Stephen Smith, CEO
After an early career as a software development consultant in real-time system controls and defense sector enterprise IT, Steve formed Fonative, Inc. in 1992 (then known as Ampersand, Inc.) to respond to increasing demand and opportunities for this expertise.
In Fonative’s first decade, Steve built and led a talented team of program managers, software architects, and engineers to tackle a broad range of defense and national intelligence community projects with prime contractors that included Lockheed Martin, PRC, Titan Aerospace, and Sun Federal.
In 2000, Steve refocused the company toward providing scalable telephony systems and call centers in the private sector, and went on to work with innovative firms such as Lavalife LLP (formerly Interactive Media Group), Dialogic Corp., Vsys, and others. Immersed in large-scale enterprise telephony, Fonative was quick to see the potential for VoIP. Steve was invited to join the VON advisory board and became a sought-after speaker at industry conferences.
From 2000 to 2007, Steve also played a pivotal role at Lavalife as its contract CTO and Chief Scientist through its acquisition by Vertrue in 2006. He initiated the migration of its IVR systems and call centers to VoIP, saving $2.4 million in annual operating expenses. After launching the first large-scale North American enterprise inbound VoIP platform, Lavalife won the Canadian CIPA Silver Award for Excellence in Innovation.
In 2008, Fonative began building its own software products, resulting in the launch of the Kaliope Suite of modular call center components which expanded into a significant installed base. As IT sector after IT sector moved to the cloud, Fonative created its robust CPaaS solution in 2014, which entered production use the following year and is currently powering more than 50 U.S. contact centers representing thousands of agents and millions of calls per month.
In addition to leading Fonative as CEO, Steve serves part-time as a Managing Director at Dunn Rush & Co. LLC, a Boston-based investment bank where he lends his expertise in Technology, Media, and Telecommunications as a Registered Investment Banking Representative (Series 62, 63, 79).
Steve graduated with distinction from Cornell University in 1984 with a degree in Computer Science and currently holds three patents in areas related to voice call processing (U.S. Patent Numbers 9,053,711, 9,679,584, and 10,014,006).
Howie Cheney, COO
Howie oversees Fonative's day-to-day operations, professional services, and customer support. He manages the network, infrastructure, and monitoring and is responsible for maintaining Fonative's high reliability in tandem with the engineering team. And, as Fonative's Chief Information Security Officer, Howie oversees the company's information security policies and security program.
During his 25-year career in the high-technology industry, Howie has served in a variety of C-level roles. Prior to Fonative, Howie was the CIO/VP of Information Technology at Sterling Autobody, a division of Allstate Corporation, where he led a complete revamp and consolidation of the company's core IT infrastructure. He redesigned systems and networks to be more functional, reliable, and cost-effective while delivering seamless deployments to over 55 sites across 14 states.
Howie is inherently familiar with call center and IVR service provider operations and large distributed networked enterprises. At Triton Technologies, a successful direct response marketing sales call center, Howie was instrumental in building the interactive media line of business. He extended the marketing reach of Triton's clients with online campaigns designed to complement traditional direct response channels, and expanded call capacity and overflow call handling with the development of an IVR-based automated sales agent. Howie also co-founded RevClick, a search engine marketing firm that became a Triton Technologies line of business.
Howie's technology career began in the embedded computing industry and flourished in building organizations to deliver increasing value to customers. As Director of Professional Services at Mercury Computer Systems, Howie built an organization that delivered 20 percent of the company's $150 million in annual revenue. He graduated magna cum laude from Northeastern University with a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science and earned an MBA from Babson College.
Jim Thomasch, CFO
Jim joined Fonative in September 2018 and manages the finance, accounting, and treasury functions for the Company. During his more than 25 years’ experience in corporate finance, operations and management consulting, Jim has served in CFO, COO, and CEO roles and has guided private and public technology and service companies through all stages of business development, including early start-ups and higher-growth stage enterprises.
Jim began his career in public accounting with Arthur Andersen & Co. as an auditor and staff accountant and progressed to Enterprise Group Manager within the firm. He left Arthur Anderson to become CFO, then Division President and COO, of XRE Corporation (formerly of Thermo Electron), a manufacturer of cardiac and vascular imaging systems. In this role, Jim was responsible for 240 employees across 15 states and was involved in all aspects of managing the division’s operations. Jim led the company through a challenging period as it transitioned OEM to direct sales and grew division sales at a compounded 100% growth rate.
Jim next served for 12 years as Senior Vice President and CFO of PLC Systems, a publicly traded medical technology company. He directed a staff responsible for the full scope of corporate SEC reporting, finance, legal, audit, contract administration, order processing, information technology, human resources, and risk management. In addition, Jim successfully raised over $20 million in capital, which was used to accelerate the company’s sales and marketing programs and fund manufacturing, operations, and R&D.
After his role at PLC Systems, Jim was CEO of Clinquest Inc., a clinical research organization with U.S. and international clients in the biopharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. As a result of its successful track record and client service performance, Clinquest was acquired in 2015 by Accelovance, Inc.
Most recently, Jim co-founded IMS, Inc., a technology start-up that develops and distributes innovative imaging devices. He remains active as a Director on its Board. Jim also serves as a part-time Managing Director at Dunn Rush & Co. LLC, a Boston-based investment bank providing Merger and Acquisition advisory services.
Jim is a licensed CPA in Massachusetts. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Carroll School of Management of Boston College with a B.S. in Management/Accounting concentration,and has since completed graduate courses at both Babson College and Bentley University.