Leader Technologies™ Incorporated, also called Leader®, is a software development and marketing company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio that specializes in voice, streaming media and data systems for collaboration and decision making. The company started an ambitious, non-traditional R&D program in 1997 designed by founder Michael McKibben, a former strategy consultant, to rethink how communications and collaboration would work with the advent of a stable commercial Internet, and how the associated data could be better managed as intellectual capital. That effort led to the award of the company's first United States patent for its Digital Leaderboard™ on November 21, 2006 titled U.S. Patent No. 7,139,761 – DYANAMIC ASSOCIATION OF ELECTRONICALLY STORED INFORMATION WITH ITERATIVE WORKFLOW CHANGES.
Leader was founded in 1997 by entrepreneur Michael T. McKibben (“McKibben”) after he completed a project to rebuild the AT&T (NYSE: T) e-mail application AT&T AccessPlus in time for its concurrent release with Microsoft Windows 95. This application is believed to be the only OLE 2.0 Microsoft Exchange-compatible e-mail client ever developed outside of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT). It provided primary interfaces to AT&T Ecommerce Services and AT&T EasyLink Services (formerly Western Union EasyLink service) for e-mail, electronic data interchange (EDI), enhanced fax and custom messaging services. AT&T EasyLink Services was sold to Swift Telecommunications, Inc. in 2000 and is now marketed as EasyLink Services (NASDAQ: ESIC). McKibben coordinated this project in close collaboration with AT&T Bell Labs.
In founding Leader, McKibben envisioned new ways for organizations and individuals to use the Internet for communications, collaboration and to manage intellectual capital. He developed a multi-disciplinary transformation design approach. In collaboration with co-inventor Jeffrey R. Lamb, formerly with the US Air Force National Air Intelligence Center, they threw out conventional thinking and took a fresh look at information architectures. They were awarded their first patent for the Digital Leaderboard® framework on November 21, 2006 - U.S. Patent No. 7, 139,761. More patents are pending. The innovations have broad application to both enterprise and public collaboration with certain industry sectors calling it "social networking" currently.
Leader’s first product was its Leader Phone® Web 2.0 audio conferencing services. Leader Phone® has proven to be the first true innovation in the audio conferencing industry in more than a decade because it combines traditional telephony with Internet data services. These services are now being used by a wide variety of small and large customers across all industry sectors. Historically, corporate audio conferencing began life in operator service centers, was cumbersome to set up, and was expensive. Leader’s innovation takes the provisioning and management of these services to the users themselves, without the need for operator intervention, and offers more features at a lower cost.
Leader Phone® (full-featured, toll-free) and Leader Dialog® (basic, tolled) Web 2.0 services offer an array of customer options not previously available in the telecommunications industry. Traditional audio conferencing features, also called teleconferencing, offered one flavor, plain vanilla. Leader’s Web 2.0 innovations have introduced customer choices that allow users to choose the features and security options needed for specific circumstances. For conference calls not requiring security, a permanent dial-in PIN number is available with either a tolled or toll-free dial-in number for participants. These tolling options enable a customer to decide whether to pay for the whole call (e.g., all participant costs on a company conference call) or spread the cost among the participants (e.g., each participant pays his or her long distance charges on a call of community volunteers).
For higher security requirements, such as a confidential board of directors meeting, unique PINs can be issued. These PINs automatically cancel themselves at the end of that call and cannot be reused. For situations requiring an immediate unscheduled conference call to individual participants, the group “blast dial” feature contacts group members almost instantly, without having to distribute PINs, dial-in numbers and a call time, then wait for people to dial in… then continue to wait for stragglers.
In addition, any call can be recorded simply by pressing *4 on the host phone keypad at no extra charge. The host will get an email after the call with a link to a secure site where the recording can be downloaded as an MP3 file. This feature is used extensively for everything from sales training to legal depositions to permanent records. This recording feature was also used extensively during the Hurricane Katrina disaster response so that Louisiana and federal officials could get vital life saving information.
Web conferencing is sometimes required in conference calls to supplement the telephone conversation. Leader offers full-service Web 2.0 web conferencing via Leader Meeting™. This service allows a moderator to present slides, screen shots, spreadsheets and documents to the participants on their personal computers. It includes the ability to transfer host controls among participants, draw on a whiteboard, application sharing, polling, chat, invite new participants on the fly, and request attention.
The United States Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security became aware of Leader Phone® and asked Leader to adapt the technology to supply emergency voice alerting for its 3-day Terrorex '04 counter terrorism simulation in Las Vegas, Nevada. This event gathered some 700 executives from government, law enforcement, intelligence and military to simulate a multi-pronged terrorist attack on the United States. This effort was successful and a new Leader service was born – Leader Alert®. This Web 2.0 service has since expanded to include any combination of voice, SMS (texting) and email alerting as well as an opt-in web portal that enables recipients to specify their preferred alert delivery modes. In addition, site and system redundancy has now been implemented to help avoid outages.
The tragedy at Virginia Tech highlighted the shortcomings of existing alert notification systems and pointed to the need for more responsive and immediate services. Historically, large-scale alerting has been confined to civil defense sirens, public radio, TV broadcasts and public address systems. Homegrown auto-dialers were incapable of being managed by the users themselves. Leader Alert® puts the ability to launch large numbers of alerts in the hands of its users, without the need to involve technicians. Leader Alert® has just received the endorsement of The Ohio School Boards Association for campus health and safety alerting for implementation in secondary school districts across the state. Among universities, Kansas State University has implemented Leader Alert® campus-wide, including use of the opt-in web portal.
On August 29, 2005, the day the levees broke in New Orleans, Louisiana, Leader received an urgent telephone call from the office of Andy Kopplin, Chief of Staff for then Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco. The telephone network for internal calls in Louisiana had failed and the Governor needed to coordinate the State’s response to the unfolding Hurricane Katrina disaster. Out-of-state calls were still working. Leader responded immediately and then supplied continuous audio conferencing, alerting and news services 24x7 for the Governor, her staff, all Louisiana state agencies and federal first responders.
Leader’s emergency services platform was one of the few working systems that never went down during the disaster - one of the largest natural disasters in the history of the United States. Leader Alert® was used by Pass Christian Harbor, Pass Christian, Mississippi to instruct vessel owners to clear the harbor prior to Katrina making landfall.  The vessels were moved out of harm’s way, but the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed directly over the harbor, completely destroying it.
Among the Hurricane Katrina lessons learned, conference calling and alerting are essential emergency management tools that need community-wide deployment before a disaster strikes. Disasters are by nature unpredictable. Katrina showed that even the most elaborate first-response plans can be rendered useless.
After the levees broke in New Orleans, Governor Blanco, Chief of Staff Andy Kopplin, and their staff had to get creative and start over. In such situations it became clear that human beings do get creative; they can do wonderful things with whatever tools and resources are available, however limited. The Leader Phone®, Leader Alert® and Leader News® services became vital tools in supporting Louisiana' first responders and elected officials. Leader Dialog® (no paid subscription required) was then created to make it possible for everyone in the general citizenry to have immediate access to conference call capabilities so that people who do not normally collaborate can get together in an emergency and who have no common budget to pay cover the costs. Each person pays their normal long distance charge only.
People in the midst of a life-threatening circumstance are nervous, upset and distracted. They have short attention spans. In such circumstances, only the most familiar communications tools get used... services with which they are already familiar. Hurricane Katrina proved that the telephone is the communications device of choice. The Internet was a distant second (online news, reports and information). A common misconception is that Louisiana had no phone service. On the contrary, parts of their system worked continuously, and that is the part that was used to connect to Leader services as a kind of mass remote switch.
Governments at all levels tend to organize their emergency management systems within the scope of their available resources. Hurricane Katrina, perhaps the largest natural disaster in the history of the United States, swamped every emergency communications plan and system in Louisiana. Leader's system was situated outside the disaster zone. Louisiana's local phone exchanges became clogged and could not connect local calls, but those same switches were able to dial out of state and connect long distance calls, even in regions where power was knocked out, and the phone services were running on auxiliary generator power.
Leader Dialog® was designed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to become an Everyman's audio conferencing service; a service to use for everyday, conventional audio conferencing. Then, if an emergency event occurs, a service that can be used by the citizenry to support ad hoc first response collaboration. Leader Dialog® also makes it possible for people to get together on the phone for community events, political campaigns, education, volunteer work and other circumstances where there is no budget available to pay for such calls centrally.
Leader executives Mike McKibben and Jim Sobwick were invited recently by William Shatner to be interviewed for his Keeping America Strong special series for Heartbeat of America TV. This series was the brainchild of Shatner and Bert Tenzer, Entertainment Tonight producer, and dedicated to highlighting emerging medium and small American entrepreneurial businesses. The 30-minute Heartbeat of America TV interview was hosted by William Shatner, anchored by Doug Llewelyn. Special Series Advisor Rear Admiral Kevin F. Delaney, U.S. Navy (ret.) presented Leader chairman and founder Mike McKibben with a special Heartbeat of America - Keeping America Strong award in recognition of Leader's entrepreneurial efforts.
On November 19, 2008 Leader filed a complaint against Facebook, Inc. of Palo Alto, California captioned Leader Technologies Inc. v. Facebook Inc., 08-CV-862-JJF, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware alleging that Facebook infringes Leader's U.S. Patent No. 7,139,761 issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on November 21, 2006. The patent (see Innovations above) generally relates to a method and system for the management and storage of electronic information. Leader seeks damages and an injunction against Facebook for its willful infringement of the '761 Patent.
Leader is a pioneer in web-based collaboration platform and has filed several patent applications, dating back to 2002, that cover its technology. “We have spent a great amount of time and effort in procuring our intellectual property,” says Michael McKibben, founder of Leader and named inventor on the ’761 Patent, “and have taken the steps necessary to protect our proprietary and inventive ideas.
Leader applied for the patent in 2002, two years before Facebook was founded.
Leader asks that Facebook stop using the technology and also seeks damages, said Paul Andre, the attorney representing Leader. "The suit alleges (Leader) owns certain intellectual property relating to how information is managed on the Internet, and the complaint alleges that Facebook's Internet site infringes the patent that covers that technology," Andre said.
The docket in Leader v. Facebook is available from Justia.com.
Leader provides corporate Web 2.0 audio conferencing, web conferencing and health and safety alerting for government, education and commerce and recently launched a new initiative to work with early-innovators enterprises in enterprise social networking under the following brands: