We have all read about the 20-something tech entrepreneurs who launch start-ups and become billionaires. Still, start-ups in some industries, such as Federal IT services, gain an edge from the experience that comes with a founder’s age.
According to research by the Kauffman Foundation, the average age of successful start-up founders in high-growth industries such as computers, health care, and aerospace is 40. And, high-growth start-ups are almost twice as likely to be launched by people over 55 as by people ages 20 to 34. Tricia Iveson is one such entrepreneur.
After 25+ years in the Federal contracting business working for a range of companies, Tricia forged out on her own. In November 2013, she launched 10novate, pronounced Ten–uh-veyt, which specializes in application development. She spoke with WashingtonExec about the company and its future goals.
WashingtonExec: Why did you want to start up a company?
Tricia Iveson: The timing was ideal for starting a woman-owned small business focused on the Federal IT market. Despite the overabundance of bad news from sequestration and the government shutdown, the Federal government IT market today is still substantial—$82B—and particularly favorable to small businesses. My experience in this environment has been that agencies are keenly interested in innovative solutions that demonstrably improve their current environment and processes whether improving citizen services, increasing the adoption of shared services, or securing information.
I have worked in the Federal IT market for a long time, built a terrific network, and learned a great deal about this market’s peculiarities. Like many others in this business, I’ve always wanted to start my own gig. At my “advanced age,” it was now or never.
“The word innovate means to do something in a new way; 10novate’s foremost goal is demonstrable improvement in agency applications—perhaps as much as 10 times better.”
WashingtonExec: What sort of services do you offer?
Tricia Iveson: 10novate specializes in improving agency applications using an agile, continuous integration approach. Our goals include better application performance and security. Today’s Federal IT spending features fewer opportunities to develop new systems. Instead, agencies must make do with current systems and improve their current application portfolio. The word innovate means to do something in a new way; 10novate’s foremost goal is demonstrable improvement in agency applications—perhaps as much as 10 times better. To that end, our focus is on software development, software assurance as it applies to security, and systems integration—all performed with a strong process orientation. We emphasize this last point because process provides a way to define what improvement means to an organization and a framework for prioritizing actions.
WashingtonExec: How do you differentiate your company from its competitors? What is unique about your approach?
Tricia Iveson: I believe there are quantitative ways of measuring everything. Unfortunately, the way we measure government IT projects barely scratches the surface of being meaningful. Many projects are measured by whether project status reports are delivered or milestones are achieved on-time. Rarely does measurement determine whether the applications developed actually improved the business of government. So while 10novate is concerned with on-time project delivery (time and money), we also commit to measure ourselves by how many software defects we eliminate (quality), the accuracy of our software sizing estimation techniques, and how well the application helps the agency do its job—whether it’s reaching a greater number of citizens, reducing transaction processing times—even delivering greater customer satisfaction.
WashingtonExec: What’s a key difference between you and other small business owners?
Tricia Iveson: My expertise lies with growing the business (business development) versus software programming. While that might seem unusual, most company founders who are technicians must eventually become business developers if their business is to survive and grow. Of all the IT disciplines, I have always had an affinity for software development because every project usually deals with the mission or delivery side of the Federal business.
“At Vistronix, our CEO Deepak Hathiramani, built a strong company culture through compassionate leadership. I have not seen that kind of caring from another CEO, and it’s a quality we nurture at 10novate.”
WashingtonExec: How do you envision building 10novate’s company culture?
Tricia Iveson: 10novate places a high value on intellectual curiosity and showing we care. Two of my most formative employment experiences were at MicroStrategy and Vistronix. At MicroStrategy, all employees—regardless of position—knew the company’s products and services, differentiators and value proposition. Much of this was achieved through regular training, which made it a fun, innovative and dynamic place to work. At Vistronix, our CEO Deepak Hathiramani, built a strong company culture through compassionate leadership. I have not seen that kind of caring from another CEO, and it’s a quality we nurture at 10novate. Over the years I’ve been in the workforce, these two practices had the greatest impact on voluntary retention of employees and led to higher customer satisfaction.
“I believe in building great customer relationships such that they say we are their premier industry partner. When that happens, it is gold.”
WashingtonExec: What is something most people might not know about you?
Tricia Iveson: I started my career as a journalist. Being a journalist demands that you cold call people to talk to you and that you document the conversations you have with them correctly. Those skills serve me well in having a comfort level with talking to prospects, querying them, and truly listening for and understanding their needs and challenges. I believe in building great customer relationships such that they say we are their premier industry partner. When that happens, it is gold.
Favorite quote: There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity. – General Douglas MacArthur. I generally like quotes that promote a life of action.
Favorite app: Inrix. My first business development account was the Federal Highway Administration when I worked at SAIC. While supporting that client, I became obsessed with the idea of building an intelligent transportation system that would leverage both fixed (i.e., roadside) and mobile (car-based) sensors to communicate traffic congestion to drivers such that they could find alternate routes. Inrix is my dream come true.
Favorite book: Beyond the Summit by Todd Skinner. It’s about setting and surpassing extraordinary business goals. It emphasizes principles such as how you think is more important than what you know (a spin on the Albert Einstein quote which says “Imagination is more important than knowledge”) and the idea of promoting Ascent as a habit, that is, a natural response to meeting challenges with an upward spirit. No matter what age you are—even in your more mature years—it’s important to continually set extraordinary goals for oneself to live life to its fullest.