Innovation Awards honor risk-takers
October 24, 2005
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
I grew up on the North
Side, but I want the White Sox to win the World Series. Chicago
needs winners in baseball and technology.
don't know A. J. Pierzynski or Ozzie Guillen. I wish I did. I
do know Bill Lederer and Eric Heneghan, and I'm rooting for them
all. You can read about A.J. and Ozzie on the sports page. Let
me tell you about Bill and Eric.
Bill Lederer hit it
out of the park in the Internet boom. His affordable-art Web site,
Art.com, went for more than extra bases. It was Chicago's first
Internet grand slam. Art.com received $11.5 million in funding
in November 1998. In May 1999 Lederer sold out to Getty Images
for a cool $128 million.
Major leaguer that
he is, Lederer is back at bat. He's pitching Socrates.com. Socrates
is no curve ball. It's a chest-high fastball headed right for
Lederer's wheel house.
solutions for common life problems. Need to create a lease, a
will or a tax return? The forms and the know-how are all on Socrates.com.
Lederer is creating
simplified services for the things you would pay a lawyer, an
accountant or a consultant hundreds of dollars an hour to provide.
Socrates is more than
a forms business. It offers over 7,500 products including guides,
newsletters, kits, books and electronic downloads that help you
do it yourself. If you get jammed up, Socrates will connect you
with a qualified professional.
It's both an online
and off-line business. By year end, Socrates products will be
in 9,000 retail outlets. Lederer expects sales to reach $14 million
this year. He'll be in the black next year. He's going global,
which is why he's calling it Socrates.
"As the world's
most famous teacher, Socrates has unbelievable name recognition
throughout the world," says Lederer. Sounds like a winner
At the dot-com dawn,
Eric Heneghan and his brother Adam built Giant Step into Chicago's
leading interactive advertising agency. In 1999, they sold out
to Leo Burnett for a tidy but undisclosed sum.
"We keep that
all pretty quiet," says Heneghan who was an early advocate
of online advertising.
Like a big league manager,
Heneghan believes the power of the Internet is in the numbers:
the ability to measure business effectiveness. He taught GM how
to cut the cost of customer acquisition by 60 percent using online
For the past four years,
the Heneghan boys have been building a new Internet marketing
company. Their latest trip to the plate is as owners of Elevation
They just took 10,000
square feet of space at Kinzie and Clark. Their clients include
H20+, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Navteq, Jones Lang LaSalle,
Orbitz and Pella Windows.
Says Heneghan, who
persevered through the dot-com losing streak, "Traditional
companies are just starting to realize how to use this Internet
When it comes to developing
the next generation Internet, Chicago is where it's at.
Internet2. Grid Computing.
StarLight. I-WIRE. TeraGrid. The Chicago Ring Network. All of
these cutting-edge efforts take place here. They're shaping the
future of computing. The leader in grid computing software tools,
Univa works out of Lisle.
On Friday morning,
the University of Chicago's Bob Rosenberg will assemble the team
that's developing the next generation Internet at a Tech Forum
at the Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago.
Speakers include U.S.
Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), chair of the House Science subcommittee
on Energy; U. of C. and Argonne Grid computing guru Ian Foste.r;
Univa CEO Steve Tuecke; U. of C. CIO Greg Jackson, and TeraGrid
project director Charlie Catlett.
No word yet on whether
Jerry Reinsdorf will attend. After basketball and baseball, maybe
he wants to win at technology.
CEO Mark Hurd keynotes tonight's Economic Club
dinner at the Chicago Hilton & Towers.
& carbon: investing in an affordable low-carbon energy future"
will be the topic of a high-energy roundtable presented by the
Executives' Club of Chicago at noon Nov. 17 at the Chicago Hilton.
Exelon CEO John Rowe, Natural Resources Defense
Council energy director Ralph Cavanagh, and U.S.
Deputy Secretary of Energy Clay Sell are on tap.
Call (312) 263-3500.
Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.