Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 25, 2013

RAY MOSCOWITZ: Born in Peru, 1up! grows up in Kokomo

Former photojournalist David McChesney takes web-based business global.

MC Weekly

---- — The two Daves sat exhausted in a van along U.S. 31, waiting for a traffic light north of Westfield, when along came Tiger Woods — sort of.

This was autumn 1998, and David McChesney and David Sutton were facing a deadline to register their new company’s name with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office, as required by law.

They were listening to the news on the radio, when the announcer reported that Tiger Woods was “one up” in a golf tournament.

“It was perfect,” McChesney, now 49, recalls today. “We knew our competitors couldn’t keep up with our flexible business philosophy … so, 1up! was it.”

Today, 1up! — born in Peru and raised in Kokomo — is at the forefront of providing Web-based content-management systems to several hundred community newspapers, small businesses, municipalities, non-profits and content distribution customers.

The company also works with a variety of publications that transform their print products into electronic editions. Other clients use 1up! for electronic commerce, email and custom programming projects.

While firmly based in Kokomo, 1up! hosts its website in Indianapolis, rubbing shoulders with some world-renowned companies, including Eli Lilly.

It hasn’t been easy, but what 1up! has achieved in 15 years illustrates how foresight, faith, financing and — literally — sweat can pay off.

One day in the 1990s, McChesney and Sutton faced one of their first technical challenges at 1up!

“Before the Internet was mainstream, we had a few setbacks in the form of sporadic power outages,” McChesney remembers. “On a very hot summer day, we were trying to cool the servers in a darkened office. We gathered up a portable generator, household room fans and huge buckets of ice.

“Computer servers will turn themselves off when they hit too high a temperature. Our challenge was to quickly enough get the portable power running and the fans and ice working to cool the servers.

“At the end of a long day it all worked, and we were all left dripping in sweat and giggles.”

McChesney and Sutton had begun working together at Nixon Newspapers Inc., which — thanks to John Nixon and COO John Mitchell — was always on the cutting edge of newspaper technology.

McChesney had toiled at small newspapers for more than 15 years as a photojournalist and editor. Sutton had grown up with newspapers as the son of Rolland Sutton, a successful advertising director at the Frankfort Times before, during and after my six-year stint as the paper’s managing editor.

“The concept started with [John’s son] Greg Nixon,” McChesney recalls. “He was CEO at NNI. He came back to the company with the idea of putting the Nixon papers online back in 1994. By 1996, we had profitable [NNI] websites and some 300-plus customer sites.”

But as the saying from the Robert Burns poem goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Nixon Newspapers Inc. was sold in spring 1998.

“[The new owners] weren’t believers in the online migration of news yet,” McChesney says. “So they gave us their blessing to go off on our own and launch 1up! We wanted their permission, because it was the right thing to do — to let them know that we wanted to build upon the idea that was started at NNI.

“With a small group of investors, including the Nixon family, 1up! was launched in the fall of 1998.”

McChesney and Sutton began selling their online product nationwide. By 2005, 1up! was hosting more than 500 publication websites.

Sutton eventually left the firm and now works for a competitor, leaving McChesney to manage both the technical and sales aspects.

A lanky 6 feet 6 inches tall with a signature-like mustache, McChesney has an easy-going demeanor that exudes confidence. He often addresses males with “sir.” His upbeat personality, twinned with his technical skills, give him a natural ability to sell 1up! to potential clients.

McChesney is able to get out of the office on company business, thanks to the human infrastructure he has built in the firm. Eight people work in Kokomo, and two employees manage several contract designers in Florida. There also are sales teams in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia.

That kind of growth has resulted in McChesney moving 1up!’s network to a facility in Indianapolis that’s also a tech home to Eli Lilly, Rolls-Royce, Monster.Com and other firms.

“1up! is a dynamic company with a dedicated staff and innovative ideas,” McChesney says, not boastfully but as a gung-ho believer in what he’s doing. “I'm proud to lead this organization into new areas of competition in the global marketplace.”

1up! now supplies “innovative Web-based content management systems,” he says, to not only newspapers, but small businesses, municipalities, non-profit organizations and companies that distribute content. The company also works with a variety of print publications that provide electronic versions.

“Many of our customers also use 1up! for electronic commerce, email and customer programming projects,” McChesney notes.

1up! doesn’t have any customers in Miami County, but there are several clients in Indiana, including newspapers in Rochester, Warsaw, Kokomo, Crawfordsville, Noblesville, New Castle, Madison and North Vernon.

Because of his business’ virtual nature, McChesney points out, customers come from all over the globe — most of the lower 48 states, Bermuda, Europe, Australia. “Word of mouth is our best advertising,” he says.

Asked what the biggest surprise about the company has been, he says it is that most people are stunned that 1up! has been able to build an international clientele “from right here in Kokomo.”

Before settling in Kokomo, McChesney’s life and career had bounced around.

Born in La Grange, Ill., he was raised in Washington, Ill., Puerto Rico and several college towns. His mother was an English teacher and librarian; his father was in the credit divisions for International Harvester and Caterpillar Tractor.

Like his brother, a senior mechanical engineer for Dell Computers, based in Peoria, Ill., McChesney possessed technical skill.

But after graduating from high school, he went to the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He graduated with honors, earning a degree in photojournalism, with minors in typography and Russian history.

Russian history?

“I was always fascinated by the czars, the Russians and then the Soviets,” he responds. “They have such a different approach to everything. Plus, there was always the notion of knowing your rivals.”

After graduating, his photo career included covering horse racing, the NFL and NBA for the Associated Press in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. He also worked at a number of community newspapers, including the Kokomo Tribune from 1992-94, doing general photojournalism and graphics.

Seeing the emerging computer industry, McChesney left the newspaper to work as a systems engineer for Beckley Office Equipment in Kokomo. That position led him to Nixon Newspapers. John Nixon knew the group needed a full-time computer specialist, so when a NNI employee recommended McChesney, Nixon brought him aboard in 1995 as a systems engineer and later promoted him to director of technology.

Did he ever dream that he’d be in his current position?

“My career has taken several turns as I have seen technology impact the news business, so... ‘yes’ and ‘no’ …

“I personally love building new ‘widgets,’ so 1up! offers the tremendous opportunity to invent. …

“When the idea [for 1up!] presented itself early on, it was easy for me to see the potential, but when others heard about the idea of 1up! it was amazing to see how many supporters we gathered and how many professionals wanted to work with us.

“Every business needs a website in order to compete in our virtual market climate. We understand that, and strive to make it easy for our customers to succeed. I'm lucky that I can see the big picture, and my team delivers it.”

So what’s the future hold?

“I think print media will successfully migrate to mobile devices [smartphones and tablets], then evolve to hardware like directly connected reader devices,” he says. “I'm certain that information will become even more integrated into people's lives.

“Look at how some popular websites have become such enormous parts of our daily existence. People will want ‘their’ news without having to dig for it, and it will be delivered via platforms they find most convenient.”

The sky’s the limit, he says, adding, “In my industry, there are so many creative, intelligent people working on all aspects of these questions.”

When he needs a break from his work, McChesney, who is divorced, turns to three primary interests: flying, photography (natch) and Bailey, his 16-year-old daughter.

“I'm currently fulfilling a lifelong dream and completing my pilot's license,” he notes. “Of course, I still actively explore photography and the new forms of visual media.

“But my daughter is the top of my list. She's a talented musician, a scholar and expert horsewoman, and she's about to enter college. I'm very lucky to have such a rewarding personal life on top of a successful business.”

Notice that golf did not make the cut. (No pun intended.)

Ray Moscowitz of Bloomington is a retired newspaper executive and former publisher of the Peru Tribune. Contact him at r.mosco@comcast.net.