23RD JULY 2014

EchoStar exec leaves to launch software startup

Denver Business Journal

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EchoStar’s top technology executive has left the company to start a new business developing software products for corporations that struggle with creating customer-facing apps well or quickly.

Mike Marcotte’s last day as EchoStar Corp.’s chief digital officer was July 19. Today, he’s a one-man shop, called Acumen Digital, working out of the Boulder office of Galvanize, a Denver-based technology school with offices and coworking space for startups.

"Now I'll be a guy sitting at the end of a table with a laptop, like everybody else," he said.

Maybe not just like everybody else.

Marcotte had worked for eight years as an IT executive at EchoStar or Dish Network.

Douglas County-based EchoStar (Nasdaq: SATS) is the 6,000-employee television set-top box maker and satellite communications company controlled by Charlie Ergen, its cofounder and chairman. In 2008, EchoStar became a separate company from Ergen’s satellite TV company, Dish Network Corp. (Nasdaq: DISH).

From working at EchoStar and other companies earlier in his carrer, Marcotte learned a lot about why large organizations struggle to make apps and similar products for customers, he said.

“They need to move fast, and the bureaucracy of these companies doesn’t allow that,” he said. "A vice president comes out of a strategy meeting on a new technology and says 'I need a horse with a white mane and a brown saddle' and a week later the engineers come back with a purple camel with a yellow hump. It happens all the time."

Marcotte formed Acumen Digital to be the nimble app-development shop for large companies, primarily finding clients among telecom companies at first.

The startup is well-funded by private investors, he said. The plan is to hire 20 highly-skilled software developers in coming months — with an eye on diversity of experience — and then expand to have 25 more in Denver by the end of 2015, Marcotte said.

Marcotte co-founded a medical billing software business in the 1990s, and he work as a senior vice president at Convergent Communications, a local telecom that boomed until it was felled in the telecom bust of 2001. After that he co-founded PathFinder, a software development company.

He joined EchoStar in 2006. Marcotte praised its entrepreneurial culture, which, he said, managed to offset a lot of the drags on innovation inherent in a large company.

The urge to build a new business of his own is what drove Marcotte’s decision to leave, and the timing seemed right, he said.

 “The climate is correct, and there’s a problem to be solved," he said. "The tech ecosystem in Denver can handle this. Everything aligned."

Greg Avery covers tech, telecom, aerospace, bioscience and media for the Denver Business Journal and writes for the "TechFlash" blog. Phone: 303-803-9222. Photo by Kathleen Lavine