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Martin Cos. deepens bench at DisastersNet, as HealthStream ally broadens target sectors
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Charlie Martin

Note: This company was rebranded as Readypoint, and in 2015 sold to an investor group led by Peter Clifton.-Ed.

DisastersNet, the incident management-notification and training company, has added key executives and relocated to Davidson County from Cool Springs.

DisastersNet is now 90 percent owned by The Martin Companies Inc., the venture company founded by entrepreneur Charlie Martin, the founder, Chairman and CEO of hospital and services operator Vanguard Health Systems. Hospitals have been DisastersNet's priority target since the company's founding.

In response to questions from VNC, representatives of Martin Companies and DisastersNet this week confirmed a variety of changes at DisastersNet, as follows:

Tim Franke (at left) has succeeded Gene Kirby as CEO of DisastersNet. In addition, Co-founder Chris Riddle remains president; and, Mac Hardcastle has joined the team as chief operating officer and lead executive for sales and training services. Former COO Bryant Tow, an information systems and security specialist, is no longer with the company. In addition, the company relocated in recent months from offices in Dover Center at Cool Springs to 40 Burton Hills, in Green Hills, subleasing space leased by the Martin firm.

The C-level changes, plus The Martin Companies' shift within the past year from DisastersNet lender to equity-holder, seem likely to accelerate the company's penetration of healthcare providers' markets, as well as its diversification into other sectors in which homeland-security and disaster-response regulations have created greater demand for core-management mobilization and training services.

The changes at DisastersNet may also enable the company to leverage more strongly its year-old strategic alliance with Nashville-based HealthStream. HealthStream serves more than 2,400 hospitals through its healthcare learning and research businesses.

New CEO Franke previously spent 13 years as chief technology officer and in other roles with Juris Inc., the Brentwood firm that specialized in software solutions for law firms. Juris was bought by in 2007 by LexisNexis (Reed Elsevier).

Hardcastle (left), 43, has been consulting in sales and marketing via several channels in the year since he left his CEO role with Medical News Inc., a group of regional publications aimed at physicians and hospital administrators and owned by Nashville-based Southcomm Communications, which is backed by Solidus Co., the Green Hills-based venture capital firm. Given the HealthStream-DisastersNet alliance, it is also noteworthy that Hardcastle served nearly five years, 1994-98, as director of sales and marketing with HealthStream (originally, NewOrder Media Inc.).

When Kirby (at right) joined DisastersNet, the startup had been operational less than a year and had only a handful of beta customers. Kirby told VNC yesterday the company is now supporting 45 hospitals in five states. Kirby, 66, retains a small co-investor position in DisastersNet and continues to support the company's business-development efforts. Kirby had become affiliated with DisastersNet not long after the profitable sale of Franklin-based Dialogic Communications, the then-$20 million annual revenue emergency-notification company, which Kirby ran for more than two decades.

VNC has thus far obtained no details regarding the status of DisastersNet investors previously reported, including former Clayton Associates Co-founder Bill Cook and ConduIT Corporation, the private-company incubator.

VNC research indicates the changes reported here have been underway for months, and have been overseen by Martin Companies' G. Edward Cassady III.

Cassady joined Martin about a year ago from Birmingham-based BEK Inc., where he served the large construction company as executive vice president, corporate secretary and general counsel. Prior to BEK, Cassady spent 15 years practicing law with then-Bradley Arant Rose and White in Birmingham.

DisastersNet President Chris Riddle (at right), age 47, developed the company's core concept and chartered the company nearly four years ago with co-founder Ed Creamer. Riddle had earlier served as chief safety officer with St. Thomas Health Services, and served as chairman of parent St. Louis-based Ascension Health System's health safety council, which coordinated safety initiatives for 64 acute-care facilities.

Although DisastersNet differentiates itself by stressing its focus on supporting customers' key executives who are chiefly responsible for responses to disasters and other incidents, rather than mass mobilization of first-responders or entire workforces, the company is well aware of numerous actual or potential competitors in the space, including the former Dialogic in Franklin (now PlantCML), plus W.A.R.N. LLC, based in Gallatin. ♦

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Tags: Ascension Health System, Bill Cook, Bryant Tow, Charlie Martin, Chris Riddle, ConduIT Corporation, debt financing, DisastersNet, emergency response, Gene Kirby, healthcare, HealthStream, homeland security, hospitals, Mac Hardcastle, Martin Holdings, New Order Media, Peter Clifton, PlantCML, private equity, Readypoint, St. Thomas Health Services, The Martin Companies, Tim Franke, training, Vanguard Health Systems, W.A.R.N.

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