Biography of Michael J. Mellinger

Michael J. (Mike) Mellinger offers Davandy clients the skills, lessons and experience drawn from more than 25 years as president and CEO of a high-tech business that grew from startup to a worldwide industry leader with more than 250 employees and revenues in excess of $35 million. Along the way, his company, Data Research Associates, Inc. (DRA), navigated rapid technological change, completed a successful IPO, successfully integrated numerous acquisitions, and was named one of Forbes Magazine's 200 Best Small Companies in America.  He was featured in the "Up and Comers" column in the May, 1993 issue of Forbes Magazine.

Specific areas of Mike’s expertise include:

  • Short- and long-term technological planning
  • Coaching and mentoring technical and non-technical executives
  • Evaluation of potential M&A activities
  • Strategic planning for corporate growth
  • Facilitating shared vision among investors and management

Mike moved to St. Louis, Missouri from his native California to attend the computer science program at Washington University (WU), one of the first of its kind, on a full scholarship. While enrolled at WU he served for more than a year as the CEO of the not-for-profit corporation with revenues in excess of $500,000 that supplied snacks, appliances, educational supplies, and other sundries to dormitory students. He left Washington U. in his senior year to work full-time at the University’s Computer Systems Laboratory.

In 1975, he founded DRA as a consultancy for the then-nascent technology based on the distributed processing using minicomputers and networking.

Mike’s technological expertise and vision soon caught the eye of several leading executives in the American library community, who had just begun to harness the power of distributed computing for managing the very large databases held in libraries. DRA’s first software product was a library system, and libraries soon became the company’s principal focus.

More than 15 years before the Internet emerged as a universal computing tool, Mike assembled and led a development team to construct DRAnet, a nationwide private network by which libraries could greatly reduce the cost of electronically cataloging their collections. Ultimately, DRAnet grew to serve several hundred libraries in the U.S. and Canada and expanded to include numerous services based on database sharing.

Not content merely to implement technology, Mike also actively participated in industry and technology organizations in an effort to influence the overall path of technological progress. He is a past chairman of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO), and also funded and staffed DRA’s participation in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI).

On the financial side of DRA, Mike recognized in the very early days of the company that reinvestment and strict accounting standards would be key to a successful and sustainable long-term growth path. Accordingly, DRA followed a practice of retaining all earnings, and Mike ensured that the company was audited to SEC-level standards many years before the company eventually went public. Debt was kept to a minimum, and revenues and expenses were tightly monitored to ensure steady profitability. In fact, the company was profitable for every year after its second year in business, including a remarkable streak of 10 consecutive years of earnings growth before and after its IPO.

Always a hands-on CEO, Mike was very active in investor relations while DRA was publicly held, and he holds unique insights into the benefits and pitfalls of the decision to go and stay public. In addition, he can quickly and objectively help to develop financing strategies – whether they should be debt-based, venture capital or “angel” investors, stock-based or some combination – and he can also provide valuable counsel to outside investors who need better understanding of the technologies in which they have invested.

DRA merged with another library automation company, SIRSI, in 2001, in a transaction valued in excess of $50 million. Mike left the merged company at the beginning of 2002 to devote full time to technology and financial consulting for Davandy clients.

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