Tech

Avaap acquires Navigator Management Partners

Edison-based Avaap, an advisory service and IT management consulting firm, announced Monday it has acquired Navigator Management Partners, a Columbus, Ohio-based cross-platform management and technology consulting firm.

The acquisition will allow Avaap to provide technology advisory and management consulting services for organizations in health care, retail, higher education, nonprofit, government, manufacturing and other industries.

Avaap, which has more than 200 customers in 35 countries, will now be able to serve a broader sector of the market, it said.

“The acquisition of Navigator is a landmark step in Avaap’s strategic development,” Dhiraj Shah, CEO and president, Avaap, said. “Digital transformation, migration to the cloud, and other industry disruptors are increasing the need for customers to seek an experienced partner that understands their business, not just the technology. Our focus is to have the leading market share in the industries we serve by providing superior end-to-end capabilities. This acquisition, along with the continued support from our capital partner NMS Capital, and the new partnerships we inherit, allow us to support our growth goals and extend that commitment to our largest assets; our customers and employee citizens.”

Financial terms were not disclosed.

“We are two growing and profitable companies, both passionate about our shared vision and values. Joining together puts us in a stronger position to build for the future faster and better than before, combining a massive breadth of experienced resources across multiple ERP platforms, as well as BI and change management expertise. The acquisition will allow our existing and new customers to have access to some of the best people and technologies available to address their critical missions and our employees will benefit from greatly expanded growth opportunities as part of the new company. We see strong opportunities for growth and the combined organization will enable us to have the team and resources to do so,” Navigator CEO David Schoettmer said.

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Why ex-Horizon exec founded new business in NYC, not N.J.

A former Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey executive has started a company that aims to bring value to businesses — largely health insurers — looking at data of their customers … but it isn’t based in New Jersey.

No stranger to entrepreneurship, Minal Patel, former senior vice president and chief strategy officer of Horizon, has started a couple of companies in the past. One was based in Hoboken and another in Springfield.

But Abacus Insights, the latest, is based in New York City.

“This one, the reason why I (started) in New York City, was really to have the most accessible geography to talent,” Patel said.

“It’s not that New Jersey doesn’t have the talent. We have quite a few people who travel from New Jersey into Manhattan. But I also have people traveling from Brooklyn and Queens that otherwise may not have joined us if they had to make one more leap over the river. So, my New York office is based, literally, four blocks from Port Authority, two blocks from Penn Station, all the subway lines run through here — so there is no one that can tell me they can’t join us because of the commute.”

The company announced May 30 the completion of a $12.7 million Series A financing round, led by CRV, along with existing investors .406 Ventures and Echo Health Ventures.

Patel started the company in August 2017, and has hired employees from along the East Coast, from Florida to Massachusetts.

His target client is the health insurance industry, where data is being collected in droves but not being used well, he said.

“Watching the struggle of trying to get data in order to try to create any kind of value, whether you’re an entrepreneur, physician or any kind of health plan … it just didn’t matter,” he said.

“Because we understood the pain points so much, what we wanted to do and how we wanted to accomplish it was very clear.”

Rather than stay at Horizon and create the software, where it was likely to hit several speed bumps and be a low priority as part of a large organization, Patel chose to leave and spend all his time working on the idea.

Being a startup has its advantages, such as the flexibility to hire remotely. It also allows the company to be nimble, and adapt to changes in technology quickly, Patel said.

“The technologies in the space continue to innovate,” Patel said.

“The two things that really allow this to happen now versus five years ago or 10 years ago, from the technical perspective … is that, one, data is more digitized today than it’s ever been … and the second thing is, now you have data up until three to five years ago, to give us the ability to really leverage the advanced computing capabilities to take large sums of data and really make sense out of it.”

The cloud, specifically, is where all the magic happens.

“Over the last 24 months what has really happened is the clouds — Amazon, Google, Microsoft — they’ve recognized that, if they want to be in the health care space, not only do they have to provide the computing capabilities to do the financial services and for other industries they work with, but health care also has very specific privacy and security requirements,” Patel said.

“Even in the time that we have existed, Amazon, for example, has matured a lot of its components to become more HIPAA-friendly and HIPAA-compliant. That has allowed us to leverage those capabilities in a much more rapid fashion. So, when we first started the company, we had used third-party software, because Amazon’s wasn’t quite ready yet. But in the six to nine months since we started, their products did mature to the point where we could use them. That cycle of innovation in months — not years, and sometimes in quarters — is really difficult for one single entity to keep up with.”

The hope, Patel said, is to have the buy-in of insurers as well as health care business in general — including doctors — but the platform is likely to be able to serve a broad range of business types so entrepreneurs can take advantage of the data analysis he wants to provide.

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Carolan, Ciano, Riccio earn Hall of Fame honor from NJ Tech Council

The award, presented at the Tech Council’s 2019 CFO Awards, is presented to a current or former chief financial officer for multiple achievements that have elevated the honoree to a level of recognition in the community and among their peers in the technology industry

These efforts can come at one company or several.

Carolan has been with Commvault since 2001. He became the CFO in 2012. Ciano is currently the vice president of finance and administration at PNY Technologies, and Riccio is the CFO and treasurer at Panasonic, where he oversees financial operations for the region and is responsible for ensuring the company’s business units align with overall global business goals.

The award was one of many handed out at the event. Other honorees included:

The CFO of the Year winners.

The Deal of the Year winners.

The Financier of the Year winners.

Game over: Cyber-breaches aren’t matter of if, but when, experts say — so companies need to prepare for worst case

As security breach events clog news cycles, businesses can only hope to find silver bullets in protective cybersecurity services.

Rob Kleeger hates to break the news to them: They will fail, he says.

And, without a hint of optimism, he adds, “And there’s nothing you can do to avoid that.”

Kleeger is the founder and managing director of Digital4nx Group Ltd., a Sherlock Holmes of the cybersecurity world. His firm does digital forensics work to investigate what data was compromised and how it can be recovered after a security breach.

In his view, preparing for hacker assaults doesn’t involve just going out to purchase the most advanced suite of cybersecurity products on the market. The biggest companies have tried that, he said.

“And, yet, those companies, with all their resources, are still getting breached and are in the front-page headlines all the time,” he said. “All the money in the world doesn’t solve the problem.”

Kleeger was a first responder during the 2011 Sony breach, during which the “hacktivist” group Anonymous announced its intent to go after the business in response to a lawsuit against George Hotz, a New Jersey native who gained notoriety for reverse-engineering the PlayStation 3 gaming system.

“That’s a perfect example, Sony banged their chest and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got 600 security engineers,’” he said. “When they got a letter from the Anonymous organization standing behind this person’s cause and threatening to bring Sony’s websites down. … Sony gave them the bird, and (Sony was) shut down two days later.”

The bottom line is this: Those that deal with these threats on a daily basis want business leaders to think about what to do when — not if — they’re the next victims on the hacker hit list.

“Most business leaders are thinking about this as a technical issue,” he said. “It’s not simply technical. At the end of the day, you have to understand what it is you want to protect and legal obligations you’ll have when you’re breached.”

No doubt influenced by his detective-like business approach, Kleeger is a fan of companies doing an investigation of their own systems and the kind of data they have before attacks happen.

And, even if hackers are hard to stop, having some level of cybersecurity protection is better than the alternative. But these are most effective when you know what specifically needs protecting, Kleeger said.

“Because, if an attacker finds themselves on your network but can’t get to the crown jewels, they’re going to leave empty-handed or just go after a lesser target,” he said.

Experts say part of why there’s no perfect failsafe to be found is the amount of security breaches caused by exploiting human behavior, not secured computer systems.

Mike Mullin, president of Integrated Business Systems, said it often comes down to what people choose as a password.

Integrated Business Systems
Mike Mullin, president of Integrated Business Systems.

Turns out the name of your favorite sports team doesn’t cut it anymore.

“If you’re trying to protect yourself from evils of the cyberworld, people need to understand that passwords need to be more than a name and a birthday or anniversary,” he said. “That’s all too easy to figure out. It has to be something truly random and only they know.”

Passwords in peoples’ personal lives and business lives tend to cross wires. That isn’t safe, Mullin said.

Mullin, who runs a Totowa company that offers a number of information technology services, described a recent situation in which a client suffered devastating downtime from a virus that spread just by someone clicking on an email attachment.

“Once it was on a computer in the organization, it only took minutes before each computer was affected, and the only way to get rid of it was reformatting all the hard drives,” Mullin said. “And it’s tough, because many businesses cannot survive being down five days without revenue.”

Mullin added that the unfortunate fact is, about half of businesses targeted by cybercriminals aren’t still in business six months later.

It might sound like cybersecurity experts are all doom and gloom, but in a hack-happy digital age, it’s hard for them not to be.

“The truth is, someone is waking up tomorrow morning wanting to steal what you’ve got,” Mullin said. 

Conversation Starters

Reach Digital4nx Group at: digital4nxgroup.com or 732-786-4062.

Reach Integrated Business Systems at: ibsre.com or 973-575-4950.

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Stopping power: Ramsey firm hopes tech, training make difference in 1st moments of potential mass shooting

Fewer and fewer people doubt that cybercriminals can devastate their computer systems, so … investing in the right technology protections? Why not?

The same sentiment, however, isn’t extended to a much more tangible threat, and one much more dangerous: active shooter situations.

Entrepreneur Erik Endress said it’s not just that organizations haven’t prepared adequately enough — many haven’t considered it at all.

Erik Endress of OnScene Technologies.

“They can’t even imagine the idea they’ll ever be in this situation,” he said. “But we’re seeing a shift in the mindset after something like (the) Sandy Hook or Parkland (school shootings), because people started to realize it can happen in any community in America.”

Endress is founder and CEO of OnScene Technologies Inc., which ties together different aspects of active shooter preparedness in both corporate environments and schools. 

The unique business guides organizations through what to do in the all-important first few minutes of an incident all the way through to crisis counseling and reunification of people with their families.

“And as you can imagine, even that’s a very, very stressful situation, in particular for the families, because they know their loved one has gone through this incident,” he said. 

Endress comes from a background that’s a blend of technology and emergency services. He was a longtime volunteer first responder with the Ramsey Rescue Squad, serving the borough his company is based in today.

Raymond Bailey, chief operating officer of OnScene Technologies, spent more than 25 years in law enforcement with the Ramsey Police Department. Endress and Raymond came up with the idea for a company that could better relay on-scene information in active shooter situations after identifying some of the problems first responders would encounter.

“What we saw as first responders was at a school, for example, the people in that facility during some type of emergency — in order to reach first responders — all had to call 911,” he said. “That’s not a system that scales well. In Ramsey, for example, there’s one dispatcher and three phone lines and, yet, in buildings, they have hundreds or thousands of occupants needing to communicate.”

Activate shooter situations tend to start, and end, quickly. But Endress said the time between someone first seeing a shooter approaching a building and first responders being notified through the typical channels — calling 911 — hasn’t been so quick.

“Meanwhile, there are people right there, very close to the gunman, who have no idea they’re in danger,” he said. “We believe that’s why there’s such high casualty counts often. People on the scene don’t know the shooter is there. They’re in close proximity. And then we see the tragic results in Sandy Hook and Parkland and what seems to be countless other such incidents.”

The company was launched at the behest of school district administrators several weeks after 2012’s Sandy Hook shooting, in which a gunman killed 26 teachers and children at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, Endress said. In 2013, the startup started to work with 10 school districts in New Jersey and had law enforcement partners throughout the state.

“By the end of that year, we knew we were on to something,” he said. “Six years later, our platform has been adopted by thousands of schools and workplaces across the country.”

The app operates similar to the navigation app Waze, Erik Endress, founder and CEO of OnScene Technologies, said. ­

The company’s largest density of customers is around Northern California, in school districts such as the one in Stockton, California — where, coincidentally or not, the country’s first mass school shooting happened when five schoolchildren were killed and 32 others wounded on a playground in 1989.

Regardless of its nationwide presence, its base remains in New Jersey, a fact Endress is proud of.

“This sort of company is only supposed to happen in Silicon Valley or New York City,” he said. “I thought it was important to show that you can do amazing things with software wherever you live. In Ramsey, we’re probably one of the few tech startups here.”

Share911, the company’s tech-driven emergency management platform, operates in a browser or desktop application as well as on mobile devices. What’s useful about it, Endress explained, is that as employees report where the danger is and that information updates in real time.

“That means you’re not hitting refresh on your browser … as people change their status, you’re seeing that information live,” he added. “It operates similar to the navigation app Waze, in that you’re driving along and it pops up and says there’s an accident ahead and you can make decision based on that. That technology is relatively new, and we were one of the first to use it.”

The tech side of what the company does is getting even more interesting with the advent of artificial intelligence and smart camera equipment that can identify danger before anyone would otherwise see it coming.

“An example of that would be license plate reader systems,” he said. “School districts and employers are doing this. They have these systems at their entrances, so that, if they fired an employee Thursday and that employee comes back next Tuesday to seek revenge, they’ve got that employee’s license plate in the system that can be flagged and then can notify everybody.”

All these tools are still new, and there isn’t widespread awareness among companies and school districts about it.

“But, once they learn about our software, either because a neighboring district or business uses it, generally the adoption rate is quite high,” Endress said. “They realize we’re solving what we call white space of the first five to six minutes of the most serious incident. It’s important to prepare for that.”

Conversation Starter

Reach Erik Endress of OnScene Technologies at: erik@share911.com or visit share911.com.

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Yet another great Jersey invention: blockchain

File photo

James Barrood is CEO and president of the New Jersey Tech Council.

New Jersey’s citizens and technologists are justly proud of all that’s been invented here. Transistors and tetracycline, Teflon and traffic circles. Bar codes and batting cages. Incandescent light bulbs, steam locomotives, Valium, bubble wrap, LCDs, C++, and Unix. But here’s one you might not have known about: blockchain.

You thought blockchain was invented by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, right? And people are still fighting about who Nakamoto is and where he (or she) came from. Well, they are — but, as Amy Whitaker pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, blockchain was actually invented at a Friendly’s ice cream parlor in Morristown.

“In 1990, the physicist Scott Stornetta had a eureka moment while getting ice cream with his family (there). He and his cryptographer colleague, Stuart Haber, had been thinking about the proliferation of digital files … and the ease with which files could be altered. They wondered how we might know for certain what was true about the past. What would prevent tampering with the historical record — and would it be possible to protect such information for future generations? Dr. Stornetta realized that the problem could be solved by decentralization: instead of a central record-keeper, the system could have many dispersed but interconnected copies of a shared ledger. The truth could never be typed over if there were too many linked ledgers to alter.”

Beginning in 1991, Stornetta and Haber published three of the seminal papers that “Nakamoto” would later quote in his own now-classic document introducing bitcoin and its decentralized blockchain. The system presented in Stornetta’s and Haber’s papers included most of the elements of modern blockchains, demonstrating how to establish a distributed consensus that made counterfeiting virtually impossible.

Why am I telling you this story, when you can read more detailed accounts in the Wall Street Journal and in Vice’s Motherboard? Because it illuminates several points about technical innovation that matter powerfully to us in New Jersey right now.

  1. Critical mass. When Stornetta had his epiphany, he and Haber worked at Bellcore, the Bell Labs spinoff that served the regional Bell operating companies. The two researchers were brought together in collaboration as part of New Jersey’s already-legendary ecosystem of innovation around networking and information technology.
  2. A culture of entrepreneurship. While huge, well-funded research centers like Bellcore and Bell Labs have always differentiated New Jersey, so has entrepreneurship. Building on their great idea, Stornetta and Haber founded Surety, a company that built products to protect intellectual property, preserve digital evidence and prove the authenticity of electronic data.
  3. The power of ideas. Surety still operates, but its ideas have had the biggest impact elsewhere, in different applications, ventures and markets — as great ideas so often do. (Stornetta recently observed that the early scientific literature surrounding blockchain still has ideas that could be mined for profit, if people would simply read them.)
  4. The indispensability of smart investors with capital to invest. Nowadays, Stornetta himself is chief scientist at a private equity firm investing in blockchain startups. And, here in his old backyard, New Jersey and the surrounding region is the nation’s second-largest innovation hub by the metric of venture capital funding.

When it comes to funding, we’re in a good place that’s only getting better. Here in New Jersey, new funds keep coming online — including the New Jersey Tech Council’s second venture fund, Tech Council Ventures, which has already made four investments, and our JumpStart Angel Network — 17 years old, and still growing.

If you’re in (or near) New Jersey and you care about technology and innovation, you should know more about these great funding communities. The Tech Council will be honoring some of our most influential investors and business leaders at its annual CFO + Investor Awards on June 7. (Click the link for more information.) Their efforts to finance and create the future don’t get enough recognition. We’re out to fix that — and you’re invited.

James Barrood is CEO and president of the New Jersey Tech Council.

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Conduent names new president, COO

Conduent Inc., a Florham Park-based digital interactions company, announced Tuesday it has named Cliff Skelton its new president and chief operating officer.

In this role, Skelton will be responsible for operating Conduent’s business units on a day-to-day basis.

“Over the past year, Conduent has made numerous foundational improvements to modernize our infrastructure and drive efficiencies to better serve our customers,” William G. Parrett, chairman of the board, Conduent, said. “Cliff’s experience across our key verticals and his proven ability to transform operations in the business process outsourcing sector by leveraging innovative technology make him the ideal person to lead our operational team. He will help build on Conduent’s efforts as we shift our business to focus on higher value-add digital offerings.”

Prior to Conduent, Skelton held roles of increasing responsibility at Fiserv Output Solutions, including president, executive vice president and chief information officer. Before that, he was the chief technology and operations officer at Ally Financial and chief operations officer for Bank of America. He also served more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy as an aviator and squadron commanding officer.

“Conduent works at the intersection of the right industries, conducting millions of mission-critical business transactions every day,” Skelton said. “The company’s market position is enhanced by its longtime relationships with loyal clients that benefit from an experienced team with deep domain expertise. I look forward to the opportunity to work in a hands-on manner to drive Conduent’s enterprise-wide transformation.”

Audible says new facility symbolizes Newark’s history, company’s innovation

The grand opening of a new facility has begun a new chapter for Audible, its employees, New Jersey business leaders and the greater Newark community.

Audible founder and CEO Don Katz, elected officials, business leaders, employees and members of the Newark community came together Friday to celebrate the grand opening of the company’s Innovation Cathedral. Once home to the Second Presbyterian Church, a congregation founded in 1811, the cathedral will now serve as an office facility for 400 Audible employees.

Audible did not immediately clarify whether the employees would be new hires, or moved from another facility and where.

The Innovation Cathedral, aligned with Audible’s goals to support students, interns and entrepreneurs and grow a tech ecosystem, seeks to revitalize the growing Newark business community.

Katz said the Innovation Cathedral was a proud landmark for Newark and a powerful symbol of Audible’s commitment to the city for over a decade.

“We have defined ourselves by the strategic pursuit of what a successful company can mean in ways that transcend what it does — and today is proof that our efforts are yielding positive outcomes for business and invention culture, for the many talented people who want to work with us and for the comeback of this great American city,” he said. “Doing the right thing is a responsibility all corporations must take seriously — and that companies anchored in cities like Newark have an obligation to lead.”

Built in 1933, the 80,000-square-foot cathedral was reimagined to maintain its historical elements while also reflecting a modern and innovative workplace. Its distinctive stained-glass windows and organ pipes remain, but new additions include game areas, an auditorium, a refurbished bowling alley, an exhibit space, work cafes and lounges.

Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka said the cathedral embraced the future of Newark while also symbolizing its preserved history.

“Audible’s restoration of this historic landmark into a center of innovation and tech job creation — including jobs for Newarkers — is one powerful example of the over $4 billion in economic development occurring across the city today, but it is so much more,” he said. “It is emblematic of a company with a moral compass driving inclusive growth, elevating our students with educational tools and internships, and supporting the local economy by living local and buying local.”

When Audible’s headquarters made the move to Newark in 2007, it became the city’s fastest-growing private employer, with 1,650 full-time employees. The company’s mission seeks to catalyze Newark residents by offering jobs and training programs, as well as incentives including housing subsidies for employees who choose to move to the city from elsewhere.

Katz said that moving Audible to Newark was one of the best decisions the company has made.

“In addition to our growth, the economic impact and job creation catalyzed by Audible and Newark Venture Partners is a call to arms for other companies who are joining us and who should join us here to thrive as we have,” he said. “Continuing to invest in Newark is as important as anything else we do.”

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Canadian company pays $40M for Hackensack video software firm

A Canadian enterprise software company has paid $40 million for Vidyo Inc., a Hackensack-based provider of video software solutions, it announced Wednesday.

Enghouse Systems Ltd. said Vidyo has annual revenue of about $60 million and more than 1,700 customers worldwide. Vidyo offers an infrastructure software platform that supports visual communications across a variety of networks and locations, according to a news release on the deal.

“We’re excited to join Enghouse because of the great product fit and our shared vision,” Vidyo Chairman and CEO Michael Patsalos-Fox said in a prepared statement. “Enghouse gives us the opportunity to amplify our product innovation, service and support, making this a great transaction for Vidyo’s customers and partners.”

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SHI International sets Q1 revenue record

Somerset-based SHI International, an IT solutions provider, announced Thursday its first quarter earnings, rising 7.5% year-over-year.

The Somerset-based company said it earned $2.3 billion in the first quarter of 2019, surpassing a record set in the first quarter of 2018.

The firm experienced growth both domestically and internationally, it said. SHI’s Public Sector revenue was up 25% over last year, while Corporate and SMB was up 14%. Internationally, France led the way in terms of growth with a 36% jump while the U.K. rose 19% year-over-year.

“Last year SHI experienced one of our best first quarters ever. But despite that quick start and a marketplace change that will be reflected in SHI’s reporting throughout 2019, we again set a new first quarter record,” SHI CEO and President Thai Lee said. “We continue to see strong growth among our top partners and business units, and remain on schedule with the construction of two new facilities that will increase our capacity to support our customers. Our unwavering focus on addressing customers’ IT and business challenges, the ongoing strength of our partnerships, and the dedication of our employees will keep SHI on course for continued growth.”

The company also said its Integration Center, a 400,000-square-foot facility in Piscataway, is slated for completion in September. Also, the Garza Ranch, SHI Austin’s future home, is expected to open in February 2020.

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