Pittsburgh Technical Council

Tech to the core: Erik Ross Talks about his latest venture bitcore

Tech to the core: Erik Ross Talks about his latest venture bitcore

Article Published: December 22, 2014

<p><b>TEQ:</b> Erik, you’ve been plugging away in Pittsburgh’s tech sector for many years. Tell us a little about yourself and some of the ventures that you’ve been affiliated with.</p>

<p><b>Erik Ross:</b> Like most technology people of my generation, I was fortunate to have a front-row seat for the first Internet boom. I was part of a small group of people who grew a garage-based Internet business into a top 5 global retailer of DVDs for a period of time and enjoyed all of the challenges that the ‘get big quick’ business path entails. After earning my stripes in the small business entrepreneurial world, I chased the large corporate experience. For several years I surfed the tsunami of enterprise technology / digital consulting and studied the structures, strategies, and cultures of Fortune 500 companies from the inside. It was during that time period that I realized the only difference between small private and large corporate was the number of figures in the project budgets. The skills required to innovate, improve and produce something better than originally envisioned were something I found I could always offer. I just learned that it was easier to deliver when there were fewer cooks in the kitchen.</p>

<p><b>TEQ:</b> So give us the details on your latest company <bitcore>. What’s got you stoked about it? </p>

<p><b>ER:</b> <bitcore> was founded out of the love of making things, and making existing things better. We love building things: websites, applications and making ideas into businesses. We have few goals: First and foremost is to build a company, which allows us to do what we love. Second, but more importantly, we strive to create an environment where people like us can make a living and do the same. Our long-term goal is to pay people real salaries, help them learn and acquire the skills they need to pursue their own goals. Whether that’s just becoming an expert in a given digital field, or developing innovative software, or building their own business from the ground up, we want to help others do what they love for a living. It just doesn’t get better than that. </p>

<p>As far as being stoked, the current era of technology and business is brilliant! Most everyone you meet in every walk of life has an idea for an app or a business. A great number of those dreams are dependent upon technology or marketing. The part of my job that I enjoy most is connecting with a person’s idea, and then being able to make positive contribution. With <bitcore> we not only get to connect and contribute, we get to build and promote, and become believers. That is my definition of stoked.</p>

<p><b>TEQ:</b> <bitcore>’s website touts its staff, asserting that they have written 65 miles of code! That’s some serious chops. What kind of projects get you fired up? </p>

<p><b>ER:</b> Heh. Yes and we have done the math to prove it! Our core dev team is comprised of people who’ve spanned most every language in one form or another for the past 15 years. Though I’m tapping my inner salesperson and cringing while I do so, I can honestly boast ‘If it can be done with code, our guys can do it.’ As far as getting fired up is concerned, I’m kind of a cheap date. I love all ideas. That sounds like a throw away, but it’s true. I’ve worked with energy companies, healthcare professionals, OTC brands, law firms, major Hollywood studios, industrial equipment brokers and distribution companies. I can honestly say whether I’m working on an amusing and simple marketing app, or the backbone of a multi-market transactional platform, I get carried away with the potential of any effort to create a step change. </p>

<p><b>TEQ:</b> Digital marketing is like a 7-year-old on a sugar high. How does <bitcore> stay on top of the latest technologies and ever-changing strategies? </p>

<p><b>ER:</b> Thankfully, both my kids are past both the 7-year-old and the sugar high phase, but I fully support the metaphor. In our line of work you have to keep your eyes open. Trends change quickly, and we do our best to scour creatives, businesses, and industry publications like most digital agencies. At least as important as ‘staying informed,’ and I feel somewhat more important, is the experience of your professional network. I can’t say whether it’s because of the City of Pittsburgh, or the people of Pittsburgh (both native and adopted Yinzers alike), but the tech community here is incredibly generous and collaborative. We have world-class talent in this town, and engaging in thoughtful discourse, sharing experiences and best practices is almost second nature. The opportunities to stay connected to digital marketing and the ever-changing sea of strategies are endless. </p>

<p>More specifically, our belief about being current pales in importance compared to what we learned during the first Internet boom. Just because many people are doing it doesn’t mean it’s actually working. If we see a new tactic or design trend that we like or a client is interested in, we try it. We measure it, and we prove it out. The wonderful thing about digital marketing in the big data era is that ‘we’ know a lot. The terrible thing about digital marketing in the big data era is that when ‘we’ don’t really know a lot we can justify to the spend to the client. The latter statement is something I’ve seen a great deal of in my career, and it’s also the origin of one of <bitcore>’s pillars: never do something for the client that you wouldn’t do for your own business. </p>

<p><b>TEQ:</b> <bitcore> appears to have a soft spot for startup companies. How do you work with these ventures? </p>

<p><b>ER:</b> Guilty as charged. <bitcore> is a company founded by people who have all been through the startup experience. It’s where we grew up. Our first major venture was funded bootstrap style. We skyrocketed to multi-million dollar success from a sub $10k investment. We enjoy working with people cut from the same cloth, so we tend to be flexible when it comes to working with startups. I’m committed to making sure that every startup we work with achieves success on its own terms. <bitcore> is not an investment company looking for equity, but we have and will from time to time enter into partnerships with startups. I like to think we offer something unique to startups. We want to be a natural extension of a startup team. We want to believe as much as you do, and contribute our creativity and technical expertise to help startups elevate their respective games.</p>

<p><b>TEQ:</b> With all of your experience over the years, what’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learned? </p>

<p><b>ER:</b> Good is cool. Not to date myself, but I was a kid when the ‘boomers’ became ‘yuppies’ and caught the tail end of the ‘greed is good, greed works’ phenomenon as I entered the workforce. To that end, I’ve seen up-close examples of the greed of companies and people in the digital age. I’ve seen organizations with billions in revenue manage their key businesses transactions via shared spreadsheets. I’ve seen agencies send $2,000 invoices for 10 minutes worth of digital labor. I’ve seen billion-dollar software implementation projects fail because 15 people could not find a way to effectively communicate. These scenarios occur too often in our industry. At <bitcore>, we believe that it’s important to determine what you are and want to be. We also believe that it’s just as important to define what you are not and never want to be. It is core to our belief system that we never become one of those companies. I see a lot of great things going on specifically in Pittsburgh’s tech / business community. I’m seeing a number of companies who focus on the bottom line, but also care about giving back. I find that the next generations of technology workers and entrepreneurs are building ‘making a difference’ into their business plans, as well as their lives. I’m a big believer in this, and <bitcore> and a few of our sister companies are working on ‘sweat donations’ for non-profits.  It’s in the formative stages now, but early 2015 we should have a program in place to donate our services and resources for the benefit of our region. So, that’s pretty much it, Good is cool. </p>

<p><b>TEQ:</b> How are the new digs coming along in Downtown Pittsburgh? </p>

<p><b>ER:</b> The new building is coming along slowly but surely. We’re incredibly excited to have the demolition phase completed, and construction should begin within a week or two. It’s a great building on Market Street which is now reduced to the original timbers and masonry. Incredibly cool and old Pittsburgh construction.  I’m sure we’ll have an event when we open up, I’ll give you a date to keep open when I can accurately predict one. </p>

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