Company Town


Rochester is a company town.

That used to mean the Big Three. But now small firms are stealing the show.

We're taking a weekly look at the Rochester economy - one small company at a time.

Zack Seward / WXXI

It started out as “The Death App.”

“I called it that because I couldn’t think of anything else,” says Tony Di Pietro.

Di Pietro’s “Death App” was the kernel of what became the winner of Rochester’s first Startup Weekend.

Zack Seward / WXXI

Jennifer Kruschwitz - Digital Rochester’s 2012 Technology Woman of the Year - is like a chef.

“Let’s just say I make desserts.”

She’s actually an optical engineer. But this is how she explains her job to people like me - and her mother.

“I could have a customer say, ‘I have this type of oven, I have these ingredients in my pantry and I would like to be able to make your soufflé,’ ” explains Kruschwitz.

So she whips up a test recipe and sends it off to that customer.

They give it a try - seeing if the “soufflé” has the right consistency, if it’s tasty, if it springs back just so.

Then the customer sends Kruschwitz some feedback. She makes the appropriate tweaks and then sends the customer the real recipe.

“So that they could make chocolate soufflé in their own ovens and they could call it by whatever name they needed to call it,” says Kruschwitz. “And that’s what I do in coatings.”

Optical coatings - for things like surgical lights, cell phone cameras and movie projectors.

Zack Seward / WXXI

Trust us: Running an online news operation can be hard work.

That's especially the case in the cash-strapped newsrooms of small newspapers across the country.

But what if the work of producing a news website could be outsourced? What if having an online presence required no additional effort from your paper's precious few reporters?

That's where Our Hometown comes in.

"It's really a complete turnkey service," says CEO and founder Steve Larson. "Our key is, Let us take care of it and get every bit of usefulness out of what you're producing - without having to change your process at all."

Zack Seward / WXXI

For reasons both economic and strategic, universities around the country are increasingly trying to woo international students.

Last year, SUNY announced plans to boost international enrollment by more than 75 percent. California's public university system is in the midst of a similar recruiting push - which has been met with bumpy results.

Playing matchmaker to thousands of international students and their institutional suitors has its share of challenges.

That's where PlanetGPA comes in.

"We call ourselves 'the eHarmony of education'," says CEO and founder Uma Gupta. "[We] really help both sides find each other and be the perfect match."

Zack Seward / WXXI

Mobile payments are the hot new thing in our digitally connected world.

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey was one of the first to enter the space with Square. (Square recently revamped its app in a bid to capture a larger chunk of the market.)

E-commerce giant PayPal recently launched its own mobile payments platform with PayPal Here.

And now Rochester has a horse in the race: Quantum Loop Solutions' NuSale.

"We're not going head-to-head with them at all," says Quantum Loop Solutions CEO Sam Weiner. "The way you approach a giant is not to attack their head, you attack their toe."

NuSale's opportunity is the app's "end to end" experience, says Weiner. "It helps small merchants run their entire operation on a mobile device."