Ellis takes the reins from Univa founder

March 13, 2006


Today, Mike Ellis, 49, will be named CEO of Lisle-based Univa, one of the Chicago area's most promising tech startups. Ellis takes the helm from Univa co-founder Steve Tuecke, 38, who continues as Univa's chief technology officer.

Ellis' arrival adds a seasoned leader with strong global business-development credentials. Ellis is a former senior vice president at i2 Technologies, the logistics enterprise software company. He helped guide i2 from startup, through growth, and into an established global enterprise software provider. He was responsible for developing distribution relationships at i2 with technology powerhouses including SAP, IBM, HP, Accenture, Microsoft and Oracle. Prior to i2, Ellis held key roles at Oracle. Most recently, he served as managing director of Ellis Management Group.

Ellis is pumped up about Univa's prospects: "I've been in the software business over 25 years. Univa is like no other software startup."

That's more than new CEO enthusiasm. Univa could affect enterprise computing the way Google changed search technology.

What is grid computing?

"Jim has a unique combination of sales, marketing and channel experience," says Tuecke, who co-founded Univa with Ian Foster and Carl Kesselman. Tuecke was the chief technology architect behind Univa's respected Globus toolkit.

Tuecke, Foster and Kesselman are luminaries in the emerging area of grid computing. Grid computing was created at Argonne National Labs and the University of Chicago to bring massive computing resources to bear to solve complex problems in high-energy physics, brain research and climate modeling.

Univa was founded to help meet the challenges of deploying global technology hardware, software and human resources in the commercial and public sectors. While enterprise software solutions like SAP, Peoplesoft, Siebel and Oracle help knit together large global companies such as Abbott Labs, Wrigley, Goldman Sachs and Toyota, enterprise-scale computing remains complex, inefficient and expensive.

Univa aims to improve the underlying efficiency and effectiveness of global computing infrastructures.

Tuecke compares today's use of technology in global companies to having outstanding toys.

"The question is, who gets to use the toys and when?" Tuecke asks. "Should every child get their own toy box chock full of the newest toys? You can't afford to give every one of those kids their own toy box with all their own copies."

Yet a lot of global organizations are doing just that when it comes to technology.

Tuecke adds, "That's why you have 10-to-15-percent server utilization. Univa provides a referee in the middle that allows the kids to play with the toys, but to share them in an organized fashion."

Tuecke's talking about more than hardware efficiency. Business processes need to be prioritized. Grid computing assures that a bank puts the right technology resources on fraud problems or executing critical transactions.

Grid also helps companies align their diverse platforms of computers and software packages.

Ellis plans to expand Univa here in Chicago.

"We have no intention of moving the company," Ellis says. "Chicago is a fantastic business climate in terms of young companies and growth opportunities."

Ellis and Tuecke report local business leaders are helping Univa.

"VCs in other parts of the country told us we couldn't possibly build a tech company in Chicago," Tuecke said. The reality has been quite different.

"Even Chicago VCs who didn't fund us have helped plug us into the community," he adds.

Univa is backed by ARCH Venture Partners and New World Ventures, along with Appian Ventures and OCA Ventures. Tuecke also points to support from the Illinois Venture Capital Association, the Illinois Information Technology Association and TiE (the Indus Entrepreneurs), which helped raise the company's profile and aided in sourcing top tech and management talent.

Bits & bytes

Phoenix Principle author Adam Hartung discusses the challenges of fostering a corporate culture of innovation Tuesday night at the MIT Enterprise Forum at Gardner Carton & Douglas.

Abbott Labs global VP Don Patton talks about biotech innovation and growing the medical diagnostics business Thursday at the Business Marketing Association at noon at the Gleacher Center.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.


 ©2006 Marion Consulting Partners