Tech group changes name, leader and focus
February 7, 2005
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
When software companies
find their product is passe, or their technology improves, they
launch a new version. The 23-year-old Chicago Software Association
is doing just that. The CSA, representing more than 400 area technology
companies, is rechristening itself the Illinois Information Technology
ITA names Fred Hoch, 34, as president. Hoch joins ITA from the
Washington, D.C.-based Software and Information Industry Association
where he was a vice president. Hoch is expected to be the highly
visibly face of ITA. He has a reputation of being equally comfortable
in an elegant corporate boardroom or in the garage of a tech startup.
"The Chicago and
Illinois tech communities are gaining momentum but under represented,"
says Hoch, who is clearly enthusiastic. "People around the
country and on both coasts have great things to say about Chicago's
technology community." Hoch hopes to provide national perspective,
which could increase the prominence of local tech across the nation,
leading to more business opportunities.
Hoch inherits an advocacy
group with lofty ambitions, but the Illinois Information Technology
Association faces an uphill battle. Time will tell if ITA under
Hoch's command can deliver on its broadened mission.
New software versions
offer great promise. It's how well they function after installation
that's critical. The same is true with the new ITA.
"This began last
spring," says Terry Howerton, 32, CEO of Chicago-based Fastroot
and interim president of the ITA. "We decided to dream bigger
dreams and have broader objectives."
A team of three dozen
volunteers engaged in the planning, Howerton says. In the vanguard
were Ellen Carnahan, managing director of William Blair; Doug
Cogswell, CEO, Advizor Solutions; Jack Noonan, CEO, SPSS, and
Bill Merchantz, CEO, Lakeview Technology.
They benchmarked CSA
with the Pittsburgh Technology Council, which operates in a market
one-tenth the size of Chicago. But, Howerton says, "they
have triple the members, and a full-time staff of 35. They play
a meaningful role in Pittsburgh's entrepreneurship and venture
communities. There's no excuse for Chicago not to be doing a much
The ITA will have three
goals. Get beyond software to include advanced manufacturing,
nanotech and biotech. Establish a statewide focus. (Last year
the group helped defeat a proposed software tax). And, do more
than represent technology vendors.
Howerton wants ITA
to serve corporate and mid-size tech buyers. He views our state's
tech problem as a gap between local buyers and sellers. He's right.
The new ITA intends
to help buyers and sellers connect in Illinois. Howerton plans
to build on the successful "technology bridge" program
introduced by former CenterPost CEO Juergen Stark and David Weinstein,
president of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center.
The bridge program
helps newer startups gain access to the region's larger companies.
Howerton sees a need to scale this effort statewide.
Scott Glickson, partner
at the law firm Gordon & Glickson and an ITA board member,
sees the changes as positive. "It will facilitate more connections
between vendors and buyers," Glickson says. The result will
be more jobs across the state.
Former CSA executive
director Candy Renwall, who stepped down last November, is thrilled.
Says Renwall, who retains close ties to ITA, "Once again,
the association is in the vanguard."
Google posted a seven-fold increase in fourth-quarter profits.
That's good news for Richard Stokes, founder
of local tech startup AdGooroo. AdGooroo
provides on-demand competitive intelligence for Google AdWords
advertisers. The more companies advertise on Google, the more
they need Stokes.
This week the Chicagoland
Entrepreneurial Center names AdGooroo entrepreneur of the month.
"AdGooroo is one of several emerging technology companies
in Chicago leveraging the search-engine industry," CEC managing
director Jason Felger says.
Stokes isn't complaining
about finding money to grow his business in Chicago. Sources say
AdGooroo is picking up angel investors and organizational momentum.
"If you've got
a great opportunity and are able to execute, the money is not
hard to find," Stokes insists.
Krauss is a Chicago-area tech writer and consultant.