which has offices in Boulder, Denver and Colorado Springs.

Joe Anastasi, lead designer on the project and associate at OZ, said the design concept is based on both connection and authenticity.

“We wanted to connect to the existing warehouse and outdoor environment architecturally, but more importantly, we had the opportunity to connect to this local fabric in a transformative way,” he said. “The potential for future development in this office park, the community, Colorado and even nationally required a distinctive solution that highlights an honest use of materials, one that exposed the beautiful structure and unique connections and details.”

To help reinforce this physical connection, a large CLT roof element cantilevers over the main entry and informal gathering deck space highlighted by string lighting above.

The project also is incorporating photovoltaic roof panels, and energy-saving mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

Boulder-based Quinlan Construction Inc. is the general contractor for the project.

Doug Storum can be reached at 303-630-1951, 970-416-7369 or dstorum@bizwestmedia.com.

MergeLane grad BallotReady campaigns to empower voters

BOULDER — The founders of BallotReady came to Boulder in February with the goal of their online voter guide providing comprehensive information on candidates and issues in seven states for this fall’s general election. By the time they graduated from the MergeLane startup accelerator 12 weeks later, they instead were ready to ramp up to 25 states.

BallotReady chief executive Alex Niemczewski said her Chicago-based startup’s time spent in Boulder earlier this year proved invaluable as it related to team development, marketing, scaling and fundraising strategies.

“I could talk about how wonderful they are for hours,” Niemczewski said of MergeLane in a recent phone interview.

Colorado’s importance to BallotReady didn’t end in April. The state is one of just four in which the website is covering primary elections this year as well, testing out strategies ahead of the big rollout this fall.

With Colorado primary ballots due June 28, Colorado voters at no cost can enter their address and party affiliation at ballotready.org and see a list of every candidate running in the primary for every race at the national, state and local levels — all specific to each voter’s individual ballot. From there, voters can find aggregated information on each candidate, ranging from previous experience to endorsements to news to stances on issues. For the general election in the fall, information on ballot measures will be included as well.

BallotReady’s value, Niemczewski said, is particularly in the local races, where candidates for races such as, say, university regents aren’t always as well-known and voters often resort to guessing or leaving portions of their ballot blank.

“We’re pretty inundated with information about the presidential candidates,” she said. “Most people are decided when they show up to vote for president, but they’re not prepared for the rest of the ballot.”

Founded by Niemczewski, Aviva Rosman and Sebastian Ellefson in late 2014, BallotReady partners with the University of Chicago’s nonpartisan Institute of Politics and boasts among its board of advisors David Axelrod, a former adviser to President Obama, and former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

BallotReady covered Chicago’s mayoral runoff election in the spring of 2015, spending about $180 and attracting 400 users. The site already has covered primaries in Illinois, Kentucky and Maryland this year. For the Illinois primary in March, BallotReady attracted 64,000 users, or about 2 percent of overall voter turnout. For the Kentucky primary last month, though, BallotReady officials said usage ballooned to 12 percent of registered voters in the state who accessed the site to view candidate information.

BallotReady still is finalizing which 25 states it will cover this fall, Niemczewski said, with an eye on swing states where races figure to be more hotly contested. General election info will begin going live on the site in September or October.

While other sites such as Ballotpedia and Change Politics offer some form of the same services, Niemczewski said BallotReady aims to set itself apart by covering every candidate on every person’s ballot and providing more comprehensive information. BallotReady users also can set preferences on the issues that matter most to them and compare candidates on those specific topics. The site aims to prevent bias by aggregating information on the web as opposed to providing summaries or recommendations. The site also lists candidates for each race in random order.

Niemczewski said the eventual goal is to “cover every race, every election in every democracy at some point.” Since BallotReady plans to always keep the site free for voters, the company is pre-revenue at this point. Niemczewski said the priority this year is making the site useful for voters, with a deeper dive into making money next year. She said the major avenue for revenue is tapping into the billions of dollars spent on campaigns every year. That could mean selling data on what voters care about in a given district to candidates, elected officials or advocacy groups, or other things such as selling ads or video spots on specific candidates’ profile pages.

MergeLane cofounder Sue Heilbronner said the team of cofounders is what attracted the accelerator to BallotReady first and foremost. But she said the user traction the site has already gained encourages her that the company will find a way to make money.

Funded so far mostly by grants from the National Science Foundation and Knight Foundation, as well as prize money from various pitch contests, Niemczewski said the company has raised about 75 percent of a planned $750,000 seed funding round.

MergeLane, through its discretionary investment fund, has committed a six-figure investment to the round.

“If (the user rate in Kentucky) is the kind of traction they’re seeing in their first month of operation,” Heilbronner said, “we have a high level of confidence that they’re filling a need that will have material business implications.”

Joshua Lindenstein can be reached at 303-630-1943, 970-416-7343 or jlindenstein@bizwestmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joshlindenstein

Help tech-savvy drivers get a charge out of you

didn’t mean to do it. All I meant to do was meet up with a business contact for coffee at the east-end Laughing Goat. They happen to share a space with Green Eyed Motors, a car dealership specializing in low- or no-emission used vehicles. Then I saw it, in all her glacier-white glory: The 2012 Nissan Leaf. An hour later, I found myself filling out paperwork to make her mine.

It made too much sense. At a cost of $10,000, with $1,500 in tax rebates, it will end up costing my business $8,500 plus tax to have a company vehicle for around-town trips. You can easily spend more on a fancy mountain bike. In addition, we are showing a continued commitment to the environment everywhere we go.

The day after picking up the car, my excitement got the best of me and I decided to use it to visit a client in Aurora, a 70-mile round trip. The battery meter said that I have a range of 85 miles on the current charge. No problem.

Before even leaving the city limits of Boulder, my once-mighty 85-mile range estimate had dwindled to 60. Worry began to set in. With a gas vehicle, filling up takes minutes. With an EV, you’re looking at hours to get to full. Upon my arrival at my destination, I began my research to determine how I was going to make it back to Boulder after my appointment. After downloading the PlugShare app on my smartphone — an amazing app, by the way — it became clear to me that the EV charging infrastructure had matured more than I had expected.

All around me was a sea of free charging stations ready to serve me. The app allows the ability to rate each station. Some stations are frequently out of order, while others are solid choices. The rating system goes from one to 10. Some stations can charge a vehicle in 20 minutes, such as the ones at Nissan dealerships. Other charging stations can get you to 100 percent in a few hours.

On this day, due to my tight schedule, I opted for the Nissan dealership’s fast-charging station. After being offered a bottle of water, a cup of coffee, a comfy seat and free wifi, I began to realize that everything will be fine. The need to recharge the car’s batteries gave me a chance to recharge my own batteries. There is a deep lesson there.

The next day, I had to get myself down to Denver again. This time, I prepared the night before by locating the charging stations that were in close proximity to my appointment in Denver. A Whole Foods a few blocks away had two charging stations that would easily charge my car while I visited this client.

Why would Whole Foods decide to give me free electricity? This is like Safeway filling up your car with gas while you shop. It made no sense to me. As it turns out, it only costs 10 to 15 cents per hour to charge an electric car. Considering that I have a hard time leaving Whole Foods without spending at least $50, they might be onto something here. After my appointment, it was no surprise where I bought lunch.

This made me realize that as more EVs join the fleet of customer vehicles, offering free charging is going to bring in those customers. EV owners are younger and wealthier than hybrid-vehicle owners, on average. If you are looking to attract more tech-savvy, affluent customers, give them free electricity.

The cost to purchase and install an EV charging station is about $2,000, depending on how hard it is to get a 220-volt breaker installed at your location. In addition, the county has some rebate programs to trim the cost. It’s a small price to pay to not only walk the sustainability talk but to feed your business bottom line.

Boulder’s tech scene will only keep growing as the Googles of the world eye its beauty. Let’s welcome them to our area (and businesses) with a world-class EV charging infrastructure.

Shaun Oshman is founder and chief executive of iSupportU in Boulder. He can be reached at 303-630-9974 or shaun@isupportu.biz.

BizWest 500 highlights largest, fastest-growing companies

Purchase this new publication by clicking BizWest 500. For a preview of the content, here’s the first page.

Welcome to the BizWest 500, an ambitious undertaking that highlights the largest or fastest-growing companies throughout the Boulder Valley and Northern Colorado (and the highest-paid executives).

This special edition of BizWest aggregates content that previously had been published over a span of many months, but it also represents a dramatic increase in the data that we publish on the region’s largest private- and public-sector employers.

In these pages, you’ll find:

• The Mercury 100 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the Boulder Valley, along with five profiles of interesting companies on the list.

• The Mercury 100 list of the fastest-growing private companies in Northern Colorado, along with five profiles of interesting companies on the list.

• A list of the Top 25 highest-paid executives of public companies.

• A list of the 50 largest public-sector employers, including municipalities, counties, universities, federal laboratories, etc.

• A vastly expanded list of the region’s largest employers — 200 companies listed, compared with 50 published last year.

• A list of the largest publicly traded companies based in our region. (We’ve stretched this a bit, opting to include a handful of companies that have shifted their headquarters to the Denver area or other nearby cities, but which retain a significant presence in our region.)

All told, these lists represent the largest number of ranked lists we’ve ever published in one issue, outside of our annual Book of Lists publication.

Most companies cited in these lists responded to our surveys. Others are included based on BizWest estimates, reports by economic-development agencies, news accounts or other sources. Data for the public companies and highest-paid executives lists came entirely from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

This endeavor represents many months of work by our staff, especially our chief researcher, Chad Collins. As with any undertaking of this magnitude, errors and omissions are likely. In particular, our lists of the largest private-sector and public-sector employers will continue to be refined and expanded. If you’d like to see your company included — or if you spot a mistake or other omission — please contact Chad at ccollins@bizwestmedia.com.

It should be noted that we’ve opted to include aggregated numbers for some employers, such as major health systems, as well as numbers for some of their constituent institutions, i.e., a hospital within the system.

If you have a suggestion for the BizWest 500 next year, please feel free to contact me at the number below.

Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or cwood@bizwestmedia.com.

A seat at the table: Women not well-represented in local boardrooms

Women are still scarce on Colorado public company boards of directors.

Out of the top 27 publicly traded companies based in Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties — or with strong local connections — only a handful have more than 20 percent women on their boards, including Heska Corp., WhiteWave Foods Co., Vail Resorts Inc., Zayo Group Holdings Inc., DigitalGlobe, Inc. and Gaiam Inc., and 12 don’t have any female representation on their boards at all.

Nationwide, the average is 18.8 percent, up from just 14.6 percent in 2011, according to the 2015 Gender Diversity Index issued by 2020 Women on Boards, a nonprofit grassroots campaign that is committed to increasing the percentage of women who serve on company boards to 20 percent or greater by the year 2020.

Forty-five percent of all companies nationwide now have 20 percent or greater women on their board.

The organization tracks progress for women on boards among the Fortune 1000 companies. Of the 842 active U.S. public companies examined, 664 of them earned the group’s “W” designation, meaning they are a winning company that has 20 percent or more board seats filled with female directors. Women gained 75 board seats in 2015, compared with 52 board seats in those companies in 2014, the group found.


“You don’t have to have someone on the board with industry experience. Sometimes it is useful to have someone from outside the industry who doesn’t have lessons to unlearn about that industry’s lore. They bring a fresh perspective.”

Jason Napolitano, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, executive vice president, Heska Corp.


Every sector has seen growth in the numbers of women placed on boards, the report found. The number of companies with zero women on their boards has also decreased to 9 percent from 18 percent in 2011.

The group ranks companies with 11 percent to 19 percent women on their boards as “V” for very close to where they need to be. Companies with only one woman board member are ranked “T” for token. Companies with zero women on their boards receive a “Z” rating.

‘Value inherent in diversity’

The founders of 2020 Women on Boards believe that gender diversity strengthens the U.S. economy.

“Good corporate decision-making requires the ability to hear and consider different points of view, which comes from people who have different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives,” the organization said. “Companies that have women directors and executive officers lead by example. They send a clear message that they value diversity of thought and experience. Advancing women to positions of leadership is smart business.”

Ball Corp., which is the largest publicly traded company in the area with $8.6 billion in revenue in 2014 and 14,500 employees worldwide, has one female director out of nine directors.

In its proxy statement, the company said that its nominating and corporate governance committee “consistently applies the principles of diversity in its consideration of candidates for Board positions. In addition to considering characteristics such as race, gender and national origin, the Committee considers a variety of other characteristics such as business and professional experience, education and skill, all leading to differences of viewpoint and other individual qualities that contribute to Board heterogeneity.”

Heska Corp. topped our list of companies with winning boards of directors. The company, which is headquartered in Loveland, has a six-person board of directors, three of whom are women.

It is the only company out of 27 companies examined that had complete gender equity on its board.

Back of a chair in the board room

Back of a chair in the board room

In its annual proxy statement the company said that its Corporate Governance Committee does not have “an established policy for diversity of Director nominees or appointees. However, we believe diversity is inherent in our approach of seeking high quality individuals with complementary skills to create a group dynamic and decision making process that is even stronger than would be obtained by the mere summation of its individual contributors in isolation.”

Jason Napolitano, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, executive vice president and secretary at Heska Corp., said that his company’s emphasis is on strong board candidates first, bringing people with good business experience.

“We also recognize that there is value inherent in diversity, where you get different perspectives in the room all at once. That often will lead to a sum being greater than a bunch of individuals contributing alone,” he said.

Heska developed a range of blood diagnostic solutions for treating pets. Because the company works closely with veterinarians, it wants to make sure its board reflects that demographic. About 70 percent of veterinarians are women, he said.

“At the board level, it would be nice to have women because, increasingly, our customers are women,” he said.

Zayo aims for 50/50

Public companies across the country have said they don’t have women on their boards because they are involved in industries that women are not attracted to, such as energy and minerals.

“You don’t have to have someone on the board with industry experience,” Napolitano said. “Sometimes it is useful to have someone from outside the industry who doesn’t have lessons to unlearn about that industry’s lore. They bring a fresh perspective.”


“It is not a charitable contribution to the general idea of diversity. The company gets value out of that. Zayo has found we improved our numbers across the diversity spectrum, which has provided value for our company. Our bottom line has improved significantly.”

Jarrod Tisdell, vice president of people, culture and brand, Zayo Group


He added that he “can’t think of any industries where women have been disqualified. It seems to me you should be able to find a woman in any industry.”

Zayo Group Holdings Inc. was another company that beat the average on board gender diversity, with 37.5 percent of its eight directors being women.

Jarrod Tisdell, vice president of people, culture and brand within Zayo Group Holdings in Boulder, said that his company has made a pointed effort in the past year and moving forward to get more diversity on its board of directors and companywide.

Zayo’s goal is to get the company to a 50/50 split on the board and in the company within the next five to 10 years.

It has always been a principle of the company’s CEO, Dan Caruso, but this year the company made the effort to spend money on human capital in the company and outside the company to help it achieve its goals. The company attends women in technology and women in business events to not only recruit good candidates but also to let people know that Zayo is a “place they would want to come work and thrive,” Tisdell said.

From board room to bottom line

Zayo wants to make sure it has people on its board who understand Zayo’s core business and what makes sense for its plans moving forward, but it doesn’t want to limit it to telecom or fiber people. It also wants to include individuals with a broader understanding of financial markets, equity markets and business in general.

In response to companies that say they just can’t find women to hold leadership or director positions, Tisdell said they are “not trying hard enough. …The telecom and technology industry is very heavily male-dominated and it is hard to get the numbers up where we want them to unless we are willing to put resources toward that effort.”

Adding women to leadership and board positions is a value proposition, he said.

“It is not a charitable contribution to the general idea of diversity. The company gets value out of that. Zayo has found we improved our numbers across the diversity spectrum, which has provided value for our company. Our bottom line has improved significantly,” Tisdell said. “People say they have a hard time finding it, but they are not thinking creatively enough or are not willing to put money upfront to get that done.”

Gaiam Inc., headquartered in Louisville, also has 37.5 percent women board members. In its proxy statement, it said that its board of directors reviews and assesses the appropriate skills, experience and background sought for members of the board.

“This assessment of board skills, experience, and background includes numerous diverse factors, such as independence; understanding of and experience in consumer product businesses, technology, finance, and marketing; international experience; age; and gender and ethnic diversity.”

It adds that the company doesn’t expect each director to have the same background, skills or experience but it does expect that “board members will have a diverse portfolio of backgrounds, skills and experiences.”

Large company numbers up

Larger companies do a better job of including women board members, according to 2020 Women on Boards. Since 2011, those numbers have continued to increase. In 2015, 22.9 percent of board seats for the Fortune 100 Index companies were held by women, or about 2.7 women directors per board. Of the Fortune 500 Index companies, 20.1 percent of board seats were held by women or an average of 2.2 women directors per board, the organization found.

In Colorado, which has 23 Fortune 1000 companies, 14.6 percent of those board seats were held by women. Statewide, the Gender Diversity Index was 14.8 percent, up slightly from 14 percent in 2014, according to 2020 Women on Boards.

WomenonBoards_gpx

Is everybody appy? Developers race to meet companies’ mobile ‘app’-etites

BOULDER — Considering a mobile app for your business? The bad news is that you won’t be among the first, and the good news is you won’t be among the first.

Brad Weber, president of Inspiring Apps of Boulder, said his company has been developing mobile apps for the better part of eight years, which was soon after the iPhone was first introduced. From a few early consumer apps his company put on the App Store, his business soon became all about mobile apps.

“It wasn’t that long that small and mid-sized businesses began to come in for apps,” Weber said. “In three or four years, the big corporations were on board.”

Today, Inspiring Apps has 16 employees, about half of them software engineers. The company has designed apps for companies ranging from innovative local startups to corporate giants such as Toyota, Gulfstream, Cisco, Weyerhaeuser and the U.S. Golf Association.

Weber said there really isn’t an industry that doesn’t use mobile apps today, and a typical budget runs from $50,000 to $150,000.

“It’s certainly possible to spend $1 million to get something developed, and it’s a little less possible to get something developed for $20,000,” he said.

But that’s where not getting into the app field early might prove profitable. About half of Inspiring Apps’ workload is for productivity applications — apps that are designed to enable workflow, rather than advertise or entertain. Because of this, the company has developed some turnkey solutions for both iOS and Android devices, including Reps, a presentation software, and Work Crews, which helps schedule and monitor employees out in the field.

According to The Global State of Enterprise Mobility 2016, a survey released April 16 by the Enterprise Mobility Exchange, mobile apps designed to increase productivity accounted for about 72 percent of the apps that will be undertaken by the companies it surveyed this year. Other top reasons to undertake mobile apps, according to the company, included improving customer service, improving operational efficiency, reducing costs and remaining competitive.

Daun Davids is the founder of Sky Woman Technology LLC, a Fort Collins company that started in 2014 and develops applications for Android phones and tablets.

Daun Davids is the founder of Sky Woman Technology LLC, a Fort Collins company that started in 2014 and develops applications for Android phones and tablets. Joel Blocker/For BizWest

The survey, which had no breakdown in the number of companies surveyed or the size of those companies, had some rather brow-raising figures about what is being spent on mobile apps, with more than a quarter of the respondents planning to spent in excess of $1.5 million. However, 29 percent of the respondents said they planned to spend between $250,000 and $500,000 and almost a quarter said they planned to spend less than $250,000.

Native apps — developed in either iOS, Android or (less likely) Windows — are key to productivity-orientated uses. Apps also can be developed in HTML5, which will work on both operating systems, but development here appears to be slipping dramatically.

In Fort Collins, Daun Davids of Sky Woman Technology LLC, said her one-woman firm does a great deal of its work in creating Android apps from existing iPhone technology. A great deal of app development takes place in iOS, even though iPhone only control about 38 percent of the U.S. market, with Android controlling about 59 percent and Windows less than 3 percent.

“Most people start by making an iOS app, but I think Android is the real growing market,” said Davids, who recently started doing mobile development after spending much of her career doing Java.

While many mobile apps are developed on both iOS and Android, Davids said developers have to be aware that users won’t be comfortable seeing the exact same presentation.

“I spend a lot of time explaining to clients that Android users don’t have the same expectations that iPhone users have,” she said. “Android users expect a different look than an iOS app, and the user experience and design part of it is really critical to creating a fundamentally sound app.”

Mobile development is hardly limited to design firms today, however. Cardinal Peak in Lafayette is a contract engineering firm specializing in digital audio and video and Internet of Things (IoT) products and lists clients such as Ball Aerospace, Comcast, DirectTV and Samsung.

Work Crews by Inspiring Apps helps companies with workers in the field, such as construction and landscaping companies, manage scheduling, track logistics and improve customer service.

Work Crews by Inspiring Apps helps companies with workers in the field, such as construction and landscaping companies, manage scheduling, track logistics and improve customer service. Courtesy Inspiring Apps

Today mobile apps are involved in more than half of the engineering jobs coming in the door, said Kevin Courter, director of mobile engineering. Cardinal Peak does native development in both Android and iOS, although he didn’t see one outweighing the other in cases where only one operating system was deployed.

“The key to success in mobile applications is a deep understanding of what our clients’ needs are and the top engineering acumen to meet those needs,” Courter said. “A mobile app is only as good as the service infrastructure behind it.”

App developers said they see interest from almost the entire spectrum of potential clients, although often you do see certain operating systems deployed more in some fields.

For instance, “there’s a lot of app development in medical fields, and they are very much concentrated on iOS development,” Weber said. “But in the beginning, it was almost all iOS.”

Weber said in the beginning his business also did some HTML5 development for entertainment and marketing apps, but today it’s almost entirely native development.

A great deal of mobile development today doesn’t need to be advertised, because it is not consumer facing. For those applications that are consumer facing, it’s gotten a little more difficult to make sure that app can be found.

“Certainly with hundreds of thousands of apps, they aren’t going to find it in the App Store or Google Play,” Weber said. “We work diligently with people on marketing their apps, whether it be in print, broadcast or social media.”

Should any business sector believe that mobile apps are not viable?

“I’m not in the business of telling clients their idea sucks. Look at all the weird ideas that turned out to be huge,” Weber said. “But people do come to us for feedback all the time, and you really need to focus on the execution of their plan.

“There’s a little magic in building a product that people will love, but researching markets and focusing on what customers really want is important.”

Three rules of data backup for business

You come into work on Monday morning to see smoke coming from your office building. Terror immediately enters your heart as you wonder whether your suite has made it. Then you take stock of the assets you might lose. What will you need to have to get things back up and running after a catastrophe such as a fire or theft?

For most businesses, their stored digital information is the most valuable asset. This data is important not just for day-to-day operations, but also in the case of the sale of business. A purchaser will expect all data associated with the business to be intact and backed up.

The standard rule for data backup is called the 3-2-1 rule. Here’s how that looks in practice:

Have at least three copies of your data. This seems a bit silly because what’s the statistical probability of two copies of your data being lost at the same time? The statistical probability of the synchronistic failure of two data sets is 1 in 10,000. The probability of synchronistic failure of three data sets moves that chance to 1 in 1 million. That’s big jump in the chances of you keeping your data safe. In addition to these statistical reasons, three copies of the data help avoid a situation in which all of the data is stored in the same physical location.

Store the copies on two different storage media. If you assume that internal data stored on a RAID array (more than one hard drive in a storage unit) will be safe, you may be disappointed. The chances of all drives in a RAID array failing around the same time is high because they are likely from the same batch of hard drives. Therefore, utilizing an external hard drive, tapes or even DVDs for backups is critical.

Keep one backup copy off site. This strategy is particularly important for catastrophic data recovery. In the event of a fire at an office, there needs to be a copy of the data at another physical location. The restore times for getting that data back over the internet is not as fast as restoring from a local hard drive, but this will unlikely be an issue if the entire building needs to be rebuilt after a fire.

Along with all of these rules is automation. Human beings are flawed. We forget things. Any backup solution should be a “set it and forget it” solution. In addition, the backup application needs to have the ability to send notifications of a failure of a backup. Gone are the days of taking a hard drive home with you to protect your data. The cloud allows for security and redundancy of off-site data backup.

With the loss of hardware, an insurance claim can get you back up and running. Think about backup before you have to. In the world of business, data is hardest to replace. Protect it.

Shaun Oshman is founder and chief executive of iSupportU in Boulder. He can be reached at 303-630-9974 or shaun@isupportu.biz.

CU pair’s aim: Better, cheaper space research

BOULDER — A pair of University of Colorado Boulder researchers have launched a startup company with the aim of reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of conducting experiments in space, thus making such research much more accessible to scientists on Earth.

The hope is that doing so will aid in the fights against pressing issues such as antibiotic resistance by providing a more powerful research platform for testing new drugs and examining how bacteria develop and evolve because of the accelerated effects microgravity tends to have on bacteria.

The Space Research Co. — founded in January 2015 by Christine Fanchiang and Luis Zea — is likely two to three years away from serving its first customer. But the duo got a nice boost of confidence earlier this month from taking third place in the CU New Venture Challenge, a cross-campus business pitch competition for students and faculty that allows the entrepreneurs to work with mentors and hone their business ideas over the course of a few months.

Luis Zea

Zea

Zea earned his doctorate in aerospace engineering from CU last year and currently is a research associate at the school. Fanchiang, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad who worked at Northrup Grumman, is working on her own doctorate in the same field at CU.

“It’s been so helpful coming from an engineering background and not understanding what investors are looking for or what it takes to build a business,” Fanchiang said of the New Venture Challenge.

TRSCo’s model is two-pronged. One aspect is to provide the service of helping scientists get their experiments launched into space, interfacing with NASA to make sure the experiments are being conducted with approved hardware and meet all of the space agency’s requirements. The second aspect is in the hardware that TRSCo is creating.

TRSCo is developing a microfluidics platform in which tiny amounts of fluid would control experiment samples so that the entire experiment can fit on a 3-D printed card the size of a credit card. Those cards would be inserted into a 4-inch, sensor-filled “biocube” that conducts the experiments, gathers results and enables genetic analysis. The cubes also would be capable of transmitting the databack to the scientists on Earth so that they don’t have to wait for the return of their samples months later.

The automation aspect of the biocubes would make life easier for astronauts on the International Space Station, who have limited time and dozens of experiments to conduct.

The decreased size of the experiments also helps significantly reduce costs for scientists. While sending an experiment to space now can cost $250,000 to $1 million depending on complexity, Fanchiang said TRSCo is hoping to bring that cost down to a range of $10,000 to $350,000.

“The smaller you can make these things, the cheaper it is for everybody,” she said.

TRSCo’s service-based model isn’t unlike that of BioServe Space Technologies, a center housed in CU’s engineering school that helps scientists translate experiments into a form that can be easily conducted in space. Both Fanchiang and Zea, in fact, have worked at BioServe during their time at CU, learning how to send science into space. But Fanchiang said BioServe is generally dealing with larger and more complex growth systems that require lots of astronaut time. TRSCo would be focused on experiments looking at genetic changes that require less human involvement.

The size and automation aspects of the biocubes also raise the possibility that TRSCo could send experiments into space that could be conducted somewhere other than the space station. While the ISS is TRSCo’s initial aim, the growing demand for commercial space services means the company conceivably could send experiments to space to be conducted aboard unmanned spacecraft or even to be launched from micro satellites.

“Because we’re automating it, we have a lot of other options besides just the International Space Station,” Fanchiang said.

While the possibilities are exciting, Fanchiang knows her company has a long road ahead. Startup costs have been only about $5,000 so far, but she estimates that it will take $800,000 to get to commercialization, money the company is hoping primarily to pull in from SBIR grants for which it has applied. Contingent upon funding, she said, the goal is to have a prototype by the end of this year and to have hardware launched and on the space station by the end of next year for testing.

“We’re fairly new at this,” Fanchiang said, “so we’re trying to figure out exactly what hardware we need to make it helpful to the scientists.”

Joshua Lindenstein can be reached at 303-630-1943, 970-416-7343 or jlindenstein@bizwestmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joshlindenstein

SuviCa uses undergrads to test cancer drug on the fly

Rack one up for the fruit flies — and the concept of involving undergrads in front-line research, as well.

Both the flies and the students who work with them were instrumental in bringing Boulder biotechnology company SuviCa Inc. roughly $1.5 million in federal funding to develop a treatment for head and neck cancer last fall. The University of Colorado Boulder technology transfer company, headed by Tin Tin Su, its chief science officer and a CU professor, has a drug candidate known now as SVC112 that helps prevent regrowth of cancerous cells following radiation therapy.

While at least a couple years away from any human testing, Su said the money will help the fledgling company develop the drug as far as financially feasible. Su said the Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract from the National Cancer Institute may help get the drug to the beginning of human testing, although certainly other funding would be necessary at that point.

“We would like to keep it as long as possible,” said Su about the company’s first drug candidate. “We still have a lot of work in proof of concept in the lab and in animal models, and we’re hoping to raise money to get there.

“If we get appropriate funding, and the data looks good, I would say about two years (until the drug could begin to be tested on people). That’s an educated guess.”

SVC112 is a small molecule that targets ribosomes, which create proteins inside of cells. Essentially, the researchers hope to inhibit cancerous cells that have been treated by radiation from replicating themselves, a far too common occurrence after radiation treatment.

The drug could have more far-ranging application, as Su said working on neck and head (not brain) cancer was more of a means to an end, as SVC112 and other drug candidates at SuviCa may have more extensive application.

“You don’t hear a lot about it (neck and head cancer) and, because it’s often neglected, patients have greater needs for a new therapy,” Su said. “The specificity (of the cancer) comes less from the drug” and more from a business model suggested by regulatory paths.

The use of fruit flies — or Drosophila melanogaster for those in the know — in medical research is not new, but certainly Su’s approach in bringing in undergraduates to this first phase of potential drug identification is raising some eyebrows.

“That is our first line of attack, and the reason is they (fruit flies) share about 70 percent disease-relevant genes with us,” she said. “They are very easy to manipulate; we can change genes in fruit flies almost at will. It’s cheap and fast.”

Undergraduate evaluation of the fruit fly screening was very much a part of identifying SVC112, and the courses designed by Su for her students have attracted funding by the Howard Hughes Institute to forward the curriculum to reach a larger student population at CU.

“It’s getting a lot of attention,” Su said. “Giving the students hands-on experience in doing front-line research really gives them better perspective than traditional lab work.”

The idea also was crucial in putting together a rather unique and talented SuviCa team, as well. CEO Judy Hemberger, who was co-founder and chief operating officer of Pharmion Corp. prior to its sale to Celgene for $2.9 billion, said the unique screening technique, and its advantages in inexpensively putting drug candidates into the pipeline, initially drew her to the company.

“I’ve probably served on 19 different boards,” said Hemberger, who has more than 30 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, with expertise including clinical development, global regulatory and early commercialization. “When I saw what Tin Tin’s techniques offered, I was on board.”

Today, Hemberger points to a uniquely integrated team of researchers and managers well versed in early drug development as the feature that really makes SuviCa, founded in 2010, really hum.

For instance, Bert Pronk, SuviCa’s vice president for preclinical development who has more than 25 years’ of experience in research and drug development for various oncology indications in academic and industry environments, also was instrumental in developing SVC112. The SuviCa team also includes clinicians and scientists at CU-Boulder, the University of Colorado Cancer Center, CU Anschutz Medical Campus and Colorado State University, several of whom have published a Phase I clinical study (dosage response) on a similar drug inhibiting post-radiation cancer cell growth.

“We’ve always been able to use money very, very effectively,” Hemberger said. “That’s one of the things that brings this team together: the desire to create low-cost, effective cancer treatments.”

Su’s research in her lab at CU-Boulder also may have revealed something many cancer specialists were not aware of, a communication between dying cells and their nearby counterparts. “We still don’t understand how they work,” she said, “but they (appear to) send signals to their neighbors, telling them not to die.”

But Su is hopeful that the current screening process matched with top-end researchers may have a solution.

“We’re building a so-called pipeline,”
she said. “We have other new entrants
at different states and are tweaking
them now.”