Inteum StoriesSuccess stories about real people. How they have shaped Inteum and how Inteum has influenced them.
Founder and CEO of Inteum
Robert Sloman is the founder and CEO of Inteum Company, LLC. Prior to starting Inteum, Robert Sloman served as President of the Washington Research Foundation and Vice President of Association of University Technology Managers.
While Inteum was founded in 1992, its history can be traced back considerably further. Since college, I have had a fascination with computers and, in particular, relational database software. In 1983, when I was working for Monsanto in Australia, I used my personal Apple IIe to develop a database with AppleWorks to anticipate demand and manage inventory for one of their product lines. My first database application proved to be highly useful and was later adopted by Monsanto for other similar markets.
When I came to Seattle in 1985, I joined the Washington Research Foundation (WRF) and immediately began to think about how a relational database could be designed to support the business of technology transfer. At the time, WRF had many assets that were not properly catalogued. I was concerned that invisible liabilities in the form of licensing obligations, contracts and other agreements were not being actively addressed. Managing every issue that needed attention before it became a crisis was the key to success, so WRF undertook an audit of the agreements and—you guessed it—I started to design a relational database to keep track of it all.
While I was auditing the portfolio, and trying to organize WRF’s records, I was also designing a relational database application using RBase 5000, given to me by the publisher, MicroRim, where I had taken a temporary job upon arriving in Seattle. So, my work at WRF coupled with my development of an RBase database system produced the first edition of the Inteum software: I called it D.E.A.L.S. Db., which stands for Daily Evaluation And Licensing Support Database. This became the foundation from which Inteum was developed. Over the course of a few years, D.E.A.L.S Db was migrated from RBase to a dBase compatible platform called FoxPro, and when I left WRF in 1992, after being its President from 1987 to 1992, I secured a license to D.E.A.L.S. Db with the intention of commercializing it.
Building and Sustaining Success
I have always viewed Inteum as a global enterprise. I began marketing Inteum globally from the first weeks of operating the company. A critical moment came about within the first six months of founding Inteum, when it became clear that the technology transfer community in the USA was supportive of the enterprise. Academic technology transfer professionals had come to realize that a rigorous records management system approach would offer an essential tool to most effectively conduct business in the field.
I was able to grant licenses to technology transfer offices all over the world. Over time, quite a few competitors have come and gone. Inteum’s staying power can in part be attributed to our broad, international installed base, our focus and genuine technology transfer field management experience.
Our broad international customer base made us quite resilient during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), years later. Inteum took the period of the GFC to reorganize as we prepared for the recovery. For three consecutive years during the GFC, we froze annual subscription fees to assist those of our customers whose cash flow issues were pressing. That gesture created goodwill which contributed to our long-term success.
A lot has happened in the technology transfer industry over the past 25 years. We have never pursued growth for growth’s sake. We have never engaged outside investors. The choice for Inteum to remain a private entity has helped us to maintain our focus on serving our customers first and thus developing a more refined and robust product.
As digital trends advance, we are working diligently to meet the demand. Data is becoming much more interconnected, so our Integrate for Inteum program is expanding, which permits Inteum data to be shared with other data consuming areas of an enterprise. Mobile is another obvious trend in this age and we are introducing an HTML5 edition of our software to accommodate that need.
Team & Community Commitment
My favorite part of running Inteum is to be working with our team of energetic, capable and committed staff who are dedicated to our mission every day. For one and a half decades Chief Architect and Software Development Manager, Tim Hollobon, has managed the team of programmers. Tim works with unfailing enthusiasm and energy. The long service and stability of our team is exceptional. Tim, Nita, Ruth, Justin, myself and next year, Ken, have all worked at Inteum for 10 or more years. Several others have worked here for over five years. This team stability contributes to our success and is mirrored by many of our customers who have been with us for many years.
We love the passion our customers bring as they offer feedback on the solution, suggesting updates via the UserVoice feature. Our attitude is that the business is a mutual effort between ourselves and our customers. We work together to improve the solution with each new iteration. The collaborative process brings benefits to the community and drives the product forward in ways we never thought imaginable.
Inteum software is the most widely used solution of its kind and we are proud to have made a positive, enduring impact on the performance of the technology transfer community. Likewise, for decades, our customers have graced us with their loyalty and support for which we are most grateful.