Vince Broerman acknowledges he's almost a cliché.
He started his current company in his backyard - really, we're not making this up - and ran it out of his basement for the first three years.
But today, that firm, ZebraMobile, has moved with its more than half-dozen employees to the Hamilton County Business Center in Norwood, where it is one of the business incubator's top firms. Indeed, late last month, it was recognized as the 2010 tenant of the year, cited by the Hamilton County Development Co. as "an outstanding example of . . . dedication to business."
ZebraMobile is an example of a technology firm that saw an unfilled niche in the market, and set out to fill it. And Broerman did so at an opportune time, some six years ago, when people began using mobile devices like cell phones, iPods and smart phones more as information gatherers and less for their traditional function.
ZebraMobile allows companies who provide content to the public, like media firms and online newspapers, to offer that content not only on a traditional PC or laptop, but on a wide variety of mobile devices.
The problem that ZebraMobile helped companies solve is information incompatibility across platforms. iPhone has a different operating system than a BlackBerry, and Google and Android have their own smart phone-based systems. To complicate the quandary, various phones and devices have different sized screens and various methods to view that online data.
The solution ZebraMobile came up with was to take that content, extract it, and provide it on a platform specific to the more than 11,000 different devices. Zebra Mobile's clients, which include major newspapers like the Columbus Dispatch and Minneapolis Star Tribune, increase readership. And those customers get the information in a readable, usable form.
The company began, Broerman said, when he and a group of friends were sitting around in his backyard, discussing business ideas. Previously, Broerman founded Momentum Magazine, a weekly publication in Greater Cincinnati that reached 76,000 readers. He also was part of a global new economy networking organization - First Tuesday, Cincinnati - which helped increase the profile of new technology companies, and brought together business people, technicians, and computer engineers with those who could provide ideas, incentives and financing.
Broerman, who calls himself a "serial entrepreneur," said he was looking for something new to get into. He and his friends talked about various ideas, and Broerman came up with his JustForMe software, which was the beginning of ZebraMobile.
But forever the capitalist, Broerman continues to branch out. He's moving ZebraMobile into an area that will provide business owners the tools allowing them to speak to customers anywhere, anytime, through any connected device.
By Paul A. Long
Source: Vince Broerman, ZebraMobile founder