Critigen Looking to Carve Niche Where None Existed

By Joe Francica

"The world's largest privately held geospatial consulting company." That's Critigen's claim to its existing and potential clients, as well as its 700 employees across the globe. The company spun out of CH2M HILL and is now funded by Golden Gate Capital. CEO Jeff Akers said, "Think of it as 'the Accenture of critical infrastructure.'" Akers also believes that even with the current economic climate, "we are in the middle of the perfect storm," where there is a "heightened awareness of protecting critical assets."

Critigen positions its geospatial services in a variety of technology sectors and plans to target new markets. The company is looking to support activities in greenhouse gas regulation, solar mapping and carbon management tracking by injecting geospatial technology into environmental data management. The managed services solution puts the company squarely in the cloud computing business as well, potentially competing with HP and IBM and other tier I and tier II consulting and integration firms. Critigen believes that beyond geospatial, it has a domain expertise in certain sectors like water and environmental engineering. Since it still maintains service level contracts with CH2M HILL, much of its revenue is comprised of traditional geospatial markets: 40% from state and local, 30% from federal and 30% from commercial clients.

Akers noted that some critical infrastructure projects have slowed in the last 18 months while business in renewable resources has quickened. Solar and alternative energy markets are "going gang busters," said Akers. Critigen's overall growth has not slowed because of its diversity of customers across many geographies.

Why then, if the business was good, did CH2M HILL want to spin out this company? Senior Vice President Mike Underwood explained, "Both Critigen and CH2M HILL believed that positioning the business as a core and strategic portfolio element would enable the investment required to fuel the growth that Critigen is capable of achieving on a global basis. Golden Gate Capital views Critigen as both core and strategic." He also believes that CH2M HILL may have wanted to focus more on its core engineering and construction businesses. "What I can say is that Critigen services will continue to be an important element of value to CH2M HILL clients, delivered in many cases as a subcontractor to CH2M HILL, and in other cases when appropriate, directly as Critigen." Critigen has a three-year preferred provider agreement with CH2M HILL for the backlog of work already in the pipeline.

Critigen will rely on partner relationships, as well. "We anticipate a growing list of partners as our business grows and the needs of our CI [critical infrastructure] clients evolve. Key alliances today include ESRI, Google, Microsoft, EMC and HP," said Underwood. But as a standalone company, changes will inevitably surface. "[Critigen] is able to make decisions around strategy, marketing, organization and operations as an independent business. Our intent is to share our capabilities with a broad audience, and continue to attract clients, alliance partners and top IT consulting talent. Now Critigen really emerges with not only deep domain expertise in key sectors such as water and energy, but with the entrepreneurial ability to proactively apply technology-based approaches, new insights and visionary thinking to the growing critical infrastructure market," said Underwood.

Underwood thinks that critical infrastructure is of vital interest to those outside the U.S. market. "Our increased focus on serving CI clients in Europe and the Middle East will drive growth for us. And our ability to share our mission and values directly with the market will hopefully attract top IT consulting talent, which in itself can drive our growth. Finally, our calling card for years has been innovation. Enterprise Geospatial, Solar Mapping, On Demand Spatial Services and Visual Assets are a few of the innovations that our consultants have developed recently. The market has responded well to these. We know that continued success is dependent on our ability to provide innovative solutions for our clients and partners," said Underwood.

Published Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Written by Joe Francica

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