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Altum Design Donates $6k in Services to Hoya Challenge Winner, Bookend Technologies

Months of work by Georgetown’s most entrepreneurial students culminated in the 2012 Hoya Challenge business pitch competition finals on Saturday, April 21. Sixteen semifinalist teams, which had advanced from a 48-team preliminary round in March, pitched their business ideas to judging panels of entrepreneurs and investors.

The Commercial Track champion was Bookend Technology, led by Todd Cofer (SCS ‘12). Bookend creates products to enrich and empower lives through adaptive education.   The runner-up was Access the Outdoors, an online guide to help hunting and fishing enthusiasts, led by Kyle Miller (B ‘12).

The Social Track champion was CrowdHall, an online application designed to allow users to follow people, companies, and organizations of interest in a unique and impactful way. The company is led by Jordan Menzel (MSFS ’12). The runner up in the Social Track was Encore, a donor dashboard that emphasizes impact experience and community engagement, led by James Li (B’13) and Michael Hauser (B’13).

The People’s Choice Award, voted on by the audience, went to Ubicard, a GPS device to help people keep track of their wallet. Ubicard founder Kevin Hubschmann (B ’13) also won the People’s Choice Award at the Hoya Challenge Rocket Pitch Competition in January 2012.

The judging panel said they were impressed by the quality of ideas and presentations.  They offered advice and mentoring to participants after the competition, helping them to focus their entrepreneurial drive.  Judges included Robert Egger (Founder of DC Central Kitchen), Marley Majcher (Founder of The Party Goddess and published author), Devon George (Founder of DMV Capital Corp.), Dan Berger (Founder of Social Tables), and Rick Cutrera (American Airlines Business Development Executive).

The top teams were awarded cash prizes totaling $20,500. Additional prizes included American Airlines tickets, Altum Design web development services, Nationals Baseball tickets, Wolftrap concert tickets, and invitations to enter the Georgetown Summer Startup Program.

Even though only four teams could be selected as finalists, everyone who attended the event—participants, judges, and audience members—walked away with a prize. All those present at the event were given a 10 percent discount on an American Airlines flight.

The Hoya Challenge team is proud to announce this year’s winners:
Commercial Track Winner ($5,000): Bookend Technology (Todd Cofer, SCS ‘12)
Commercial Track Runner-Up ($2,000): Access the Outdoors (Kyle Miller, B ‘12)
Social Track Winner ($5,000): CrowdHall (Jordan Menzel, MSFS ‘12)
Social Track Runner-Up ($2,000):  Encore (James Li, MSB’13; Michael Hauser, B ‘13)
Altum Design Web Development Services ($6,000 value):  Bookend Technology (Todd Cofer, SCS ‘12)
People’s Choice ($500, American Airlines Tickets):  Ubicard (Kevin Hubschmann, B’13)
All semifinalist teams: $500 each

– Erin Kay Cawley B ’13 | Source

Behind the Company — Founder William Wnekowicz

As historic numbers of businesses shut their doors and new college graduates struggle to find employment, one Cedar Grove resident has taken matters into his own hands to buck both of those trends.
By Michael O’Leary | NorthJersey.com

William Wnekowicz, 24, owns and operates the Cedar Grove-based Altum Design Studios, a company he started while still an undergraduate that develops websites and web marketing tools for businesses and non-profit organizations.

One thing I hated was seeing these old sites, or people getting new sites with the web developers stuck in 10 years ago,” he said.

Wnekowicz said Altum Design’s goal is to incorporate the latest technologies into organizations’ websites so the sites remain up-to-date and relevant.

For the Cedar Grove-based non-profit, the Center for Italian and Italian-American Culture, Altum Design created a new website that delivered a threefold increase in search engine traffic, a 600 percent increase in Facebook fans and a 15 percent bump in newsletter subscribers, according to Altum’s website.

Wnekowicz said the name of his company was inspired by an inscription written by a friend in a 2005 birthday card. His friend wrote the Latin phrase “semper in altum,” which roughly translates to “always strive for the highest,” he said.

The young entrepreneur’s first foray into computer-assisted design came in high school when his father asked him to design an advertising journal for a non-profit organization his father was involved in.

I didn’t know anything about design or laying anything out,” he said. “I learned pretty quickly and actually, from that, I got a ton of those non-profit journals to do.”

After graduating from Cedar Grove High School in 2004, Wnekowicz went to Georgetown University to study management and operations and information management. Although he had done some graphic design work while still in high school, it wasn’t until Jan. 2006 that Wnekowicz registered Altum Design as a business.

Now, I’m satisfied that I didn’t go and take a job after school,” he said. “I’m making more than I could have if I took a job.”

It wasn’t until sometime last year though, that he was certain he could run Altum Design for a living, he said.

Wnekowicz said he gained web insight co-creating Debatepedia, a website that launched in the summer of 2006. He spearheaded the effort with a graduate student at Georgetown and credits the experience for establishing his ability to create viable web products.

As with the content of the popular web encyclopedia Wikipedia, anyone can create and edit the entries on Debatepedia. Instead of having strictly informational articles as Wikipedia does, Debatepedia features user-generated arguments debating the nuances of numerous issues.

During the development of Debatepedia, Wnekowicz and his collaborator, Brooks Lindsay, enlisted the help of a four-person development team in India that Wnekowicz managed from his dorm room.

After managing the team exclusively over the chat client Skype for months, Wnekowicz traveled to India immediately after graduation for several weeks to finally meet and work face-to-face with the team of programmers.

Now operated under the auspices of the non-profit International Debate Education Association (IDEA), Debatepedia has drawn over 3 million views since 2007.

When it comes to learning how to build websites, Wnekowicz said textbooks and classes on the subject lose their relevancy quickly since web technology evolves so rapidly.

Take the first step toward teaching yourself and you’ll find that you literally can teach yourself everything online, and that’s the best way to do it,” he said.

One summer while taking classes at New York University, Wnekowicz spent his commute reading a thick, dryly written instructional manual on how to use PHP and MySQL, two programming tools every WordPress developer needs to know, he said.

It taught me a lot and then I started experimenting,” he said.

After weathering the recession and using this last year to better establish Altum Design, Wnekowicz offered some advice to anyone who wants to start their own business.

Do something others aren’t doing and don’t spend money unnecessarily when starting up, he said.

The second piece of advice has kept Wnekowicz from expanding into a new space, but he said the company will soon need to find a new home. Currently, he and his two staff members all work out of their homes.

As more and more advertising moves away from print and toward online outlets, he expects the demand for Altum Design’s services to scale dramatically.

Altum Design builds all its websites on WordPress, which many people may know as a blog publishing platform. The average WordPress user, who might be in need of a simple personal blog, will likely employ one of the thousands of extant templates which offer a limited amount of customization.

The company designs their unique WordPress sites from scratch, a process that requires mastery of several complex programming languages in addition to a detailed understanding of the unique ways in which WordPress, as opposed to other content management systems, works.

WordPress is a beastly sort of program and we build only on WordPress because we’re really good at it and we focus on being even better,” Wnekowicz said.

E-mail: oleary@northjersey.com

Altum Design Secures Large Grant for CGARS

NorthJersey.com / Verona-Cedar Grove Times

The Cedar Grove Ambulance and Rescue Squad recently received a grant from technology giant Google that the squad hopes will increase its visibility on the web and bring in more, much-needed donations.

The squad received the funds through Google Grants, a program that supports organizations that share the company’s philosophy of community service in areas such as science and technology and global public health.

The grant will help improve online traffic flow to the squad’s website and increase donations and awareness of fundraisers, training programs and other events, according to CGARS President Scott Larson.

Township resident William Wnekowicz, a former member of the rescue squad, helped CGARS obtain the grant. Wnekowicz, who is the founder of the Cedar Grove-based web development company Altum Design Studios, also helped the squad update its website earlier this year.

It is the best squad in the area and their acceptance of technology helps them a great deal in providing better emergency care,” Wnekowicz said in an e-mail.

Google Grants is designed for registered non-profit organizations and allows the selected organizations to use AdWords, Google’s flagship advertising product, to promote their missions free of charge.

AdWords allows advertisements for a participating organization to show up in a Google user’s search results when he or she types in certain related keywords.

Google doesn’t allow recipients of Google Grants to discuss the grant’s dollar amount, but Wnekowicz said a site he previously obtained funds for now draws about one-third of its traffic from the grant.

Altum Design Plugs Non-Profit Organization into Web 2.0, Increases Online Traffic and Revenues

Altum Design built our new website in only two months at a price that was affordable for our non-profit organization. We are already realizing the benefits of that investment in terms of positive member interaction and income stream.” –CIIAC Director Rosanna Imbriano

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The Center for Italian & Italian-American Culture (CIIAC), based in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to pre­serv­e, pro­mot­e and cel­e­brat­e the rich cul­ture Ital­ians and Ital­ian-Amer­i­cans share. It strives to achieve its mission through cul­tural pro­grams, lan­guage classes, edu­ca­tional lec­tures, trips to Italy, regional din­ners that highlight Italy’s different culinary styles, and much more.

CHALLENGE:

CIIAC was experiencing stagnant membership coupled with cash flow problems and an overextended staff. The organization needed to reconnect with its members, attract new members and reenergize itself.

CIIAC was moving along as it always had. Communication with its members was being done the old-fashioned way via phone and snail mail. Therefore, CIIAC staff was unable to engage in meaningful dialogue with its members and supporters. With limited data capture, the organization was unable to undertake targeted direct marketing efforts. Due to lack of automation, CIIAC staff was often weighed down performing repetitive administrative tasks during peak times such as special events.

The Center was not taking full advantage of the possibilities that Web 2.0 offers in connecting, communicating and engaging with key stakeholders. In fact, CIIAC’s website hosting and maintenance situation lagged behind website best practices.

SOLUTION:

CIIAC partnered with Altum Design (http://www.altumdesign.com) to develop a new website (http://www.ciiacofnj.org), which enables the organization to bring Italy and its culture closer to constituents. Not only does the new website improve the visitor’s overall experience and decrease barriers to engagement, it has helped CIIAC streamline back office work flow and improve operational efficiencies in several areas. The end result is a better CIIAC experience for all, a reduction in operational costs and an increase in revenues for the non-profit organization.

BENEFITS:

Easy Website Updates: The ease of the new site’s content management system means updates are now able to be performed in an efficient and timely manner. The CIIAC staff can update news and information themselves on the fly without third party involvement. Therefore, web content can be easily added or altered ensuring that changes are made more frequently and cost effectively.

Better Engagement with Members: The new website is fully integrated with the Center’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. All postings to the site are automatically posted on these social media platforms—streamlining the process as well as ensuring that all updates are captured. Enhanced connectivity with the organization’s audience has generated a seven-fold increase in Facebook followers in only three months and facilitated CIIAC’s ability to reach an audience through social media that it hadn’t before. Additionally, newsletter subscriptions are up 15 percent over the prior year.

Streamlined Business Processes, Enhanced CRM: Web-based functionality has enabled CIIAC to organize, automate and synchronize certain business processes. Interested parties can join CIIAC as well as register for upcoming events and make a donation. CIIAC, in turn, can generate reports based on membership data, registration, and donations. This makes for more accurate membership statistics, improved tracking and a reduction in data entry by Center staff. CIIAC members can also sign up to receive informational emails about upcoming events, news and updates.

Higher Membership Satisfaction: Overall members have a better experience with CIIAC by being able to self service when needed thus freeing up the limited CIIAC staff. When members do need to communicate with a “live” person, they are more likely to have shorter wait times on the phone.

Greater Brand Visibility: The new optimized site is easier to find and the use of social media applications extends its reach. Traffic to the site has increased dramatically. In the first few months of launch, organic traffic to the website from Google tripled compared to the same time period. In the end, CIIAC’s enhanced online presence has given them a powerful tool to market to potential strategic partners as well as potential members.

Wnekowicz Speaks to Georgetown Undergraduates

William Wnekowicz spoke to Georgetown Undergraduates at the McDonough School of Business, joining other OPIM (Operations and Information Management) alumni on a panel. The discussion was based around how Operations and Information Management has been useful in starting a business or a career.

The event took place in the new McDonough School of Business Hariri Building on the Georgetown Campus.

Entrepreneur Magazine — “Voice Off”

Features like call routing, screening and voice-to-text functionality–and the lack of a price tag–give Google Voice strong appeal to more than 1 million users. Others can’t get over the quirks. Sometimes you get what you pay for.
By Ericka Chickowski | Entrepreneur Magazine — October 2010

Can’t Live With It
William Wnekowicz, founder of Altum Design Studios, a web design firm in Cedar Grove, N.J.

Altum Design Studios would seem to be an ideal Google Voice user. The upstart web design firm specializing in business-to-business marketing has only two-and-a-half staffers, including founder William Wnekowicz. The firm’s high-end and often demanding clients need to be able to reach Wnekowicz and his employees.

Although Wnekowicz loves the idea of Google Voice–he dreams of the simplicity of call routing and screening depending on his team’s schedule–there’s one big problem with the service: It won’t allow him to port his existing cell phone number to the service.

That’s the phone number I used when I was growing the business–that’s pretty much what everybody calls,” he says. “The problem is that Google Voice doesn’t allow porting. I could use the service, but I would have to get a new Google Voice number and then I’d have to tell all of my clients and change all of my materials to reflect that number.”

He’s hoping that Google changes this policy, but in the meantime, he’s sticking with his good, old-fashioned calling service.

Can’t Live Without It
Allen Gannett, president and CEO of Future Civic Leaders, a nonprofit youth development organization in Washington, D.C.

Future Civic Leaders operates with two basic goals. The first is to run a summer camp for about 40 students across the country. The students convene in Washington, D.C., for four days to conduct simulated campaigns and meet with legislators, White House press corps and other stars of the political world–all on the organization’s dime. The second goal is to create a network of school chapters dedicated to continuing student civic education year-round. In just over a year of existence, the organization has recruited about 400 students.

Future Civic Leaders president Allen Gannett says Google Voice has made it possible for him and his eight staffers to stay more connected with students around the country. “We can’t necessarily afford to have an office with a top-flight landline system,” he says. “But giving someone a cell phone number seems unprofessional. We rely on Google Voice because having local numbers that we can use around the country really helps get stuff done.”

The organization has recruiters working with students all across the country, and Google Voice facilitates call forwarding to the right recruiter without using a complicated switchboard or message service. The platform’s screening, blocking and routing features give the organization the flexibility it needs during busier times, such as the summer camp ramp-up, Gannet says. “It’s definitely made things a lot easier in how we communicate,” he says.

September 16 — Panel and Networking Event

Join Altum Design, eMazzanti Technologies, and others at the annual eMazzanti Open House. The event will feature networking time, a keynote, and a panel discussion on embracing new technologies that have been released in the last year.

Players from the New York Red Bulls will be on site to talk about their recent Major League Soccer success. Both Kevin Goldthwaite and Michael Mondello will be on site so you can grab an autograph and share a story.

September 16th, 2010
5:30 — 7:30pm

at

eMazzanti Technologies
701 Grand Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030

Agenda:
5:30 P.M. – 6:30 P.M. – Networking / Sign-In / Tours
6:30 P.M. – 7:00 P.M. – Keynote Speaker
7:00 P.M. – 8:30 P.M. – Panel / Breakout Sessions
8:30 P.M. – 9:00 P.M. – Raffle Drawings / Closing

Panel:
Carl Mazzanti, eMazzanti Technologies - Panel MC
Kerry Flowers, Flower and O’Brien
Douglas Singer, eMazzanti Technologies
Jonathan Killion, Carl Marks
William Wnekowicz, Altum Design Studios
Steve Butera, WatchGuard Technologies

The New altumdesign.com Launches

Over the years, Altum Design has grown to offer several products and an array of services aimed at one thing: increasing sales through web technologies. Our old site just didn’t say that. It didn’t feature any of our products, new service offerings, or an easy-to-use and extensible portfolio. So, we got to building a new one, using all the great functionality we offer our clients.

Visitors to Altum Design’s new site now have a much better experience. It is easily navigable, features all of our products and services, let’s visitors contact us with questions through live chat, and much more.

Stayed tuned — this website will only grow and become more useful as time goes on. We hope you like it. We do, and we promise to take good care of it.

Cedar Grove Ambulance & Rescue Squad Receives New Website

Altum Design launched a new website for the Cedar Grove Ambulance & Rescue Squad today. The site features an updated design and a load of new functionality. Residents of Cedar Grove will now be able to donate to the Squad online, members of the Squad can access special member-only information right from home, and Squad officers have complete control over their content, images, and donations.

The site can be found at: http://www.cedargroverescue.org/

Please consider a donation for this hard-working all volunteer organization.

aChat — Live Web Chat Launches

Altum Design announces the launch of aChat, a live web chat application. Businesses can use the application to connect directly with their customers online — whether for sales, technical support, or other inquiry. It opens another channel of communication between businesses and their customers.

There’s no worry about getting overloaded as the software allow for multiple operators to handle requests in the queue. Other useful features include canned messages to save time typing, chat history and statistics to review your level of service, and an email fallback for off-hours requests.

Altum Design also offers seamless branding and integration with your current website.

More information available at: http://altumdesign.com/products/achat/