Even as the economy slowed to a near-standstill, innovation in the technology sector continued to move at a dizzying speed. Software and hardware just get better, faster and more efficient — and in many ways, cheaper. It costs far less to start up a company than in the past, or to bring systems up to date, gain faster Internet connections, expand your marketing presence online, improve conversion rates and take advantage of cloud computing. Even more significantly for established but growing Oregon companies such as EthicsPoint, it is an extremely good time to purchase sophisticated technologies developed by individuals who don’t have the resources to commercialize them.
EthicsPoint, a rapidly expanding Lake Oswego-based expert in the governance, risk and compliance industry with more than 2,300 clients, has built its business on the bottom-line importance of running an organization with integrity. The market for their services has grown as regulations have become more complex (think HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley) and laws on the books for years regarding bribery and corruption (think the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) are enforced with more vigor in the wake of the financial crisis.
“There’s no shortage of opportunity for us,” says CEO David Childers.
EthicsPoint purchased two key technologies earlier this year at a fraction of the amount invested to develop them. The first is a policy manager technology that enables companies to set and track workplace policies and monitor their effectiveness. The second is a visualization tool developed for the Department of Homeland Security that enables users to layer data covering everything from crime and terrorist acts to weather and foreclosure rates onto interactive maps that help monitor risks proactively. That tool is built on layers, filters and feeds, and it aggregates data from a wide variety of sources. It is used by the U.S. Army to monitor troops in Afghanistan and by the Swedish Government to oversee its 9-1-1 program. EthicsPoint plans to offer it to clients in the first quarter of 2011.
“We used the down economy to take advantage of technology people had invested a lot of money in,” says Childers. “We were able to buy that technology at a very good price. Now EthicsPoint is in the awareness business. We can help clients identify events in real time that could pose a risk to their businesses.”
Both technologies play nicely into the EthicsPoint strategy to expand the menu of services available to its 2,300-plus clients. “We have 100 clients already clamoring for our visualization product,” which will be released in the first quarter of 2011, Childers says.
Other tech companies have also seized the opportunity to purchase key technology in this economy, the largest example being Intel buying the security giant McAfee for $7.7 billion. But the opportunity doesn’t apply only to tech giants. Prices for all types of businesses have fallen. The most recent data from the Internet’s largest marketplace of businesses for sale, BizBuySell.com, indicates that prices for local businesses are even lower now than they were a year ago. The current median asking price for Portland businesses is $249,750, down 14.8% from $293,000 a year ago. The data considers both listed businesses and the growing number of companies for sale by owner.
Nationally, the median sales price for small businesses is the lowest it has been since BizBuySell.com began tracking it in 2007.