Dave Talarico just returned from a hunting trip to Romanianot for a trophy brown bear, but for talent.
Talarico, who founded Spokane-based technology company Imprezzio Solutions Inc. with Kelly Birr five years ago, ventured to the Romanian city of Cluj-Napoca to seek out prospective software designers for Imprezzio's office there.
Imprezzio sponsors a software-design contest at the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, and awards a laptop computer, an iPod, or a digital camera to the top students. In return, Talarico says, "We get our hands on the best talent."
Imprezzio develops business software used for customer management, and provides marketing lists of both consumers and businesses. In addition to Spokane and Cluj-Napoca, it has an office in Bellevue, Wash., and last month opened an office in Toronto. In all, it employs 35 people, and currently has annual sales of about $5 million.
Talarico says Imprezzio has sponsored the software design contest in Romania the last two years, and has hired three graduates of the school. The contest winner this year will be interning with the company, he says.
Imprezzio opened an engineering office in Cluj-Napoca last year, establishing for the company the ability to maintain a 24-hour software development cycle, as well as a foothold for marketing its products in Europe. Imprezzio has a team of 10 software developers in Romania.
"When our offices in Bellevue develop software, they send the code to Romania, usually nightly," he says. "When our team (in Bellevue) goes to bed, Romania is up and they're now testing the software."
When the Romania office at the end of its day sends the results of its work back to Bellevue, engineers there are just arriving at the office for a new work day, ready to begin making the necessary bug fixes.
Imprezziothe name is derived from the Italian word for "enterprise"has 12 Spokane employees, responsible for marketing, sales, and business administration, Talarico says. It employs eight people, primarily software engineers and graphic designers, at its Bellevue office. Birr moved to Bellevue in 2006, where he leads the company's engineering division.
Imprezzio was born in Spokane in 2004, having emerged from the independent consulting efforts of Talarico and Birr. When they first crossed paths in 1998, Talarico had been assisting Spokane-area businesses with Web-site development and marketing, while Birr was developing custom software.
Talarico says they quickly found that combining their marketing and technical skills created a successful partnership, and worked together as independent contractors on various projects before forming Imprezzio.
The company's new office in Toronto employs five people and focuses on Internet marketing, Talarico says.
"We wanted to penetrate more into Canada," he says. "And we opened in Toronto to take advantage of the Internet-marketing talent there."
Talarico says the team in Toronto is comprised of experts in Web-site "optimization," or helping businesses enhance their Web sites to make sure they can be found by potential customers using search engines like Google, and ensuring those possible customers are able to get the information they need once they've reached a Web site and don't go on to a competitor's site.
"We were able to take their Internet- marketing knowledge (in Toronto), along with our computer expertise, and sell our services to customers in Canada and the U.S.," he says. "Many customers who purchase Internet-marketing services also sign up for other products like Cyber-Chex, mailing lists, and Internet leads." Imprezzio's product called Cyber-Chex allows companies to take checks remotely from customers over the phone or online. The mailing lists and Internet leads help businesses find potential customers.
In Spokane, Imprezzio occupies about 2,600 square feet of leased space in the Eldridge Building at 1325 W. First, west of downtown.
Insurance companies and financial services institutions make up about 60 percent of Imprezzio's client base, Talarico says, while its other clients are a wide variety of small businessesincluding tire stores, debt-collection agencies, chiropractors, and a florist.
At any given time, he says, the company serves between 5,000 and 10,000 clients, and adds that it has clients in every U.S. state and three Canadian provinces, and hopes to have some soon in European countries.
"Contact management is contact management. Everyone has to do it," he says.
One of Imprezzio's clients, a Fortune 50 insurance company that Talarico declines to name, was the Spokane concern's first customer, signing on with the startup in 2004, he says. Imprezzio works with insurance companies that deal in property and casualty insurance, he says.
"Those particular companies really promote auto insurance; all of their other products start with the auto policy," he says. "Our software really works on that, helping them get the other things, up-selling. Our software products help them create marketing campaigns, using direct mail, telemarketing, (and) Internet leads."
About 80 percent of the software Imprezzio offers to its customers is what's called "thin client," meaning customers don't have to install the software on their own servers and PCs, but rather simply use a computer that's attached to the Internet and access Imprezzio's software online by using a secure password. Any software maintenance, then, can be done by Imprezzio without it needing access to its customers' computers.
"If there is a problem with the software, the customer doesn't have to worry about it," he says. "Companies save money because they don't have to hire as many (information-technology) employees."
Talarico adds, "We'll still have customers that want software installed on their local machines," but the trend is for that to become less common. He sees it dropping from about 20 percent of what Imprezzio does, to more like 10 percent.
Imprezzio's current product offerings include more than CyberChex and VisionCRM, its online contact-management system, both of which businesses can subscribe to on a monthly basis for a price that depends on the number of users.
Cyber-Chex, which Imprezzio says helps put a stop to the sometimes all-too-common "the check is in the mail" excuse, allows companies to receive "demand" checks from their customers remotely. Demand checks are those printed by Imprezzio's customers on behalf of their clients. A customer starts by entering into the online Cyber-Chex system a client's information, plus bank routing and account numbers, and finishes by printing a check on a laser printer.
Along with Cyber-Chex and VisionCRM, customers might buy a mailing list from Imprezzio that includes 10,000 names, and it might take a customer four months to burn through the list before buying another from the Spokane company, Talarico says.
Imprezzio's product called Agents Ally provides businesses with mailing and calling lists, including "weekly business leads" that include the name, address, and phone numbers for new businesses in a customer's area.
It provides lists, all priced per lead, from 7 cents to 25 cents, that include the addresses and phone numbers of new consumers in an area. It also provides lists for auto premium renewals, home owner premium renewals, youthful drivers, seniors, and others.
Imprezzio also sells Internet leads generated when consumers shop for insurance online using the Web site www.QuoteNoodle.com, which Imprezzio started earlier this year. There, consumers obtain free online quotes for insurance from a variety of companies, which sign a contract to participate and be part of the site, and also pay for the specific leads they want.
Talarico says the company plans to launch two or three more products within the next year. Though he declines to give many details about those plans, he says one of the new products will be an Internet-monitoring system, while another will be a confidential data transfer system that would allow customers to send large amounts of information and data privately.
Talarico says the company has come a long way since he and Birr were "working out of a garage."
They were turned down by a lot of potential clients as they tried to find a paying user for their contact-management software. "'No' was the easy answer then," he says, from companies that said they didn't want what Talarico and Birr were offering. "We didn't look for 'yes.' We looked for the 'maybe.'"
Living on confidence in what they had to offer, much like the students they now work with at the technical college in Romania, they kept working toward their goals. "It was just in the gut," he says.
That first insurance company to bite bought Talarico and Birr's contact-management software for 50 sales agents.
"Back then, no one was willing to look at a group of guys working out of their garage in Spokane," a place not known for its technology and software development, Talarico says.
"'Maybe' was the best word we ever heard," he says.
Subscribe today to our free E-Newsletters!SUBSCRIBE