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New Jackson IT venture hits the ground running

JACKSON — Two childhood chums from Greenwood, who sensed the rapid revolution of the Internet and e-commerce at an early age, established an IT company last fall that is already winning accolades from industry veterans.

Founded and based in Jackson, Vision Innovations (VI), which provides Web software consultation, marketing and management, site hosting and graphic design services, has been “full speed” since last October, said co-founder Harry Lott, 25, president of VI.

With 20 employees, a programming/development office in Oxford and a sales presence in Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee, VI recently completed an extensive Web site for Time Warner Cable, partnered with the cable company to service its future IT needs, and plans to launch a second generation site for The Mattiace Co. in Jackson, which will allow the real estate firm to list all of its properties online.

“It has been totally stress-free having Vision Innovations completely take the burden off Time Warner,” said Bob Dempsey, vice president of sales and marketing for the Jackson/Monroe division of Time Warner Cable. “Before we decided to contract VI to create and maintain our Web site, we interviewed numerous design companies. But VI was better prepared and had a better business model than all of the other well-established Internet firms from whom we got quotes.”

Lott and Power Seawright, 26, VI’s chief information officer, attended Pillow Academy in Greenwood at the same time before they became fraternity brothers at the University of Mississippi. They grew up, they said, with “computers in the house,” and a clear understanding at an early age about the “potency” of the Internet.

“Power and I had been talking about this since college,” Lott said. “I was at Paine Webber for two years straight out of college, after I got an accounting degree from Ole Miss, and mentioned to a couple of guys in the investment business that Power and I were thinking about putting something together. He had worked as a Web developer at Cothern Computers for a while and could write e-commerce software from scratch, which is a precursor to other complicated programs. And I could raise the capital. We planned ahead, and Power went back for additional schooling before everything was in place. We felt it gave us a competitive advantage to have a strong business background, not just in information technology.”

In less than six months of opening for business, Lott and Seawright are on their way to a rather lofty goal: to be the Southeast’s first full-service IT firm for small- to mid-size businesses.

“We’re not just a firm that builds and manages Web sites,” Seawright said. “We give our clients a total solution. Many businesses are online but aren’t getting the benefits. Because we know that a lot of technology has historically been unaffordable to small and mid-size businesses, we’re trying to level the playing field by helping them compete with big corporations by providing customized Web-based software to manage the businesses’ needs without having to purchase it or deal with obsolescence.”

Charles Jeffreys, 25, VI’s executive vice president and co-founder, said the IT labor market is so tight that college grads are able to demand top dollar and beefy benefits packages, and usually only large corporations can justify hiring an IT professional on staff.

“That’s where we come in,” Jeffreys said. “We consult with clients and write applications from scratch. Time Warner was looking to hire an IT professional on staff. We are able to do it for a little less than half the cost of the annual salary and benefits package for that one staff person.”

VI provides leasing options and turnkey solutions, Seawright said.

“One of the biggest problems we see is that one company may design the software, another company may manage it, someone else may host it, and if something goes wrong, there’s a lot of finger pointing,” he said.

“We alleviate that by being responsible for every facet. We back it up with hard-hitting service agreements that spell out what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it. We offer the peace of mind that you aren’t dealing with someone you can’t find a year down the road, and that your software won’t become obsolete.”

VI has not yet tackled some of the higher end services the company is capable of providing, Lott said.

“We’ll do a full-scale product launch on the total suite of business applications in the spring,” he said.

VI’s own intranet system features a highly integrated suite of e-business applications that improves communication, productivity, and features integrated billing applications. “Our No. 1 aspect is the creative culture we maintain,” Lott said. “It has allowed us to draw the cream of the IT talent, and that’s what determines the staying power of an IT business.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com or (601) 853-3967.


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