Open for Business: It's all in the MindVision

2006-05-10T19:00:00Z Open for Business: It's all in the MindVisionRODD CAYTON/Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
May 10, 2006 7:00 pm  • 

Chris Benson’s job is to try to “break” his company’s product.

Benson, a quality assurance engineer at Lincoln’s MindVision Inc., searches for bugs and other flaws in the company’s installer and e-commerce software.

When he finds something, that pleases MindVision CEO Steve West. If Benson finds a problem while the product is still in the company’s office, West said, it can be referred to another engineer, fixed and tested again before the public ever sees it.

Installer tools are used to install a piece of software on a particular computer.

The MindVision tool, West said, allows the manufacturer of another piece of software to build its installer to its own specifications.

The company’s main software product, sold under the Installer VISE brand name, has become the de facto standard installer on the Apple Macintosh platform, West said, guiding installations of programs that include Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office.

“We’re like a little Silicon Valley company,” West said. “But we get to be here in Lincoln.”

Part of what made Installer VISE the software of choice, West said, was its ease of use. Competing products of the time, he said, were text-based, and generally complicated enough that the person running one was an engineer.

Installer VISE was managed through drag-and-drop steps, and could be jhandled by, in West’s words, “someone you’re not paying as much as you would an engineer.”

Installer VISE stays on its throne, West said, because the company keeps adding capabilities to it. Example: it can work in 14 languages, and there’s a version that determines what language a machine is running in, and switches to that tongue.

The company broadened out about six years ago, launching its eSellerate e-commerce software; a separate business unit also uses the eSellerate name.

It was a way, West said, to expand the business while taking advantage of the skills its existing work force had at the time.

eSellerate helps Internet sellers process transactions.  West said the company can take over many cumbersome tasks that small retailers aren’t equipped to handle. Those include currency conversion, fraud monitoring and taxpaying. In addition, he said, eSellerate can track how many of each particular item a merchant is selling online, and gauge the effectiveness of promotional campaigns for the retailer.

“The team at eSellerate has developed tools that allow companies like ours to … go to market with product activation and e-commerce solutions not usually available to smaller organizations,” said Barbara DeHart of Telestream Inc.’s Flip4Mac division, which makes files for importing and exporting media for Apple  computers.

VISE eSellerate operates almost entirely in English, but adjusts to the world’s currencies. About a third of the transactions the company helps make happen are in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, West said.

Installer VISE is still mostly used with Macs, while eSellerate is primarily used on machines running Microsoft Windows.

Benson and his fellow QA engineers aren’t the only ones looking for weaknesses at MindVision; West said the company has outside auditors come in monthly to look for vulnerabilities in the way it protects credit and personal information.

He said the work force, mostly Midwesterners, appreciates what a Lincoln location does for employees’ quality of life.

“Why go to the West Coast, where people have to pay who knows how much for a small apartment?” he asked rhetorically. “You could get a nice home for that amount here.”

The company values its employees because of their skills, and therefore isn’t wed to formalities, West said.

“We try to focus on what we think matters,” he said. “What you wear to work is not important. What does matter is the quality of our products and the satisfaction of our clients.”

To keep talented people around, West said, MindVision offers perks including a fully stocked kitchen at work, a game room, fully paid health benefits and a catered lunch every Monday.

“You can’t treat them like Legos and expect them to have superior intellectual output,” he said.

Among the benefits of working at MindVision, said account manager Mike Burda, is getting to work with some of the brightest people he’s known.

Benson says he likes the high expectations the company has for him, as well as the challenging and constantly changing nature of his work, and the importance of finding the flaw before the customer does.

“The reality is that it can save the company money and help its reputation,” Benson said.

Reach Rodd Cayton at 473-7107 or rcayton@journalstar.com.

 MindVision Inc.

Address: 5901 N. 58th St., Lincoln.

Telephone number: (402) 323-6600

Web address: www.mindvision.com; www.esellerate.net

Owner, location: Steve Kiene, Lincoln.

Chief executive on site, title: Steve West, CEO.

Number of local employees: 41

Annual revenues: $50 million.

Products, services: MindVision Inc. has two business units. MindVision develops software installation tools under the Installer VISE brand name. The eSellerate business unit provides outsourced e-commerce technologies and services for digital content.

Company history: Founded by Kiene in Lincoln in 1987; the company grew rapidly with the release of its Installer VISE tools in the early ’90’s. In mid-2000, the company debuted its new offering and business unit, eSellerate, which it says has fueled rapid revenue growth and expanded the company’s  presence to about every country in the world.

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