Breaking tradition: 4 Colorado companies bringing new-school tech to old-school industries

April Bohnert

Even in a world where we can unlock our smartphones with nothing more than a glance, there are still a number of industries that have been slow to embrace technology’s possibilities. But today, wherever there lie challenges, you can almost certainly find someone eager to solve them. As a result, the limitless applications of digital tech are quickly permeating these industries and forever disrupting “business as usual.”

See how these Colorado companies use modern technology to disrupt — and progress — old industries.

 

Top Hat’s cloud-based education tools enable professors to engage students, inside and outside of the classroom, on the devices they use the most. Through its technology, Top Hat provides an alternative to traditional lectures and expensive textbooks — giving students, professors and administrators more flexibility. Sales enablement manager Christian Conroy shed some light on the areas desperately in need of innovation in the education industry.

What is the number one challenge facing your industry today?

Red tape is very prevalent in the education space. Whether it’s IT personnel or restrictive deals with textbook companies, the freedom for professors to do what they think is best for their course and students is shrinking. The number one problem holding our industry back is the availability of talent to assist in tackling the education market.

How is your company using technology to revolutionize your industry?

In education, radio frequency clickers were the only technology available for professors to collect instant responses from students for over 20 years. We were the first in the space to use smart devices to give students freedom when responding to professors’ questions.

We did so well transforming the student response market that we've moved into the world of interactive content, taking down the evil textbook companies. We've revolutionized the way professors create, distribute and implement content in the classroom. Our content marketplace has over 1,500 pieces of inexpensive, quality-made content created by professors for professors around the world.

How do you encourage disruptive innovation throughout your team?

One of our values is "treat professors like heroes." Sometimes that means solving a complex set of problems for one of our student response professors or pulling an extra-long shift to make sure a professor’s content is ready to launch on day one. We go above and beyond for our clients, which further disrupts the markets we’re established in.

 

Manufacturing, in its earliest forms, has been around since before the Industrial Revolution, and though the industry has had no shortage of advancements, digital technology has only recently started to make an impact. Digabit is on a mission to revolutionize the way the manufacturers distribute parts information and sell parts online, using its SaaS platform, Documoto. Julia Marvin, the company's public relations specialist, explained how Digabit’s technology helps to bring parts manufacturing into the digital age.

What is the number one challenge facing your industry today?

For manufacturers, having accurate product documentation with illustrations, updated parts numbers and specifications is a necessity for providing quality service to customers.

However, many manufacturers distribute parts information and technical documentation in print format or as a static file (like a PDF), which become less and less relevant and useful over time. The desktop publishing systems these manufacturers are using render their technical documentation and parts information outdated almost as soon as it’s published, because it’s extremely difficult to incorporate real-time data and user interactivity into the document.

In addition to publishing challenges, manufacturers are grappling with how to streamline their purchasing processes. Many companies rely on phone or fax during business hours for parts ordering, and it takes a long time for processing. This isn’t how equipment buyers want to make their purchases anymore. As with most consumers, they’re looking for the ease and convenience of buying parts online. If manufacturers want to make more money on parts sales and increase brand loyalty, they need to figure out how to accommodate the changing buying needs of their customers.

How is your company using technology to revolutionize your industry?

For manufacturers, getting parts data into a structured, relational database is an essential step in optimizing aftermarket operations like sales, service and technical support.

Documoto organizes parts information in a relational database to transform a manufacturer’s ability to create and maintain parts catalogs — so they can print, generate PDFs or publish interactive online catalogs. With our relational database, manufacturers can update the part information in one central location, and Documoto will make the change in all documents that part is found, saving publishing teams a lot of time. Since the updates are made in real-time, customers know that the information they’re seeing is accurate and up-to-date, which is especially important if they’re purchasing parts.  

Once the manufacturer has their online interactive parts catalog, they can use Documoto to create an online storefront to sell their machinery and equipment 24/7. Our platform makes finding and ordering parts easy for buyers with multiple search options, visual navigation, and integration with other data systems to optimize customer support and the aftermarket sales process.

How do you encourage disruptive innovation throughout your team?

Because we have an SaaS product, it’s easier for our engineering and development team to make software changes and schedule system updates. Our team works with our customers to get their feedback on the platform and how it’s working for them. Based on user trends and their own knowledge, employees are encouraged to make suggestions and participate in the process of constantly improving Documoto to meet our customers’ needs.

 

Like many areas of healthcare, orthodontics has, for many years, failed to find solutions that benefit both patients and doctors. With shifting access to orthodontic care, OrthoFi has sought to create technology that helps doctors compete and patients to get the care they need. Chief technology officer Nathan Gudritz shared how OrthoFi’s technology is solving both old and new problems for the orthodontics industry.

What is the number one challenge facing your industry today?

Competition among orthodontists has increased sharply over the past few years. Before, orthodontists typically only faced competition from other orthodontists in their immediate area. Today, general dentists are able to get expedited certification in order to provide their patients with basic aligner treatment, like Invisalign.

Orthodontists also face competition from remote orthodontic treatment services that provide at-home kits and ship aligner trays directly to a patient’s house, without them having to go into an office. There’s also competition now that’s simply in the form of advanced treatment technology.

How is your company using technology to revolutionize your industry?

OrthoFi has approached the problems facing the industry by using technology to help resolve multiple issues the orthodontists face. Using a breadth of data points, OrthoFi is able to provide patients flexible financing options that allow them to find a payment structure that best fits within whatever budget they have, and no patient is turned away from financing. This allows orthodontists to adopt the best treatment care options for each patient — without taking a financial hit to their business or creating barriers for the patient to start treatment. From there, OrthoFi uses technology to help streamline both patient and insurance collections practices so that the practices are able to sustain growth.

How do you encourage disruptive innovation throughout your team?

OrthoFi encourages disruptive innovation throughout the organization (not just limited to our technology teams) by continually questioning the status quo of the industry. Many of the industry’s practices, especially related to the back-office functions, are the way they are today because they’ve been passed down from senior team members to junior team members. The more we’re able to solve the glaring problems, the more we’re able to provide more comprehensive solutions and head off issues that may not have even been identified yet. Everyone at OrthoFi is encouraged and expected to shout when they believe any person, process or technology should be better than it is.

 

Shale first became an asset during World War II when the U.S. realized it needed a more stable source of oil. The industry (and its prices) rely heavily on other service providers like freight and logistics, meaning a single inefficiency in the supply chain can drive up costs for all. ShaleApps CEO Priyesh Ranjan offered an explanation of the complex shale assets industry and how his company is using tech to reduce drilling costs.

What is the number one challenge facing your industry today?

The long-term sustainability of North America’s shale boom is highly dependent on the price of oil and natural gas — which as a commodity fluctuates. The only way to reduce the resulting cyclicality of constant upturn and downturn is by reducing the required oil or natural gas price — or “breakeven price” — to make drilling new wells economic.

How is your company using technology to revolutionize your industry?

We are laser focused on reducing the breakeven cost for exploration and production companies, while also increasing the returns for suppliers who provide services to E&P companies. At ShaleApps, we have targeted sectors that have a high impact on the breakeven costs of shale assets.

For instance, we’ve developed a mobile software platform to automate trucking logistics, which has reduced the trucking costs for operators by over 40 percent and increased the utilization rate and cash conversion time for trucking suppliers. We are very excited to grow this type of marketplace that creates a win-win for E&Ps and suppliers.

How do you encourage disruptive innovation throughout your team?

The theme of our organization is to accelerate the evolution of mankind. Hence, people in our company are often only thinking of solutions that can truly make a paradigm shift in our industry.

 

Photos via featured companies. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

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