by Kirby Lindsay, posted 11 June 2012
Fremont has become a popular as a location for tech companies. While some companies have chosen to open satellite offices here (e.g. Google, Adobe,) a few picked the Center of the Universe for headquarters – like Produxs and Tableau.
Both are growing, technology-based companies that started elsewhere, but took the opportunity success gave them to relocate to a comfortable, community atmosphere that they found here. The compliment shown by this faith in Fremont can be returned. One way is simply to learn what these companies actually do.
Produxs & the User Experience
Begun in 2006, Produxs relocated to Fremont, and the Canal Building, from SODO in May 2011. Its clients tend to be larger companies and start-ups with very specific design web needs.
Produxs helps its clients to arrive at a website or internet application design that delivers a specific outcome and/or result. They don’t write the code for the website, or app, but they do the research and set out strategies shown to get clients reach their objectives. “We make sure we’re designing what the client wants,” explained Ken Hunt, President of Produxs, “it’s performance driven software and web application design.”
It isn’t brochure-based web page design – they don’t help build sites that provide basic information on-line to describe a company (such as address, contact info, mission statement, etc.) Using Produxs for that, explained Hunt, “it’s like putting a thumbtack in the wall using a sledgehammer.”
For instance, they can help companies design websites to get customers to the sale in fewer steps. They can identify ways to make the experience for the customer easier, pinpoint the information the user would find relevant, strategize more welcoming imagery, and research other improvements or designs features that lead to the result the client wants. “You want things to be beautiful,” Hunt stated, “but also effective.”
Produxs can help with transactional web design, and applications for clients to accomplish a simple task using a mobile device. They also do business intelligence projects for clients like Microsoft, to create a ‘dashboard’ – an easily understood framework – that allows managers to view reams of data quickly, and make decisions more easily.
Produxs clients also include Amazon, Expedia, Heritage University and some larger start-ups such as BabyLegs and Clarisonic. Clients, Hunt admitted, tend to be “people who already know what ‘user experience’ means.” The ‘ux’ in the company name stands for ‘user experience,’ a design principal the company helps clients demystify and enhance.
“We have not done a lot of marketing,” admitted Hunt, and clients often find them through word-of-mouth. As Hunt reported, he’s heard back from several clients, ‘you guys are like the best kept secret in town.’
Tableau & A Love Of Data
In 2003, at Stanford University, Dr. Pat Hanrahan (a professor in the computer science department,) Dr. Chris Stolte (a Ph.D. student,) and Christian Chabot (a Stanford business school graduate,) were brought together by an incubation project – the breakthrough development of a computer language (Viz Query Language – or Viz QL) that can convert data into something visual.
“More and more [data] is created every day,” explained Doreen Jarman, Tableau Public Relations Manager, “companies have so much coming in.” From huge, mega-companies like Amazon and eBay to small, but savvy, storefronts, all collect data on sales, products, and customers. “It’s really hard to take that data,” she observed, “and turn it into information. The human brain really works better when you can turn it into a visualization.”
A small percentage of the population can look at reams of numbers and see patterns. The majority of us need the data in a graph, maps, chart, etc. that easily illustrates the trends, anomalies or outliers, and recurring patterns. On the Tableau website, customer stories illustrate ways companies (such as companies Nokia, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and Ferrari) have used the software to more effectively manage their businesses.
Companies of all sizes use Tableau software, Jarman explained. Large companies may purchase several software licenses to manage the variety of data they collect daily – while a mom-n-pop can buy one license to download software onto a single desktop to convert sales figures or product numbers into something that speeds decision making. “It’s very scaleable,” Jarman explained about the software.
“Everyone wants something that is intuitive,” Jarman said, “we try to make it as simple as possible.” The software uses drag & drop features, and Tableau offers “a ton of training videos,” she pointed out. They also provide an on-line tool called ‘Show Me’ that suggests the best display of specific data – as a map, bar chart, etc. And, they provide customer service – from the company headquarters here in Fremont.
While begun at Stanford, the founders chose to locate in Fremont. “They decided Seattle was a good place to start the company,” explained Jarman. In the Lakeview Building – across the street from Produxs – they occupy two floors. The company also has satellite offices in the Bay Area of California, the United Kingdom, France, and Singapore – so far. They’ve also got an office in Kirkland that allows employees living on the eastside to avoid the cross-lake commute. As Jarman agreed, “I think it does help with recruitment.”
Recruitment has become a big concern for the company, to keep up with customer demand and expectations of quality service. At the end of 2011, Tableau employed 350 people world-wide, and the company wants to add another 300 this year – if they can find them.
Tableau needs more customer service representatives, along with marketing, international sales, human resources, IT people and recruiters. Computer scientists are, of course, the most sought after, and hardest to find, Jarman acknowledged, as competition is fierce these days for those actually qualified. Yet, she clarified, “we’re hiring in every single department.”
The Fremont Information Age
On August 2nd, Tableau will hold a recruiting fair in the Solstice Plaza, behind their offices, for those interested in working for the company. Go to the Tableau website to find out how to submit a resume – the only requirement for attendance. As Jarman explained, the resumes of those not hired at the recruiting fair will often be retained for the next opening for someone with those skills.
This summer Produxs also plans, in partnership with the Fremont Chamber of Commerce, to bring in more techies with a Tech Crawl that allows those in the tech industry – specifically members of the W.T.I.A. (Washington Technology Industry Association) – to come learn about the tech companies located here.
Growing companies like Produxs and Tableau could successfully operate in Fremont with little input from the larger community, if they wanted to. These two young and thriving tech firms don’t want that, and, hopefully, neither does the larger community – do you?
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©2012 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.