Centera grows with e-commerce strategies

BOULDER – Boulder-based Centera Information Systems Inc. is moving through the ranks.

Specifically, the e-commerce consulting company was ranked the 15th fastest-growing technology firm in Colorado in the 1999 Deloitte and Touche Fast 50. Additionally, Forbes listed Centera as the 448th fasting growing technology company in the United States.

Not bad for a company that started out on a shoestring.

“We had no fixed seed capital to begin,” says Alan Ferguson, vice president of sales and marketing and one of Centera’s original three founders. “Originally we invested sweat equity more than capital.”

Going from basically zero dollars in 1991 to an expected $10 million revenue in 2000 certainly adds an appealing twist to the image of sweat.

Rick Dakin, Centera president, refers to the company as the arms dealer for the Internet revolution. “We provide the strategies, processes, systems and applications our clients need to be able to deploy effective Web solutions,” he says.

In short, Centera helps companies understand how using the Web can give them a competitive edge.

“We offer end-to-end e-business solutions through three practices – Internet strategy development, Web-based application development and e-business systems design and integration,” Dakin says.

“We look at what you want to do with your business rather than just looking at what products you want to sell,” Ferguson adds.

Centera’s three founders, Dakin, Ferguson and Tim Wagner, created the company by combining years of experience. Their technical educations came from working at companies such as IBM, Motorola and United Technologies Corp.

It’s obviously taken more than good computer know-how to make the company as successful as it is. According to one of Centera’s clients, Kennet Westby, chief technology officer at cornerstore.com, Centera’s comprehensive approach to clients is what sets them apart from the crowd.

“Not only are they one of the largest e-commerce based companies, but they work well as business consultants, too,” he says.

With offices in Washington and in New York, cornerstore.com has been working with Centera since August. The start-up Web company, scheduled to go live in February, provides services that include e-commerce tools to independent pharmacies.

“Centera developed all of our e-commerce interactions and designed and facilitated the purchase of equipment for our hosting architecture,” Westby says. “They really know the business.”

Like many Front Range companies, Centera competes to hire world-class Web professionals. “A lot of the things we do haven’t been done before. We’re creating many processes that are being developed for the first time,” Dakin says, elaborating on why their crew needs to be exceptionally creative and talented.

The company’s approach to hiring those cream-of-the-crop employees is to focus on providing the most challenging and exciting projects under development in today’s e-business market, according to Dakin.

“We recruit great customers,” he explains. “With bad customers, we lose good people, so we only take on customers who are really willing to take on creating a competitive advantage – people who like to win.”

The time is over when companies could pay employees a lot of money to work on projects they can’t believe in, he adds.

“Of course we also benefit by being able to offer competitive compensation along with a great place to live and work – Boulder County.”

Centera’s 40-person staff is currently completing the move to a 20,000-square-foot facility (as compared to their previous 5,000-square-foot facility) on Walnut Street. They expect the new space to cover expected growth over the next three years.