Start-Up

Start-Up

Decision Lens President Daniel Saaty hopes to ultimately serve individuals.
Decision Lens President Daniel Saaty hopes to ultimately serve individuals. (By Larry Morris -- The Washington Post)
Monday, January 9, 2006

Name: Decision Lens Inc.

Location: Falls Church

Funding: The company is mostly self-funded but has received $500,000 from a private foundation created by Thomas Saaty, a former professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, whose theories were the basis for the company.

Big idea: Decision Lens has developed software for organizational decision-making using a process that takes into account large and small factors and assigns weight to each of them. It also helps decision makers determine the importance of non-quantifiable "soft factors," such as the political implications of a decision or its impact on a company's reputation. "It's difficult for an organization to make complex decisions when they have multiple decision makers and when the factors are very subjective," said Tony Serafino, vice president of business development. "There's a lot of uncertainty, time, effort and cognitive limitations. The whole purpose of what we do is not only to structure that, but to give them better and more efficient decisions."

How it works: The software walks the user through a step-by-step process. At each step the user inputs information that's taken into account in calculations. Then the software creates a report that ranks possible decisions by their value to the company. "You're coming up with what we call a weighted decision model," Serafino said. "These are the things to consider when making this highly important, highly complex decision. What are the most important considerations?" The software is used mainly in resource and budget allocation, risk management and the selection of contractors or vendors.

Where the idea was hatched: The software is based on the theories of Saaty, the father of Daniel Saaty, president of the company. He developed the Analytical Hierarchy Process in the 1970s and the Analytical Network Process more recently.

Big-name customers: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Defense Department, various intelligence agencies and what the company describes as a major U.S. petroleum company.

Price: An unlimited user license ranges from $100,000 to $250,000 depending on the size of the organization and the extent of the use.

Founded: 2003. The software was launched in 2005.

Who's in charge: Daniel Saaty, president; Andrea Ferris, chief operating officer and chief financial officer; and Serafino. Patrick T. Harker, dean of the Wharton School of Business, is on the company's board of advisers.

Employees: 12

Web site: http://www.decisionlens.com

What the name means: "We actually brainstormed about 350 names," Daniel Saaty said. "My brother is a brand marketing specialist, so we went through a whole evaluation of these names using our own process."

Where will you be in five years?: Saaty estimated his company would have about $10 million in revenue and about 30 employees. He hopes to incorporate his technology into search engines to organize a user's search preferences and better identify which hits are most relevant. He also hopes to develop a consumer focus for the software that would help an average consumer make major decisions about car or home purchases, career changes, or picking colleges.

-- Andrea Caumont


© 2006 The Washington Post Company