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Pioneering Digital Signage Start-Up Launches From Campus

Pioneering Digital Signage Start-Up Launches From Campus


A group of young entrepreneurs are hard at work on the SUNY Cortland campus, striving to shape the future of digital signage.

CladNetwork is the first company to partner with SUNY Cortland through Start-Up NY, a program created by Governor Andrew Cuomo to spark the state economy. The company is already giving back to the College community, offering hands-on learning experiences to student interns interested in economics, marketing, design and coding, among many other fields.

Founded by a trio of Cornell University graduates — Chief Business Development Officer Frank Thomson, Chief Technology Officer James Shealy and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Reker — CladNetwork operates out of the College’s McDonald Building at 60 Tompkins St.

“Partnering with SUNY Cortland in the Start-Up NY program has given us the opportunity to collaborate with students, faculty and alumni in the pursuit of both academic and economic growth. We look forward to the mutual success it will bring to our company and the College,” Reker said.

The company provides PaperView digital displays that use e-paper technology, the same used in e-book readers such as the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook.

Left to right: Shealy, Reker and Thomson.
Left to right: Shealy, Reker and Thomson.

PaperView displays have a number of advantages over traditional television monitors. The e-paper technology uses 96 percent less power than LCD or LED systems, meaning consumers spend less on energy and can rely on solar or battery-powered solutions. Resistance to glare and sun damage allows the screens to be placed outdoors in direct sunlight with no ill effects.

Possible uses for these screens are innumerable, from menus in restaurants to maps and time tables in airports and train stations to information screens in office lobbies or public spaces. Clients can easily adjust content through a HDMI connection to a digital device.

CladNetwork is finalizing the design of water- and dust-proof enclosures and hopes to have its screens available for purchase soon. The displays will be available in both black-and-white and color models.

In September 2018, CladNetwork joined The Tech Garden in Syracuse, an incubator that helps the development of technology start-ups in Central New York, as a virtual member. The Tech Garden offers workshops, networking and other resources that have allowed CladNetwork to interact with potential customers and area partners.

Faculty members, such as Economics Department chair Kathleen Burke, have also been instrumental in helping connect CladNetwork to the SUNY Cortland campus.

"I am excited that CladNetwork chose to stay in Central New York and partner with SUNY Cortland,” Burke said. “Their application to the College clearly identified the benefits to our partnership, particularly for our students. Students from majors across campus have already been participating in internships with the company."

A three-person faculty committee reviewed CladNetwork’s application. Following approval from the College’s representatives, the Governor’s Office approved the partnership through Start-Up NY. 

The inspiration for CladNetwork came from the co-founders’ time as undergraduates at Cornell. They were brainstorming about ways to inform the campus community about events happening in and around Ithaca and developed a prototype display for Cornell’s Innovation Award Competition. The original design won first prize and they decided to form a corporation and make use of the Start-Up NY benefits provided at SUNY Cortland.