A Williamsville man who has visions of revolutionizing the way millions of people learn to type recently signed a contract with Simon & Schuster to market his method.
But Joseph B. Delphonse's two-year quest to find a national publisher was a hunt-and-peck expedition as he bounced between five corporations, trying to convince executives that he had devised a way to teach people how to type faster and more accurately.
In his struggle to move his product beyond Buffalo-area classrooms, Delphonse applied for patents and trademarks, formed his own corporation and even recruited a small cadre of investors -- a handful of friends and relatives -- to provide seed money.
Those investors were delighted to learn that Simon & Schuster recently signed a contract that gives the publishing giant a "worldwide exclusive irrevocable license" for what educators have trumpeted as a "better mousetrap" for teaching typing.
It's called the Conceptual Effects Typing Method, or CETM.
Delphonse admits his method is tough to explain.
It abandons the old style of training the mind to type given words. Forget about typing cat, hat, dog or log. The new method drills the fingers relentlessly until they know the location of every letter and symbol on the keyboard -- and with at least 98 percent accuracy.
Bryant & Stratton Business Institute began using CETM last October and Academic Dean Carol Posluszny is so impressed with the results that she's hoping the keyboarding method will be used in the institution's schools in Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia.
"There are fewer vocational programs in the high schools these days, and fewer students are coming here with strong office skills. CETM is a program that helps them to become proficient in typing faster than traditional methods and with greater accuracy," she said.
Erie Community College has also been using CETM in some of its classes.
Delphonse, 33, developed the concept while he was a doctoral student at the University at Buffalo. His first break came in 1996 when the Career Blazers Learning Center of Western New York began teaching his typing method. But the creator knew that taking his concept national would require the involvement of a well-heeled publisher.
"I would have loved to have done it on my own, but financing wasn't readily available and there are other obstacles."
He was already testing his program with a software package produced by Simon & Schuster, so he thought the New York City-based publisher would be the ideal place to start.
But Simon & Schuster was already enjoying enormous success with its Typing Tutor program, which has sold a few million copies since its debut in the early 1980s. Executives weren't showing much interest in the work of a doctoral student from Buffalo.
But Delphonse wasn't taking "no" for an answer.
After contacting four other software publishers without success, he went back to Simon & Schuster and showed staffers new data indicating the success of the method.
After making six trips to New York City over a two-year period period, he finally landed a contract. Delphonse isn't disclosing the terms, but his newly formed corporation, JoeBis Publishing Inc. will receive a percentage of every sale made to stores, schools and other customers.
In addition, Delphonse's corporation will have its own sales force, pitching the CD-ROM product to academic institutions. He hopes to add several people to his payroll in the coming year. He currently employs two associates.
What is the potential market for the new typing program? The entrepreneur has studied sales trends for competing products and he's convinced it's realistic to shoot for 5 million copies over the next several years.
Jeffrey Siegel, vice president and creative director for Simon & Schuster Interactive, the company's CM-ROM publishing unit, said the product will start showing up on store shelves this fall. His staff is still working on a snazzy title (it will probably be paired up in some way with the company's successful Typing Tutor name.)
"We're also working on packaging. The box is aways the challenge, especially when you're trying to explain the merits of a new typing program that are based on some abstract theories," he said.
JoeBis Publishing Inc. (his middle name is Bismarc) recently moved into the Liberty Building, the 11th floor suite offering a picturesque view of City Hall. It's a heady experience for this native of Haiti, who arrived in the United States in 1982.
A graduate of Louis D. Brandeis High School in Manhattan, he came to UB in 1988 after spending two years at City College in New York. He has a bachelor's degree in sociology and a master's in sociology and media.
In the future, he plans on devising programs for teaching people to play the piano and other instruments. Simon & Schuster says it's interested. And no doubt, all of this is music to those risk-taking friends and relatives who fronted Delphonse the seed money.