Issue: September/October 2011
Entrepreneur's Toolkit: Wired for Growth
Summit Data Communications initially planned to build wireless systems for factories and big-box retailers. But a request from a health care company three years ago opened an entirely new market and primed the Akron business for even further growth.
Philips Healthcare contacted Summit Data Communications three years ago about building a wireless system for portable EKG machines. As Summit — then a relatively new startup located in the Akron Global Business Accelerator — worked on the project, the company realized it had a new, previously unrealized market in which to grow.
What to Ask
Why am I doing this?
Don’t get so caught up in the excitement of entrepreneurship that you don’t seriously evaluate the reasons for such a professional change. “What is it about starting up a business that has you willing to give up whatever it is you have invested in your career to date?” asks Phil Bessler, Business Clinic director at Baldwin-Wallace College.
Am I focused?
“Invention is 1 percent innovation and 99 percent perspiration,” says Ron Seide, CEO of Summit Data Communications. “Once the initial inspiration takes hold, it is just a matter of execution.”
How quickly can I get to market?
The faster you get to market, the quicker revenue starts coming in, and the sooner you can take a paycheck. Seide says this is particularly important if you are self-funded.
After all, what environment could be more challenging to keeping mobile devices on a wireless network than a
hospital with its lead-lined walls and hundreds of pieces of older medical equipment? And in what environment was that wireless connection more critical?
“The challenges of keeping a mobile device on network in a hospital is similar to keeping a mobile device on network in a steel mill,”
says Ronald Seide, CEO of Summit Data Communications. “A hospital is a challenging environment, but a lot of our intellectual property developed over the last five years is applicable to the health care industry.”
Five former Cisco Systems employees founded Summit Data Communications in March 2006, and the company now has more than 30 employees. The plan was to develop Wi-Fi systems for factories and big-box retailers, often a difficult proposition because those facilities are built with a lot of steel, which bounces radio waves around, and there are often great distances between receivers and transmitters.
“We wanted to focus on the harshest of environments and the most stringent of networking requirements,” Seide says.
The entry into the medical device world was not originally in the plans. It made sense, though.
“A lot of the intellectual property we have developed over the last five years is applicable to the health care industry,” Seide says.
Summit’s technology is being applied by rental-car companies that use Wi-Fi to check cars in at the airport and the handheld scanners used at big-box retailers. It’s found on forklift trucks in factories and at the games of amusement parks and stadiums, including the
Akron Aeros’ Canal Park, which is just three blocks away from Summit Data Communications’ offices in the Akron Global Business Accelerator.
In 2010, Inc. magazine named Summit the fastest-growing computer hardware company in the Midwest, with a three-year revenue growth rate of 516 percent.
And in April, the National Business Incubation Association named the company the 2011 Outstanding Incubator Client of the Year.
Now, Summit Data Communications is entering the health care market, which the company expects will lead to growth equal to the pace it saw in its first five years.
“It’s amazing that it happened right here in Akron, Ohio,” says Terrence Martell, director of operations and business development at the Akron Global Business Accelerator.
“Akron is kind of in the right place for wireless communication on the industrial side,” Martell says. “It’s grown here through other companies that were here before, and some of that talent stayed on and started new companies. This is one of those companies.”
Plus: Advice for striking out on your own
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