A man named Corky

My former next-door-neighbor Mike worked for a very mysterious-sounding tech company named Kepware Technologies.  Every so often, Mike would disappear to for a week or so and come back with tales of travels to Germany, Portugal or Eastern Europe for his job.   I recall a night at his place involving a couple of Russian business partners and some vodka.   He explained what they made—software drivers—leaving me as confused as before.

I thought again of Kepware when I started Inspire Portland after reading some articles about Kepware’s successes–and founder Corson “Corky” Ellis’ involvement in the promotion of entrepreneurship in Maine through ventures like the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development’s Top Gun program    I thought, I’ve got to meet this guy.   At a minimum, he might be able to explain what Kepware does in a way that my feeble brain can understand.

Two days after he agreed to the shoot, I found myself in the headquarters of Corky’s operation, above the Post Office in downtown Portland.   He looks a little like my good friend and photographer Brad Armstrong.   We had a good conversation, and Corky emphasized two things repeatedly:  one, the success of Kepware is entirely due to the efforts of many talented people besides himself; and two, that he is very concerned about the state of technology education among secondary school students.  From his perspective, the best way to keep and attract high-paying tech jobs here in Maine is to get our kids more interested in science and math.    He sees technology education as the key to creating a technology economy here in Maine.

The shoot went well and I had the run of their amazing space across from City Hall.   Corky is one of those talented entrepreneurs who actively chose to live in Portland and now, some 15 years later, is employing more than 60 people in highly-skilled jobs.    Almost as important, he finally explained to me what Kepware actually does in terms I can understand, comparing it to the printer drivers you download to allow your computer and printer to talk…just on a much bigger scale.

Read his interview and see the photos at Inspire Portland.   I chose the lead image because it seemed the least contrived, and the most revealing in terms of his expression.   You ask questions about what people carry in their pockets, and it tends to get people to drop their guard a bit.   See the outtakes and lighting scene shot in the gallery below (sorry, iUsers, you’ll need Flash).

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