When James Evans was in second grade, he taught himself how to program computers.
It was 1983, when most people didn’t have access to a computer, let alone own one. But after James scored exceptionally high on a test showing his aptitude for technology, his father bought him a computer.
The computer was bare bones, no software, no nothing. “He bought me books that had programs in them,” James said. “If I wanted that computer to do anything, I had to open a book and type out every single instruction into the computer. My father thought if nothing else, I’d learn to type.”
But James wasn’t interested in typing the 15 pages listed in the book, so he started reading books about coding. “I started teaching myself programming out of these books from a natural sense of child laziness and not wanting to type things that were too long,” James said. “I developed an ability to program and discovered shortcuts I could use.”
By his junior year of high school, he’d become a sophisticated programmer and wrote his own software to build an online bulletin board. “Bulletin boards were the social media of the day,” James said. “You could hang out and build communities there. So, I wanted to build one. As I was writing the software, I started having this desire to have it do more. I had the idea of having all these individual communities, content, and social groups being connected together. When I got introduced to the Internet, I figured out that the Internet could allow that dialogue to happen.”
By the time he was 16 years old, he’d already graduated from high school and started on his computer science and computer engineering degree. During his freshmen and sophomore year, he installed networks for local businesses, immersed himself in low-level technology, and decided he wanted to build an Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Incidents, Inventions, & Events That Formed American Frontier
“I worked at a computer store,” James said. “Some business customers would come in and want to buy multiple computers, but the company I worked for didn’t offer networking services so they would lose the sale. So, they started letting me install those networks.” This led James to launch his company, American Frontier, in 1995.
In December of the same year, his mother passed away unexpectedly. It was an event that rocked James and forced him to re-evaluate his life. After missing his finals, he took a semester off, quit his job at the computer store, and focused on building an ISP. “I ended up talking to the Founder and CEO of a company who also wanted to get into the internet business,” James said. “He said, ‘You’re pretty young. Why should I trust you?’ So, I showed him what I’d already built in my bedroom.” At 19, James built the ISP and over the next 2 years, grew it to several thousand subscribers in multiple cities and roughly half a million in revenue.
As phone and cable companies were forcing small ISPs out of the business, he was recruited by a private research and development lab. Here James designed the first commercially viable Wi-Fi adapters and what is known today as a tablet PC long before they became mainstream. “This was truly revolutionary stuff for 1998,” James said. “I was sitting in the lobby of our building and streaming video from our office down the hallway over Wi-Fi.”
At just 22 years old, he filed his first patent. “It was for a comparison-shopping e-commerce engine,” James said. “It contains many features that are so fundamental in e-commerce today that people totally take them for granted, but back in the 90s, those things did not exist.” This first patent provides the basis for Net32, an online dental supply marketplace, which James joined as the first employee later in 1998, helping to launch the company and build its e-commerce technology. To date, James has had 37 patents issued by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Economic conditions from the dot-com crash followed by the 9/11 attacks changed things a bit, and Net32 became a client instead of an employer. Net32 is still a client today.
After the 9/11 attacks, James began working with Medfusion, a patient experience platform designed to enhance communication between patients and providers and make health IT work for patients and practices. “This company was completely before its time,” James said. “We were trying to push the world to telemedicine in 2001. But there were many hurdles, so we focused development on what became known in the industry as the patient portal.”
He developed a feature at Medfusion known as “health key.” “It was the concept that your medical data is your medical data,” James said. “This came about while I was designing the database for the software.” This eventually became a widespread concept and today is known as the Personal Health Record (PHR).
In 2008, James did a major upgrade of all the infrastructure and hardware as well as rearchitecting the software for Medfusion. Simultaneously put in charge of security for Medfusion as well as their HIPAA compliance and PCI compliance, he placed a heavy emphasis on security. By early 2010, James was responsible for four to five million patient records and was facilitating bill payments in excess of a hundred million dollars a year. “There was a tremendous amount of data that had to be kept secure and lots of standards that had to be met,” James said.
James worked with Medfusion until Intuit acquired the company and folded it into their Intuit Health division. In January 2011, James refocused all his energy on American Frontier. “I no longer wanted it to be a side business,” James explained. “And I could see a real need for security and compliance in local dental practices and businesses and I thought I could make a difference.”
Today, American Frontier is the leading Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP) for dental practices in the Triangle Area of North Carolina. Dental clients range from the single provider DDS to group practices and DSOs. He also serves health, construction, financial, and other small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
Why Dental Clients Have Trusted American Frontier For Over 25 Years
With over 25 years’ experience working with dental clients and suppliers, James developed a deep understanding of what dental clients need and the security they require. Dental clients he began supporting in the late nineties are still clients today. His connection to dental suppliers such as Net32 goes back 25 years. “We have a deep connection to the dental industry and because of our longevity working in the industry, we understand better what dentists are talking about when they discuss the technology and procedures they use,” James said. “We go deeper on security than competitors and have a team who also have a great deal of experience protecting millions of patient records. From that experience, we take HIPAA compliance more seriously than most IT companies.”
Specially Developed Network For Dentists
James built a network of partners that assist his clients on a variety of issues unique to dentists. From helping save money on payroll to helping a dental practice that is understaffed, James “knows a guy.” “These are all people who work with dentists, work in dentistry and understand the need,” James said. “When there was a shortage on Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), we were able to tap into our connections, so our dental clients had what they needed.”
American Frontier Is Raising The Bar In Cybersecurity
On a mission to keep businesses safe from cybercriminals and disasters while keeping their technology running smoothly and employees happy and productive, he co-authored the book On Thin Ice. Released in November 2020, it is an Amazon #1 best-seller and all proceeds from the book are being donated to the St. Jude’s Foundation. James has been featured on podcasts and other media outlets, and as a speaker on cybersecurity for organizations such as the Apex Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, and Wired2Change.
“All you hear on the news is about the big companies being breached,” James said. “It creates the sense of security by obscurity. People think, ‘I’m a small local business or my practice is in a small town, nobody’s going to come after me.’ But 43% of reported breaches today are in small businesses. And the average cost is hundreds of thousands of dollars for a small business. Approximately 60% of small businesses that have a breach don’t survive. Nobody wants to talk about it, but the 800-pound gorilla in the room is that if you’re not compliant and you are a victim of cybercrime, you’ll get punished by the state and federal government, by your patients and lose your reputation. The stakes are too high to ignore.”
A certified cybersecurity expert, his credentials and background have attracted law enforcement officials to call him for help. He’s worked on cybercrime cases and has been called as an expert witness by the state, U.S. Department of Justice, and FBI.
Even though James Evans is highly qualified to work with anyone he chooses as evidenced by his score of certifications and successes as a patent-holder, best-selling author, major contributor to the PHR and to developing one of the best and biggest online dental suppliers, he is passionate about helping dentists.
“After visiting dental offices across the state, I have yet to walk into a dental office that is truly adequately protected from today’s cybercriminals,” James said. “They are being underserved. Antivirus software and a firewall are not even close to providing what they need. We want to raise that bar in protecting dentists and provide the protection and compliance they really need. I’ll continue doing everything in my power to make that happen.”