October 31, 2003

Networking group CSIA helps strengthen state’s tech business

WESTMINSTER — The best way for a small startup to get noticed is to network, according to Aaron White.

White, founder and chief technology officer of Broomfield-based security startup DigiMerc LLC, is an active member of the Colorado Software and Internet Association, and has met both customers and suppliers through the organization.

CSIA, as it is known by members, sponsors, volunteers and staff, is an information technology trade association that focuses on strengthening the technology community in Colorado.

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President Su Hawk came on board in May.

Hawk is “a natural-born communicator who lives and breathes technology,” according to her former boss Scott Bemis, publisher of the Denver Business Journal.

She left a six-year stint as vice president of communications of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce for a career in technology after conducting a research study on technology trends in the area.

“I needed to get on this technology train or wave it goodbye,” Hawk said.

After four years with technology public relations agencies Sheinkein and Claris, Hawk was approached to take over Front Range TechBiz, an online technology publication of the Denver Business Journal.

Five months later, publisher Hawk had to fire the entire team, including herself, when the publication folded. She joined the Denver Business Journal as director of tech initiatives and marketing. Six months later “CSIA came knocking,” Hawk said. It was tough “because the DBJ is a great place and Scott Bemis is one of the most significant mentors I’ve ever had.”

Hawk is one of CSIA’s three paid staff people. The organization also has a lobbyist on retainer.

CSIA has three major funding sources — membership, sponsorship and event attendance, which contribute 60 percent, 30 percent and 10 percent, respectively, of the association’s income.

CSIA is a 501 c (6k) nonprofit organization, so membership is a business expense, not a charitable donation. Hawk wouldn’t discuss her operating budget, saying only it’s “less than I need it to be.”

Membership starts at $295 per year for a technology company with 25 employees or fewer and goes up to about $5,500. “We make it a very fair price point,” Hawk said. “It’s an easy business decision to spend less than $300, and it makes all of their employees members.”

Membership for nontechnology companies ranges from $700 for a business with up to nine employees to a top fee of $2,000.

CSIA has about a dozen annual sponsors, including financial services and law firms, and professional services providers.

One of the reasons Hawk joined CSIA is its business model.

“It’s smart,” she said. “There’s a very low price point for technology companies that’s a little higher for nontechnology companies.” Nine out of 10 members are technology companies. “If we have that density of technology companies then others will find great value,” Hawk said. “Marketing and advertising people, and attorneys are running into technology companies and not other people in their industry.”

DigiMerc’s White attributes some of his company’s growth to CSIA membership.

“When you are part of those organizations, you grow relationships within the organization,” he said. He also notes that CSIA membership is a way to get to know the technology community as a whole. “It’s a good meeting arena and good way to get an insight of what’s going on with other technologies or verticals within that space. It’s so broad that when you talk security or computers in the group you cover more space.”

White said he makes himself available to members for basic security questions. For example, during the recent rash of computer viruses, he gave free advice to CSIA members. Some of those calls will lead to business, White said. “I try to assist on a high level, but I can’t give away our services for free all the time.”

DigiMerc is among the 250 or so members of CSIA. One of Hawk’s missions in 2004 is to grow the membership to 300. She thinks as Colorado recovers from the economic slump, companies that may have not wanted the expense of trade group membership during uncertain times will sign on.

“Last year companies were on hold,” Hawk said. “This year they want to make some business happen.”

Hawk also thinks the 2004 elections will attract members.

“Next year is an election year, and because of legislative activities we have members who want help lobbying,” she said. “We have an active public policy committee and are looking at the legislative agenda for 2004. We will be very strong on public policy, and so people will want to join for that reason.” Some of the areas CSIA is targeting are laws regarding spam and privacy.

Hawk is looking at programs for the 2004 calendar, but doesn’t have any specific plans yet. She’ll likely expand some of the organization’s successful activities like Hi-Tech Breakfasts, CSIA Sessions (formerly called Boot Camps), roundtables and workshops, the annual Fall Summit and the annual Apex Awards — a showcase for Colorado’s advanced technology industry.

Colorado Software

& Internet Association

10955 Westmoor Drive, Suite 150

Westminster, CO 80021

(303) 474-8170

www.coloradosoftware.org

WESTMINSTER — The best way for a small startup to get noticed is to network, according to Aaron White.

White, founder and chief technology officer of Broomfield-based security startup DigiMerc LLC, is an active member of the Colorado Software and Internet Association, and has met both customers and suppliers through the organization.

CSIA, as it is known by members, sponsors, volunteers and staff, is an information technology trade association that focuses on strengthening the technology community in Colorado.

President Su Hawk came on board in May.

Hawk is “a natural-born communicator who lives and breathes technology,” according to her former boss Scott Bemis, publisher…

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