Silicon 70 2018

Fostering an Ideal Environment for Progress: DataStream Connexion

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Companies that make products to make a positive impact on people’s lives are often able to overcome adversities and maintain a steady stream of customers. While it is important for new firms to focus on growth, few of them consider trying to strike a balance between revenues and understanding the needs of the industry. Many large corporations fell hard during the dot.com bust, while several others lost hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars.

However, one company learned the lessons of the meltdown and started off on a different route. By abstaining from products and services that followed the dot.com model, it adopted an approach that delivers solutions which have a positive impact on people’s lives. Founded in 2001, Datastream Connexion made it its mission to connect people to data and enable them to make all the right decisions.

In Conversion with the Dynamic Founder and CEO of Datastream Connexion:

What was the first product that your company launched?

Our Connexion portal was our first internal software release owned and utilized by us specifically for client needs. We saw a need early on to create a collaboration product that was more than just document storage and messaging. It needed to be a dynamic, nimble product with the easy flexibility that could respond to emerging events, adopt new procedures quickly to support our users, and generally avoid the waterfall approach of IT that existed for so many years. In other words, it followed an agile approach to development before that was mainstream.

Was your first product offering success? Kindly share your experience

The first product that we developed was coreSHIELD. It continues to be operational to this day powering the food and agriculture sector, enabling people to coordinate and unite for better sharing and access to information across the industry to defend and protect the food supply. It has been a positive journey which served as a valuable learning curve for our company. We have guided the platform from a small system to a large, agile, cloud and DevOps-based system, which has grown from a small data center to being an early beta adopter of GovCloud along with our partners at Amazon Web Services. This journey has been an eventful one and we really like to share the ups and downs of our endeavor.

What was it like during the initial stages immediately after founding?

As a small company attempting to be an agent of change in the Food & Agriculture sector, we were often doubted and cast into the proverbial “bucket of good ideas” that weren’t implementable due to a wide array of concerns which included the ability to manage compliance and security. Our initial focus was on security and compliance with continuous monitoring as differentiators, before that was viewed as anything but a “nice to have” and which was reviewed every 3 years as a sunken cost. As our popularity grew, the ability to respond to compliance challenges was integral to overcoming hurdles in the growth curve. Moreover, the ability to scale was also a challenge, but we developed our software to be light and load-friendly early on anticipating the need for growth. Amazon Web Services helped us blow the lid off our capabilities for scale and growth from the infrastructure side after a lot of internal consideration in our product.

Establishing credibility in a very challenging and crowded arena is paramount. Many claim to be the next best thing, but track record also matters. We worked diligently on side projects to build the infrastructure for a Fortune 500 client to demonstrate our ability to think outside the box and grow online. We even built large online communities to demonstrate our capability as a team to scale, attract an audience, and prove engagement competencies. Many investors, including ourselves, judge the team as much as the product, or maybe more. Our aim was to demonstrate a track record, even if it was tangential to the current opportunity.

If you had to list five factors that have been the biggest assets for your organization, what would they be?

They would be agility, security, openness, relationships, and flexibility. Flexibility and agility go hand in hand. We view agility as the ability to implement change and flexibility as the ability to listen to the need for change. That coincides with openness to new ideas and new pathways that we didn’t originally consider. With our focus on relationships with stakeholders and end users, we build a trust that can’t be achieved through standard practices. With a keen focus on security, we complement our other areas of focus with demonstrable outcomes in order to support those who put the trust in us to deliver solutions.

What do you feel are the reasons behind the popularity of your product?

Our portal product works so well because it focuses so closely on the people and their needs. We work with our UI to make it as easy as possible for users to engage and contribute to the platform, and continuously monitor for troubled areas to ensure our users’ success. We don’t look for infinite expansion. Headcount is not a measure of success. Our growth is measured by the impact of our products. A nimble team is better situated to handle emerging changes compared to a numbers-heavy organization.

What inspires you to excel in your field of business?

I look for a sense of fulfillment. We want to be known for having made a positive difference. Profit is good, profit and size drive headlines; however, we also enjoy being a class of company working through the difficult problems, enhancing lives, and not having large parties for it. In the end, we can measure our impact, and have been the team to do so is incredibly fulfilling. Having had a taste of it inspires us to do more.

Where do you see your company a few years from now?

We are expanding broadly into healthcare IT and we have iterated our platform to support the unique challenges of this sector and the needs of startups. We look to be more balanced across food and agriculture, health, and another sector that we are currently exploring.

Meet the Charismatic Founder of Datastream Connexion

Eric Hoffman, founder, and CEO has been involved in the innovation side of IT for more than 20 years. Not enamored with the traditional IT playbook, he has been at the forefront of innovations in the legal, health, food and Agriculture, and Sports Media.

“Our Mission is to make a positive impact through our dedicated efforts.”

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