Editor’s note: RTP Beat is a regular feature on Thursdays.The economic downturn did stimulate the creation of several start-ups in the Triangle that are gaining traction now that the economy is on the upswing.

Cohesive Teamware Inc., for instance, started late in 2001 when its founder lost his job due to a major IT company downsizing in the Triangle.

Looking around for ideas, William Griep says he kept coming back to the same three “Cs,” collaboration, communication, and computers. So, he chose a tool, Microsoft’s SharePoint 2001, and learned its ins and outs.

Then, one thing led to another, he says, and “We had an integration tool for SharePoint called CohesiveTeam.net.” The add-on allowed companies to use a hosted SharePoint server integrated into Windows Explorer.

Six months later Microsoft pulled the software rug out from under the fledgling company. It announced the features of SharePoint 2003, which required Griep and his young company to consider either rewriting its software or rewriting its business plan.

Services on-demand

“We took a hiatus to reinvent ourselves,” says Griep.

Now, the company offers the entire range of Microsoft Office 2003 products, including SharePoint, as on demand services run from its own computers. This, Griep tells LTW, lets small businesses that might otherwise find it daunting to afford the hardware and software costs, not to mention find the learning curve time, use same powerful tools as larger businesses.

“People want the newest, latest, greatest technology out there,” he says. “We save them the need to upgrade their equipment, purchase new hardware, deploy servers, or hire the technical expertise needed to do it all.”

Software on demand is one of the faster growing segments of the industry, with Salesforce, Seibel Systems, IBM and Microsoft all investing considerable research, money and time into the concept.

Selling software as a service, advocates, including Cohesive’s Griep, say, keeps users up-to-date without new software purchases, provides a high level of corporate security, can be scaled to needs relatively inexpensively, and reduces both over or under buying of capacity. In times of rapid technological change and continually evolving security threats, letting experts manage IT appeals to buyers from churches to corporations.

In fact, Griep notes, a Raleigh church with a six-person administration office that considered moving its server to a hosted facility may instead join Cohesive’s current 50-seat client base. It offers its services through resellers, including Triangle-based Callisto Systems, and Exceptional IT Services.

Testing ground

Griep says the system gives resellers something to pull out of their pocket to offer customers who don’t want the expense and comparably long deployment time (months vs. five days for Cohesive). “It lowers the bar in term of entry level price for getting the deal done.”

He adds that a client considering an application and/or hardware purchase can also use Cohesive’s service to “Come in for a testing period. Contract for a minimal number of users for three months and prove if it’s actually something you need so you can go justify a purchase of thousands of dollars.”

The Cohesive service runs about $50 a month per user for hardware, software, and IT consulting, while a software license for 25 users can run $100 a month. The six-person church office would probably pay in the $400 a month range for everything, compared to the same price for just the hardware from a datacenter, the company says.

The Cohesive system offers multiple backup, security, virus, and the Microsoft 2003 application software and application management services for that price.

Only a month and half or so into its first marketing effort for its new offerings, Cohesive expects it may hire sales people later this year. The company is privately funded. A three-person virtual company, “We use our own system,” Griep says.

St. Mulligan and Golf

The company also boasts a board member with one of the more unusual accomplishments we’ve encountered.

Cohesive board member Chaz Henry, who managed 3D computer-aided design for Kenner Toys in the Star Wars era, has also authored an illustrated book called “St. Mulligan and The History of Golf.”

Henry started his first company, Newtonian Software Inc. to develop an application to help engineers build complex sales quotations. That company sold to Clarify of San Jose in 1999 and subsequently to Nortel Networks.

First Exec Director

Laboratories for Learning (LFL)-profit that brings biotechnology and entrepreneurial education programs to minority students, has hired Jeff Stern as its first executive director.

This year LFL expanded its programs from Durham to Winston-Salem and Greenville.

Stern holds an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and has a decade of experience managing non-profits.

Laboratories for Learning is the brainchild of Andrew Rothschild, founder of Scientific Properties, a life sciences facilities development firm in Durham.

“I have an interest in the redevelopment of urban areas,” he explains. “I feel that Durham is on the verge of experiencing a renaissance downtown, but there is a shortage of qualified people to work in the biosciences here.”

Rothschild says that’s why he created a program to help students learn about biotech and provide a more knowledgeable workforce in the near future.

The organization received two grants, one from Burroughs Wellcome Fund and another from the NC Biotechnology Center, to help it fund expansion of its programs.

Cohesive Teamware: ctvo.net/default.aspx

St. Mulligan and the History of Golf: www.stmulligan.com/