By Michelle Capezza and Hylan Fenster
Jonathan Blitt, CEO and Co-Founder of aText, Incorporated, has over 24 years of experience in the application of high technology in industries ranging from software, telecommunications, and network infrastructure and is an expert in the application of multimedia technology to a myriad of operations. In this interview, Mr. Blitt provides his insights into the benefits of leveraging legacy technologies and leading with passion:
What is the mission and vision of aText, Incorporated? On one level, the mission of aText is to take an intimate , interactive, and immediate legacy form of technology and apply it to industries that need to disseminate and collect information in real time. However, the real impact of leveraging this type of completely ubiquitous technology has yet to be tapped. With 97 Percent of all text messaging read within the first 15 minutes of being sent there is no other method of communication that can so consistently reach its recipient wherever they are. The most advanced device found around the world is a mobile phone, not computers, the internet and not smartphones. This became apparent when I visited Liberia upon the invitation of President Sirleaf in 2008. My business partner and I visited Liberia to assist with education reforms. We soon discovered that the lack of infrastructure and a centralized power grid would present huge obstacles to development of any computer-based instruction to the people. We decided then that there had to be a way to find a solution to this problem. Interestingly the solution came in looking backward not forward. By creating a layer of intelligence to overlay an existing form of technology we were able to reach nearly every person carrying a legacy phone, rather than only those few that had access to more expensive methods of communication. This principle is just as valid domestically as it is on the international stage. Innovation over invention can often open up huge markets to young companies. While our focus is primarily domestic at this time, the need to access people irrespective of infrastructure is a global concern.
How were your communication services recently utilized in Hurricane Sandy? The recent hurricane caused severe power outages and many levels of destruction. Many people found that text messaging was the only form of communication they had with family, neighbors and co-workers to obtain information. aText leveraged this technology with its own employees and was able to be in constant contact with them. In addition, we reached out to several companies and municipalities to offer them free access to our SMS collaboration tool which can facilitate real-time information sharing by and between people working for different organizations via text messaging. From power outages and downed trees to the collection of clothing, food and clean up materials the ability to communicate is paramount to any successful response to crisis. The events of Hurricane Sandy demonstrated that text messaging can be a very viable resource for mass communications during a disaster and this event has driven us to look for ways to develop this technology further to address the needs of all organizations needing communications in crisis, including the healthcare service industry.
What best prepared you for your role as CEO of this emerging technology company? The best preparation for me was being an actual user of text messaging. I travel a lot and see various problems with communication and technology and want to solve those problems. It is important to be passionate about what you are doing and when you actually use the technology you work with every day, you are definitely passionate about trying to find ways to make it better, or ways to use it in different, creative ways.
What have been some of the greatest business and legal challenges in growing your company? The patent process has been challenging as well as navigating the securities laws on investments and disclosures. In addition, it is important to know with whom you can communicate your ideas and technology with while maintaining the security of intellectual property. As aText grows and explores global opportunities, it will also be challenging to determine the right business partners and navigate the laws of foreign countries.
What advice would you give to other start-up and emerging technology companies? It is important to obtain proper funding for growth and development. Being cash strapped, however, can also help a start-up learn business efficiencies early on. It is also imperative that you believe in what you are doing, be passionate and tenacious about it, and don’t let others tell you what you can or cannot do. Many folks had disregarded text messaging as an effective means of communication. However, text messaging is a powerful, legacy technology that can be extremely useful and vital for communications. The possibilities are endless and the impact will be profound.
Editor’s Note: In today’s fast-paced environment, it is also important to understand the potential legal implications of various communication technologies, including use of social media in the workplace. Consulting with legal advisors sensitive to such issues is the best way to tap into the power of such communication tools in a sensible, risk-reducing way.