The Download Live
Guest: Sudhakar Shenoy, Chairman of the Northern Virginia Technology Council
Thursday, Sept. 26, 2002 ET
| Shannon Henry |
With the Nasdaq at six-year lows and forecast dim for growth in the technology sector, are there signs of hope for the wide array of tech firms based in Northern Virginia? How are professional and industry associations working with government to assure a positive climate for business?
Sudhakar Shenoy, a technology entrepreneur and current chairman of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, joined The Washington Post's Shannon Henry to discuss these topics and more.
Shenoy is Founder, Chairman and CEO of Information Management Consultants, Inc. (IMC), located in McLean, Virginia. IMC is an internationally recognized systems and software development firm serving both the governmental and commercial sectors. He is a frequent speaker in the information technology, bioinformatics and business process re-engineering area, and has been a university lecturer. (Background information courtesy NVTC.org.
Washington Post columnist Shannon Henry has been covering the local technology scene since 1995, documenting the successes and failures of local tech companies, and the culture and ideas of local business personalities. Her column appears on Thursdays in the Business section of the newspaper, and she regularly hosts The Download Live on TechNews.com.com, The Washington Post Web site dedicated to covering technology news. Her book, "The Dinner Club: How the Masters of the Internet Universe Rode the Rise and Fall of the Greatest Boom in History," will be published in November by The Free Press.
An Edited Transcript Follows:
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Shannon Henry: Hi Sudhakar! Thanks so much for joining us today. Let's start off with the question everyone is asking, in some way or another. This will take a bit of a crystal ball-type consideration. Where is the Washington technology community in terms of recovery? Has the bottom been hit? When will it get better, or worse?
Sudhakar Shenoy: I see the Washington region essentially consisting of two types of tech companies: one, those that are basically federal government contractors and the other tech companies like AOL, WorldCom etc. While the former is on an upswing, there has been considerable downturn in the latter. Because our region is the third biggest supplier to the federal government, this has shielded us somewhat from what could have been much worse. I personally think, based on my discussions with various people in both sectors, that we will see the situation continuing till the third or fourth quarter of next year. The commercial organizations like the ones I mentioned depend on the entire U.S. economy while the federal contractors depend only on the folks across the river, I assume that it will take these (the AOLs of the world) a longer time to recover. On the average, I still think it will be some time late next year.
McLean, Va.: Bobbie Kilberg is a personal friend of Vice President Dick Cheney. When are you guys going to get President Bush out to Northern Virginia, either to an NVTC event or to visit a tech company? Clinton visited; why hasn't Bush?
Sudhakar Shenoy: Stay tuned.....come to all our events and you never know.....
Erie, Penn.: Is the new economy dead?
Sudhakar Shenoy: No. Far out ideas in the new economy are dead...irrational exuberance is out the window!
Alexandria, Va.: Putting aside your natural bias, where do you thing NOVA ranks among metropolitan areas in terms of appeal for tech companies seeking to expand/incorporate. Are we anywhere near San Jose/San Francisco/NYC?
Sudhakar Shenoy: First some facts:
1. Virginia ranks 6th in number of tech companies and tech employees(Chmura Economics, Q3 2001)
2. Ranks 3rd in educational attainment of workforce
3. Ranks 13th in percentage of scientists and engineers in the workforce
I conclude from the above that we are certainly a good, if not great place to do business. Our quality of life is superior to those of many other metro areas such as the ones you mention. We have top notch educational institutions, great cultural centers, super neighborhoods and yes, maybe our Redskins will find a way to win. And needless to say, if you are a golfer like I am, there is great golf around here! Of course, we do have some immediate problems (though they are not as bad as the ones in Silicon Valley) and I am specifically referring to our traffic problems. You can help by going to the polls and voting in favor of the referendum on Nov. 5th....
Shannon Henry: Do you have any constructive advice for job-seekers these days? Are there areas where workers are particularly needed or ways they can make themselves more marketable?
Sudhakar Shenoy: Yes, there are companies that are hiring now and one needs to be out there meeting people. I can think of no better venue than NVTC to do this. They ought to become members if they are not and they ought to visit the NVTC career center and post their résumés.....(it's free).
Alexandria, Va.: What role did NVTC take in advising Gov. Mark Warner (D) on the technology strategy he unveiled for Virginia yesterday?
Sudhakar Shenoy: We are pleased that the Governor's plan meshes nicely with NVTC's legislative agenda.
Washington, D.C.: So much of what we hear about the technology sector is bad news these days. What are some things that you see as positive signs in the Washington-area economy, if any?
Sudhakar Shenoy: Lots of opportunity in the federal sector. The government is and will be continuing to spend a lot in areas such as security, defense etc.
Arlington, Va.: How is your membership changing because of the tech shakeout? Are government contractors--CACI, Veridian, SRA, etc.--getting more involved in the NVTC?
Sudhakar Shenoy: NVTC membership is on an upswing. We are probably the strongest tech council in the country and many of the companies you mention are more active today than ever before.
Shannon Henry: How is the NVTC changing with the times? People seem too busy to do the kind of networking they did several years ago. How do you keep your signature events relevant and what are members asking from you now?
Sudhakar Shenoy: NVTC is always concerned that our members, sponsors and partners get a lot of value from their association with the organization. Towards this goal, we have over 125 events run by more than 20 committees manned chiefly by enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers. We keep these events relevant to current happenings and trends. For example, our biotech committee is very active in this field and we recently ran an event to address the nuances of the Sarbanes-Oxley act (this was run by our CFO series).
Washington, D.C.: How can Northern Virginia ever recover from the telecom and Internet busts? This region was heavily reliant on them for its tech growth, now both are in the dumps. If AOL finally goes under, can we still claim to be a tech center?
Sudhakar Shenoy: Telecom and Internet were just two sectors that got a lot of visibility during the time. However, we have sectors like bio-tech and bioinformatics that are growing and will be prosperous. Our tech expertise is multi-faceted and not dependent on any one or two sectors...
Shannon Henry: I'm wondering what you think about the current public disdain for CEOs. Do you worry it will discourage younger people from going into business?
Sudhakar Shenoy: Not all CEOs are bad just like in other fields (journalism included). Companies will go thru an introspection stage and emerge that much stronger and the CEO job will be that much more coveted.
Washington, D.C.: Mark Warner is going to be a keynote speaker at your upcoming banquet and the NVTC has had Vice President Dick Cheney and other Republican stars come speak at events. Your group has strong Republican ties. Do you think this alienates any members or hinders you from getting a better cross-section of membership? Thanks.
Sudhakar Shenoy: Warner is our governor and deserves our support and the same courtesy we would give any elected leader in our state and country. Besides, he was a technology champion and leader before he was governor. He is operating under very tough circumstances now and is doing a fine job. He deserves our support and all the help this community can give him. NVTC is a non-partisan entity that strives to do what is right for our community without regard to a leader's party affiliation.
Alexandria, Va.: Mark Warner talks a good game, but face it, he's got no money. Do you really believe the state of Virginia will be able to do ANYTHING for struggling technology companies. How? There's simply no money!
Sudhakar Shenoy: Mark Warner is doing a very good job under the circumstances. These are tough times and a lot will depend on what our tech community can do to help themselves.
Dulles, Va.: What do you think of the Washington Post's business coverage, particularly of the technology community?
Sudhakar Shenoy: Washington Post is a very fine newspaper that has done a good job for the tech sector in this region.
Arlington, Va.: Hello. I'm a tech worker in Northern Va. I live about 15 minutes from my job and drive every day because Metro is not anywhere near my Alexandria neighborhood (a neighborhood with lots of lower-income folks who could sure use it).
My question is: Why should I vote for the transportation tax referendum? The half-cent increase is being touted as a big solution, but I can't help but think that this money will fall far short of the real needs and we'll be asked to cough up more in the future. I can afford it, but lots of working-class folks are unfairly penalized by sales taxes. Moreover, the funds all seem to be promised for road work out in Fairfax instead of Metro work closer in where I live.
I voted for Warner, but part of me wants to vote against this referendum because it was previous governors and legislatures that refused to deal with the transportation problem here, and I don't like rewarding their inaction by saddling our good governor with pushing a tax hike that will undoubtedly be used against him when he seeks other office.
Sorry for the ramble. Please, just tell me, why should I vote for this thing?
Sudhakar Shenoy: 1. 100% of all monies raised from the 1/2-cent sales tax increase will be used for various projects throughout Northern Virginia.
2. 40% of all funds are allocated to Metro rail and other mass transit projects.
3. Voting "yes" on this referendum will alleviate congestion, fix bottle necks, build more mass transit, and allow families to spend less time in traffic and more time together
4. The sales tax increase will, on an average, only cost 25 cents a day for an average family of 4.
The transportation referendum provides a critical investment in our region's future.
You should,therefore, vote YES and go a step further and get your friends, neighbors and co-workers to do the same.
Alexandria, Va.: What is the NVTC doing to promote technology recovery in Metro DC area? Can you tell me about NVTC mission or role in these times?
Sudhakar Shenoy: Please visit our web site www.nvtc.org. We have many programs and activities aimed at the tech community and our partners...the web site gives a comprehensive description of all these...
Silver Spring, Md.: You're a successful entrepreneur who hasn't been knocked out by the economic bad times. Do you find yourself resisting the temptation to needle former high flyers like Saylor and Mandl? Those guys and many like them swaggered their way through the roaring '90s while hard working guys like you were actually building REAL businesses.
Sudhakar Shenoy: First, it is not in my nature to do such a thing. Second, one should not fault people for taking chances and risks...
Arlington, Va.: Mr. Shenoy, how much of the NVTC's focus has shifted from helping out dot-coms to pushing opportunities for IT government contracting firms?
Sudhakar Shenoy: NVTC has been providing support and assistance to all our members equally across all tech sectors and sizes at all times.
Shannon Henry: Personal question: What do you like best about your job? You seem to always be having a lot of fun, but maybe that's just your personality....
Sudhakar Shenoy: I have a great team of people who support me and actually are responsible for the wonderful results we are bringing in. From our (IMC's) president Louis Matrone to our receptionist, we are all doing our part and the team works as one to make things happen as they should. It is this team work that allows me the luxury of being able to go out there and do the kind of things I do and by the way, having fun should always be at the top of one's list!
Shannon Henry: We're a bit over time. Thanks, Sudhakar, for the chat. And thanks to all the readers...See you again soon.