ARCHIVED  October 1, 1995

Optimus recruits private investors

DENVER – Erik Ringkjob, president of Fort Collins-based Optimus Corp., is candid about his company’s biggest barrier to growth.

Laments Ringkjob: “Nobody knows who we are or what we do.”

About $1 million could help change all that.

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And that’s why this late-summer night, at the Rockies Venture Club in a Denver skyscraper, Ringkjob is working the crowd or investment professionals, hoping to drum up seven figures’ worth of capital that could make Optimus an international company.

He’s just stuffed Optimus’ seven-year history and its hopes and aspirations into a 12-minute presentation that highlighted the club’s monthly meeting, attended by a record-breaking throng of 175 pinstripe-types looking for the next Apple.

Ringkjob is here covering his bases.

He’s been carrying on private discussions with handful of large companies – we’re talking high up on the fortune 500 here – that he hopes will ante up the capital, as well as their high-profile names.

But there’s been no commitment to date, and Ringkjob knows he might have to plumb other sources of equity, whether venture-capital firms or well-to-do private investors. Both are in the audience; Fortune 500 CEOs are not.

“I don’t think he was expecting somebody with a checkbook to come out of the crowd,” Art Harrison, co-chairman of the venture-capital club, said of Ringkjob. “I think he was expecting to be able to network with lawyers and accountants and others who know people with the checkbooks.”

From its East Boardwalk Drive offices, Optimus is perched for pumping up. The company provides products and services to the fast-growing CD-ROM market, specializing in the business-to-business arena.

It’s just introduced a pair of products that thrusts it into new territory. OPTImaster allows firms to produce a limited number of CD-ROMS affordably; previously, the production of one CD cost about as much as the production of 100.

And OPTImaster’s software companion, OPTIview, is also out. It’s the program that indexes and organizes the information on the CDs.

Businesses use the tandem to more efficiently retrieve data from vast amounts of information, replacing more time-consuming searches on microfiche or through reams of paper. Typically, the information is downloaded from mainframes.

Optimus’ clients include IBM Corp., the U.S. Department of Defense, Alex. Brown & Sons, the Society of Automotive Engineers, Shared Medical Systems, Walsh America/PMSI and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Another of its customers is GIS World, which has offices on the floor below Optimus. GIS World, which publishes magazines and reference books on geographic information systems, contracted with Optimus to put its annual sourcebook of about 750 pages of GIS products, services and databases on CD-ROM.

The 45,000 compact disks, which include multimedia snippets from advertisers, will be shipped out later this year with copies of GIS World and Business Geographics magazines.

“Given the technology, we thought it was a natural way to go to better access this information,´ said Don Hemenway, editor of GIS World. Eighty percent of the magazines’ readers have CD-ROM players, Hemenway said.

Ringkjob and his lieutenants are committed to raising the million bucks in fiscal year ’96, which began Oct. 1. The funds would support OPTImaster’s and OPTIview’s rollouts.

And the dollars would, hopefully, make Optimus a name familiar to more than just its 24 employees and its mailman, letting Ringkjob rest easier.

Not that Optimus has been faring badly. In two years, it has jump-started revenues from $1.9 million a year to an estimated $3.2 million in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30. At the same time, it’s pared its annual losses from $669,000 to about $200,000.

Optimus expects to turn the corner this year, listing sales of $5.3 million and profits of $335,00 on its fiscal-year 1996 budget. By the following year, it expects the numbers to come in at $8.5 million and $766,000, respectively.

“This would be a significant milestone in the history of the company,” Ringkjob said of his million-dollar hunt. “But it’s not make or break.”

The $1 million would allow Optimus to add more foot soldiers, or salespeople, to its payroll, helping get out the word on OPTImaster and OPTIview. And it would help Optimus crack the European market, where it’s looking for an agent to help the company form a business-to-business CD-ROM beachhead before anybody else does.

In Optimus’ industry, the spoils go to the aggressor. With the market Balkanized by dozens of small players, an emerging leader stands to clean up the $8 billion industry. So far, Optimus has barely scratched the surface, hardly pushing 5 percent market penetration.

Optimus is buoyed by development of OPTImaster and OPTIview, as well as a new agreement with Eastman Kodak Co.

The transaction, announced in July, allows Optimus to bundle OPTImaster with Kodak’s Writable CD System, a new product for small runs of CDs. As a result, IBM mainframe users can download information directly to a CD-ROM for distribution at less than 3 cents a megabyte.

“The demise of the mainframe really hasn’t happened like everybody suspected,” Richard Valdez, Optimus’ vice president of marketing and sales, said. “It’s still a large market, and it’s largely untapped.”

DENVER – Erik Ringkjob, president of Fort Collins-based Optimus Corp., is candid about his company’s biggest barrier to growth.

Laments Ringkjob: “Nobody knows who we are or what we do.”

About $1 million could help change all that.

And that’s why this late-summer night, at the Rockies Venture Club in a Denver skyscraper, Ringkjob is working the crowd or investment professionals, hoping to drum up seven figures’ worth of capital that could make Optimus an international company.

He’s just stuffed Optimus’ seven-year history and its hopes and aspirations into a 12-minute presentation that highlighted the club’s monthly meeting, attended by a record-breaking throng of…

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