Technological innovation reaches every part of our lives

You only need look as far as the phone in your hand to recognize we live in a new era of technology. The old way of doing things, even as recently as five years ago, feels like a generation gone by. Today, everyone is impacted by technology — and many of our homes are even fully connected through the Internet of Things. You’re likely banking, booking flights, renting vacation homes, ordering food, and potentially even speculating in various stock and fund markets without ever speaking to a live human being.

With that as a backdrop, we’re honored to recognize a dynamic group of organizations with the 2019 Cleveland Technology Awards. These scrappy startups, established technology firm leaders and implementers of technology demonstrate the new horizon we experience every day.

After you read about this year’s honorees, we invite you to join us on March 7 for the Cleveland Tech Awards Conference, a luncheon where we’ll recognize these companies and engage in a rousing panel discussion about what it takes in today’s economy to raise capital, make acquisitions and fuel growth in the technology sector.

There’s little doubt the world today is a blur. But thanks to this year’s honorees — and those participating in our panel discussion — there’s at least a little time to slow down and enjoy the ride.


Established Tech Firm honorees

Banyan Technology, North America’s leading provider of live carrier and API connectivity for the transportation management industry, provides commercial shippers, brokers and 3PLs with unparalleled access to carrier data. Led by CEO Brian Smith, Banyan’s premier data hub boasts more than 1,400 carrier connections, including hundreds of local carrier connections, and 34,000 client locations accessing the application.

The live connectivity platform aligns with complementary logistics software to provide clients with seamless integration into their current systems and operations. Ultimately, this boosts users’ efficiency, improves end-to-end visibility across the global supply chain and delivers permanent reductions in shipping costs.

Banyan also offers multimode functionality and ongoing feature innovations to better manage the entire logistics process. In 2018, it launched its newest mode offering, Local Carrier, to fill a significant industry gap originating from the ever-growing omnichannel and e-commerce industries. Users can quickly and easily connect with a network of local carriers through a single API source for enhanced first and last mile service options.

Banyan also partnered with UPS Capital, a subsidiary of UPS, this past year to offer users goods insurance beyond standard carrier liability. And the company launched a BETA group to hone its new Intelligent Pricing feature, the industry’s first true dynamic pricing tool.


CardinalCommerce Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of VISA, is a global leader in digital commerce technology and payment authentication for card-not-present (CNP) transactions. Cardinal focuses solely on authentication, continually innovating and improving its solution to deliver a superior authentication experience for merchants and card-issuing banks.

With instances of CNP fraud outpacing CNP sales in the United States — 27 percent versus 23 percent, respectively, according to a 2017 report — Cardinal’s Consumer Authentication technology is more critical than ever.

That’s why Cardinal uniquely leverages both 3-D Secure and EMV®3-D Secure protocols, to ensure a person attempting a card-not-present transaction or digital transaction is, in fact, the cardholder. Cardinal’s Consumer Authentication technology is giving merchants and banks customized control over authentication measures to reduce fraud, chargebacks and false declines to consumers, while also limiting friction in the consumer checkout experience.

Led by Cardinal Co-founder, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Chandra Balasubramanian, the company’s focus on providing the best possible authentication experience for its end users, both from a security and an ease-of-use standpoint, has attracted seven of the top 10 card-issuing banks in the U.S. and two of seven of the Internet Retailer’s Top 10 merchants.


DRB Systems LLC is a business solutions company that provides technology and marketing support to enhance a car wash’s consumer experience and operational efficiency. Unlike equipment-only point-of-sale companies, DRB Systems provides the business know-how to transform most car washes into profitable, thriving businesses.

The company does this with a robust turnkey suite of solutions. In addition to its fully customizable point of sale and tunnel control software, DRB Systems provides hardware, support and business solutions including human resources, marketing and solution-specific site-improvement planning.

Key among these solutions is its newest innovation, NoPileups — the first successful safety system created to protect the car wash tunnel from collisions and increase production. Replacing outdated processes subject to human error, NoPileups uses breakthrough computer vision and machine learning to stop the conveyor and equipment when collision threats are detected.

Solving a costly problem in conveyorized car washes and delivering substantial ROI to car wash operators, NoPileups is backed by DRB Systems’ industry-leading support staff, who monitor the system and provide insights that help improve tunnel efficiency and safety.

Driven by Chief Technology Officer Richard Harris, DRB Systems continues to focus on feature innovations to maximize the benefits of its solution suite.


Eaton is a power management company dedicated to improving people’s lives and the environment with power management technologies that are more reliable, efficient, safe and sustainable. Doing business in more than 175 countries, Eaton’s energy-efficient products and services help customers effectively manage electrical, hydraulic and mechanical power.

The key to the company’s success lies in embracing cutting-edge technologies, such as the advanced sensors and sensing capabilities incorporated into Eaton products. By dissecting the fundamental makeup of power — whether electrical power, fluid power, or mechanical power, and the associated data for each — Eaton can gather and transform raw data into actionable information and knowledge.

Overseen by Bill Blausey, senior vice president and chief information officer, such data informs how Eaton’s products are best operated and maintained, and where advancements can be made to boost productivity and cost efficiency. Applying data to virtual digital models, Eaton can then rapidly design, build and test solutions virtually before committing to large capital deployments.

Collected data can also be used to help customers reduce cost of ownership and drive efficiency and maximize uptime as the end user. However it’s leveraged, Eaton upholds industry-standard protocols to aggregate and disseminate data to ensure security.


Foundation Software develops products and services to serve the construction industry, most notably FOUNDATION — a job-cost accounting and project management program designed specifically to meet the complex needs of the industry and boost efficiency for its users.

The robust features of FOUNDATION reflect the company’s in-depth understanding of these needs and the challenges contractors face. The solution is fully customizable and individually configured for each client to meet its challenges head on.Yet the success of Foundation Software lies beyond providing excellent technology solutions.

The company backs each sale with top-notch service, including a comprehensive eight- to 12-week training program designed to walk new clients through FOUNDATION’s architecture and features. This ensures the client understands how to maximize the efficiencies of the program to streamline its operations.

Initially a one-man team founded in 1985 by CEO and Chairman Fred Ode, the quality and performance of its solutions and service have seen Foundation Software grow into an industry leader employing nearly 300 individuals. Focusing on long-term success over easy shortcuts and quick fixes, Ode continues to lead the company in continuous improvements innovation and has established a sister company offering contractor payroll services.


MRI Software is a leading provider of innovative real estate software applications and hosted solutions. In addition to its core financials platform, MRI offers solutions for multifamily, commercial, affordable housing, public housing, construction and development, retail and real estate investment management.

Founded more than 45 years ago, the company was the first in the real estate technology industry to go all-in on an open platform, a legacy of it continues today under CEO Patrick Ghilani. Unlike other providers that take a limited, one-size-fits-all approach, MRI gives its clients the freedom to integrate with third-party applications from more than 140 providers in its Partner Connect ecosystem, including software that competes with MRI’s own offerings. By strategically embracing integration and interoperability, MRI enables clients to create the technologically advanced and functionally rich solution that works best for them. 

This approach has led to rapid growth. MRI has introduced a new accounting product, launched its residential suite in the United Kingdom and earned a key certification for its flagship platform that opens new doors for the company in China. This is in addition to 12 strategic acquisitions in 2017 that expanded the company’s reach into new real estate segments and new geographies in Europe and Africa.


QualityIP prides itself on providing secure, reliable, integrated technology solutions in alignment with customer goals, while delivering excellence in customer service. Specializing in managed IT services, the company offers specialized services such as business phone systems, customized procurement and certified dealer support.

Under the leadership of CEO Ryan Markham, QualityIP has made its key differentiator its unparalleled HelpDesk. Unlike other providers in the industry, it has extended its HelpDesk’s service hours to include nights and weekends, giving clients access to a full staff during nonbusiness hours.

The company also provides superior on-site support as needed, with a fleet of more than 10 fully equipped  “Tech Trucks” that can be dispatched on short notice. Ultimately, the company’s goal is to be there when its clients need it.
Recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in Northeast Ohio, QualityIP continues to develop its portfolio, most recently adding IT security to its offerings. While state-of-the-art security infrastructure has been an integral part of its managed security offering for years, QualityIP has prioritized Security Awareness Training (SAT) as an addition to its services to minimize the risk human error brings to an organization’s IT infrastructure.


An established leader in wireless collaboration, presentation and device management technology used in schools, businesses and homes, Squirrels is changing the conversation about how people collaborate and share information. 

Co-founded in 2008 by President David Stanfill, the Squirrels team has continuously developed a portfolio of first-of-its-kind software advancements that serve as alternatives to outdated HDMI/VGA cables, overpriced hardware and underperforming technology. Available in the App Store, the company’s flagship screen mirroring and presentation products — Ditto, ClassHub, Reflector and AirParrot — are now used in more than 180 countries and territories around the world by educators, students, businesses, software developers, designers, gamers and more.

Squirrels took another leap forward in 2018 when it launched a new hardware division into the FPGA acceleration and blockchain markets. Generating excitement in the market, its new FPGA acceleration components are plug and play, making blockchain applications such as cryptocurrency mining more effective and efficient.

Recently celebrating its 10th year in business, the Squirrels team has grown without outside funding, maintaining its private status. It continues to rapidly iterate research and development into new hardware initiatives, while expanding into new and different markets — always with the goal of improving traditional processes.


Implementer / User honorees

ExactCare Pharmacy drives better health for chronic, high-risk patients through safer, more effective medication regimens, while improving outcomes for the health care organizations and providers that care for them. The company is led by Dale Wollschleger, R.Ph., president and co-founder.

To accomplish this, ExactCare partners with home health agencies, health plans and other health care organizations to provide comprehensive medication management, coupling a high-touch, chronic care pharmacy-at-home model with proprietary technology and automation.

Critical to this model is MyPAT (My Patient Assessment Tool), a robust platform connecting ExactCare’s patient care team to patients in their homes across the country. Enabling field-based Clinical Liaisons to easily capture all the necessary information to build a holistic patient profile, MyPAT streamlines the patient onboarding process and provides a better patient profile for clinical pharmacists to review and utilize.

Medications are then dispensed through ExactCare’s pharmacy, a state-of-the-art automation fulfillment system backed by robust safety and quality measures. Medications come in a unique ExactPack®, a continuous roll of small plastic pouches in adherence packaging, with presorted medications labeled according to day and time. Patients can manage their medications through MyECP (My ExactCare Pharmacy), a web portal and mobile app.

Ultimately, by combining such forward-thinking technology solutions with patient care, ExactCare provides customized care for medically complex chronic patients.


As a three-generation, family-owned business, Kuhn Fabricating Inc. specializes in heavy sheet metal, structural steel and plate weldments. 

Started in the Kuhn family garage more than half a century ago, President and owner Lewie Kuhn continued his family’s efforts to grow the business into the steel and metal fabrication leader it is today through investments in state-of-the-art equipment and technology. Fabricating from hot-rolled or cold-rolled sheets, stainless steel and aluminum — from 20 gauge up to 3-inch plates — Kuhn Fabricating boasts an impressive machinery portfolio.

Its latest investment is a TRUMPF TruLaser 2030 Fiber Laser with an advanced control user interface, one of the most sophisticated metal laser cutters in the world. Feeding the industry with modern technologies such as the TruLaser that other long-time businesses simply haven’t kept up with, Kuhn has groomed a highly skilled and continuously trained team to work in the shop — sharing his family’s view of metalworking as a true form of art, not simply a profession.

Pairing this trained eye with sophisticated equipment and technologies, Kuhn Fabricating delivers reliable, high-quality products, including basic welding, structural applications and even sculptured works of art.


A wholly owned subsidiary of National Interstate Corp., National Interstate Insurance is one of the leading specialty property and casualty insurance companies in the country. Headquartered in Richfield, Ohio, National Interstate offers more than 30 transportation insurance products for a diverse customer base across the trucking, ambulance, crane, towing, public bus, motor coach and school bus industries.

President and CEO Tony Mercurio attributes much of the company’s ongoing growth and success to its consistently high levels of service provided to customers and agent partners. To help deliver such superior service, the company has made significant investments in advanced data and processing tools. 

Following an internal analysis in 2016, National Interstate undertook a major systems overhaul, streamlining outdated, tedious and at times manual internal processes with Salesforce CRM. Throughout 2017, IT and business leadership worked together to design system workflows and automations to increase organizational efficiency and data security, as well as create a fully integrated environment with other critical business systems.

Ultimately, these efforts to couple advanced technology platforms with business process transformation saw a ninefold increase in National Interstate’s effectiveness and efficiency, a solid foundation from which the company has continued to scale its customer-first philosophy.


Mayfield Heights-based Park Place Technologies is a leading provider of storage and server support around the world. Its offerings are cost-effective, service-first alternatives to traditional post-warranty maintenance for storage, server and networking hardware including EMC, NetApp, IBM, HP, Dell, Hitachi, Cisco and legacy systems.

Led by President and CEO Chris Adams, Park Place’s business is built around maximizing data center uptime to keep customers’ mission-critical hardware continuously running. This is accomplished through a strategic combination of experienced staff, robust product offerings and comprehensive global supply chain, with the company delivering impressive first-time fix rates.

Key among Park Place’s solution portfolio is its award-winning ParkView service, which proactively detects faults in storage, server and networking hardware. The offering saves clients significant time, resources and budget previously spent on having to travel to multiple locations to physically check on hardware, troubleshoot issues and resolve errors.

Keeping the client top of mind, as with all of its solution offerings, Park Place supports its ParkView solution through a 24/7 domestic call center with immediate incident escalation, direct access to OEM-experienced engineering and flexible service level agreements, making it flexible to fit a range of client needs, from smaller businesses to Fortune 500 companies.


The Search Guru provides custom lead generation and digital marketing solutions to generate visibility, targeted traffic and improved conversion rates for businesses. But what stands out about this agency, in addition to the results it delivers for business, is that it is a completely remote-based organization. Its associates work virtually from across the world, from California to Brazil and China and beyond. 

Founded by President Leslie Carruthers in Cleveland, this remote environment is made possible through technology. She credits platform solutions such as Harvest for time tracking, Basecamp to assign projects and keep track of deadlines, and Slack for internal communications, facilitating effective, efficient operations across the globe. Meanwhile, email, videoconferencing and smartphones ensure clients can stay in touch, with extended availability across time zones and into nontraditional hours as needed.

Yet even as technology enables day-to-day logistics from a business perspective, Carruthers says it also brings her team together more personally, encouraging collaboration and socialization to ensure employees feel part of a team. Because they don’t see one another in person, she says it makes associates more aware of the importance of putting in the effort to build rapport and keep in touch.


Startup honorees

ACE Products & Consulting offers technical and process consulting services to the rubber and silicone industries, while also acting as an independent agent for two specialty raw material lines and producing its own branded silicone dispersion line.

Erick Sharp, president and CEO, founded the company in 2015 to revitalize an old industry with new technologies and innovative approaches to solve decades-old problems. To do so, he designed an independent testing, research and development laboratory which — with limited options for rubber and silicone accredited, independent, laboratory testing — quickly earned ACE’s way to the forefront of the industry.

Starting out in a 2,000-square-foot space with some mixing and basic test equipment, ACE’s facility has since expanded to an 18,000-square-foot, ISO/IEC 17025-accredited laboratory, leveraging cutting-edge smart technologies. By combining this technology with dynamic new ways of managing business, ACE has made significant strides in attracting the next generation of technical employees and keeping them engaged and excited about their work.

Leveraging technology under Sharp’s leadership, ACE is accomplishing its ultimate goal — to make a positive difference in bridging the technical services gap in the rubber industry. 


Marketing software technology leader Drips leverages artificial intelligence to help brands connect with consumers in the manner they prefer to be reached, on their own time — with tools to automate lead and customer interactions via email, SMS text messages and automated calls. By utilizing analytics of human behavior, the Drips platform helps brands better scale their outbound efforts, receive more qualified inbound calls, create goodwill with their prospects and reduce overall lead generation costs.

This service meets a growing need, as more than half of customer interactions in 2019 are expected to occur through channels other than voice. Yet Drips facilitates these exchanges with the highest levels of technical security and federal compliance for effective conversational messaging that’s secure.

Drips also provides its clients white glove service to continually test market campaigns and programs so it continues to learn to provide better messages to the consumer and improve performance.

Co-founded by CEO Aaron Christopher “AC” Evans in 2016 with just four employees, Drips’ innovative conversational text messaging technology has seen the company grow to a staff of 35, with more than $10 million in annual revenue in just two short years, with expectations to double revenue in 2019.


Cleveland-based MedPilot is a leading patient financial engagement platform backed by Valley Growth Ventures, Hudson River Capital Partners, Cedars-Sinai and Techstars. Co-founded by CEO Jacob Meyers, the platform helps patients better understand and resolve their medical expenses.

MedPilot achieves this through a combination of email, text, call and statement communications to increase the chance of connecting with patients regarding a balance. Outreach tone, content and platform are customized to each patient based on variables including patient demographics, bill size, payment history and bill age, with ongoing machine learning capabilities throughout interactions for maximum communication effectiveness over time.

MedPilot also tracks patient engagement with its communications, payment portal and help center to better inform the platform’s approach for re-engagement campaigns as needed.

In the short time since its startup, MedPilot’s technology has helped 350,000 patients to date, while helping health care providers’ clients manage more than $2 billion of patient receivables. Clients using this innovative patient financial engagement technology platform decreased time to collect balances, reduced costs through the collections process, increased collections and improved patient satisfaction.


Launched in 2018, Lakewood-based data analytics consulting firm Pandata is already transforming the way companies react to their customers. Empowering customer service teams with the power of artificial intelligence, Pandata’s innovative technology transforms large amounts of qualitative feedback into actionable advice.

Pandata’s Perception Intelligence solution works by pulling raw customer feedback data from virtually any source and language, including web analytics, customer surveys, online product reviews, blog posts and social media. The solution engine then analyzes the data to detect core themes, ultimately providing comprehensive customer profiles to give businesses a more nuanced understanding of their customers. 

Under the guidance of Pandata COO and Partner Nicole Ponstingle, the firm helps its clients best use this information, collaborating to fine-tune the resulting model based on human experience and company goals. The end result is an interactive dashboard that allows companies to track trends and customer sentiment, as well as drill into concern areas over time as they relate to key services or products.

By harnessing the power of Pandata’s customer feedback insight, brands can better manage their reputation for the wellness of their organization and make informed product and service decisions to boost sales.


While working in admissions for higher education, Kate Volzer became aware of the resource constraints facing departments at the university and other higher education institutions. These resource gaps often hindered progress toward helping students graduate faster, explore careers and lock down their first job, while also making donation and alumni engagement goals more difficult to reach. 

Thus, the idea for Wisr was born. 

Volzer engaged with teams of career services, alumni relations and advancement professionals from five partner institutions — Case Western Reserve University, Cedarville University, Denison University, Oberlin College and the University of Chicago — to develop an engagement software platform that would help improve outcomes at every step in the higher education student lifecycle. 

The platform helps colleges and universities build online communities for students, alumni, faculty, staff and other supporters to connect and share knowledge about career paths and other valuable experiences. These knowledge-sharing communities improve institutions’ ability to track student and alumni engagement, leading to better outcomes for students, alumni and their schools.

Since its founding in 2016, Wisr has continued to grow, recently expanding its product and services offerings to span support for incoming college students through alumni well into their professional careers.


Social Entrepreneurship honorees

The reLink umbrella encompasses three Northeast Ohio-based organizations, notably leveraging holistic and efficient technologies to improve access to and quality of health care services around the world.

Web portals reLink Global Health and reLink.org, both projects of The Dalton Foundation, support organizations that are meeting the medical needs of vulnerable peoples who have very little means, if any, to obtain necessary care, medicines or treatment.

reLink Global Health, led by Executive Director Barbara Campbell, focuses on connecting health care organizations operating throughout the developing world by distributing their information — including live, geolocated availability of provider services and medical facilities — into the hands of those needing treatment through a single, searchable database.

The portal also assists health care providers in overcoming delivery challenges common within developing nations with the ability to search for medical equipment, medication and supplies, training and education, and even personnel management service providers as needed.

Similarly, reLink.org functions as a searchable portal connecting patients in need of treatment with local health care providers. This solution focuses on those patients seeking assistance with veteran, addiction recovery, or incarceration re-entry services, both within the United States and abroad. Results are also grouped by geolocation and types of service. The company is led by Founder and CEO Ray Dalton.

A third reLink entity focuses on meeting a different need within the health care industry, yet utilizes the same dual expertise in health care management and robust web portal functionality as the former two to meet it. Created in 2014 and guided by President and COO Jeff Dalton, reLink Medical is a proprietary Multi-Listing Service (MLS) designed to help health care facilities implement a universal and repeatable process for the disposition of any obsolete, excess, or out-of-service medical equipment, which is typically needed following hospital mergers and health care changes.

The simple solution utilizes an outbound sales force, as well as multiple web platforms, to allow facilities to earn the highest return for excess medical assets — all while reLink’s concierge service manages and streamlines the entire process from beginning to end. The innovative platform is further supported by a nationwide network of experienced service engineers to help with technical needs, from preventive maintenance to de-installations to environmentally friendly recycling services.

Ultimately, reLink Global Health, reLink.org and reLink Medical are all using technology to change the way health care organizations, patients, providers and suppliers connect. The high-level goals of the reLink umbrella are reflected in each entity — to leverage technology solutions to deliver improved health care accessibility, efficiency and quality for those who have need.