Beyond the bubble, a technology company of stability and promise is probably solving an old problem with new solutions.
And that’s how Zikria Syed describes his King of Prussia-based company NextDocs, a Microsoft SharePoint-based company specializing in the life sciences that was called last month Microsoft’s best partner in that industry.
Think of the company like this: a smattering of info products that walk pharmaceutical and biotech companies through their varied, highly-technical compliance processes, often involving the Food and Drug Administration or its equivalent abroad.
CEO and co-founder Syed says, with operations in six countries and projected $15 million in revenue for 2011, NextDocs is seeing all the growth he could have imagined and more.
“We have big ambitions. Our growth is only picking up,” Syed said, noting the coming opening of a new office in Japan, to join their existing sales offices in Germany, Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom and Canada. In recent years, NextDocs has often been cited as among, if not the first, fastest growing private company in the region.
“I believe in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. I believe it’s a great place to start a business, particularly in software and life sciences. This is the pharmaceutical corridor. There are good reasons to found a company here.
And really, if you have a great idea that you want to execute, it doesn’t matter where you want to operate. Fundamentally, why would you build business? When you talk high tech, the location isn’t the first issue. Your customers will find you. We’re opening sales and services offices where our customers are, and so global expansion is a meaningful thing, but I don’t get off-shoring for core services. You can’t offshore innovation. It’s very important for a startup to stay connected with the customers, but you can do a lot of that from wherever you want to be.
And what advantages you do need from location, this region has them.
I will say that we never considered founding in the city. It may have been a question of transportation and how easy it is to get into the city. If public transportation system was seen as great, then maybe we would have, but so many of our core, initial employees were already in the suburbs. The city is becoming more and more attractive. It is not becoming worse; it is getting better.
But now you have this interesting dilemma where all of our employees here are suburban based because that’s where we’ve been. So maybe Conshohocken: we could move there. We do want to be closer to a more vibrant environment to keep attracting new employees who want more out of their working experience, but now all our employees are living in the suburbs. I don’t want to increase everyone’s commute without a clear reason why.
We are a proud part of the Philadelphia region and Pennsylvania as a whole.”
Founded in 2006, the company doubled in size in 18 months, he said, now with 86 employees, 50 of whom are in King of Prussia.
The company has close to 100 customers, including five of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the country, Syed said, in addition to many smaller, boutique biotech firms and laboratories.
“Any business that is bringing new drugs or medical devices to market through regulation are our customers,” he said.
The flexibility of distance is important, Syed added. Among the company’s early 10 largest clients, few were headquartered within 300 miles. He was able to later approach and attract the established, regional companies.
Syed also notes his pride in bootstrapping the company with his team, raising no outside capital.
“Entrepreneurs forced to raise capital aren’t building the best capital,” he said. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t or can’t raise capital, but the technology world has to remember that the ability to raise capital isn’t the success, it’s to get the product to market.”
To do that, Syed is in a unique, niche market himself, focusing on narrow tools, for a specific industry using particular technology.
“Microsoft is the strong and critical partner, providing all the technology infrastructure, and we provide business solutions to an important, valuable industry,” he said.
Syed is a self-described technologist, with a masters in computer science from Drexel University, but he also has the kind of business resume that investors might like to see (not that he’s always answering their calls). As CEO of Broadpeak, a related clinical trial management software company, he pushed forward its place in the industry and found an exit with DataLabs two years after founding it in 2004. Before then, he was an executive with Siemans Medical Systems and spent 10 years with Microsoft.
Syed founded NextDocs in 2006 with Matt Walz, now CTO of the company.
Raised in Panjab, Pakistan, Syed came to the United States at 18 for an undergraduate degree from Lock Haven University — “looking at a guide of colleges, it seemed affordable and nice, just 200 miles from any city, and, I learned, also that far from any city,” he said with a laugh.
“I’m happy to be here now, growing in just the way we’ve always wanted,”he added.