Corrections or additions?
This story by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on August 12, 1998. All rights reserved.
E-Commerce: Customer Support
Electronic commerce has another player in the Princeton market: A Chicago-based IT consulting firm that partners with IBM has set up at the Office Gallery. Russ Ruggiero says he was brought on board Blackwell Consulting Services to create a new electronic commerce division and web-based customer support for Fortune 100 to Fortune 5000 firms.
"It is based on a completely unique architecture that we have designed in-house, an end-to-end solution with open architecture that incorporates security, scalability, and flexibility," says Ruggiero. Call center technology plus Internet, intranet, extranet, and web development is also available through this office.
Ruggiero claims authorship for the E-commerce program. "I created it," he says. "You take a clean piece of paper and you fill it, whether it is canvas or photography or a computer program." He credits IBM with providing the idea for the architecture. "They had a great input." And he also credits his friend, Merrill Lynch's Tony Pizzi ("who I think is the most brilliant person in the industry") for "a great deal of the knowledge that I have acquired."
The "clean paper" metaphor comes naturally to Ruggiero, a photographer who has shown his work numerous times at eminent venues. His mother was a banker and his father was a technical photography analyst for the motion picture industry. One uncle worked for the Voice of America and another was an internationally known futurist sculptor and painter.
Ruggiero grew up in North Jersey, majored in marketing at Pace (Class of 1981) and did graduate work at New York University. He worked on Wall Street before and during college and in 1995 entered the IT industry. At TotalTel USA he built his understanding of how networks are created, and he was also sales manager and marketing director at Business Evolutions on Route 1 South.
He and his wife (Elizabeth Lerner Ruggiero, a vice president at Merrill Lynch who works for its online operations at 3 Independence Way) have two school-age sons.
"We have created a model that is not just a vertical market -- it can be used for retailers, stockbrokers, financial houses, pharmaceutical and chemical companies, and insurance companies," says Ruggiero. "I've already demoed it to Fortune 15 companies and they feel it does have value. Some of the most respected financial houses have seen the architecture and are impressed."
The E-commerce card payment business is working well for Trintech, a privately-owned firm based in Dublin, Ireland, and Silicon Valley, California (U.S. 1, December 3, 1997). The Princeton office has expanded from eight employees at 101 Poor Farm Road to 16 employees in 4,172 square feet on Independence Way and plans to expand to 6,486 feet.
Trintech is a direct supplier and an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) supplier of card payment software and electronic commerce solutions for bankers and retailers. It has clients in more than 30 countries, has software that works on NT and Unix platforms, and has a full range of E-commerce solutions that comply fully with the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) standards.
These standards involve the issuing of digital authenticity certificates to both the merchant's and the customer's computers, and the encryption of the customer's credit card information. Trintech's product is in use in a number of E-commerce initiatives around the world, including VisaNet, Brazil's virtual mall.
Talk about niche marketing. For three years SimStar Digital Media has the coveted Claritin account, and it has developed one of the most advanced and trafficked sites on the World Wide Web. Claritin is a drug for those with allergies, and if you are an allergy sufferer you can set up your very own personal allergy page. "We'll update it with pollen counts and the your personal allergens," promises Simstar's founder, David Reim.
For healthcare clients, SimStar does digital media design and engineering including Internet, intranet, and CD-ROM products. Reim employs 20 people now and will have 25 or 30 by year-end. He recently moved the firm from 190 Tamarack Circle to the former Carnegie Bank building at 1 Airport Place, opposite Princeton Airport on Route 206.
The oldest of four boys, Reim grew up in California, where his father owned a construction company. An alumnus of the UC San Diego, Class of 1985, he worked for Apple before earning his Wharton MBA and joining Sun Microsystems. "I started this company so I could move back to New Jersey," he says. His wife went to Robert Wood Johnson University of Medicine and Dentistry and is now a pathologist. They have three children under three. "I thought, hey I'll start a company," he says.
All Simstar's business is strictly pharmaceutical, and it concentrates on digital media. With 30 percent of its products delivered via CD-ROM, SimStar works in patient education, (non-branded disease-state education), physician education (new procedure or therapeutic drug), brand promotion (Schering Promotion, the Claritin website), sales force training, and internal systems (intranets -- an Internet-based accident and reporting system, with OSHA requirements, at a cost effective price).
The company name is highly visible to readers of U.S. 1's employment exchange. Reim says he uses U.S. 1 for recruiting ads because the applicants have no illusions about commuting time.
Taking surveys on the Internet will now be easier, say Philip and Paula Berg of Princeton Cybernetics Inc., if you use their new software product, SurveyChef. "I believe it really doesn't have an equivalent on the market right now," says Philip Burg.
He and his wife had one home-based business and have started another to concentrate their efforts on niche software. They are enthusiastic about Survey Chef. "This area is a hotbed of market research organizations and we want them to be aware that we have a product that works on the Internet," says Philip.
A graduate of Princeton University, Philip Berg spent 22 years with Applied Data Research (now Computer Associates) and founded Princeton Commercial Systems, also a home-based business, in 1988. Paula, meanwhile, had also worked for ADR and RCA. Another of the firm's new products is RentControl, aimed at those in the equipment rental business and designed to manage all aspects from reservations and scheduling to inventory and client management. "I think we have a unique niche here," says Berg.
Some people configure their machines to reject Java programs, so software programs that do not have the "browser independent" feature run the risk of having their sample numbers diminished and their results skewed by this rejection.
The Bergs' market research consultant was John Pollack, a faculty member at College of New Jersey. He made sure that the same survey can be administered on paper or on the telephone by a market research interviewer, as well as at a standalone PC, over a network, or on the Internet. Responses can be consolidated with paper surveys and the results crunched both ways. "With Active Server Pages (ASP) technology, responses on the Internet are written to a database that resides in a protected directory on the server, thereby guaranteeing the security of the collected data," says Berg.
No post processing is needed. "Results can be analyzed simply by downloading the database and using Survey Chef's Analyst to produce tabulations, graphs, or cross tabulations," says Berg. The survey can be protected with a password, a single password, or a membership that can only use it once.
"The whole creation of the survey becomes a simple thing with our editor, which is part of the package. You could put together a 10-question survey in the time that it takes you to type up the questions," he claims. Answers are automatically stamped with time, date, and site location.
The survey maker can use a number of question types: pick one answer, pick all answers that apply, pick two to five answers in order of preference, rank all questions, or open-ended questions. It accommodates the skipping of questions due to prior answers.
But does SurveyChef come up with accurate answers? "If you have accepted the premise that the Internet is a good place to be for market research, we believe that with control mechanisms to limit the responses, we have been able to address most of the issues concerning scientific accuracy." He admits that Internet surveys have a built-in bias for people who know how to use the Internet, "but that can be a strength."
InfoFirst doubled its size from 1,100 to 2,250 square feet, expanding into 8 Wall Street, which it uses as a training classroom. It was started by Walter Krieg and Simon Blackwell in late 1995 (http://www.princetoninfo.com/krieg.html) and is now doing training for two systems, MarketWave Hit List, a Web log analysis tool, and SilverStream, a java development tool.
Krieg says InfoFirst wrote the course for MarketWave, and seminars are conducted every other month at the MarketWave's Seattle headquarters. "There seems to be a lot of demand" for the product, he says. "It does span the low-end and the high-end, which is unusual." For high-end, he reports, prices range from $6,000 to $16,000; the simplest Hit List package retails for $295.
This management consulting and system integration firm for Fortune 500 companies is delivering a large data warehouse for Schwab brokers and dealers. It uses multiple tools to provide trading and orders information and empower Schwab management, traders, and compliance groups so they can analyze the Schwab company's performance.
"The brokerage industry is one of the most challenging ones to deliver a data warehouse successfully because of the large volumes of daily data." Some phases have been delivered, says principal Sol Klinger, and he is in the midst of working on the third phase.
Sterling Management Consulting also offers education to both customers and data processing professionals. Courses include data warehousing, database design, project management, disaster recovery, and Internet development.
Sterling's business partners include IBM, HP, Cognos, Deloitte & Touche, and among its customers are IBM, NCR, and Pfizer. "Year 2K-related business is only a small part of the business in contrast to data warehousing and system integration," says Klinger.
Broker Gerry Fennelly located the Roszel Road space, but the firm also retains an office at HQ in Forrestal Village. Of the 34 employees, only five work at Roszel Road, and the rest are at client sites, but the firm has access to a 24-station training room.
Klinger had been a systems consulting manager for IBM in New York and Paramus in the telecommunications, manufacturing, and financial industries in the late 1980s. The company was founded in 1990 and changed its name in 1995. It has 34 consultants and experienced 50 percent growth last year.
Klinger is looking for programmers in C, C++, Unix, and such databases as Oracle and Sybase. "Most of the people we employ live in the 45-50 miles zone," he says. "This is a very good area and this is why we wanted to stay in Princeton."
If someone is working on your Year 2K fixes, you want that person to around when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, 1999. A new home-based computer consulting firm offers just that kind of availability. It talks the talk and walks the walk of a larger firm, yet this brand-new firm consists of two people, husband and wife, Mike and Chris West.
"We pay close attention to the customer's needs -- we don't go out and write software and disappear," says Mike West. The firm designs custom software for divisions of larger companies and small companies. Much of it is database work -- medical billing, inventory management, and database marketing, in Microsoft Access or Oracle. Much of its work is in the Year 2K area and its current assignment is a two-month project for a major oil company.
"The company is new but I have been at this for 10 years," says West. "My wife brings tons of customer service experience. We started our company because techies don't care about the client. We take care of our customer."
The 39-year old Trenton native is the son of a musician and went to Notre Dame High School. His wife is from Brooklyn, and they have children ages 15, 13, and 10. "We hope to be able to add sales and programming staff in the next year. We look at it on the model of an architecture firm where different levels of people are handling different levels of work."
The name is popular. A firm with the web address www.futuresystems.com is in Colorado and does software for trends in cargo management. At one point in the Princeton area Graham Cruikshank had had a similarly named business to do networking.
Nettech Systems Inc., a leading provider of wireless middleware data communications software, has received an equity investment of $3.5 million to help fund such wireless network products as Smart IP, which enables Internet and Intranet applications to run efficiently and reliably over wireless networks without developer modification.
With Smart IP, Nettech extends the reach of wireless data beyond vertical niche markets into mainstream businesses that need mobile access to standard enterprise-wide applications. The money comes from Philadelphia-based Keystone Venture Capital, Illinois-based Greystone Partners, and Princeton's Early Stage Enterprises (ESE).
ESE had made an earlier investment in Nettech, and ESE's Jim Millar was already on the board. He will now be joined by Peter Ligeti of Keystone. Other board members are Boris Fridman, founder, chairman and chief executive officer; R. Barry Borden, president; King Lee, interim chief executive officer of Quarterdeck.
The firm has more than 35,000 subscribers in 450 companies worldwide, and the cash infusion will spur this growth. Smart IP is part of Nettech's wireless middleware product line, InstantRF, a family of software development tools that provide the communication interfaces necessary to wireless-enable applications for the broadest range of networks and operating systems in the growing mobile communications market.
Richard Lipsey sold his sports publishing business, the Sport Guide directory, last spring. He took the money and ran -- not to retire, but to open a sports business Internet site, a pay site that sells market research. "It is a mini Lexis/Nexis, but not in the same dollar volume," says Lipsey (E-mail: Richard@sbrnet.com). He licenses the research from the National Sporting Goods Association and archives nine trade services in what he calls a "glorified clipping service."
He has 3 1/2 years left on his non-compete contract with the buyer of the Sports Guide, the Phoenix, Arizona-based union of Franklin Quest and Stephen Covey's enterprises known as Franklin Covey.
Until then, his next idea is a whopper: a for-free Internet site with each and every match of each and every sport of each and every American college or university.
Yes, colleges have their own sites but he lumps them all together as being tedious, hyped, and fan-oriented. His site, in contrast, would efficiently provide sports results for hundreds of thousands of events. Each participating school would get pages for selling branded goods (tee shirts) and their programs plus links to the school sites.
Lipsey, a 1952 graduate of Wharton with a University of Chicago MBA, spent $100,000 on the database technology for this enterprise but needs an infusion of from $300,000 to $500,000 to enroll the first 300 institutions.
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com -- the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.