Flash Starts

FlashStarts is a Cleveland startup accelerator, consultancy and venture fund. FlashStarts is focused on unique and innovative uses of software and technology in fields such as Healthcare IT, Enterprise DataAnalyics, Digital Media, Financial Services, Fashion Tech and the Performing Arts.

About The Presenter:
Mr. Charles Stack, Co-Founder & CEO


Mr. Stack has had a lengthy career as the startup CEO and angel investor of numerous ventures – both successes and failures (can we refer to these as 'pending successes'?).

In his earliest years, Stack founded the local YMCA Xmas tree selling program which ran for more than 30 years. In high school he chaired the Red Raider Horse Show committee – increasing revenues over 50% within 2 years – mostly from selling donated concessions at extreme markups. At Kalamazoo College, he launched a quickly failed Shaker furniture business and a kayak manufacturing enterprise (6 made, 3 sold) and was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

Stack graduated from CWRU Law School and practiced law for fewer years (2) than it took him to get his degree (3). He 'practiced' law but never really got the hang of it, but, he did notice that lawyers spent a lot of money on software.

Parallax, Inc., which provided asbestos case management services to law firms and corporate law departments, was his first big success. In 1992, he leveraged development resources from Parallax to launch the first online bookstore – Books.com. Charles pioneered most of the features we now take for granted in today's Internet retailers. Books.com offered millions of books, comprehensive searching, collaborative recommendations (patented), shopping carts, price comparisons (patented), real-time credit card processing and affiliate programs. Charles introduced many other now standard internet retailing concepts, with the patents to prove it. Books.com was acquired by CUC in early 1996 and subsequently by Barnes & Noble in 1998.

In 1999, Charles founded Flashline to address the new opportunity in software components and web services. After navigating Flashline through the technology meltdown of 2001-2003, Stack focused the company on the expanding web services management market and created the leading web services repository solution, with more patents to prove it. During one particularly contentious board meeting it was pointed out by the VC firm board member that Stack was the only CEO in their portfolio who hadn't been replaced, yet. Flashline was acquired by BEA in 2006 for $50 million and then BEA by Oracle in 2008 for $8.5 Billion. The Flashline product was the fastest growing piece of BEA's most important product line and remains today as the core of Oracle's web services platform.

After Flashline, Stack focused on venture investing. He served as a board member of the Ohio Venture Association, invested in a wide range of startups, and worked with numerous startup organizations such as North Coast Angel Fund, Jumpstart, Launchtown, and NEOSA. During this time Charles first learned that he had a true passion and talent for helping other entrepreneurs grow into successful CEOs and that those skills were in much greater demand than cash.

In 2010, Stack founded Sideways, Inc. a digital publishing company focused on new ways of storytelling in the age of the tablet. Sideways is a 'pending success'.

With FlashStarts, Stack is turning his many failures and successes into lesson plans for startup CEOs.