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Richard Kaplan jokes that he couldn’t even turn on a computer when he started working as president and CEO of Pictometry International Corp. in 2000.
And yet, he knows how to build a privately held business and turn it into a success story that landed over 400 county governments as well as many commercial clients, including Microsoft Corp.
“When I first looked at Pictometry, I never thought I could get it off the ground because it was just a concept—there was no product and no sales,” says Kaplan about his Henrietta-based company, which ranks No. 3 in Rochester’s Top 100 companies for 2006 sponsored by the Rochester Business Alliance. “But I enjoy working on business start-ups, and so I ended up creating a marketing plan for a new GIS (geographic information system) software which was developed by Stephen Schultz, a graduate student from RIT.
“Even though I didn’t know anything about airplanes, let alone digital oblique imagery, I had the vision of how we could make it happen. Plus a good CEO always surrounds himself with smart people, and I had some technical geniuses like Steve on our staff.”
In recognition of his business success and contributions within the community, RIT’s E. Philip Saunders College of Business has named Kaplan as recipient of the 2007 Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award. He will be honored at RIT on April 19.
Past recipients of the award include Arunas Chesonis, CEO of PAETEC Holding Corp., E. Philip Saunders, chairman of Genesee Regional Bank and CEO of Griffith Energy Inc., and Wayne LeChase, CEO of LeChase Construction Services LLC.
“Dick Kaplan was an easy choice for this year’s Vanden Brul Award,” says Saunders College of Business Dean Ashok Rao. “He is a ‘serial entrepreneur’ in the true sense of the word, and a successful one at that.
“His latest venture, Pictometry International, has contributed significantly to the economic well being of our region, and has done so largely with graduates from RIT,” Rao notes. “More importantly, he is an effective and articulate spokesperson for the Rochester business community.”
Kaplan says he was dumbfounded when he got news about the award. “I consider this to be the most prestigious award in Rochester for business and it was a great one to win.”
Pictometry’s geospatial imaging is somewhat revolutionary, according to Kaplan. “The software offers bird’s eye views of property, buildings, highways, and you can even see the fire hydrant next to your house,” he explains. “Unlike getting information from satellites, like Google Earth, low-flying planes from a few thousand feet take photos of the landscape at 40-degree (3D-like) oblique angles. With our software, you can measure distance, height, elevation and area directly from the images. The system has been used for homeland security, law enforcement, 9-1-1 emergencies, transportation, utilities and businesses, and now the images are available to the public through Microsoft.”
Like many entrepreneurs, Kaplan typically works 10-hour days and in between serves as vice president of the Rochester Angel Investment Network, chairman of the Rochester Broadway Theatre League, and is active in community organizations such as Sojourner House, Wilson Commencement Park, Camp Good Days and Special Times, Martial Arts Center of Rochester and the Center for Government Research.
Surprisingly enough, Kaplan’s favorite vacation spot is Walt Disney World in Orlando. “To me it’s the eighth wonder of the world and I love everything about it—the Magic Kingdom and Space Mountain, MGM’s Tower of Terror, and Epcot.”
In a few years, Kaplan and his wife, Marcia, will be able to take their three granddaughters to Disney. “My son, Darren, lives in Atlanta and he and his wife, Amara, have two daughters. And my daughter, Neely, and her husband, Aaron Pusatari, live in Rochester with their new baby girl.”
Since Kaplan attended both RIT and the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he studied accounting and economics, he has not been a stranger to RIT—serving as chairman of the advisory board for the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science and on the board of Venture Creations.
“Plus, 60 to 70 percent of our employees are graduates of RIT,” says Kaplan. “If it weren’t for this university, Pictometry wouldn’t be here—we wouldn’t exist.”