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Alan Sears, 36 

President and Chief Executive of TBL Networks

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST

Months before the start of the recession, Richmond native Alan Sears left his job as an engineer at Cisco Systems. He wanted to pursue what he calls “techumanity” — the positive synergy between technology and humanity.

TBL Networks, the Glen Allen-based company he founded in 2007 alongside two other networking engineers, brings information-technology workers to smaller businesses, which often lose talent to larger corporations.

“Rather than just being a vendor with a number, we wanted to provide something of value,” Sears says. “We wanted to improve local businesses instead of just being a cog in the machine.”

The gamble seems to have paid off. The company’s sales have increased by more than 800 percent in four years, Sears says, earning it a spot among Inc. magazine’s 500 fastest-growing companies for 2011.

But Sears also set out humanitarian goals for his company. “We felt a responsibility to leverage our success in the midmarket to benefit society,” Sears says.

And so in 2010, TBL became involved with the World Community Grid, an international organization that coordinates idle computing power around the globe and diverts it toward research causes.

Sears says his company has a cluster of 40 computers dedicated to cancer research full-time. TBL also serves as host of an annual Nintendo Wii golf tournament to benefit child-cancer studies, raising thousands of dollars for CJ’s Thumbs Up Foundation, a charity based in Ashland.

Richmond has been the place to mix business with humanitarian efforts. Sears says. “We say all the time, ‘Richmond is the biggest small town around,’ especially in the IT community,” he says. “Everyone seems to have a connection to each other.”

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