Cedaron’s success was 24 years in the making

Cathie Anderson
Cathie Anderson

Karen Bond told me that she and her business partners Malcolm Bond and Gary Engle have landed at the right place at the right time, and it only took them 24 years to get there.

Davis’ Cedaron Medical Inc., a software company, was founded in 1990. Karen Bond is CEO. Her husband, Malcolm, who has a doctoral degree in physiology, is the brains behind the products, and Engle, the engineer, develops the software and makes it go. In each of the past three years, the company has seen revenue jump by 27 percent to 30 percent.

The Bonds and Engle got their start with a $50,000 grant from NASA to create software that collected medical data on astronauts and assessed the team’s readiness for assignments in space and recovery after a mission. That tool was abandoned after the budget was scrapped, so the trio moved on to create other software evaluation tools for doctors and hospitals. They started with hand surgeries, and that software was so well-received that orthopedists, cardiologists and thoracic surgeons asked Cedaron to develop electronic tools for their fields.

Cedaron’s programs store the data to both monitor the patient’s recovery and to assess the medical team’s performance. CEO Karen Bond said physicians sometimes must answer hundreds of questions aimed at assessing patient recovery and the medical team’s performance.

“There are complication rates, death rates, blood loss, things like that,” Karen Bond said, “and so the hospital can see if all of a sudden they have this high rise of complications. They may have changed a procedure or process in the hospital that they can catch it quickly and correct it. Or if a particular physician has unusual numbers compared with their colleagues, they can look at that also to assess what’s going on.”

McKesson, Philips, Cerner and five other giants in the world of health information systems liked Cedaron’s cardiac-care software so much that they all partnered with it rather than continue to market their own applications. In 2007, Cedaron introduced complete electronic medical records for patients going through rehabilitation, and its sales have taken off in the past few years.

A little oil goes a long way

When the Bonds aren’t pioneering innovations in the world of medical technology, they’re growing award-winning olive oil under the Bondolio label.

The couple bought 10 acres near Winters, and after failing to make the almond trees there produce a tidy profit, they removed them and planted olive trees instead. They took expeditions to Italy to sample olive oils.

“My husband would buy all these bottles of olive oils with the names of the olives on the bottles,” Karen Bond said. “We put them in brown paper bags, and I would taste them. I’d say, ‘Oh, I like that one. Oh, I like that one.’ We kept on doing that for a couple of years until it turned out that it was all the same olives that I liked, and they were all from Sicily.”

They bought small seedlings from Sicily, planted them and have enjoyed four harvests so far. The couple are still plowing their profits back into their farm, but their young Bondolio has racked up a number of awards, including best in show and gold in Napa Valley and two golds at the New York International Competition.

Bondolio sells at the Davis Food Co-op, Taylor’s Market, Corti Brothers, bondolio.com and other small stores, and a number of restaurants in the Napa Valley buy it in bulk to use for cooking.

A public school education

Karen Bond hates hearing kids say they can’t afford to go to college. Bond’s family struggled by on welfare in Palmyra, N.J., yet she managed to keep her circumstances from limiting her options.

“I had two strikes against me – growing up on welfare, no father in the family,” Bond said. “There was no motivation to go to college, none. I got on the honor roll, and … my mother could care less.”

Bond said school was a refuge where many teachers recognized her aptitude and encouraged her. A few, however, threw up roadblocks. After an instructor told her that she wasn’t smart enough to take algebra as a freshman, she took general math. Then she got a job working in the guidance counselor’s office – and noticed a pattern. Remedial classes were filled with poor kids and children of color. She had no parent who would advocate for her, but her job gave her an opportunity other kids didn’t have. Alone with the lists, she moved her name from remedial classes to college-prep courses.

When high school was over, Bond boarded a Greyhound bus to West Virginia University with five bucks in her pocket. She chose the college because tuition was so low.

“The next day, I got a job as a waitress,” Bond said, “and I camped out in the financial-aid department as often as I could, trying to get grants and everything.”