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Association Bisnow
   
November 15, 2007
 
 
An Association CEO Who Founded his Association


24 years ago, Ken Wasch was an ordinary lawyer at DoE doing oil regulatory work when he got hooked on an Apple 2e computer and came up with an idea to start a trade association for “this new PC software stuff.”  In November of ‘83, he sent letters to 100 potential members.  The pitch:  They would have an awards program for excellence; collect industry data; hold conferences; and create a presence on Capitol Hill for copyright issues.  The letter concluded that if he got back 25 checks (representing first year dues on a sliding scale from $1000 to $8000), they’d start the association. 


Ken is a marathoner in real life, too:  He just did the Marine Corps last month in 4 hours and 20 seconds, three minutes more than last year.  “I’m fading,” he laughs, but has no plans to stop.  He lives on the water in Annapolis and also water skis—without a wet suit just three weeks ago. 

By April ‘84, they had them, conducted a board of directors election by mail, and announced formation—exactly the week Bill Gates made the cover of Time representing the PC software revolution.  At their first in-person board meeting, to his surprise the other board members asked that he leave the room while they debated his role.  They realized he had no management experience, but on the other hand were impressed he had brought them all together.  So they kept him and offered to match his GS-15 salary to come on full time (he was still at DoE, trying to run things on nights and weekends), but he was risk-averse and held off accepting until he got 60 members, which he did three months later.


Ken’s holding the first book his attorney wife, Lesley Ellen Harris, wrote back in 1998: “Digital Property: Currency of the 21st Century.”  Other books by Lesley include “Licensing Digital Content” and “Canadian Copyright Law.”

Now they have 550 members and a budget of $13 million, having merged in 1999 with the Information Industry Association (representing online publishers). The SIIA felt the aftershock of the “dot bomb” implosion of the early 2000s: “Both in the content space and the software space, we saw a lot of consolidation.”  The association went from a high-water mark of 55 staff to a low of 30, but is now back up to 42.  Members include such marquis publishers as Bloomberg, Dow Jones, McGraw Hill, Reed Elsevier, Thomson and Time Warner, as well as tech companies such as Apple, Oracle, Sun, Novell, Symantec, Citrix, Adobe, and IBM.

The SIIA has four distinct market groups: Software, Content (mainly companies from the old IIA); Education (companies marketing software to K-to-12); and the Financial Information Services Division, which consists of the world’s stock exchanges, vendors of financial information like Reuters, and users of financial data like the 20 largest banks and brokerage firms. “We make sure that every single member is closely allied with their interest group,” Ken says.  When member companies identify with a division, “you have a much better chance that they’ll remain involved and renew year after year."

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