Ben Delaney: Changing lives, one computer at a time

Ben Delaney says the social-networking site LinkedIn should use his story as a marketing tool.

Delaney, the new CEO of ReliaTech, posted a question on LinkedIn last June when he lost his previous job. An employee from ReliaTech he had met years ago replied, saying they were hiring and he should apply. Needless to say, he got the job.

ReliaTech is a nonprofit that repairs computers for consumers, businesses and other nonprofits. It works out of the Goodwill Store at Mission Street and South Van Ness Avenue in The City, and in San Pablo.

“We make sure each computer is up to date and there are no hardware problems,” Delaney said. “That right there is music to my ears.”

Delaney, whose real first name is Michael, grew up in Harrisburg, Pa., and came to San Francisco in 1969 to live in the Haight-Ashbury district.

“It was an exciting time. It was an experimental time,” Delaney said. “There was a lot of interesting stuff going on in the spirit of experimentation.”

Delaney never went to college, but began studying computers at a young age. He bought his first computer in 1976 and soon started an informal computer club. ITs members still keep in touch.

“Nobody at that time knew what computers could do,” he said. “I started working on computers that had less power than your cell phone does.”

Delaney worked as a computer programmer for banks and insurance companies, but soon realized he had no desire to work in those fields. He went on to serve as the director of marketing and communication for Springboard Schools, a San Francisco education-focused nonprofit. There, he increased Web traffic by more than 400 percent and won a $45,000 grant from Google for online advertising.

Now, as CEO of ReliaTech, Delaney is working with the Hamilton Family Center to provide freecomputers to underprivileged students in San Francisco.

“It is a way of permanently changing their lives,” he said. “They’ll be able to do schoolwork and hunt for jobs to move up the social ladder.”

Delaney has published more than 100 articles and keeps a blog on nonprofit marketing, from which he hopes to someday write a book. He lives with his wife, C.K. Kuebel, in Oakland’s Jack London Square, and is president of the Jack London District Association.

In his free time, he enjoys fishing, bicycling and camping. But ultimately, working for ReliaTech and in the nonprofit industry is more interesting, he said, than working in the sales side of the computer industry.

“Frankly, selling has lost its charm,” Delaney said. “The social benefit is gratifying. I never dread coming to work. I just can’t wait to get here.”

For more information about ReliaTech, visit its Web site at www.reliatech.com.

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