EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ 2014 Midwest Awards

Technology

WINNER

mw_eoy_PatAllinPatrick J. Allin
Chairman and CEO
Textura Corporation
www.texturacorp.com

 

Sometimes there can be tremendous opportunity in a simple idea. As a novice in construction, Patrick J. Allin saw a need to make the industry more efficient. So he developed Textura Corporation to provide cloud-based collaboration and productivity tools for the construction industry.
Textura applies Internet technology to core business processes involving multiple participants. The first application of this concept was to the invoicing and payment process in commercial construction.
Allin, chairman and CEO, faced widespread skepticism that Textura’s solutions and business model — in which fees are charged to all participants — would ever be accepted. Further, Internet technology was not widely trusted or accepted at the time. Many potential clients didn’t use computers at work and the concept of software as a service was even less understood.
Textura’s payment management model was new to the construction industry. Construction projects are complex, so rather than focusing on automating processes for a single company, Allin enabled process collaboration, making multiparty interactions and transactions more streamlined, efficient and transparent for all participants.
The company established a cloud environment that allowed clients to access the system anywhere. All participants pay to use the system, with fees commensurate with value received.
Since conception, Textura has become a public company with a growing global footprint and clientele that includes some of the largest general contractors in North America.
Textura has applied the collaboration concept to numerous other construction processes, developing a comprehensive suite of solutions. The company and its subsidiaries have been granted 42 patents domestically and internationally, with 52 pending.
Allin is now focused on the development of a single, integrated Textura platform with a flow of information that will support all construction. Currently, no such platform exists in the market today. Other growth initiatives include increasing cross selling, expanding globally and broadening the industries Textura serves.


FINALISTS

mw_eoy_DanielAdamanyDaniel Adamany
CEO
AHEAD
www.thinkahead.com

 

When Daniel Adamany founded AHEAD in 2007, collaboration was not the buzzword it is today. In those days, IT companies operated in silos, as did the organizations that served them, leading to problems such as one faction of the team not knowing what the other was doing. Adamany set out to change all that. He could see technology evolving in a way that would force those silos to be broken down.
He wanted to build a company that would be at the forefront of change not only today, but tomorrow. As CEO, he creates a mindset with his team members that the next evolution is right around the corner and they need to constantly be ready to adapt.
While many companies see the value of a new platform that can help their business grow, Adamany saw companies struggling with massive amounts of information, data and hype coming at them. So he worked to build trust with his customers, allowing AHEAD to help clients navigate the changes effectively.
Adamany is a mechanical engineer by trade and is used to working with his hands. He’s known to get consumed by a project, making sure it exceeds customer expectations. For Adamany, it’s not just about solving a problem and checking off the next box on the list, he does what he can to ensure his clients have the tools to provide the same great service to their customers.
He also makes sure that within the community he and his employees do business, they take the time to give back to those who need a little extra support. Adamany and his wife Katherine launched Getting Ahead, a not-for-profit organization that helps children advance their own educational pursuits.


mw_eoy_CraigVodnikCraig Vodnik
Co-founder and VP of operations
cleverbridge, Inc.
www.cleverbridge.com

Craig Vodnik believes in giving young people a chance to prove what they can do. While other business leaders prefer to let someone else groom new talent to the point that they can step right in and go to work, Vodnik has no problem getting in on the ground floor with someone who has yet to be given the chance to reach his or her full potential.
The approach is great for workers who are just getting started in their careers, but it also allowed Vodnik and his team of co-founders at cleverbridge, Inc. to keep their personnel costs down in the early days of the business. In some cases, Vodnik hired employees who were still in college and had very little e-commerce knowledge. But Vodnik was committed to helping them grow, and because of that, the young people he hired returned the favor and committed to cleverbridge.
The company saw an opportunity to improve upon existing e-commerce solutions. They had experienced the challenge of buying a product from a vendor that did not support their language, payment method or business hours. It was a dismal shopping experience for customers around the world and cried out for something different.
Even more challenging to Vodnik, who serves as the company’s VP of operations, was the fact that early on, he was the only employee based in the U.S. His colleagues were based in Germany and the seven-hour time difference left Vodnik to handle U.S. sales growth, marketing and client relations on his own.
But he was up to the challenge. He put in the work himself and when his team began to grow with that young, unproven talent, his passion shone through and spread to the new employees who were eager to learn and grow with the business.


mw_eoy_GlennTroutGlenn Trout
President and CEO
MSDSonline
www.msdsonline.com

 

The launch of FOB.com was a bust for Glenn Trout. But that didn’t stop him from picking up the pieces and launching MSDSonline, a provider of cloud-based environmental heath and safety compliance solutions.
FOB.com was decimated when the dot com bubble burst. The company’s venture firm had faith in Trout, however, and provided him with a small seed pool of cash to turn an ancillary offering of his old company into a new business venture. Trout took five of his employees and started MSDSonline with a small, non-monetized part of FOB.com, the electronic dissemination of material safety data sheets, and turned it into a fee-based service.
Trout, the company’s president and CEO, recognized that Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliance was a big problem when selling chemicals. So MSDSonline began as a lead source for such sales, and developed a suite of cloud-based tools to help companies manage their chemical hazards to reduce their risk and liability.
The company was slow to take off, so Trout invested in a sales team to accelerate its growth. He’s also put together a dedicated product management team that processes customer input to enhance the product and improve design aesthetic.
Trout has created a vibrant work environment at MSDSonline that encourages openness and having a good time. He’s quick to praise, first to take blame and relentless in his pursuit of finding the best solutions to problems.
He also works to extend goodwill to his community, hosting students from Chicago Public Schools, and donating technology and money to schools for uniforms and after-school tutoring programs. Trout is also president of the Kenilworth United Fund, which raises and distributes $150,000 annually for local charities.
Today, Trout’s customer base and sales have increased tremendously, leading his organization to be recognized as a six-time Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Company.


mw_eoy_JohnSchwanJohn James Schwan
Founder and CEO
Solstice Mobile
www.solstice-mobile.com

 

In most cases, Solstice Mobile is competing against services firms many times its size. So Solstice uses its smaller size to its advantage. Headed by founder and CEO John James Schwan, the company uses its nimbleness and creativity to develop mobile technologies for multibillion-dollar global organizations.
Schwan started Solstice’s mobile development service line in 2007, focusing its R&D efforts on iPhone and Androids at a time when BlackBerry had the lion’s share of market penetration. It was a risky bet that paid off.
Solstice has been able to accelerate the meaningful adoption of emerging technologies for its clients, while ensuring enterprise-class standards and extensibility. From client-server development, to e-commerce, to early endeavors in mobile channels, Solstice has helped its clients fully exploit the compounding waves of technology innovation.
While many consulting firms were off-shoring development work, Schwan differentiated Solstice by using domestic computer scientists who justified their increased cost through speed, nimbleness and precision.
Existing client relationships account for most of the company’s revenue, showing the value they place in the company. And Solstice has managed to create one of the fastest-growing firms in the country, without taking on any outside investment capital.
Schwan ensures that the company’s work does not stop with its clients. Recently, Solstice recruited more than 50 dancers for Chicago Dance Marathon, raising more than $55,000 for Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. This year, Solstice will send three delegates to Nairobi, Kenya, to find ways Solstice can help various not-for-profit mobile technology efforts aid individuals around the world.
The world of enterprise mobility and innovation is changing rapidly, as digital disruption is reaching every office of the C-suite. Solstice is ideally positioned to help its clients fully leverage emerging technologies to create opportunities of transformation.