Corrections or additions?
This article by Barbara Fox & Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the August 6, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Who’s Left on Internet Island
HealthAtoZ is one of those Internet companies that
you didn’t think would make it. How could a website go up against
www.WebMD.com and www.DrKoop.com and survive?
But this unlikely survivor of the dotcom downturn is actually expanding.
It’s one of a handful of Princeton area companies doing surprisingly
well at a difficult time and in a difficult market. "Companies
that had $100 million have gone out of business," acknowledges
HealthAtoZ founder Raj Lakhanpal.
Lakhanpal’s company came perilously close to going under last year,
but an investor who had faith in its products came through with a
bridge loan to get it through that rough spot. One of the products
is a healthcare portal that empowers people to manage their health
better and reduce their medical bills.
HealthAtoZ just made a snazzy sale of its portal to the nation’s largest
private employer, General Motors, and United Auto Workers, to set
up a healthcare portal (www.lifesteps.com) that is linked from
the union website and touted in the union’s offline materials. With
20 employees, HealthAtoZ moved in June from 5,000 feet on Cedar Brook
Drive to 6,780 feet at Princeton Park Corporate Center.
It would take $25 million to recreate this company today, Lakhanpal
says, yet his firm has raised just $3 million in investment. The reason
why such a small company has managed to survive and grow, he says,
is because it partnered with its clients to develop products.
Another survival strategy was to be nimble and ready to change. Now
HealthAtoZ is a not only a health information company, but also a
health technology company with turnkey web-based tools and online
"We routinely compete with topline names in online health and
usually we win the contracts," says Lakhanpal. Similarly sized
content providers are Adam and HealthWise, but his company also competes
aggressively with the 800-pound gorillas in this field, such as WebMD
and Mayo Clinic Online, on a case-by-case basis. "We offer a level
of customization of personalized service that our competition cannot
Most competitors sell only plug-and-play packages. "We are one
of the few companies that can custom design a full portal that allows
a client to maintain its brand through every level of the site,"
says Lakhanpal. For a Blue Cross/Blue Shield health plan it set up
a membership key system so the portal is open only to members.
"We are empowering people," says Lakhanpal. "We help companies
empower their employees with timely health information and tools to
manage their health better. Experts in predictive modeling say that
— when someone has a condition such as obesity, diabetes, or heart
disease — early intervention will indeed reduce healthcare costs."
In 1995, when the Internet was just getting started, Lakhanpal (pronounced
lack-ann-pal) started a health website from the basement of his home.
A native of India, he had attended Amritser Medical College, Class
of 1982, had a residency at the Royal College of Surgeons in England,
and trained in emergency medicine at the New York Medical College’s
Metropolitan Hospital and St. Vincent’s Hospital. In 1995 he was working
as associate director of emergency services at Helene Fuld (now Capitol
Health in Trenton).
That first online program, MedConnect, offered advanced training for
medical professionals like himself. MedConnect turned into HealthAtoZ.
At first the HealthAtoZ website was a consumers’ health
portal, but other prestigious names, such as WebMD, took over that
space. So in 1999 the company began to revamp its business plan, but
it was struggling indeed.
Now the public site, www.healthatoz.com, is a not-for-profit site
used as a living/learning laboratory to test various programs. The
new business plan eliminated the advertising sponsorship model and
turned to licensing — web-based tools, content, and online disease
management programs and lifestyle modification programs — to help
companies enhance their own websites. Its customers include HMOs,
employer groups, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, and integrated health
HealthAtoZ’s template portal offers content that can be customized
to focus on a particular company’s needs. If the dominant problem
in a workforce is, for instance, smoking, the page will emphasize
smoking cessation. "Each and every portal is designed significantly
for the client — the opening page plus all of the click-throughs
down to the last page," says Thom Jason, manager of marketing
communications. Pages are usually personalized not by an automatic
translation but by hand. For instance, one client lets members transfer
claims data, such as prescriptions and tests, into their personal
health record. Other clients are following suit.
The material can also be reformatted. One client hospital uses the
articles for its E-mail newsletter. Another hospital, Robert Wood
Johnson at Hamilton, uses HealthAtoZ’s wellness content on its website.
Soon, Lakhanpal hopes, RWJH will also tap HealthAtoZ’s template employer
portal for an outreach program for employees. A third hospital, Freehold-based
CentraState, has not only licensed the content for its website, but
it has also licensed the interactive disease management programs in
diabetes and heart disease to connect patients with their physicians.
The portal’s special advantage is its interactivity — in disease
management programs and personal health records. Instead of online
diaries that are just record keeping — places to write down your
blood pressure and weight — HealthAtoZ comes up with customized
If a patient is tracking blood pressure or blood sugar, his web page
tells him whether certain signs are above or below norm and gives
him steps to bring those signs into line with what is considered to
be healthy. An entry might trigger warnings, ranging from "make
an appointment with your doctor" to "get to a hospital immediately."
So far HealthAtoZ has devised interactive programs for pregnancy,
diabetes, fitness, cardiovascular, obesity, and smoking cessation.
Lakhanpal says HealthAtoZ leads the pack in pushing content to the
user based on an individual’s health risks. For this, it partners
with the University of Michigan health management research center.
The content personalization module bases what the patients see on
an online health risk appraisal. For instance, the web page might
query a user about her fitness habits. Based on her responses —
whether she is experienced in exercising, has just started a fitness
schedule, or is only beginning to think about taking an occasional
walk — the web page comes up with appropriate articles.
If she is on a diet, she can get menus for the day, week, and month.
If she goes off the diet, she can enter exactly what she ate, and
the software will calculate the fat and caloric content so she can
figure out how she can compensate for her indiscretion.
Parents can use their webpage to manage the health of multiple family
members. Doctors’ appointments, medication refills, immunization reminders,
and personal notes — all pop up on the screen.
Just a handful of HealthAtoZ employees have been around from the beginning,
and they include Sue Satwah, director of operations, and Chris Bacher,
creative director. The company hires per-project programmers skilled
in Websphere, XML, Java, and JSP and may be hiring full-timers
soon. The articles are written by six staff writers plus freelancers,
directed by Anita Lewis. Once an article is written and approved,
it is reviewed annually, but is not likely to change just because
a new study has been published. "For the core information to change,
there has to be a lot of different studies done and the experts have
to have a consensus," says Lewis, a former journalist who was
instrumental in helping Johns Hopkins build its Intellihealth site.
"The return on investment for programs in fitness, nutrition,
and smoking cessation are seen as having long term results," says
Lakhanpal. "Employers are particularly interested in these. Hospitals
embrace the disease management programs because they want to be seen
as centers of health and wellness. If you manage a diabetic, an asthmatic,
or a person with heart disease, there is an immediate return on investment."
The company’s low point was December, 2000, about nine months after
the initial dotcom meltdown, and Lakhanpal credits one of the company’s
angel investors, Larry Hollander, with the save. Hollander had sold
his advertising and events planning agency, Expoconsul, to a multinational,
and now has a company called Entreprenurial Management Group. He floated
the crucial loan to HealhAtoZ "because of the product and the
dedication of the management and staff." How much was the loan?
Lakhanpal says it was less than $500,000, and that what was important
was the timing. "If Larry Hollander had not stepped forward, if
he had not given us a loan at that time, we would have been out of
business. We are slowly repaying him back."
— Barbara Fox
Corporate Center, Suite 190, Monmouth Junction 08852. Raj Lakhanpal
MD FACEP, president. 732-422-4110; fax, 732-422-4112. Home page:
Three years ago BAMnet Corporation planned to make its
millions by bringing the Internet to rural America (U.S. 1, March
1, 2000). But as it turned out, rural America wasn’t ready. So this
Internet Service Provider survived by switching to another business
model. Almost by luck, BAMnet was able to unearth a different customer,
its real customer.
BAMnet founder Mike Meighan had thought rural Maine was his target,
because the state’s residents were paying 18 cents to 20 cents a minute
plus a monthly fee. He took out expensive advertisements in Maine
newspapers. "We nearly lost our shirts," says Meighan. He
thinks the farmers just didn’t know enough about the Internet to want
to buy his service in 2000. But New Yorkers did. They had summer homes
in Maine and subscribed year-round to the Maine newspapers. "They
knew that when they went to Maine, they would need us."
"That’s what turned our company around — when we discovered
our customer was the business traveler," says Meighan.
Now BAMnet has thousands of customers all over the United States.
It offers competition to the Internet phone cards sold by Sprint,
AT&T, and by convenience stores such as 7/11.
How it works: From remote areas you can access the Internet using
your cell phone or by plugging your laptop or PDA into a phone line.
Instead of paying 10 cents a minute, you pay 6.5 cents a minute, and
you eliminate several extra charges.
Dial an 800 number, enter the user name and password, and get connected.
One fourth of BAMnet users connect through their cell phones, and
the rest use a PDA or a notebook. Cell phone connections are slow,
about the speed of the old 14.5 modems. Landline connections are about
52k. You can prepay or bill the charges to your home or business phone.
Servers are at multiple locations.
Meighan can’t compete with the companies selling a more expensive
product in advertising dollars, but he is confident he can compete
in value and service. "Five million people who access the Internet
think they have to pay 10 cents a minute," says Meighan. "But
we are offering better service. Convenience stores sell cards with
minutes that expire in 90 days, and they have extra fees. We do not
expire the minutes, and we offer a fair price. We run this as if it
were a phone call in six-second billing commitments. We don’t round
up to the next minute."
"Our biggest growth is in the handheld iPaqs and PDAs and Palm
Pilots. We are one of the only services that works with those,"
he says. "The others have to install software."
Another fast growing market is the trucking industry. Sixty percent
of owner-operated truckers travel with laptops so they can look for
their next load on the Internet. To get to the Web, truckers pay surcharges
at truck stops plus monthly fees. "They turned out to be our best
friends," says Meighan. He has landed some free publicity in trucking
Meighan grew up in Hamilton Square, and his parents
worked on satellites at GE Astro. He was one of Mercer County Community
College’s first architecture majors, and he transferred to Philadelphia’s
Spring Garden College for a four-year architecture degree.
When he graduated in 1988 the job market for architects had hit bottom,
so he started a business helping architects with their computer needs.
"Then I discovered there was a real market for this product,"
he says. He started to build the company in 1995.
Also three years ago, David L. Sobin was just coming on board as CEO
after a long career at Bell Labs and a short but successful career
as an entrepreneur. Sobin earned both his bachelor’s and master’s
degrees from Polytechnic University in Brooklyn in 1972 and from there
went to AT&T’s Bell Labs where he worked his way up to the post of
research director. In the early 1980s his team created a system to
send data at high speeds over phone lines. The equivalent of DSL was
then known as the Central Office Local Area Network (CO-LAN), and
it was used for connecting a computer at home with a computer at a
"When the Internet heated up in the mid ’90s, AT&T owned the DSL
market. I suggested DSL would change the way all of us use the Internet.
I said tens of billions could come of this and that we needed to develop
the next generation. The answer from Rich McGinn, who was to become
Lucent’s CEO, was that `On the information superhighway we view DSL
as a cul de sac and we don’t want to go there.’ They were pushing
fiber to the home and ISDN, which spells `It Still Does Nothing.’
So I quit and took all my people with me."
Sobin and David Hoerl started another company in January, 1996 that
functioned as a division of a now-defunct company, Ariel, which had
gone public in 1995. Ariel funded this Piscataway-based division,
the Communications Systems Group, to the tune of $3.5 million, and
the division prospered. "We went from a cubby hole with cardboard
boxes to building a product in two years. We had the first prototype
of a high speed DSL access multiplexer. We were ready to roll it out.
"We built a world class DSL product, the kind that Lucent would
have built," says Sobin. "In 1998 we sold the division to
New Hampshire-based Fortune 500 multinational company, Cabletron Systems
for $48 million."
The bulk of the money went to Ariel, but the 35 people in the CSG
division also got stock. "They all used their winnings in different
ways. I did OK," says Sobin. As for Ariel, "a year or so later
the money was gone and Ariel was gone." Sobin took a year off
after selling CSG and then joined BAMnet. He declines to say just
how much money he has put into BAMnet. "The company has raised
$500,000 and my contribution is a small percentage of that," he
says. Meanwhile his creation, the DSL Access Multiplexer, was never
used. "Cabletron owns the patents and is not making anything."
Sobin points out with justifiable bitterness that when Lucent decided
that DSL was important after all, it paid a lot of money for another
DSL company. He predicts BAMnet will move further east to the Red
Bank area, closer to Bell Labs. "I need the kind of people I can
recruit in the Holmdel area and they generally don’t want to drive
to the Trenton area," he says.
"The Internet business went south for everyone," sums up Meighan.
"When the money dried up we buckled down and survived it. The
hardest part is reaching the right customers, because advertising
costs significant amounts of money."
— Barbara Fox
Road, Hamilton 08690. David L. Sobin, CEO. 609-631-8356; fax, 609-631-8457.
Home page: www.bamnet.com
Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink. There
are few situations that fit the old saw better than the flood-stage
flow of information coming at every business from every angle. All
of the bulletins, market intelligence, white papers, industry gossip,
test data, and breaking news in the world are nigh onto useless unless
there is some way of organizing it all.
Stepping into the void, Connotate, a maturing start-up out of Rutgers’
computer department, has just started marketing electronic information
agents to pilot information into safe harbors, where it is easy to
access, update, and organize.
Founded by Rutgers professors Tomasz Imielinski, the author of 100
papers and two books on data mining, and by Donald Smith, director
of the university’s laboratory for computer science, the company,
whose first products were in the field of data mining, has offices
on George Street in New Brunswick. Connotate is riding out the anti-Internet
storm, at least in part, because of continued support from its principal
backer, investment house Trautman Wasserman.
The company steamed into the private sector, and away from Rutgers
labs, under the director of Tom Pisello, a serial entrepreneur, in
spring, 2001. In an interview with U.S. 1 at that time, Pisello said
that he thrived on "building a team from the ground up." Staying
around for the long haul is not his style. "Start-ups burn you
out," he said, predicting that he most likely would leave Connotate
before it passed the 50 employee mark.
Navigating in a harsh investment environment, Connotate still has
only 12 employees, but Pisello, who was commuting from Florida to
fill his CEO duties, has departed. His successor, Bruce Molloy, chosen
by Trautman Wasserman to head up the company, says Pisello is "pursuing
So it falls to Molloy to roll out the products — and build up
the marketing machine — that will turn Connotate from a start-up
into a mature company.
Molloy is a graduate of Columbia (Class of 1979), where he studied
physics and music. He studied classical, jazz, and pop, and composed
music for films before starting a computer consulting company. If
you think starting a company is difficult, he says, "try selling
a film score!" Betraying no regrets at his career switch, Molloy
says, with a verbal shrug, "All musicians end up as programmers."
It’s a left brain thing. Besides, in his view, the discipline demanded
of a musical composer is excellent training for the multi-tasking
required of every entrepreneur.
Interested in neural networks and artificial intelligence, Molloy
enjoyed consulting in the field of computer software, but his company,
the Molloy Group, morphed into Top of Mind, "a product company"
in the help desk industry. He grew the company, which was based in
Parsippany, to 60 people before it was sold to ServiceWare in 1998.
He stuck around while ServiceWare went public, and then, payout in
hand, took two years off.
"My wife and I went to Europe," he says. Home again, he spent
a lot of time reading, making music, and pursuing all the interests
that get put on hold during a company launch. "You get burned
out starting a company," he says. "I got recharged."
Ready to go again, he was receptive when Greg Trautman,
a friend who he describes as "a brilliant technologist," asked:
"Do you want to take a look at Connotate?" After working at
the start-up part time, Molloy decided to take the top job.
The company had already developed its data mining software. Such software
is necessary, in large part, because the Internet, like a vast iceberg,
is made up of mountain-size chunks that lie under the surface, undetected
by even the most powerful search engine. Data mining software penetrates
the iceberg, bringing back all the information its human master requests,
even the most deeply hidden shards.
To get the word out about Connotate’s products, Molloy set up a marketing
machine, "did numerous demonstrations over the Web," and worked
on putting the start-up on course for financial success. "At the
end of the ’90s," he observes, "you could buy your way into
markets. But rather than start with a grand vision, we looked at the
marketplace to see what was needed."
One result was sales of the data mining systems to a number of big
companies, including Parsons Brinckerhoff, Direct Energy, Fairchild,
and Synergy. Another was the development of a second family of products,
information agents. These virtual Web scouts not only bring back information,
but they also update it automatically and are capable of presenting
it in organized formats, including charts and spreadsheets.
"Information agents are layered on top of a Web search engine,"
explains Molloy. "They know what things are important and how
to report back. They sit on a website and watch for what’s important."
Depending on what their masters need, the agents can monitor breaking
news, futures prices, energy movements, inventory, drug trial data,
competitors’ marketing programs, or just about anything else. They
have been designed, says Molloy, so that a user, perhaps a researcher
at a pharmaceutical company, a person with no prior training, can
configure them in less than five minutes.
In addition to monitoring websites, the agents can mine, integrate,
and harvest information, presenting it in neat packages. As an example,
Molloy says that a pharma researcher could set up an agent to follow
regulatory proceedings, setting it to look for keywords such as "cancer
treatments," "stage III trials," and "FDA." Upon
finding a report in which the researcher could be interested, the
agent could send it to him automatically via E-mail to his desktop,
laptop, PDA, or cell phone, or could add it to similar information
and build it into a spreadsheet presentation.
Connotate’s products were originally marketed as servers placed in
clients’ facilities. The company is now piloting them as application
service provider (ASP) also. "A lot of companies don’t want additional
software," Molloy has found. The ASP option means that the software
resides on Connotate’s servers and clients merely have to log on to
the Internet to access the tools.
The rising tide of information signals opportunity for those who can
channel it into manageable streams. The potential for the new information
retrieval and organization industry is in the hundreds of billions,
says Molloy. For Connotate, annual sales could be in the hundreds
of millions. Now interviewing programmers, marketers, and salespeople,
he says his company, currently at 12 employees, could well employ
"hundreds." As for its end game, he says an IPO is not out
of the question, but that it is too early to race to the public markets.
Molloy says he is now concentrating on products, client relationships,
and employees. He is righting the ship and getting its navigational
tools in top shape. Taking on a start-up in a climate hostile to all
things Internet has it challenges. They include:
"everything is nebulous. Everything is possible, but nothing is
done." Clearing away the clouds is job one.
wasn’t terrible. It was just getting by," Molloy says. Morale
was not particularly high. "I made major changes in personnel,"
he says. He then spent a lot of time talking to employees about the
company’s vision. "We were involved in constant conversation,"
"When I started," Molloy continues, "everyone was helpful,
but there was skepticism. Now everyone’s psyched."
Now interviewing potential hires, Molloy says there is nothing —
absolutely nothing — that is as important as hiring the right
people. "It’s a lesson I learned from the Molloy Group," he
says. "If you hire the wrong people, it takes so long to correct
the mistake. If you hire the right person, it’s so great. Plug great
people in, and they start to grow the company."
can be myopic," says Molloy. "I got us connected to the real
the company moving forward. Molloy says that when employees could
see that clients were onboard, their level of enthusiasm surged.
Molloy. A successful company is about executing. Connotate is moving
confidently in that direction. Says Molloy, "We have traction."
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
Brunswick 08901. Christian Giarretta, operations director. 732-296-8844;
Three years ago Steve Klenert was preparing to enter
his senior year at Princeton High School and his second year as an
Internet entrepreneur. But instead of joining his classmates in the
rite of passage known as applying to college, he applied his time
and energy to his business, Digital Princeton.
"The web hosting industry was set to peak in 2005 and in my senior
year of high school I had 200 dedicated server clients, friends and
families," says Klenert. "By the time I graduated, the industry
would have been flat. Now I have five Unix administrators that manage
the servers full time in different time zones."
Klenert’s computer career got a jump start when his parents bought
him a Cobol server. "I tore it apart. The next thing, I was hosting
off my DSL line," he says. An early client was his father’s Philadelphia-based
textile company, which manufactures pillows, table runners, and decorative
table cloths (www.weathersfield-ijb.com). His mother is an educational
consultant for foreign college students.
Klenert’s family moved to Princeton from Ridgewood when he was a sophomore
in high school, and he quickly became known as a computer guru. Princeton
High encouraged him to pursue two independent study programs; he set
up a Cisco Academy lab that he co-taught with a faculty member and
the lab has been integrated into the school’s curriculum.
In Klenert’s short career he has also learned Unix administration
and is certified in computer forensics and Cisco networking. He is
working on Linux plus certification and his CISSP (computer information
systems security professional).
Klenert started his business in 1999 as Princeton Home Networks but
sold the rights to that name and began to operate as Digital Princeton
(a web hosting service). Then he opened Digital Providers, a broadband
Internet Service Provider. Both firms supply 24 x 7 support.
Digital Princeton offers web hosting, web design, programming, search
engine submission, search engine optimization, colocation services,
and dedicated servers. "Digital Princeton is rated number one
on six or seven websites for reliability and customer service. We
haven’t gotten one bad mark," he says. To 523 servers he supplies
bandwidth of 135 megabits from several Tier 1 providers. The first
data center is located in Jersey City, and he will be opening a Manhattan-based
colocation facility this month.
Digital Providers was founded when two potential investors expressed
a need for broadband service. For the tri-state market it offers full
or fractional T-1 lines, DSL, and short-term high speed Internet for
current customers for videoconferences or conventions. "We don’t
settle for Tier-2 over-subscribed bandwidth," says Klenert. "Our
custom-build private fiber network has been built from the ground
up using only the best enterprise equipment." So far he has signed
up 25 services, and he has an exclusive three-year contract at Montgomery
Knoll, plus clients at Branchburg Commons and Princeton Business Park
in Rocky Hill.
Together with his parents, the investors own 50 percent of the company,
and Klenert owns 50 percent.
In return for assistance with marketing materials, Klenert has helped
Ken Greenberg, whose ad agency HG Media is in the same building. He
refined Greenberg’s www.shopPrinceton.com, an online directory of
shops and services that promotes shopping and dining in Princeton.
Says Greenberg: "For a young person, Steve is extraordinarily
busy and extraordinarily enterprising — a classic entrepreneur,
a risk-taker, and a mover."
Klenert is pleased with where he finds himself: "Two of my five
Unix administrators just graduated from college and had a very hard
time finding a job. I’m very happy with what I have done so far. I
might be out of college and not have a job and not have any money
either." When he starts at Rider University in September, he will
continue to manage the firm.
— Barbara Fox
Steve Klenert, account manager. 646-486-9829; fax, 609-921-6204. E-mail:
646-486-9285. Home page: www.digitalprinceton.net.
In 2000 Flint Lane was president of Paytrust, a two-year-old
company that was revolutionizing the consumer electronic payment industry.
The following year he left to found yet another company, Factor Systems,
to transform the billing practices of small to medium-sized businesses.
"I thought the opportunity was bigger," says Lane. With 20
employees on Everett Drive, he is doing business as BillTrust and
offers combined paper and electronic invoicing and statement systems.
The flagship product, Complete Billing, automates the billing process
and is described as "the most feature-rich outsourced billing
solution of its kind."
"The traditional E-billing software companies don’t sell to medium-sized
businesses," says Lane. "We come in with a combined paper
and electronic billing to the lower end of the market, those that
send from 1,000 to 100,000 bills per month. Our solution allows them
to migrate to sending E-mails prompting clients to pay their bill
Lane plans to acquire electronic billing clients by first working
with them on their paper bills. Just signed, a contract for the paper
version of the CompleteBilling contract to franchisees of 1-800-Dry-Clean.
Instead of printing invoices and statements in-house, the franchise
owners electronically transmit invoices and statements to Billtrust
for preparation and distribution via the United States Postal Service.
Faster turnaround improves cash flow, says Lane, and billing costs
are reduced, typically by 40 percent.
Once he has set up the paper billing relationship, Lane hopes to migrate
those clients to electronic billing. Each paper bill will contain
a message persuading the customer to go to a website and set up a
payment account to pay by credit card or checking account debit. How
it works: The customer receives E-mail notification that they have
a bill. They go to a website to see a replica of the bill, they click
pay, and the payment instruction would be sent back to the business.
The key to making this work is being able to handle both customers,
the customer who wants to keep on writing paper checks, and the tech-savvy
customer who wants to save time. That was the secret of success for
Paytrust, which pays some bills electronically and some by mail. And
that’s why Lane doesn’t fear competition for BillTrust. Not many companies
have the skill set to work with both the post office and the Internet.
Both Lane and his vice president of R&D, former Paytrust worker Jim
Eichmann, have that knowledge.
A 1988 graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,
Lane and his wife have children ages one, five, and seven. He worked
for Andersen Consulting and Brownstone Solutions before going to Logic
Works in 1995. Lane, Ed McLaughlin, and some of the people they had
worked with at LogicWorks started Secure Electronic Services (doing
business as Paytrust) in 1998. Lane managed the acquisition of a potential
competitor, PayMyBills.com before he left in 2001.
How is Flint’s former company doing? Since he left, Paytrust was acquired
by Metavante and is doing well. It powers the payment services offered
by Citibank and American Express, and last month a New York Times
reporter acknowledged that Paytrust was more comprehensive than competitive
systems from Yahoo, MSN, and Quicken. With a billing center in Sioux
Falls, South Dakota, Paytrust has 50 people on Brunswick Pike.
An occupational hazard for anyone working with E-mail are the spam
detectors, but Lane isn’t worried. "We had the same issues at
Paytrust. Part of our service is to work with the ISPs and the spam
detection programs to make sure the E-mail doesn’t get rejected. If
you alert them as to what your IP address is, and that you are a legitimate
E-mail sender, typically they let all your E-mail through."
His most proud moment: "Inventing the Paytrust service that altered
the bill paying habits of a significant part of the population. We
are trying to do that for businesses now. Mailing is a huge cost center
for them, and anything you can do to reduce cost is beneficial."
50, Princeton Junction 08550. Flint Lane, president. 609-580-0050;
fax, 609-580-0041. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Home page:
Working at Dow Jones on its first interactive CD some
10 years ago, Niki Fielding recalls thinking, "This could be big!
You could build a whole company around this." Soon, along with
fellow Dow Jones employee Mark Feffer, she set out to do just that.
The pair founded United Multimedia in 1995. At just about that time,
Web browsers turned the Internet into a populist tool, easily accessible
to anyone with the dexterity to operate a mouse.
"We were in the right place at the right time," says Fielding,
a new Blackberry owner who remains besotted by the possibilities of
technology. While she and Feffer agreed that the Internet was the
place for a business to be, each wanted to go at it from different
directions. "Mark was interested in content, and I was interested
in marketing," says Fielding. "We were pulling the company
in different directions."
Feffer went on to found Tramp Steamer Media, an interactive publishing
company with offices in Trenton, and Fielding sold the interactive
ad agency to Princeton Partners, where she worked for the next four
years as president of the shop’s interactive division and as its chief
marketing officer. She then started up her own Web consulting and
marketing business, Digital Brand Expressions, a company specializing
in website optimization. At first, her company was virtual, with its
main employees, herself included, working from home.
"The plan was to work from home for two years," says Fielding.
That was 18 months ago. Six months shy of its original estimate, the
young company decided it was time to take the next step. On July 1,
Digital Brand Expressions moved to its first offices, at 4499 Route
27 in Kingston. The change, she says, was occasioned by the shop’s
number of clients — and by their size. Large companies, the business’
main targets, often expect all the trappings of professionalism, including
standalone offices, she says.
At the same time, Fielding, a thoroughly modern, totally wired entrepreneur,
is sticking with the flexibility the Internet Age affords. "Some
employees prefer to work remotely," she says. And that is fine
with her. It also makes sense to continue to rely on freelancers and
on virtual partners, which include the Princeton Internet Group, Newton
Gravity Shift, Dana Communications, and Grafica.
Paradoxically, while Internet, the industry, has whiplashed itself
into last place in the hearts of investors, Internet, the medium,
has become indispensable to companies large and small. "What’s
your URL?" has replaced "Do you have a website?" in business
conversations. At the same time, there is a dawning awareness that
a website is not a one-shot deal. Getting one built is just the beginning.
Digital Brand Expressions has created websites from the ground up,
including one it did for Johnson & Johnson, but most clients, says
Fielding, are loathe to completely scrap what they have — and
most don’t need to.
What many clients do need to do is to chase the Internet Holy Grail
— prominent placement on a search engine. Coming up in the top
10 is the goal. Coming up at number 21 is nearly as bad as not appearing
in a search at all. Every surfer knows this. Most are willing to click
to the second page after typing in a search request, but few have
the patience to go to the third.
What is common knowledge among surfers, however, often eludes marketers,
IT people, and executives. Mistakes that sink them include an over-reliance
on eye-catching graphics. "Search engines love text," says
Fielding. And they don’t read Flash, the language that goes into building
those extravagant, motion-filled pages that introduce many expensive
websites. So, in another paradox, a website that could make searches
exclaim "Wow!" is one they may never see. The solution Fielding
and her team have worked out with a number of clients involves adding
text — but not too much text.
In the tightrope that is the Internet, too little text, containing
too few important keywords, means that a website will never come up
in a search. But too much text, an amount that squeezes out most of
the graphics, means that visitors will find the website unappealing.
"It’s a trade off," says Fielding. "A 100 percent optimized
site could turn off humans." Search engines love text, but humans
like their text liberally laced with pictures.
One thing is sure, the text that appears on a website had better contain
the right words — the words that both humans and search engines
seek. Digital Brand Expressions strives to find these words by listening
carefully to learn just what the company does, and then by having
potential clients describe what it is they want out of the company’s
One recent client, a company that sells stain for decks, described
its products as "deck preservation." Fielding assembled potential
customers, had them search the Internet for deck stain, and found
that fully nine out of 10 members of her test group typed the words
"deck maintenance" into search engine windows. "Marketers
often try to formalize," she says. She encouraged the client to
"take it down a notch." After inserting "maintenance"
in place of "preservation," the client saw Web sales soar.
While results from this tiny change were impressive, the company must
realize that it will neither preserve nor maintain its hits without
constant vigilance. Fielding has clients who sign their websites up
for continual attention. "It’s a very active monthly service,"
she says. "Sometimes once a day." In addition to making sure
that the site is getting its fair share of hits, and that customers
visiting the site continue to find nothing to impede a purchase or
further inquiry, Digital Brand Expressions continually hunts for profitable
"It’s like media relations," says Fielding. It never stops.
Search engines dislike graphics, crave relevant keywords, and are
drawn to websites that other websites link to. For one of her clients,
a company selling stock photographs over the Internet, she puts out
feelers to sites photographers visit. The more respected, busy sites
that can be persuaded that it is in their interest to link with the
stock photo site, the higher its search engine ranking is likely to
Forging these all-important alliances is a chess game with any number
of strategies. Fielding, a graduate of Rider University (Class of
1981), revels in the game, but she is immersed in Internet strategies
at home, too, and enjoys the game a lot less there. Her son, at 8
years of age, shows little interest in the ‘Net. "He’s into video
games," says his mom. But it’s a different story with her 11-year-old
"She’s been begging for a screen name," says Fielding, "but
I’m worried about having her on the Internet without me." Nevertheless,
she knows that the day is coming — fast. "I’m going to have
to break down," she says. In preparing for the leap, she is reading
all she can find about kids and the Internet — including one article
that she found especially chilling. In the article, a policeman wrote
about how he found the home of a 12-year-old girl with whom he had
been chatting on the Internet. While the child, undoubtedly schooled
by her parents in Internet safety, did not reveal her last name, she
did, over time, mention her first name, the state in which she lives,
and the name of her softball team. And that was all the policeman
needed to find her house.
"I drill my daughter," says Fielding. "What information
would you give out?" While she is trying shield her daughter from
the dangers of the Internet, she is happy that the child will soon
be "enjoying the electronic environment." It is a balancing
Another balancing act claiming Fielding’s attention is that of running
a growing business. She expects to be up to 25 employees in the near
future, and to top out a little south of 50 employees. Beginning to
see that she is wearing too many hats, she says, on a perfect, sunny
day near the end of July, that she has been closeted with Monster.com,
trolling for an administrative assistant.
No aspect of the Internet has been easy to predict. It is a good bet
that a mere eight years ago, when she worked on that Dow Jones interactive
CD, Fielding could only have said "huh?" if anyone had predicted
that she would soon be heading up a fast-growing company concentrating
all of its energies on website optimization.
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
08528. Veronica "Niki" Fielding, president. 609-688-8558;
Three years ago, JanMarie Zwiren was at Johnson & Johnson.
Two years ago she was president of Nelson Health Group, which merged
with St. Louis-based HealthTech Solutions. Then the parent of HealthTech
Solutions was bought by Paris-based Publicis Groupe. Now that the
entire Nelson organization has been sold to Publicis, the Princeton
and St. Louis components combined to firm Publicis eHealth Solutions.
Zwiren couldn’t be happier about where she finds herself. Publicis
is now the fourth largest communications company in the world, and
the number one media buyer, and Publicis Healthcare Group is number
one in the world. "I’m with one of the best communications companies
in the world. They are brilliant people," says Zwiren, pointing
to Publicis’ holdings, which include Leo Burnett and Saatchi & Saatchi.
"We have a very strong E-health group. We work with Publicis companies
such as Klemtner, Nelson, and Medicus, and we also have our own clients
— Wyeth, Berlex Laboratories, Aventis, and Abbott Labs."
She has an seven-person office in 4,000 square feet at 182 Nassau
Street, and Renato Cataldo (CEO and CTO) has a staff of two dozen
in St. Louis. Nelson, which was the one of the largest healthcare
agencies in the U.S., had a half dozen other companies in Princeton.
All are now Publicis companies.
Zwiren’s agency handles electronic branding for pharmaceutical companies.
To manage a brand’s digital dialogue of a brand, she uses what is
called the "Hollywood" approach. She creates alliances with
other companies to present a seamless face to the client.
E-marketing is the largest component of her business, she says. But
her goal is to be her clients’ electronic "agency of record"
and help manage all the online marketing efforts. Clients pay by retainer
or on a project basis or both. "We build websites, drive traffic
to websites, ensure patient compliance — we do everything surrounding
the physician and the patient and their interaction," says Zwiren.
For the electronic universe, "everything" includes online
strategy, web presence, search engine marketing, search engine optimization,
E-detailing, E-mail marketing, webcasting, and setting up portals.
It also includes knowledge mapping, which involves tracking opinion
leaders — the speeches they are making, the grants they are getting.
Her group also offers electronic monitoring of patient compliance
through its Patient Education Network. It keeps patients on the medication
and don’t ask if the patients are online, because they are. "For
some therapy areas, such as multiple sclerosis, more than 89 percent
of all patients, teenagers to 65, have a web presence," she says.
What keeps her awake at night? "I look at what a brand is trying
to achieve — what are the competitors currently doing, are they
doing search engine marketing, what is their relative position, what
is their investment in the Internet (banner ads, optimization, E-mail
blast, E-detailing), and what is the patient issue."
"So many times people have tried to put more sales reps down the
funnel when in reality there was so much churn on the patient side
that if you got them to stay on your brand you would have less need
for new sales." Zwiren and her daughter, an international relations
major at Hamilton College, created a foundation, JanAfrica, and have
managed to collect enough grant money to build 20 schools in Africa.
Zwiren and her two sisters (one now a coach, the other a judge) grew
up in their father’s automobile dealership in Dayton, Ohio, and she
graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and has an MBA
from Wharton. She says her father taught her about the motivations
of why people buy. "I was keenly aware of people making purchase
decisions, and that is probably why I went to FIT. I love retail —
the driver of all things. Retail, in the pharmaceutical field, is
the physician. We have to convince many thousands of individual doctors,
each is a retail outlet. It’s me trying to convince them we’ve got
a better product."
To get her first job, she walked into the consumer package group at
SmithKline Beecham. "I wouldn’t leave until they hired me. I called
them every day and finally they gave up." Then she managed marketing,
advertising, and product development program at the consumer product
division of Helene Curtis. In 1982 she founded her own agency and
sold it to N.W. Ayer in 1989. In the early 1990s she was executive
vice president and managing partner at DDB Worldwide/Chicago. In 1997
she joined Johnson & Johnson and managed $1 billion growth in its
consumer and personal care division.
It’s her consumer viewpoint that is her strength, says Zwiren: "The
patient is a consumer. The consumer is a patient. You can’t talk to
somebody like they are just sick, you have to see where you fit in
— Barbara Fox
Suite 302, Princeton 08542. JanMarie Zwiren, president. 609-688-8901;
Alexander "Sandy" Fraser is not your typical
retiree from AT&T. Most people, when they leave AT&T or Lucent, set
themselves up as consultants or entrepreneurs. Fraser — after
an illustrious career, most recently as AT&T’s chief scientist —
has set up a not-for-profit research organization.
Called Fraser Research, it has this mission: to provide research in
science and technology in support of a national communications infrastructure
and to provide support for graduate education in telecommunications.
The organization has moved into 182 Nassau Street, across from Thomas
With 16 patents to his name, Fraser has indeed had a celebrated career
in telecommunications. Two years ago he received IEEE’s Richard W.
Hamming Medal "for pioneering contributions to the architecture
of communication networks through the development of virtual circuit
An aeronautical engineering major at Bristol University, Fraser earned
his PhD at Cambridge University, where he wrote the file system for
the Atlas 2 computer, England’s first time-sharing system. He came
to Bell Labs in 1969, and among his first projects was development
of the cell-based networks that anticipated the development of Asynchronous
Transfer Mode (ATM). He also created the UNIX Circuit Design Aids
System that automatically produced wire-wrap circuit boards from schematic
With collaborators, he invented the Universal Receiver Protocol and
INCON, a cell-based network that operated at two megabits per second
on home telephone wire. By 1994 he was associate vice president for
information science research, focusing on electronic commerce for
digital audio, billing, broadband access and home networks. In 1996,
after AT&T’s divestiture, he set up AT&T Labs Research and then went
back to doing research as AT&T’s Chief Scientist in 1998.
He and his wife established Fraser Research in January, 2002. Elisabeth
Fraser had been a math and technology educator at a private school
in Morristown before joining her husband in his work.
Research can be a lonely occupation, but to consort with experts and
colleagues at Bell Labs, Fraser had merely to take a walk down the
hall. Now, he has merely to walk down Nassau Street to the Princeton
08542. Alexander G. Fraser, president. 609-497-7337; fax, 609-497-7335.
After 15 years in business Ann Heckel closed her pharmaceutical
communications office on April 1, leaving an unexpired lease. Though
still listed in the directory, the telephone number (609-921-0209)
is disconnected. No information is available about a new address,
and attempts to reach Heckel did not succeed.
One observer suggests Heckel’s business was a victim of the downturn
both in the pharmaceutical industry and in the office market. Last
year she had 15 employees in more than 4,000 square feet, and she
had a subtenant. That company moved out leaving vacant space.
Heckel had devised an online materials delivery system that delivered
images and information for speeches and presentations. She also had
a customer service phone center that is managed by a pharmacist and
a fulfillment center where materials, such as slides, could be ordered
online and shipped (U.S. 1, May 22, 2002).
08540. Ann Heckel, president.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.