High Tech News

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<SUBHEAD>Optika optimistic despite earnings drop </SUBHEAD>

On the surface, Optika Inc.’s third-quarter earnings, announced this past week, don’t look very positive. Revenue came in at $3.9 million, down from $4.6 million in the same period last year. The company reported a net loss of $.90 a share, totaling $6.8 million, considerably higher than third-quarter losses in 1999, which were just $.03 per share, or $241,000 total. Nonetheless, company officials are optimistic that Optika’s Acorde software family will soon make the expected splash on the market and turn those figures around. “We’re not mopey at all,” said Optika president and CEO Mark Ruport.

During the past year Optika rolled out its three-part, Web-based Acorde business-to-business, conflict-resolution software and refocused to concentrate primarily on the development and promotion of that product line. But the market wasn’t quite ready.

“In February we introduced a concept that no one had heard of, allowing companies to use the Web interactively to resolve issues,” said Ruport.

Add to that the fact that the average tenure of the company’s sales force is six-and-a-half months, just half a month longer than the average six-month sales cycle. “These people are just becoming productive,” Ruport said.

No one is thrilled that earnings are lower than hoped for, said Ruport, but “we have done everything we said we’d do. We need to stay focused on our goal. That’s taking a little longer, but it’s still a valid goal.” The company is buoyed by the satisfaction of early adopters such as Siemens, Textron Inc. and WW Granger, as well as by the enthusiasm of recent press in such publications as InformationWeek and Ecommerce Business.

Said Ruport, “We have a lot of interest in the product and a sales team that’s becoming a lot more adept at being able to sell the product.” He is confident in his prediction that next quarter, revenue will increase 15 percent to 25 percent over this quarter. “That’s the next 90 days over the last 90 days. We’re talking pretty short term here.”

<SUBHEAD>Neovation opens office in Hibbard Building</SUBHEAD>

This past week, Neovation, which began life in Colorado Springs as Interactive Papyrus, moved into new digs in the Hibbard Building at 19 S. Tejon St. The new space is what Chief Creative Officer Erin Geegan calls a “creative collaboration center,” with desks arranged in peace-sign arrangement, like “curvular pods” to enhance “workplace innovation.” Said Geegan, “We have an open environment. The goal here is to ensure a highly integrated team atmosphere.”

Integration has been a key concept since Interactive Papyrus merged with Chicago-based Waterstone Consulting to form Neovation in April 2000. The front-end Web-design firm Interactive Papyrus was founded by Geegan in 1989. Ten years later the company had 18 employees at its offices at 30 E. Kiowa St. and a solid reputation — solid enough that, in 1999, it attracted a $30 million investment from Englewood-based e-business solutions provider CIBER.

Through CIBER, the company decided to join with Waterstone, which concentrated on system integration. The combined company can now offer complete Web solutions. “Today we are a seamlessly integrated Internet consulting company for our clients,” said Geegan. “Clients can take advantage of a larger-scale company. Now we can have 10 to 50 consultants per project, and e-business today is looking for large-scale implementation.”

The larger company has also been able to attract larger clients. “In Colorado Springs, in the past, we had Hewlett-Packard as a key account, and Agilent,” said Geegan. Neovation’s current clients include Mack Truck, Whirlpool and Heller Financial. “The ebbs and flows I used to have as a small company are being filled up with Fortune 1000 companies,” she said.

To ensure continued growth, Neovation hired James G. Gionfriddo at the beginning of October as its first president and CEO. At his last post as chief operating officer of NIIT USA, Gionfriddo grew the company’s U.S. business more than 90 percent in a 13-month period and, according to a release, is “poised to produce the same caliber of results for Neovation.”

Not only is this good news for Neovation, it is good for Colorado Springs. “Now the engagements with clients are longer and larger, which gives Colorado Springs’ staff career opportunities with more responsibility,” said Geegan. It creates more jobs, too. There are 25 people in the Hibbard Building office today, with room to double. When people will be added depends on the market, but Geegan is looking to do it sooner rather than later. “We’re going to be looking for people who understand the technical as well as the creative side of the business,” she explained. “Those are the types who can run these larger-scale engagements.”

Neovation has approximately 130 employees, spread between its headquarters in Denver and offices here and in Chicago. Financially, said Geegan, “We are pretty much stable. We haven’t gained or lost.” Neovation hopes to be profitable by the first quarter of next year.

<SUBHEAD>Ramtron makes deal with Future Electronics Europe</SUBHEAD>

In a push to get its products more widely used throughout Europe, Ramtron International Corp. has struck a distribution deal with Colnbrook, England-based Future Electronics Europe. Future Electronics, which has been a North American distributor for Ramtron since 1994, will now be a franchised distributor of its non-volatile memory FRAM chip throughout Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

Ramtron already scored a major overseas deal in August when UK-based Ampy Automation Digilog Ltd. committed to buying $65 million of FRAM over the next four years. With Germany, France and the U.K. totaling 66 percent of the European electronics market, according to a study done by the semiconductor research firm Dataquest, Ramtron is counting on more where that came from. Although she wouldn’t give any numbers, Ramtron’s marketing communications manager Elizabeth Eschbach says the company is poised for some growth this year, with dramatic increases through the end of 2001.</ul>