It's not too much of a stretch to say the software industry was born, or at least midwifed, right here in River City. At 40, Cincinnati-based Cincom is one of the oldest software firms around. When it was formed in 1968, there really was no software "industry." There were some companies, but many of them didn't last. Several earlier companies helped invent the industry, but Cincom proved it could make money. CEO Tom Nies innovated the then-radical approach of selling computer software as a product -- rather than including it "free" with the hardware. Cincom was one of the first to promote the concept of a database management system. Today there are thousands of database products, but when Cincom introduced its TOTAL system, it was revolutionary and became one of the best-selling mainframe software products ever. Cincom's successes attracted venture capital to the industry in the mid '70s, jumpstarting its spread.
Nies got his start in information technology with IBM in 1962 (think vacuum tubes in computers). With 40 years as head of Cincom, he is the longest-serving CEO in the computer business. By 1970, Cincom had its first location outside Cincinnati, in Toronto. Today, it has about 30 locations around the world and generates about 40 percent of its revenue in Europe, about 40 percent in the U.S., and 20 percent in the rest of the world. The company employs about 850. Cincom's non-coastal headquarters suits it just fine, thank you very much. "I believe it's an absolutely ideal location," Nies says. "It's central to everything. It's central in America. It's an ideal city."