Holger Opderbeck saw innovative multimedia software programs for the K-12 market change the way kids learn. At the same time, the founder of Netrix in Herndon, Va., noticed he was spending a lot of time explaining technology to people at his networking company.
So in 1994, Opderbeck founded MindQ Publishing Inc., a privately held educational multimedia company that trains technical professionals in computer programming languages and other high-tech skills.
The company's products are interactive and use eye-catching graphics to keep a student's attention. "It's visualizing technical concepts," said Opderbeck. "These are much more effective than reading a book." The company's 20 programs are now on CD-ROM, although by the end of the year, they will all be available via the World Wide Web through intranets and the Internet.
But Herndon-based MindQ is still a small company with only $430,000 in revenues last year and 25 employees. So Opderbeck has been on a mission to gain money and visibility through bundling and marketing agreements with larger companies. MindQ's partner list now includes Microsoft Corp. of Redmond, Wash.; Sun Microsystems Inc. in Mountain View, Calif.; Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM; and publishing giant McGraw-Hill.
"That's really what has changed the landscape for us," Opderbeck said. He claims 1997 revenues will hit $2 million and 1998 will see at least $5 million, due largely to his extensive partnerships.
In part, Opderbeck's optimism comes from the company's greatest new market - Java. Companies everywhere seem to want their employees trained on the programming language created by Sun Microsystems.
"We have developed a leadership
position in the Java market," said Opderbeck. "Java is the mainstay of our business."
Sun Microsystems has had a marketing partnership with MindQ for about nine months. Joe Keller, director of marketing at Sun, said MindQ has emerged as a leader in the market of multimedia tutorials, especially in the Java space. And while there are many larger multimedia companies, Keller said being small has helped MindQ keep up with the rapidly changing Internet technology. "Their size makes it easy for them to react quickly," Keller said.
MindQ co-publishes a series of CDs for Microsoft Office training with a computer and information technology division of McGraw-Hill based in Burr Ridge, Ill. "They had a strong multimedia development engine and we had high-quality content," said Garrett Glanz, senior sponsoring editor at McGraw-Hill, who has been working with MindQ since 1995.
As long as MindQ keeps upgrading its technology, the company will be a leader in its market, Glanz said. "I'm excited to be working with them," he said. "They're in a ripe field."
While in the past MindQ has focused primarily on individual customers, the company's new focus is on corporations that want to train large groups.
So far, MindQ's largest corporate contract is training Novell's entire work force in Java. The program is completed gradually over nine weeks as a self-study with checkpoints where an employer can test for knowledge learned.
"Novell is the test case to make this all happen," said Opderbeck.
The partnership with Microsoft started last year when the Redmond, Wash.-based company included a coupon for MindQ products in some software shipments. In April, the CD-ROM training course for Microsoft's Visual C was bundled with the software. About 40,000 were sent in the first two months alone, said Opderbeck.
Opderbeck said he's now looking for a new influx of capital to take the company to the next level. He said he's considering mergers, venture capital and an initial public offering, though the third option is likely a few years down the road.
A problem, he said, is that while there are many technical professionals that need to be educated, the market is still not as large as the grade school niche that gave him the idea to start MindQ. "For every developer out there, there are 10,000 kids," said Opderbeck.