Kristoffer Collo always liked to get a jump start.
At age nine, his dad brought home a computer, providing Collo hours of entertainment. At age 21, he had bypassed college in favor of starting his own business.
Now Collo is expanding his company, Herndon-based MicroPact, into an additional floor in its office building and adding dozens of employees.
Collo, who was born in the Philippines and grew up in Sterling, had long wanted to start a product-based contracting firm, but knew that a services business would cost less to get off the ground. After high school, he worked for two companies, including an environmental consulting firm, where he handled IT.
He applied to work at a start-up — but ultimately opted to start his own business. The idea behind MicroPact, which he established in 1997, was to build custom Web applications for the federal government. With $15,000, including money borrowed from his parents, to get off the ground, he won his first contract working for his previous employer, the environmental consulting company.
“I didn’t have much to lose,” he said. Without much experience, “I didn’t know all the boundaries and constraints of running a business.”
In 1998, Collo’s childhood friend, Michael Cerniglia, joined the company as an intern. A year later, after graduating from college, he came on full time. (He’s now chief technology officer).
Only in their early 20s, the pair would don glasses at sales meetings in an effort to look older and make more convincing pitches.
MicroPact soon found a niche in case management — or helping federal agencies track particular instances of almost anything, from equal employment claims to military sexual assault incidents.
By 2004, MicroPact released its first and still flagship product, a case management application called entellitrak.
The software platform is meant to make it easier for federal agencies to customize their needs. Rather than having MicroPact — or a competitor — build a custom case management system, federal agencies can use the platform and shape it to their needs.
The idea stemmed from an application MicroPact had built to help the U.S. Postal Service process equal employment claims. The Postal Service had tried to make its own adaptations to the software, which helped MicroPact realize the company could make a more flexible product.
MicroPact went through the 8(a) small-business program — from 1998 until graduation in 2007. The company now has just shy of 200 employees and plans to hire about 40 more by the end of the year.
It has rolled out several new partnerships, including with Chantilly-based Citizant and Bethesda-based BroadPoint Technologies.
Citizant already had work with the Treasury Department when the MicroPact name began to come up, said Saket Havaldar, manager of Citizant’s financial and regulatory services business unit.
The company “was not something we were familiar with, to be frank about it,” he said. But after multiple agency officials mentioned the company, Citizant decided to explore.
He said Citizant was drawn to MicroPact’s unusual corporate culture. “It’s a little bit more energetic,” he said. “They share that feel where it’s more like a start-up.”
Collo said he is optimistic that MicroPact will fare well even in a government downturn, given the push for improved efficiency. The company also is expanding into commercial and international work as well as health care. MicroPact said, for instance, it has business with transportation companies Norfolk Southern and CSX.
As the government pulls back, “we would certainly lean on our commercial international practice,” Collo said.