Charlotte Watch appears every Wednesday on LTW

CHARLOTTE–When something goes down in a power network, it has cascading effects on transportation as traffic lights go out and gas pumps don’t work, and so on throughout society’s infrastructure.

Intepoint Solutions, founded in September 2003, has developed a software simulation package that identifies and models the cross-critical infrastructure effects of a power outage.

Mark Armstrong, president and chief executive officer of Intepoint, tells Local Tech Wire that the Department of Defense is funding development of the company’s product to the tune of seven figures a year through 2011.

Armstrong says a lot of companies — Duke Power for instance — have “single-layer models of their infrastructure, but no one else provides a way to look at interactions between infrastructures.”

Intepoint is among the first companies to go through the Charlotte Research Institute on the campus of UNC-Charlotte. “We have office space on the campus next to the professors we do research with. We could have found less expensive space, but being co-located with the people we work with has been invaluable.”

Brainpowered by UNC

Armstrong says UNC-Charlotte is unusual because it is so focused on applied research rather than classic pure research done without immediate applications in mind. “I can’t express how important our relationship with the University has been,” Armstrong notes.

Armstrong founded the five-employee company with his wife Kelly in September 2003. Previously, Armstrong sold another software development company to one of its customers. He also worked as an Enterprise IT architect for Wachovia for three years.

“When I had the idea in January last year, I realized I would never be able afford to hire the brainpower needed. So I came to the university, where they realized the commercial possibilities.”

Armstrong says he’s lucky he started the company in Charlotte because only a handful of other universities, such as M.I.T. and Georgia Tech, focus on applied research. “We worked out a research model different from the usual one in which they produced something tangible to add to the product every three months,” Armstrong adds.

“We would not have enjoyed the success we’ve had if we had not teamed with the College of IT here in Charlotte. I could not have designed a better model for a startup. They do the research and write papers. We do the software architecture and commercialize it.”

War games
The company meets with a Duke Power executive next month “to make sure we understand the commercial requirements.” Eventually, Intepoint wants to sell the software to commercial clients such as public utilities.

So far, the requirements have come from the DOD. Armstrong says the Department of Homeland Security is another likely customer. Intepoint’s simulation software could reveal vulnerable points in its infrastructure, he says.

The company described its software as “war-games to help prepare the nation’s infrastructure for attack” when it competed in last year’s UNC-Five Ventures Business Plan competition.

The company is also working on developing a partnership with Environmental Systems Research Inc. (ESRI), the Redlands, California company leading the pack in Global Information System (GIS) software. “Our software isn’t limited to critical infrastructure. It can work on any data in an ESRI system.”

Armstrong says that when the DOD standardized its GIS data with ESRI, he realized that with some additional research they could provide the “value-add” of Intepoint’s software.

He took the idea to the university and wrote a number of white papers. The DOD then put out a competitive bid for development of the software, which Intepoint won over such experienced defense contractors as Raytheon and Grummen.

The original agreement gave the company 12 months. “We proposed nine and completed it in five,” Armstrong says, impressing the DOD with the classic win-scenario of software, under-promise, over-deliver.

“At the three month mark, one of our sponsors said we far exceeded their expectations for 12 months. The key to success was rapid development of what they were looking for. We over-delivered in less time.”

That resulted in the seven years of funding contract.

Armstrong says the company will likely have to add a services arm in the not too distant future. He says the company is also looking at diversification projects such as adding a hardware piece to the software product.

Another Entrée

Charlotte PR firm a la carte says it has added a new client to its menu: Franchise Resource Group Ltd. (FranNet) of the Carolinas to provide media and public relations services.

FranNet is the world’s largest network of franchise consultants. FranNet advises clients on how to search for and evaluate franchise opportunities. In addition, FranNet provides a broad array of services including consulting on taking a company into a franchise and assisting prospective franchisees in learning about the many choices that franchising offers. Michael Hall is president and owner.

Venturi Earnings Call

Venturi Partners Inc. (OTCBB:VPTR) will provide a Web simulcast of its first quarter 2004 earnings conference call Thursday, April 29.

The live broadcast of Venturi Partners’ conference call will begin at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time on April 29. An online replay will be available approximately two hours following the conclusion of the live broadcast and will continue for 30 days.

Venturi Partners, Inc. is a nationwide provider of information technology consulting and custom software development services; high-end clerical, accounting and other specialty professional staffing services; and technology systems for human capital management. The Company’s Technology operations operate under the name “Venturi Technology Partners” and its Staffing operations are known as “Venturi Staffing Partners” and “Venturi Career Partners.”

(repeat the www link)
Venturi Conference Call

a la carte pr