More Cool Companies on the Move
By Jeff Bloom and Rob Kay
From time to time we like to focus on Hawaii upstarts are making a splash locally and sometimes even nationally. In this column we'll take a look at a a company called ECware (www.ecware.com) which develops, markets and distributes b2b and b2c e-commerce software.
The company was founded by Sean Rowland, who is no stranger to the local scene. In 1995 he launched Hawaii's first Internet publication called PC Currents. He later shut down the magazine to pursue e-commerce and soon came up with the first Windows Web server in Hawaii. In 1996 Rowland became in his words "the first company in Hawaii to offer true e-commerce Solutions" and set up the first successful Internet credit card transaction in Hawaii with partners, CyberCash, Bank of Hawaii and First Hawaiian Bank.
Rowland's newest venture began in 1997 with the release of "ECware Pro" e-commerce software. Instead of aiming at end users or consumers ECware targets businesses as customers. Essentially, the company, which numbers six employees, provides Application Service Providers (ASPs) and other web hosting companies with e-commerce solutions for small businesses. ECware allows small businesses to leverage the Internet for Business to Business and Business to Consumer transactions, while in Rowlands words "avoiding the considerable time, expense, and inconsistent quality associated with custom-built solutions." The product supports numerous languages, tax models, shipping models and international currencies.
The marketplace seems to agree. According to Rowlands his company has sold to over 10,000 stores and to more than 130 ISPs in 14 countries. Well known clients include Elmer's Glue, Fuji-Xerox, The Heritage Foundation, Chicago Transit Authority, Arizona Water Works, Reggie Jackson, and many others. Local companies that have used ECware include ParadiseShopping.com, HawaiianTreasures.com, CyberSnacks.net, ColorCom.com, WaikikiAloe.com, and many more.
In our estimation one of the most difficult tasks for a local company is public relations and marketing-all of which must be targeted to the Mainland. This is no easy feat for Hawaii companies even in the Internet era. ECware clearly has more recognition from the national press that any other e-commerce we've seen. These include 5-star awards from software and e-commerce publishers such as TUCOWS, Ziff Davis and E-Commerce Times.
For ECware, public relations is done in house chiefly by submission of his software to product reviewers in the press and by using commercial press services such as PR Newswire. He makes his public relations success sound deceptively easy. "To get there," said Rowland, "you only need submit your software to major repositories and technical writers and have a damn good product, of course."
Rowland, who is the sole developer of his software solutions says that the industry has responded to his products by bestowing
"numerous top-level awards from large worldwide publications and repositories." In addition to PR, marketing the product via trade shows is a major cost for the company and ECware has exhibited at all major Internet/E-Commerce trade shows from coast to coast for the past two years to the tune of over $60,000 a year.
Rowlands efforts are not all strictly for profit nor is he focused solely off-island. He has contributed to the local scene by writing an the Internet course for KCC and one for Computer Training Academy. He's made the rounds frequently as a guest speaker locally on Intenet and e-commerce topics and will be at the University of Bologna in Italy this Fall.
What's up for the future? The entrepreneur says he has signed a distribution agreement with a major computer industry publisher. This year he will also release ECalchemy, a COM Object development tool for ASP programmers to build EC applications.
His newest venture is a major P2P (Peer to Peer) technology project a la Napster with a New York City company. He tells us that the project will be called "Peer Jet". Like all the projects Sean Rowland has been involved in, this should be interesting.