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Warehouse/North Loop : Innovation + Job News

24 Warehouse/North Loop Articles | Page: | Show All

Healthcare IT firm ABILITY Network looks toward growth

Healthcare administration can be notoriously complicated, but Minneapolis-based ABILITY Network is determined to untangle the process.
The company, originally called Visionshare, initially provided only network connectivity for Medicare providers. But in the last few years, a major rebranding initiative brought in a larger management team, strategic investors, and a significantly revamped lineup of products and services.
ABILITY now provides workflow management services, cash flow tools, payer eligibility verification, and a secure claims submission solution, among other products.
"We're a company that just used to handle bits and bytes, and through that process, we earned the trust of providers across the country," says Mark Briggs, CEO of ABILITY. "Now, they've turned to us to deliver solutions that lead to better patient care."
Since its rebranding, the company has found itself on a robust growth track, both in hiring and sales. With 150 employees, ABILITY is likely to keep expanding, and recently opened an office in Tampa, with plans to open another in Boston. The new offices are part of a strategic hiring push, since software engineers can be difficult to find in the "silicon prairie" of the Twin Cities.
Providers who need software and services that give them more control over areas like revenue management and medical coding are driving the company's continued growth, Briggs notes. 
"We're helping providers do a better job by uniting all the pieces of a patient's chart, and letting them streamline clinical information," he says. "What we provide is an ability to put relevant content to work. We really think there couldn't be a better time in our country's healthcare system for tools like these. Definitely, there's a need."
Source: Mark Briggs, ABILITY Network
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Technology firm Fision finds traction through marketing automation

For a decade, marketing and technology have been racing toward each other, and Minneapolis-based Fision expertly demonstrates the powerful effect that can occur when they finally fuse.
The firm, kicked off in 2008 by entrepreneur Mike Brown, provides clients with integrated marketing that boasts high levels of customization and simplicity.
For example, a health and beauty manufacturer with 7,000 distributors, retailers, and salons across 24 countries used Fision to create a centralized online marketing asset repository for sales materials. Each location could build digital and print marketing campaigns and deliver a consistent message, no matter where the salon or distributor was in the world.
Over the past four years, Fision has built a number of software-as-a-service products that give clients more clout in streamlining their marketing and communications efforts. Customers can choose customized e-mail marketing, social media marketing, digital asset management, business rule configuration, list management, and other services.
Recently, the company made a major move into the mobile space as well, by announcing an agreement with 3Cinteractive, a provider of cloud-based enterprise mobile solutions. That partnership should bring more sales and marketing automation across multiple channels, including messaging, smartphone apps, and mobile web.
Currently, Fision has 20 employees, but look for that number to increase as marketing automation keeps catching on, notes Fision spokesperson J.T. Williams. "This is a huge area for growth," he says. "The emergence of marketing automation is a major driver for change within enterprises; it really allows them to be much more effective about their marketing efforts."
Source: J.T. Williams, Fision
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Tech consulting firm RBA sees growth and hiring through acquisition of digital marketing company

Wayzata- and Minneapolis-based RBA Consulting has been advising clients about technology since 2006, and has shown an impressive success rate over the past few years. When it landed on the Inc. 5000 list last year, the magazine noted that its growth over the previous three years came in at 247 percent, with an increase of 89 employees in that timeframe.
Now, the company is ready to get even more robust.
Last September, the consulting firm acquired Ratchet, a Minneapolis-based digital marketing company, and subsequently changed the name of the combined company to just RBA.
The combined company offers a wide range of services, from custom application development and infrastructure expertise to portals and collaboration solutions.
"Historically, marketing organizations and IT departments haven't gotten along well," says RBA President and COO Mike Reinhart. "We see an opportunity for RBA to come in and create cohesion there. We understand marketing and what they're trying to accomplish, and we know how IT needs to work. We're bringing the CIO and the CMO together."
The company is expecting to grow by about 30 percent this year, and is in the midst of active hiring, Reinhart adds. He predicts that with RBA's strong sales force, more hiring will be ahead as well.
Most of all, he and others at the company are excited about the possibilities that lie ahead, now that the usual challenges that come with mergers are behind them.
"I'm a technologist at heart, and I love that I'm surrounded by bright and talented people who are thinking about how best to leverage our capabilities," says Reinhart.
Source: Mike Reinhart, RBA
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Ad agency Broadhead builds on its success with rural clients

Some ad agencies specialize in certain sectors like apparel, sports, or retail. Minneapolis-based Broadhead may be the only one that deals so extensively with cows.
The firm tends to do most of its work for clients in rural America, says CEO Dean Broadhead. That encompasses companies that focus on food safety, agriculture, farm veterinary services, dairy, and fertilizer.
Started in 2001, the agency came together after Broadhead worked at some major agencies in the Twin Cities. He'd always wanted to set off on his own, he notes, and after working with clients involved in rural businesses, he decided to keep following that route.
Recent projects have included creation of a crop nutrition guide for The Mosaic Company, and the development of a program to help wounded veterans through sponsorship by beef and dairy producers.
He stocked his firm with people who have a passion for rural life--either out of interest or because they grew up on farms--and the result has been strong growth and a robust client roster. The agency has consistently grown about 25 to 30 percent per year over the last few years.
"We're very happy with double-digit growth," says Broadhead. "That allows us to expand at the pace we want to expand. It makes us more well-rounded and a better value to the client."
Source: Dean Broadhead, Broadhead
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Online education firm Sophia makes global impact, ramps up hiring

In classrooms around the world, Sophia is proving to be a very popular and very smart girl.
The online education site went live last March and experienced an overwhelming response, with people logging on from nearly 70 countries in just the first two days.
Now, just seven months later, Sophia has grown from start-up to robust enterprise, expanding from six to 13 full-time employees, plus approximately 25 contractors and consultants. Founder and CEO Don Smithmier, whom we profiled in February, anticipates more hiring in the coming year, as Sophia ramps up even more.
"We're now executing a plan that we'd put forth at the beginning, the goal of bringing Sophia to the world," he says. "We're getting traction, and seeing growth as a result."
Sophia is a free social learning community, focused solely on education. The service brings together teachers and students from around the world. Utilizing "learning packets" that combine text, video, and graphics, teachers can create educational units that can be viewed by everyone, or just a select group of students.
Smithmier notes that the approach falls into a growing new category of academics called "social education," in which access to learning is increased. He says, "We're talking about flipping the student-to-teacher ratio. So, instead of 30 students for every teacher, what you'll have are 30 teachers for every student."
The strategy can be particularly effective, he adds, because people tend to "click" with some teachers but not others. Exposing students to so many teachers and different teaching styles keeps those relationships clicking.
As Sophia keeps expanding, in both employees and reach, Smithmier anticipates that the company will be doing more work on its learning programs and refining its offerings. "We want to make Sophia nationally known, and eventually globally known," he says, then laughs. "I guess we just want to be world famous."
Source: Don Smithmier, Sophia
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

WorkAround opens new coworking space

As telecommuting and contract working increases in the Twin Cities, coworking opportunities are keeping pace.
The latest initiative for bringing independent professionals together under one roof is WorkAround, a Minneapolis-based office space that distinguishes itself by providing both shared offices and business consulting services.
Founded by business coach Buffie Blesi and entrepreneur John Burns, the space is located in the Warehouse District, and features both individual desks/cubicles and conference rooms.
Blesi notes that the idea for a coworking space came, in part, from her efforts to bring together business coaches she'd hired as part of her company, KnowledgeSphere, and her part of a franchise, AdviCoach. She says, "I didn't feel like we were a team, we just weren't connecting well. Also, even though I worked from home, I began to feel like I'd do just about anything to get out of the house."
That experience is familiar to many entrepreneurs and small business owners, she believes, and a sense of connection and community can be helpful in fostering creativity and company growth.
WorkAround distinguishes itself from other coworking arrangements in the Twin Cities because of its business coaching, which is part of a member's coworking package. AdviCoach professionals advise members once a month on business matters.
"Our members are primarily small business owners in service-based businesses," she says. "CoCo has a lock on the technology entrepreneurs, and while they're certainly welcome here, we feel that this environment is more geared toward people who have started a business in the last year or two."
Connecting with others in the WorkAround space allows members to be part of a community that cares whether they succeed or fail--something that most people have a hard time getting at home, working alongside pets and kids, Blesi believes.
"We want our members to get to that next level, where they eventually have a space of their own," she says.
Source: Buffie Blesi, WorkAround
Writer: Elizabeth Millard 

Fulton Brewery readies for a downtown Minneapolis opening

The craft beer movement is in full swing, and downtown Minneapolis is about to get another hot spot for hop lovers.

Fulton Brewery is set to open around mid-September, and when it does, the Warehouse District location will feature tours and growler sales, with initial brews like American Blonde and Russian Imperial Stout.

The four founders--Ryan Petz, Brian Hoffman, Pete Grande, and Jim Diley--met in college and bonded over homebrewed beer. As soon as they whipped up a fairly decent version, they started joking about selling their creation, notes Hoffman. "It was one of those conversations that got more serious without any of us realizing it," he says.

About two years ago, Petz was looking at a dismal internship market as he studied at the Carlson School of Management, and came up with the idea of starting a company as his summer project. From there, the momentum built until Fulton went from garage to full-scale brewing space.

"More and more people are getting into the beer scene, so this is great timing for us," says Hoffman. "Also, people who drink craft beer aren't brand loyal, so they tend to try beers from different breweries. That means we all do better as craft beer does better."

As they ready the new space, Fulton is working to build up buzz for their brews, through participation at events like "Brew at the Zoo" and "Eat Ramen, Help Japan." Eventually, Fulton would like to be a major player on the local beer scene, but for now, he and his partners are content to work on opening their Fulton Brewery doors and welcoming the adoring masses.

Source: Brian Hoffman, Fulton Beer
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Children�s book publisher Lerner expands digital catalog with first iPad offering

Minneapolis-based children's book publisher Lerner Publishing Group has released its first iPad app, a visually rich and interactive digital version of the book Journey Into the Deep, which Lerner published in 2010.

Rebecca L. Johnson, who wrote the award-winning book, also developed the app for the Apple iPad, says Terri Reden, vice president of marketing and digital products for Lerner Publishing Group.

The book and app highlights the work and newly discovered aquatic life of the Census of Marine Life, an international effort conducted between 2000 and 2010. The app includes content not found in the book, says Reden, as well as photo slideshows, videos of sea creatures, links to websites, a discussion guide, and a video introduction with author Rebecca L. Johnson.

The inaugural app is a new aspect of Lerner's emerging digital catalog, which includes e-versions of its books, as well as more than 120 "interactive books" aimed at K�5 students who struggle with reading.

While those other offerings are aimed at Lerner's primary audience--schools and libraries--the iPad app is targeted more towards families, says Reden, specifically for 9�14-year-olds (although younger and older individuals may appreciate the app's colorful images and/or breadth of information).

Reden described the creation of the app as a sort of act of discovery, spurred by Johnson's own interest in creating the application. Lerner is not actively developing a next app, but the company is looking back at its catalog to see what other titles might work in the format.

The company continues to expand its other digital offerings, says Reden.

Source: Terri Reden, Lerner Publishing Group
Writer: Jeremy Stratton

Techies, journalists launch local Hacks/Hackers chapter

"I have long felt the future of journalism is about relationships with people," says Michael Skoler, vice president of interactive for Public Radio International (PRI)--between journalists and "the people we are meant to serve," he says.

Technology and the advance of new and social media are making that relationship more and more possible, and a new Twin Cities chapter of Hacks/Hackers aims to connect two sometimes disparate groups--journalists ("hacks") and technology professionals ("hackers")--whose realms are increasingly converging.

This Friday, PRI and the tech/entrepreneur organization Minne* spearhead the kickoff of the new chapter with a free event at PRI headquarters in Downtown Minneapolis. (Note: the event was full as of Monday, April 18.)

Hacks/Hackers is an international, multi-chapter grassroots movement "that is for hackers exploring technologies to filter and visualize information, and for journalists who use technology to find and tell stories," according to the Hacks/Hackers website.

Skoler and Minne*'s Ben Edwards and Luke Francl are the key organizers. At least 125 hacks and hackers will convene with food and drink to hear NPR's Matt Thompson speak about "data overload, the twilight of news brands" and more, according to the event notice.

The chapter's early work is to form a network and trade ideas--"get together and get inspired," says Skoler. Regular events, speakers and collaborations could follow; other established chapters have held project-based events like New York City's "Great Urban Hack,"  during which nerds and newshounds teamed up to turn public information into visual displays and community resources.

Skoler, now at PRI, launched Public Insight Media at Minnesota Public Radio in 2003 to engage the audience in the news process.

"I felt like the Twin Cities is a natural place for Hacks and Hackers," says Skoler, who approached Edwards and Francl earlier this year about the tech side of the partnership. PRI has been central in organizing, hosting and supporting the new endeavor, says Skoler.

The direction of the new chapter will largely be up to the network that grows out of it.

"To play in the new media world, you need to have deep contacts," says Skoler.

Source: Michael Skoler, PRI
Writer: Jeremy Stratton
24 Warehouse/North Loop Articles | Page: | Show All
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