Data handlers are at top Growth: The Greater Baltimore Committee honors the fastest growing technology companies today. The leaders are those that provide information.

October 25, 1996|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

For anyone who still doubts information has become one of the hottest commodities in America, consider this: Maryland's four fastest growing technology companies make their money by transmitting, analyzing or organizing information.

Their revenue growth is "pretty good" in the understated words of one company executive. Yes, the company he works for has at least doubled its staff and its revenues every year since 1991. This year, Rapid Systems Solutions, which has 275 employees, is expected to have revenues of $30 million. It grew by 2,229 percent over five years.

Then there is Orion Network Systems, winner of the Greater Baltimore Committee's award to the fastest growing technology companies in the state. The Rockville-based company had a five year revenue growth of 3,617 percent. The company didn't really begin having customers until 1995, after the launch of its satellite. Since then its revenues have grown rapidly every quarter but one.

The GBC will honor the area's "Fast 50," or fastest growing technology companies this morning at an awards breakfast. The ranking, which is sponsored by the GBC's technology council, Deloitte & Touche LLP and Venable, Baetjer and Howard, shows the broad range of technology firms in the area, including telecommunications, environmental and biotechnology companies, said Jane Shaab, executive director of the GBC's technology council.

"The ranking becomes a marketing tool for us. It shows that you can do well here in technology no matter what your area," she said.

The Fast 50 is somewhat artificial because it includes only those companies that answered the survey. However, some 5,000 companies called the GBC wanting to be part of the ranking, which is done nationally in 15 areas of the country.

Any company considered for the Fast 50 had to have revenues of at least $50,000 three to five years ago and 1995 revenues of at least $1 million.

In addition, there's one more caveat -- the high-growth companies are not all profitable yet.

The top three companies were Orion, Rapid Systems Solutions of Columbia and HCIA Inc. of Baltimore. Fourth was Digital Express Group of Beltsville.

Each of the top three companies credited their rapid growth to different factors, but in most cases they said they had anticipated and then had ridden the wave of a new market.

Orion, realized that its satellite would be useful not only to large multinational corporations that had to transmit data across the Atlantic quickly and efficiently, but in Eastern Europe where the phone system is poor and there is a shortage of lines. So it found employees in Europe who could install dishes on the tops of buildings.

Orion's customers include PepsiCo Inc. and Citibank, but it also carries the lottery in the United Kingdom and Poland, said Doug Newman, the company's president. The company is now making deals with Internet service providers, who will use their satellite to give Europeans access to the Internet here.

"That is an enormous growth opportunity," Newman said.

Rapid Systems Solutions had more humble beginnings in 1991, when six computer engineers who were friends formed a company without any venture capital and started selling their services to companies that had a business problem that could be solved using computers. They saw clients by day and did their work at the office at night and made $600,000 the first year, said Vin Seibert, the company's health care market segment leader.

The computer services company was recently purchased by Medaphis Corp. in Atlanta, but it remains an independent, wholly owned subsidiary.

The company has been successful, in part, Seibert said, because it has not tried to boost its bottom line by cutting back on training for employees. In fact, the company pays for and pushes its employees to take courses and learn more.

The company also offers profit sharing from the receptionist up to the president. "It boils down to the people. The people are the assets," he said.

The third fastest growing technology firm, HCIA, has grown as people in the American health care system try to figure out how to provide the best health care for the least amount of money, said Jean Chenowetch, senior vice president.

They are looking for data that will lead to cost effective care, she said. For the task, HCIA has collected a large data base of information.

Pub Date: 10/25/96

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