By Amy Watkins HBJ Freelance Writer
BOTHELL — Chief executive officers from two thriving Snohomish County companies are semifinalists in a global program that recognizes successful entrepreneurs.
Chris Barrow of EagleView Technologies and Jim Weber of Brooks Sports, Inc., are both in the running for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 in the Pacific Northwest. They join 34 others who were nominated and selected in the region that includes Washington, Oregon, Montana, Alaska and northern Idaho. The Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year program recognizes company builders in more than 140 cities and in more than 50 countries throughout the world.
“It’s the most prestigious business award in the world when you think of entrepreneurs,” said Dan Smith, the office managing partner in Seattle for Ernst and Young. “These are people who are building a brand. They’re focused on making a difference in the business world. They’re the kind of people who want to disrupt the status quo and make a positive difference in the world we live in.”
Five years ago, Chris Barrow was commuting weekly from Seattle to Orlando, Fla., as an executive for the biometrics company Sequiam. A recruiter scheduled a meeting between him and brothers-in-law, Dave Carlson and Chris Pershing, who in February 2008 co-founded EagleView Technologies.
The meeting went well. Barrow, 50, fell in love with the company that provides automated 3D measurement technologies. He joined EagleView Technologies as its CEO in June 2008.
“I thought they had something really neat,” Barrow said. “They built a really fun, really small, underfunded company and I was able to come aboard, bring some angel investors and bring in some additional money, structure a real board and put the company together.”
Since then, EagleView Technologies, headquartered at 2525 220th St. SE in Canyon Park, has created a company culture that Barrow calls “fun, open and loose” in an environment where its approximately 420 employees “can be creative, make mistakes and thrive.” The company has expanded from measuring roofs to providing entire building measurements, including roofs, walls, windows, doors and siding. In August, EagleView Technologies made Inc. Magazine’s list of the country’s fastest growing privately held companies. Its recorded $35.4 million in revenue and three-year growth rate of 2,406 percent earned a ranking of 133 overall in the magazine’s 31st annual Inc. 500.
EagleView Technologies continued to grow in January when it merged with Pictometry International, a geo-referenced aerial oblique imaging company based in Rochester, N.Y.
“We now not only create the roof measurements from those photos but we also own the technology and the photograph acquisition itself,” said Barrow. “We in effect doubled the size of our business overnight.”
It’s been a wild and fast ride, Barrow admitted, but he’s where he wants to be. He’s also looking forward to bringing the two companies together, launching new products and expanding beyond the U.S. and Canada.
Being considered for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 in the Pacific Northwest is an honor but is more about the company and its employees, Barrow said.
“That’s not false modesty,” he said. “It’s just really neat to see the company come a long way, and if the recognition somehow reflects on the company, then that’s an important thing.”
When Jim Weber accepted the CEO position at Brooks Sports in 2001, there was an employee pool on how long he would stay.
“In 2001 we had sort of lost our way,” said Weber, 53. “We were everything to everyone. The company had its fourth CEO in two years and was in a bit of a financial crisis.”
The native of St. Paul, Minn., moved to Seattle in 1992 to serve as president of O’Brien International. Weber said he “slowly but surely became a sporting goods person,” and went on to serve as president of Sims Sports, Inc., and on the Brooks Sports board of directors before joining the company.
As CEO, Weber led a rebooting of Brooks Sports that included focusing entirely on high-performance running shoes and apparel. The move was perceived in the industry as risky, Weber said, but it has proven successful. In 2012, Brooks Sports experienced a record 43 percent growth in U.S. revenue. What was a $65 million company when Weber started has this year become a $500 million company with 478 employees.
“It’s a great story and that’s why I’m proud Ernst and Young is recognizing Brooks,” Weber said. “It’s a great honor for me certainly, but also for the company. Brooks has created a lot of success and I think we have the opportunity of creating more.”
Brooks Sports, located at 19910 North Creek Parkway, is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. The company will celebrate its centennial anniversary in 2014.
“We want to ring the bell and toast 100 years of Brooks but we’re also focusing on the next 100 years of running,” Weber said. “People are more increasingly taking care of themselves, thinking about what they eat and how they move and running is right in the middle of that.”
Weber is most proud of creating a brand that is resonating and being chosen by runners. Brooks Sports products must be designed for mileage and earn the trust of smart and discerning runners, he added.
“Everything we build, whether it’s a shoe or a jacket, has to work at mile 20,” Weber said. “We’ve created a lot of trust in our products because they work and because we’ve sweated the detail.”
Barrow, Weber and the other regional semifinalists for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of The Year 2013 in the Pacific Northwest will be interviewed by an independent panel of judges that will choose the award categories. Winners will be announced at a gala event on June 7 at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue.
The regional award winners will then advance to the national program in November in Palm Springs, Calif. The overall national U.S. winner will compete for the World Entrepreneur of the Year title.