Small Business Week Story 2: Solidify, Inc. Reinvents Itself
This week and next, CBIA will profile CBIA small business members that are making a difference in their communities in honor of Small Business Week.
Solidify, Inc. was founded in 1998 as i-MARK, Inc. by three partners with Connecticut’ industrial marketing and engineering roots. Our goal was for i-MARK to become the world’s first company to create and sell 100% Internet-based software to be added to durable goods manufacturers’ websites so that component buyers from around the world could search, select, evaluate and buy complex durable goods online without any other assistance, at any time of any day or night.
During i-MARK’s first five years, our small company’s convictions were seriously challenged by slow market response and we began to believe that our strategy was a just a hopeful pipedream as we faced far more business skeptics than buyers. But we were convinced that the Internet would eventually eclipse all other channels and methods used by BtoB manufacturers to promote, sell, support, and service their products. Thankfully, our beliefs were supported by a few early-adopting Connecticut manufacturers: The Stanley Works; Emhart-Black& Decker; The Lee Company and LeGrand/Ortronics. They and a few more US manufacturers, shared our vision of the Internet as a true game-changer and this small group took a big chance on us and purchased our software. Unquestionably, we never would have made it to today without their trusting support and shared vision. Other never say die supporters, CBIA and Connecticut Innovations provided us with the resources and confidence we needed to build and sustain our revolutionary business modela self-service BtoB eBusiness channel, operating 100% in the cloud.
i-MARK persisted through almost six more very lean years with the help of this strong core of extremely loyal legacy customers. They were reaping the sales growth and cost-savings benefits delivered to them by their uniquely differentiated Internet business channels. During this period, we also secured equity funding from both Connecticut Innovations and from an aggressive CT-based angel investment group. These two investments enabled our team to create and sell attractive new BtoB software, to keep afloat, and to hone our Software-as-a-service (SaaS)business model, which we also pioneered in 1998 and was a pre-cursor of what we know today to be Cloud Computing.
During this lean period, came the groundbreaking release of our proprietary and sophisticated ‘product configuration’ software in 2005, a project that we kept under wraps in our skunk-works for over two years. Our competitors were also been dabbling with his innovative technology but none at that time could solve the complex rules associated with highly-engineered precision durable components and sub-assemblies. Our eConfigurator, did. However, it took another leap-of-faith by manufacturers to put their trust in the accuracy and effectiveness of this software tool to replace or support their consulting engineers and customer service reps. Again, we were saved by another trusting customer, Metso Automation based in Massachusetts and Finland. They a world’ leading manufacturer of sophisticated valve and actuator systems used in countless land, air, rail and sea-based machinery. Metso embraced our innovation and they got a major jump on their competition by offering such a valuable self-service product configuration tool to their global customers. So good was their product configurators, distributors of Metso’s competitor’s valves told new buyers to go to the Metso site to build their valves because Metso’s software had set an industry standard, which is still the case today. In 2014, over seventy percent of our customers chose us because of our powerful product-and-service configuration software. It remains our rock-solid foundation.
There is much more to our story, but suffice to say that in 2014, we added new Internet software and service offerings and we expanded to serve other, non-manufacturing markets. Concurrent with making these growth moves, we changed our name to Solidify, Inc., and in 2014, we grew by over 20%, enjoying our best year ever. The true success story however about our soon not to be small business, can be found in the exceptional and innovative manufacturing companies as well as forward-thing investors that we found in Connecticut. These very special Connecticut customers and investors stuck with us. They not only believe in Solidify but more important, they shared our understanding of the benefits and payback associated with the timeless march of innovation.
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