Cathie Anderson: HomeZada, Chrometa among Sacramento-area innovators

Published: Tuesday, Jul. 10, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jul. 10, 2012 - 8:10 pm

If the Sacramento region's technology experts were making up a list of companies to showcase homegrown innovation, El Dorado Hills' HomeZada and Sacramento-based Chrometa would be among the initial 30 or so businesses on it.

How do I know?

Well, actually, there is a list. It comes from the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance. In addition to promising newcomers, more familiar companies such as GenCorp, Synergex and Meridian Systems received the distinction of being named Technology Flagship companies.

By identifying them and continuing to add yearly to the list, SARTA's board hopes to turn the spotlight on residents who have made the choice to pursue groundbreaking technology right here rather than move to silicon centers.

You might be inclined to dismiss the list as chest-thumping, but get acquainted with the leaders of two startup companies and their products before you do. (Find links to all 30 here: www.sarta.org/tech-flagships.html.)

An online housekeeper

Behind HomeZada, for instance, is the team of Elizabeth Dodson, John Bodrozic and David Ing. All were instrumental in building Folsom's Meridian Systems and used a portion of the money made on its sale to software developer Trimble Navigation to found their new venture.

Through HomeZada, homeowners can store inventories, create a budget and plan for home-improvement projects, plus keep all warranties at their fingertips, among many other things. The HomeZada team stores everything in a data server where it can be accessed even if a disaster prevents access to the home.

"I am actually the main reason why HomeZada was created," Dodson said. "… I had folders for wish list items and project items that I knew I had to finish or fix or do after my house was built. I had papers, receipts and all this stuff all over the house. There was no intelligent data that came out of this stuff."

She now does it with www.homezada.com. Part of the application is free, and roughly 1,500 people have downloaded it since it debuted in January. About 20 percent to 30 percent of users pay $9.95 a month to be able to use the project-management features and receive personalization.

Hours billed, in minutes

Like the creators of HomeZada, Chrometa founders Brett Owens and Chihab Bahhadi maintain a binational partnership. Owens is in Sacramento; Bahhadi in Brussels. (Home- Zada's Ing is based in Vancouver, British Columbia.)

The founders of Chrometa have a few years on HomeZada – and about 20,000 more users. Their software helps lawyers, consultants, accountants and freelance graphic artists track billable hours.

That can be a chore in a world of multitasking. Essentially, the program logs all time spent on the computer, looking for keywords and other elements to attach the appropriate account number, and Chrometa can even track time on smartphones.

"Traditionally, we've handled the phone time with an 'away time' pop-up, so if you're idle from your PC, when you go back to it, you'll get a pop-up that says, 'Welcome back, Cathie, you've been away for 17 minutes, would you like to log the time for when you were away?' " Owens explained. "… The landscape has changed a lot in the last four or five years since smartphones. Our next big platform release will integrate them. It will track the phone calls, so we're taking the call log from your Android or your iPhone and we're porting those into the system, along with contact information, so it goes directly into time sheets."

Available at www.chrometa.com, a subscription of $19 to $49 a month allows users to choose how many devices and amount of data storage.

The program has won kudos from the Economist, the Chicago Tribune and numerous publications serving attorneys, and it's selling in Australia, Canada, Mexico and other markets. Many law firms report seeing increases of 20 percent or more on their billings, Owens said.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Cathie Anderson





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