A casual conversation yields high-tech startup

A casual conversation yields high-tech startup

By David Fisher / The Bulletin
Published: June 12. 2007 5:00AM PST

Bend is becoming the kind of city – apparently – where a pair of neighbors can chat briefly on a chairlift, and a couple of months later, a new high-tech company sprouts up.

That was the genesis, at any rate, of Unifi Technologies Inc., a Web-based medical information tracking system that is, according to its founders, much cheaper and more powerful than anything they've found on the market yet today.

Bendt Brodersen kicked the idea around with a neighbor, Tim McGinnis, one day last year on a Mt. Bachelor ski area chairlift.

The conversation led them to investigate a software system, developed by doctors, that could do all of those things relatively effectively, Broderson recalled last week. Not only that, but the system could be easily adapted for use in a wide variety of practices, without the major expense of rewriting or customizing code.

Its key problem, on the other hand, was a key problem shared by most similar softwares, Brodersen said – it needed an expensive in-house computer system to run it.

Unifi Technologies Inc. vice president of sales and marketing Randy Barnes, left, and president Bendt Brodersen have helped develop a Web-based medical information tracking system that they say is cheaper and more powerful than anything else on the market. Unifi Technologies Inc. vice president of sales and marketing Randy Barnes, left, and president Bendt Brodersen have helped develop a Web-based medical information tracking system that they say is cheaper and more powerful than anything else on the market.



Using connections they've built after years in Bend, Brodersen and McGinnis set out to rework the software to run on the Web as a software-on-demand system. With their self-financed new company, Unifi Technologies, they tapped the software design skills of Information Concepts Inc., a Bend company with a background in medical software solutions. And they tapped Randy Barnes, a Bend man with a deep background in communications software, to help market it.

The result is a system that can cut a medical office's information management startup costs by up to $150,000, Brodersen said, while providing a secure Web-driven, fully integrated system that can be accessed from anywhere and is capable of securely sharing a patient's key medical information with other medical practitioners anywhere in the world.

The company uses servers running off of three separate power grids in Manhattan, Atlanta and New Orleans, ensuring that no single disaster will result in a catastrophic data loss, Brodersen said.

Meanwhile, it has set out to market it, focusing on the smallest practitioners and clinics first, largely because they are the offices that are least able to afford the industry-standard, mainframe-driven systems, Brodersen and Barnes said.

So far, the software has worked well on local testing sites, Barnes said. One office has signed up for it – the cost can be as low as $300 per month – and others are interested, he said.

The company's three principals have a wealth of international business experience.

Brodersen moved here 11 years ago after years of work in electronic device technology and semiconductors. He managed Asia for seven years for locally based Advanced Power Technologies, which is now owned by California-based Microsemi Corp.

McGinnis spent nearly 20 years as an executive vice president for Chase Manhattan Bank with a focus on security and secure transactions, overseeing operations in Asia with bases in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Barnes has logged 30 years in the software industry, including several in Bend with Orcom, a company later bought by Alliance Data Systems that specialized in utility billing and customer care software.

Why come out of retirement to take a shot at a startup in a tough industry?

There's nothing like the "adrenaline rush" of cobbling together a new business with a new idea in a market that seems ripe for it, Brodersen said.

"But when you retire, there's not a lot of those coming through," he said. "You hit the golf ball, and it doesn't do much for you."

"It's just the challenge of it."

Q: Your technology sounds great, but what are some of the challenges in marketing it?

A:Barnes: Any new company has challenges as they go to market. We decided to not just go to market with leading-edge capabilities but also with a new model based on how businesses are going to use applications in the future.

Utilizing the Web isn't new. What is new is the deployment of large-scale business applications over the Web. Over the next few years, we believe this will become commonplace.

Q: Do you expect to grow an employee base in Bend as the company grows?

A:Barnes: Yes. Central Oregon has a very strong base of talented resources we believe we can tap into. People live here for, among other reasons, the quality of life. Every Monday morning, you'll see individuals boarding planes and heading to their offices all over the country. Friday night, they all return. People within our organization have done this for years and are keenly aware how tiring this can be. Giving these people a chance to work close to home should be an easy decision.

Q: Is it a handicap or an advantage to start a technology company like yours from Central Oregon, as opposed to starting one in a larger market?

A:Barnes: I believe it's an advantage to us to be based in Central Oregon. Central Oregon is relatively rare in that we have access to a very talented pool of resources who reside in a wonderful part of the country. These resources are looking for a stable and fun work environment. They are able to live where they want to live and hopefully work where they want to work. Our solution gives people the opportunity to perform their work from just about anywhere.

Q: How large do you expect to grow, in terms of annual revenues, in five and 10 years?

A:Barnes: Our revenues aren't dependent on any manufacturing process that might reduce the speed with which we grow. Our growth will be based on the acceptance of the market and possible acquisitions we may look at making down the road. Our five-year plan has a target of approximately $6 million. At 10 years, we expect revenues to be in excess of $50 million per year.

David Fisher can be reached at 617-7862 or at dfisher@bend bulletin.com


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