The year 2013 was a difficult one for anyone in federal government work, given budget sequestration and the October government shutdown.
For Angie Lienert, president and CEO of IntelliGenesis LLC, it was a wake-up call.
“Because last year was such a horrible year for defense contracting and just government work in general, we decided this year we needed to change some things up,” she said. “I’m in the intelligence community, so there’s always going to be work for us to do. At the same time … we saw how Congress was for the past two years about not really being able to work together and make decisions, and that hurts us.”
So the Columbia-based tech company, which had previously focused on federal contracts, created a plan to take on the private sector. It recently spun off its research and development operations as a separate legal entity, IG Labs LLC.
IntelliGenesis, which currently has 16 contracts and about 60 employees, has always devoted time and resources to internal research and development. But now it plans to take the results to the commercial market.
“This year, we decided we can’t stop at a white paper,” said Lienert. “We can’t stop at a prototype.”
The company’s research arm focuses on four areas — cyber, mobile, machine learning and visualization.
“It became really obvious that the same types of problems that we’re solving for our current contracts apply to the commercial sector,” said Rich Giomundo, chief technology officer at IntelliGenesis and IG Labs. “My overall vision or goal with this is to not have a siloed approach to all of these things.”
IG Labs should allow for some more creative innovating, said Lienert. And for Giomundo, that’s especially exciting.
“I love tinkering and playing around with things, and I love just playing around with new ideas,” he said.
His favorite is visualization technology, or specifically, augmented reality.
It sounds like a video game feature or psychedelic side effect. But it’s a technology that allows the user to use his entire field of vision as a sort of virtual, interactive screen. It would give businesspeople a more flexible way of illustrating, viewing and collaborating on new ideas, without the barriers of screens and desks that are best used by a single person in a fixed space.
“People are, especially analysts, are naturally social type of people. They want to talk through problems,” he said. “And it’s really hard to be able to do that sitting down … to actually get the input you need to make your decisions and be able to have a group conversation about it all at the same time.”
Exploring these types of technologies isn’t usually an option for companies focused purely on government contracts, said Giomundo, because those contracts move slowly. But the business world allows for faster innovation, and that’s already happening at IG.
“We can concentrate a lot more on … trying more cutting-edge technologies and applying those toward private services,” he said, “and then if it’s something that fits back in contracts, then we can pull it back.”
Lienert decided months ago that she wanted to expand into the commercial realm. But the idea for IG Labs is just now coming to fruition. It wasn’t procrastination, but a careful study of the commercial market that took time.
The company spent the first quarter of the year researching the market and compiling a report. Lienert plans to start with the financial sector. IG Labs will stay in the IntelliGenesis headquarters for now, and Lienert has no immediate plans for staff growth while the new entity debuts.
“I don’t like to jump out too far until I have an idea of which direction we want to go and what makes sense,” said Lienert. “I again want to make sure we take our time and do it right.”
IG Labs will likely begin knocking on doors next month, she said, in pursuit of commercial clients.
“I see it as a lot of different opportunities, but mainly just to put my eggs in other baskets,” said Lienert. “Because right now I have one basket, and that’s not good.”
HOW IG IS GOING COMMERCIAL:
- Start with one sector.
IntelliGenesis and IG Labs CEO Angie Lienert saw potential in finance and banking.
- Know that sector.
IG spent the first quarter of the year researching the data formats and software used in the financial sector, and regulations that apply to these companies.
- Develop a strategy and have something to offer.
Which potential clients will you approach first, and how will you communicate with them?
“I like to show up with something in my hand,” said Lienert. “Not just go knock on the door and say ‘Hey, we can do this for you because we did it over here.’”
- Proceed carefully.
Lienert is waiting a little while to decide on hiring and growth plans for IG Labs.
“I really want to roll this out, get the services to where I want them to be, then start working on my strategies,” she said.