Belle of the ball Featured

9:38am EDT July 22, 2002
The story of Embedded Planet reads like a Hollywood fairy tale. After just three years in existence, the company is set to live happily ever after.

“We’ve had so many nice things happen,” says Alayne Reitman, president of the technology-based operation. “It’s just fun. Somebody came up to me at Innovest (an annual venture capital conference held this year in Columbus in May) and said, ‘How does it feel to be the belle of the ball?’”

It has taken a lot of hard work for the owners of Embedded Planet to make it to the dance. Delivering the crowning touch, Ernst & Young named the company’s management trio Entrepreneurs Of The Year in the Emerging Entrepreneur category. Honored with Reitman were Robert Applebaum, vice president, and Ramon Molnar. But there is still a lot of work to do.

“The nicest thing about it right now,” Reitman says, “or at least for me personally, it’s local Cleveland recognition. It’s Northeast Ohio recognition. It’s promoting the work we’re doing so that other people see that it’s happening.

“We are still really just coming out of a true start-up phase. We have been going for now two years. And we’ve been designing product and working with our engineering team. It’s really now just six months since we’ve had any kind of sales and marketing.”

She says the company expects its sales to pick up briskly in the next year, “and we’re going to end up hiring a lot of people over the next 12 months. It’s past that initial stage of ‘Do we have the right concept?’”

Embedded Planet is looking to raise $30 million and clearly has a concept that has caught people’s attention. So what is it exactly that it does?

“We are simplifying the way technology is implemented, so it allows people to build products more quickly, have the adoption of technology reach the masses much less expensively,” Reitman says. “One practical application of the company’s technology is telemedicine. This is where a nurse can visit a remote area, perform a few medical tests, and have a physician half way across the country review the data and make recommendations.”

It’s the type of technological revolution that’s in the right place at the right time. Many people walk around with cell phones, pagers, laptop computers and Palm Pilots, and as Reitman says, the complexity has gone up with each new device designed to make our lives easier.

“The next phase of this evolution is the ability of all these devices to communicate with one another, actually flow from one to the other reasonably seamlessly. And that’s really where I think we’re all going to see an impact,” Reitman says.

To get to that point, to be the company that leads the way, Embedded Planet is looking for venture capital financing.

“It will really allow us to move full force on the marketing and sales initiatives and to continue to address and grow our engineering resources,” Reitman says. “We’ve been trying to run a little bit of a balancing act — a little bit here, a little bit there. When we raise the $30 million, we think we can generate a significant amount of marketing and sales activity, which ought to then accelerate our revenue growth. That’s the next step.”

Like many young companies, Embedded Planet has yet to turn a profit. But the plans are in place. The company should bring in $9 million in revenue this year, and within three to four years, Reitman projects revenue of $300 million.

“The secret to our success is our skill in creating and motivating teams. We employ the imagery of the Army Rangers or the Navy Seals to motivate our teams to the challenges ahead,” Reitman says. “Our staff believes they are able to tackle these challenges better than anyone else and knows that their efforts will impact lives around the world. We hire the brightest, most talented individuals we can find, wherever they live, and we encourage confidence in the individual and the team.

“An individual’s personal goals and ability to work within our culture is as important their technical ability.”

The amount of work can prove difficult at times, she says.

“We work very hard, and the hours are long, and we don’t always get great feedback. In these long days, and sometimes long nights, of working to get this business up and running, it’s really nice to get this kind of recognition.

“I feel a little bit like the belle of the ball.” How to reach: Embedded Planet LLC, (440) 646-0077

Daniel G. Jacobs (djacobs@sbnnet.com) is senior editor of SBN Cleveland.