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Swimming in clear e-business waters

As Macintosh computers went from being small-screened beige boxes to stylish and sleek desktop machines, some Mac owners had a quandary–what to do with all those old clunkers? Marc Adler, founder and chairman of Atlanta-based Macquarium Intelligent Communications developed a way to put them to good use, and the Mac faithful began buying fish food soon after. Adler talks about tanks, multimedia, and the blending of art and technology.

What made you decide to build an aquarium out of your old Mac?

I’ve always had a fascination with the fusion of art and technology. Blending these exciting disciplines was actually the genesis for three of my companies: Macquarium, an interactive development and strategy firm; Fathom Studios, a computer animation studio; and Artisan Network, a consortium of e-commerce companies for the arts community.

How did the aquarium/computer business lead to an e-business firm?

With a computer fish tank as our moniker, we started Macquarium as a multimedia company in 1991 and were among the first in the Southeast to deploy Web solutions for our clients. One of the first clients we took online was The Weather Channel, which was a dynamic site by nature, if you’ll excuse the pun. We’ve always focused on providing Web experiences that create revenue, reduce costs, or help companies maintain compliance. Today, companies come to us for content management systems, enterprise portals, e-commerce, e-learning, and new interactive marketing tools that enhance the customer experience.

How is the company faring in the current economic climate?

We’re doing very well. We have a thriving roster of clients in varied industries. These include great organizations such as UPS, CIBA Vision, Yahoo!, and The International Olympic Committee. It’s a great time to be a private, mid-sized company, and our clients know we have stayed the course and continue to produce great work because of the fantastic talents of our staff.

What are some of the challenges you encounter in providing e-business services?

In large companies, the IT department and the marketing staff frequently don’t interact well. Because of this, Macquarium often serves as a translator between IT and marketing groups within an organization. Once we facilitate the communication between these two important functions, we’re better able to meet the objectives of our clients.

What does the Artisan Network do, and what’s it like connecting artists with technology in that way?

Artisan Network builds and operates online arts and crafts stores for brick-and-mortar retailers and leading e-tailers. We started Artisan Network with as the first online discount arts supply store. Now, seven years later, we’re the largest, offering everything from easels and pastels to acrylic paint and how-to books. We’ve recently added to our art community through, an online marketplace for emerging artists to showcase their work. It’s a rewarding extension of my love for art and technology.

What do you like most about what you do?

Fathom,, and Macquarium all push the limits of what is possible. I enjoy interacting with our teams to develop solutions for ourselves and our clients of various sizes in diverse industries. Being exposed to this process from conception through to completion is incredibly rewarding. Every step in the journey is a chance to redefine the way things are done and to drive art and technology into uncharted territories.

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