“Eagle has been a great place to do business for us”
by Brad Carlson, photos by Mark Dyrud
Tracy Lotz, CEO at vacation-rental technology pioneer LiveRez.com, is often asked about “that cool startup we have in Eagle,” even though the enterprise isn’t new. The misconception is understandable given recent positive developments that make the business feel like “a 22-year, overnight success,” he said.
LiveRez now combines a longstanding enterprise’s self-wrought, hard-won growth with an optimistic startup’s ability to spark enthusiasm from the outside. Its headquarter’s location adds to the positive vibe.
“Eagle has been a great place to do business for us,” Lotz said.
Representatives of several technology businesses say having their headquarters in Eagle contributes to recent and anticipated growth. Officials with LiveRez, Freeman Digital Ventures (formerly Klowd.com), TSheets and InCom Telecom say their Eagle home bases offer advantages, like helping them attract qualified employees from around the Treasure Valley.
Eagle became a desirable business base for several reasons. City leaders stuck to tight aesthetic standards throughout a boom in commercial construction and renovations, safeguarding an upscale and quaint atmosphere that businesses can use to their advantage in attracting staff. Improvements to local roads and nearby highways made for easier commutes and midday visits to clients. Eagle’s viability as a business base also increased thanks to gains in Internet infrastructure and the growth of the commercial real estate market—now big enough to offer ample choice.
The increasing breadth of the business community is partly illustrated by an Eagle Chamber of Commerce member base that numbers about 200 and ranges from specialty shops to larger businesses. Executive Director Joy Strayer said the small businesses can attract visitors and local residents, while the larger enterprises can supply significant human and financial capital for Chamber events that help foster relationships in the business community.
“Eagle has been an ideal location for us because of its proximity to all of the Treasure Valley as well as the people in Eagle,” InCom Telecom Marketing Specialist Lauren Ryan said.
Several InCom employees have worked in other markets, including big metro areas. They report that Eagle is “great by comparison,” Ryan said. “Eagle has been the perfect place for our company.”
“We are passionate about Eagle,” said Klowd co-founder and CEO Ken Holsinger. He’s now vice president of digital solutions for Freeman Digital, which acquired Klowd Dec. 31. A provider of software that makes meetings and events more engaging and meaningful for attendees, the company could have its headquarters anywhere. Holsinger said the company plans to stay and possibly expand in Eagle.
“I wanted to start a company here because of quality of life and entrepreneurial spirit…and I think it has worked out extremely well,” said Holsinger, who co-founded Klowd just over five years ago. It worked out in the sense that the business grew its volume independently and under the Freeman banner while attracting and retaining good staff—at least partly because of Eagle’s atmosphere and amenities.
TSheets, which develops employee time-tracking software, is building a 65,000-square-foot headquarters on the east side of Eagle Road north of U.S. 20-26. The company is based in Eagle already.
Senior Public Relations Manager Kelsie Medel relayed recent comments by CEO Matt Rissell on the “Why Eagle?” question. Rissell stated: “Why not? Whether it be our employees sitting on the banks of the river in between meetings or going for a run on the greenbelt after work, the quality of life here is unparalleled.”
In Rissell’s view, expanding TSheets in Eagle also keeps commutes short—many employees even walk or bike to work—and the cost of living low compared to other U.S. technology hub cities. “We’re living proof that a tech company can thrive in rural America—right here in the Treasure Valley.”
City leaders are accessible and easy to work with in part because Eagle retained its small-town feel, said Lotz of LiveRez. Other benefits to basing a business in Eagle include an ability to attract staff—helped by the Boise metro area’s frequent appearances on national “best places” lists—and to operate effectively, thanks to good infrastructure.
Growth is the trend for InCom, LiveRez, Freeman, and TSheets.
InCom has infrastructure around southwest Idaho, including in Eagle and points north and west.
“We have been able to double our clientele each year and we have been able to serve other local companies,” Ryan said. “As of late, InCom has been focusing on delivering fiber and Internet services to businesses in Eagle and all over Idaho.” InCom is the business-to-business arm of CTC Telecom, which serves the residential market.
Holsinger said the former Klowd has grown since Freeman became a partner in 2014 and owner in 2016. Dallas-based Freeman Cos. is a long-established company with 90 offices in North America, offices in Europe and Asia, and client relationships with many big companies.
“Now that we are a part of Freeman, we have grown significantly because we have access to all of the (Freeman) business units and the financial resources to optimize those opportunities,” Holsinger said. For example, having the direct connection with Freeman provided access to right contacts with client companies during the right time in decision-making processes.
Participants in meetings and events now can interact with presenters and each other more directly, helped by mobile computing. Casey McMullen, who co-founded Klowd as chief technical officer and is now director of digital solution development with Freeman Digital, said the acquisition provided more and quicker access to trends and data as well as to technical experts.
Meanwhile, demand is strong. “In the event space, it’s all about the attendee experience,” Holsinger said. Audiences “want to connect…People are looking for more personalized experiences.”
Lotz in 1994 launched an online vacation rentals listing business, which a decade later began booking vacation rentals and in 2008 took its current form as LiveRez. Vacation property managers use the software platform to post listings and to help run their businesses.
“It has always been something we have been building ourselves, but we’ve really kind of come into our own in the last couple of years,” Lotz said. LiveRez is not backed by venture capital.
LiveRez recently integrated with the Airbnb Inc. platform after Airbnb selected the Eagle company from among some 87 software platforms, he said. Airbnb “has been a great partnership. They have done everything they said they would do. We are excited to build the business with them.”
Medel said TSheets has been growing at 100 percent year-over-year for the past four years, and expects to maintain and even increase that growth rate for the next five years. The company last year received significant equity funding as it continued to grow quickly. TSheets has two U.S. offices, an office in Australia, and customers around the world.
“We are working tirelessly to grow faster, stronger, and better every single day,” Medel said, adding that the company’s long-term goal is “scaling TSheets to become a global leader: to be the ubiquitous time tracking and scheduling software that every accounting, payroll, and HR platform is connected to.”