“Mike understood right away what we were trying to do, not only the technology we were trying to employ, but our business as well. He started to advise us and it has been the best money we have ever spent,” boasts Dennis Hedlund, Founder of iEmergent Group, a Des Moines based market research group serving the mortgage and housing industries.
The story really began years before the fateful meeting of Hedlund’s daughter Laird with Mike Colwell, Executive Director of the Business Innovation Zone at one of the regular BIZ events; years before even the BIZ came into existence. Hedlund cut his professional teeth in the telecommunications industry in the late 70’s and early 80’s as the switching technology was moving from mechanical to digital, and at about the time the baby bells were being born when the previous telecommunication behemoths were broken apart.
This change in technology and business landscape led many corporations to develop extensive in-house call centers, particularly for direct consumer sales and customer service. Hedlund worked for a series of companies developing their in-house capabilities including JC Penney’s, United Airlines and Federal Express, before as he put it, “I got into the mortgage industry.”
Working for Prudential Home Mortgage, he helped develop a telecommunication system that would allow centralized control of mortgage origination. A series of events ultimately led Wells Fargo, then Norwest, to lure Hedlund back to his wife’s native Iowa to practice his craft, which he did working with them as an EVP for several years.
It was through these years that this Mathematics and Physics graduate of Gustvavus Adolphus College began to apply probability theory to the challenge of maintaining large in-coming call centers. “I realized that the key was forecasting,” he remembers. Forecasting the incoming call requirements and the routing necessary to handle them became a passion.
During his tenure with Wells Fargo Hedlund began to question if a more reasoned approach could be applied to identifying mortgage opportunities. He speculated that his forecasting techniques could be applied to the existing fairly random approach and iEmergent was born in January of 2000. Taking the entrepreneurial leap he left Wells Fargo and began collecting data from a wide variety of public and private sources. iEmergent’s data base, which would eventually grow to reflect 500 million loan transactions, placed an enormous amount of data before Hedlund for his application of regression analysis which would ultimately lead to the development of a forecasting model that could identify down to the census tract the mortgage opportunities likely to emerge, and could parse them by numerous sub demographics. This information proved so valuable to the mortgage industry that this small business soon claimed 15 of the 25 largest mortgage businesses as their clients.
Following the housing bubble, which iEmergent forecasted two years prior to its arrival, Hedlund and company knew they would need to change the paradigm and sought to make the information more user friendly. As a first step they began to integrate visual tools utilizing GIS information and working with Esri. Ultimately he would conclude that they needed to develop an online interactive cloud based system to move iEmergent fully into the new reality of the mortgage industry and housing market.
“At that point we knew what we needed to do, but we are a small company and the vendors we interviewed were intimidatingly large,” remembers Hedlund. “That’s when we got involved with the BIZ because I knew nothing about cloud systems.” Colwell, began to mentor iEmergent through the development of what would become Mortgage Market Smart, a cloud originated subscription based interactive access point for market managers allowing them to employ iEmergent’s data quickly in a tactical manner rather than waiting for it to trickle down strategically from a distant corporate headquarters. Embracing Hedlund’s vision, and applying a vast repertoire of knowledge and experience in the emerging applications industry, the BIZ was a catalyst for iEmergent to catapult their highly successful business to a new level and an extended usefulness among an increasingly tech savvy workforce ever more ready to embrace highly mobile solutions. iEmergent was clearly an established business looking to take itself to the next level, a prime candidate for partnership with the BIZ.
In a series of meetings orchestrated by Colwell, iEmergent connected with Far Reach, a Waterloo based development firm, whose size and culture were a great fit for iEmergent, and together they were off to the races with an exciting new technology that they plan to roll out in April or May of 2013.
“It’s that whole process, once you have the idea, how do you put together a path through all the obstacles you find, and how do you make decisions, that is what Mike and the BIZ are so good at,” reflects Hedlund. “Mike continues to advise us on a regular basis, our next conversation will center on pricing strategies,” says this visionary who admits that certain elements of business building and nouveau technology are not his forte. “For people who have ideas and visions and are creative people an organization like the BIZ and a mentor like Mike is a critical aid on the path to success.”