Wasserberger in driver's seat at Intellext

January 31, 2005


Chicago tech CEO Al Wasserberger is back behind the wheel of a race car of a company. Today, Intellext (previously Open Road Technologies) announces Wasserberger, 37, is its new CEO.

Wasserberger is known for building tech companies and his participation in Indy car racing. In July 1996, Wasserberger founded Spirian Technologies, which automated software deployment to desktops and servers.

He sold the company in October 2003 to San Antonio-based SecureInfo. Recently, Wasserberger served as entrepreneur in residence at the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, where he volunteered advising local startups.

Now Wasserberger is in the driver's seat at Intellext, a company sporting a disruptive technology product called Watson, a high-octane search engine incubated at Northwestern University's development lab. It's the brain child of Intellext co-founders Jay Budzik and Northwestern professor Kris Hammond.

Another Mosaic?

"This is the hottest thing happening in how users interact with information systems," Wasserberger says. He believes Watson has the same potential to impact technology users as the Mosaic browser. Time will tell if he's accurate, but his enthusiasm is obvious.

Watson sits on your computer desktop observing your work. It automatically searches the information sources you use -- e-mail, hard drives, search engines, Web sites -- and delivers information before you ask. It aims to put information at your fingertips more quickly and efficiently. Hence the derivation of its name: "Watson, come here. I need you."

"We have some great science. We have some terrific development. Now we have absolutely incredible business leadership in Al," says Hammond, who also serves as director of Northwestern's development lab.

Investors include Motorola Ventures, LaSalle Investments, Palomar Ventures, University Fund and Northwestern University. To date the company has raised just over $2 million. Another funding round is expected later this year.

Intellext plans to locate its offices in downtown Chicago, according to Wasserberger.

"We're going to be a kind of innovation that is new to the world and absolutely new to Chicago," Hammond adds.

CIOs seek wellness record

Consider this: Your child is brought to Children's Memorial Hospital for emergency care. Can you provide the ER physician immediate access to your child's medical history, including drug allergies? Probably not.

That would change if a team of Chicago's top health care CIO's get their way. This Thursday, a group of local CIOs convene at Rush University Medical Center to develop a model for patient-directed data sharing across our region. Their Personal Wellness Record (PWR) approach could become a model for the nation.

Rush CIO Lac Tran, Children's CIO Stan Krok and Rehabilitation Institute CIO Tim McKula are leading the effort under the auspices of the Illinois CIO Exchange, a local tech industry group. According to organizers, more than 20 area hospitals and health care delivery organizations are involved.

"Today the information is fractured across organizations," McKula says. "As a patient, I don't have full insight. I have rights to get access but it's not readily available. This provides an aggregate view of all that information, and pushes it into the hands of the patient allowing them to proactively manage and share it with others."

Adds Michael Flavich of the Revere Group consulting, which is supporting the effort, "This is an example of professionals taking charge of their own destiny, creating the right solution, and not waiting for the federal government to impose a solution from inside the beltway."

Abt technology insights

"We Chicagoans enjoy our high tech," says Mike Abt, 41, president of Abt Electronics in Glenview. Abt says flat screen TVs, Apple products and satellite radios are flying off the shelves.

Just back from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Abt predicts more stereo receivers and car radios will become iPod compatible. "Companies are building their devices around the iPod," Abt says.

Abt's family has a unique perspective on Chicago's tech buying habits. They've been purveyors of consumer technology since 1936 when his grandmother, Jewel, and grandfather, David, launched their Logan Square store. Today his father, Bob, 66, is CEO while brothers, Rick, 39; John, 37, and Billy, 35, serve as vice presidents.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.


 ©2005 Marion Consulting Partners