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Columbia Business Monthly

Young Tech Firms Tackling Security, Web Challenges

Mar 06, 2018 02:27PM ● By Emily Stevenson
By Kristine Hartvigsen
Photography ©2018 Brian Dressler /

Aurora IT Services
An unexpected spike in utility bills or a computer crash that prevents transactions for even one day can dramatically upset a small business’s financial operations. Tim Larson of Aurora IT Services understands this and developed a business model specifically to help emerging businesses predictably manage their budgets without sacrificing IT support.

“Our fixed-cost model gives our partners peace of mind when budgeting for their IT expenses,” Larson explained. “Being a business owner is hard enough without having to worry about computers, network security, backups, phones systems, etc. … Typically, we can provide full primary or supplementary IT support for a fraction of the cost of a single IT employee.”
Aurora’s business partners enjoy proactive, 24/7 IT monitoring and rapid response when minutes count. Even better, according to Larson, there are no trip charges to Columbia-area clients.

“We hear over and over again that our clients are frustrated with their current provider not responding,” he said. “So many companies have hired an IT company that provides poor customer service and when they feel our genuine interest in their success, it really puts IT in a new light!”

Larson’s 10-year plan is to offer additional services from office automation products and marketing services to application development and adopting new business technologies to help Aurora’s customers grow even more.

52 Inc.
Chris Thibault of 52 Inc. believes in monitoring trends and listening to his customers. Those habits drove him to completely transform his initial business model in the first year of operation. He and his partners originally called their business “52 Apps,” with a goal of creating 52 apps a year.

“We felt that developing 52 apps in a year, at least one of them would be a commercial success,” Thibault recalled. “We got three months and 12 apps into it, and we were running out of app ideas. Eventually we had the opportunity to build an app for a third party. They paid us fairly well for it. That introduced us to the service side.”

The company changed its name and focus from developing apps willy nilly to providing customized app services (Android and iPhone) to third-party businesses. “Usually a client comes to us with a specific problem,” Thibault explained. “Then we get into the process of designing an application collaboratively with the client to solve it.”

52 Inc. has been growing at a steady rate and employs about 10 people.

“I see our services business continuing to grow organically over time at a steady, sustainable pace,” Thibault said. “We are also planning to continue to make strategic investments into wholly owned projects and intellectual property.”

A “diehard Gamecock fan,” Colin Griffin, CEO of Krumware, came to Columbia for college and decided to stay. After spending several years with a defense software products company, Griffin decided to strike out on his own.

“Initially I wanted to develop tools and solutions for software developers,” he explained. “There are lots of people trying to figure out how to do things. Sometimes they just need help connecting the dots.”

Like the ever-changing technology environment, Griffin says Krumware continues to evolve. “Our mission right now is to help software companies reinvent,” he said. “Our skill set is to help build complex web applications for companies that may be bogged down maintaining software. If they can outsource to us, we can rebuild the next generation of their systems as well as provide training.”

As his business grows, Griffin envisions having a presence in other cities, but still being known as the “local” resource.

“I would love to bridge the gap between companies that are looking for people and companies that already have people. We have a lot of junior engineers having trouble finding work. The market is a little saturated. We can be in a position help their teams grow.”

Turtle Creek Concepts
Mike Ward, founder of Turtle Creek Concepts (TCC), is paranoid.

Two years ago, Ward decided to exploit that paranoia into a cybersecurity business.

“As I put my business plan together, I realized that I’m really, really good at being paranoid,” he said. “Cybersecurity is expensive, and many smaller businesses can’t afford it. So I specifically worked to develop a process where I come in and perform an audit, create a cybersecurity plan, and put together a timeline that allows a small business to become cybersecure in the right way to protect themselves, their employees, and their customers.”

One company contacted Ward after its information was compromised when an employee innocently opened an email from what appeared to be a known sender. The company’s computer systems were down for two and a half days. Employee training can circumvent such a crisis. “More than 60 percent of cyber breaches occur because of misconfiguration or employee mishap,” Ward said.

Ward has developed a Cybersecurity Checkup for Small Businesses, which is available on the TCC website.

“There are still people out there who can’t afford cybersecurity services,” Ward said. “We are leaving a lot of people unprotected. My long-term goal is to have an online platform that would provide education and resources to the businesses that are just starting up or have so limited capital.”