How CDW execs help tsunami victims

May 30, 2005


Saturday, K.C. Tomsheck, senior director of IT operations at Vernon Hills-based CDW Corp. turns over the keys of a new house to a family in Lake County.

This is the third Habitat for Humanity house that CDW coworkers have built since John Edwardson took the helm as CEO. Tomsheck worked on all three. The next stop for Tomsheck and nine other CDW coworkers is Khao Lak in the coastal region of Thailand, 50 miles north of Phuket. They'll spend two weeks in July building homes in the battered region.

The mission is Edwardson's brainchild. The CEO offered coworkers a deal: Contribute whatever you wish to tsunami relief, no matter how small. Edwardson pledged to match employee contributions. CDW's founder, Michael Krasny weighed in, agreeing to match as well. Together, CDW brass and staffers raised $322,000 for tsunami relief.

Additionally, Edwardson offered to draw 10 names from the contributors' list for a two-week, expense-paid mission to Thailand to restore damaged housing.

"I told my family the day John Edwardson made the announcement that if I got selected, I would go," said the 41-year-old Tomsheck.

Preparation for this project is different from Tomsheck's typical IT assignments. He received vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, measles, tetanus, yellow fever and typhoid. He also must take malaria medicine before, during and after the trip.

On this Memorial Day, it's good to know there are tech workers like Tomsheck willing to give back to the global village. It's also good to know there are CEOs like Edwardson mobilizing community spirit while still delivering stellar financial results to shareholders.

Location, location, location

GlobalNetXchange is moving its headquarters from San Francisco to downtown Chicago. The move announced last week was first reported in April by SunTimes Business staffer Sandra Guy.

GNX CEO Joe Laughlin said, "Chicago is the best location. It's a great transportation hub, and the cost of doing business is much more favorable than San Francisco."

GNX serves global customers in the consumer products and retailing industries such as Carrefour, Coles Myer, Diageo and Metro Group as well as American stalwarts including Kroger, Ace Hardware and Sears.

The move means 100 new jobs in Chicago. GNX is leasing 28,000 square feet at 200 W. Monroe. The state of Illinois is providing $50,000 in employee training assistance to GNX as part of the relocation deal, according to Laughlin.

Laughlin sees Chicago's diverse labor pool as an asset. "We need people who are sensitive to the multiple cultures and languages where our customers do business," he said. He praised Paul O'Connor and Dan Lyne from World Business Chicago for identifying the benefits of Chicago for GNX.

"We've had no problem finding talented software architects and developers," Laughlin said.

Kaplan Challenge Pays $50K

Zebra Technologies founder Ed Kaplan bankrolled the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business New Venture Challenge. A total of 59 teams of aspiring entrepreneurs participated this year.

Nine finalists squared off presenting business plans to a panel of judges including some of the nation's top venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, including Kaplan.

This year's $20,000 top prize goes to, a high tech college-board test preparation service. uses online content and coaches to prepare high school students for the SAT.

"It's not just PCs. It's iPods, cell phones and IMs," said founder Avichal Garg. "We want to educate using tools 16-year-olds use."

Will parents sign up? Consider Garg's cofounders, Karan Goel and Joseph Jewell. Goel finished college at the University of Chicago in just three years. Jewell is a Rhodes Scholar. They clearly know something about achievement. I think they'll impress the parents.

The $15,000 second prize winner is F2, which offers a proprietary real-time system for optimizing Internet advertising. Medical-device provider RheoxTech and child health-beverage maker Crazy Waters split the $10,000 third prize. The remaining five finalists divided the last $5,000 in prize money.

"This was one of our best competitions," said U. of C. Professor Steve Kaplan, who chairs the New Venture Challenge. "These are strong companies that will be funded."

Michael Krauss is a Chicago-area tech writer and consultant.


 ©2005 Marion Consulting Partners