With $1,000 and one employee, Brenda Newberry landed her first client, Mallinckrodt, a medical systems manufacturer, in 1996. In the nine years since, Newberry hasn't once looked back. Her company, The Newberry Group, a Missouri-based software and systems design firm, ranked 269th on the 2004 Inc. 500 list and did $17 million in sales last year.
"We are seeing more and more technology, which is all run on software," Newberry says. Over the next decade, she predicts that cars will be self-controlling, homes will be controlled from a centralized point, and that biomedicine will get a boost. "Right now, there is a company that is making a vest that monitors your blood pressure, temperature and heart rate throughout the entire day. The vest is controlled entirely by software," she says.
But it's not just future technologies that make the computer systems industry rife with opportunities for starting and growing a business. Technologies from last century, like the Internet and automated manufacturing, will continue to need software, and even more so, Newberry adds.
While the computer systems industry is certain to expand during the next 10 years, individual companies will have a tougher time growing because of outsourcing, mainly to India. "It's a very competitive market, thanks to off-shoring. And branding is getting more difficult," Newberry says.
To do battle in the competitive world of computer and software design, The Newberry Group has made security its cornerstone. According to Newberry, one malicious code written overseas could threaten our national security. "You remember Y2K, don't you? No one had to logon, firewalls didn't matter. That means, theoretically, that I could write a code with a module to zero out the accounts of a financial institution on a specific date," she asserts.
To differentiate The Newberry Group from overseas competitors, Newberry rigorously screens her employees, doing background checks, security clearances, and fingerprinting. "When I say we have a built in security practice, I mean we use people who are skilled and certified in security," says Newberry, who also is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.
The Newberry Group's systems can be found at Washington University and in the Department of Defense. Over the last year, the group wrote software for Orbital Data, a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) that uses satellites and provides video conferencing. And just a few months ago, while on a trip in Australia, Newberry forged a relationship with a Japanese firm. Together, the two firms are developing an encryption package that uses a USB-like key and PIN. "If someone steals your laptop they couldn't read it, unless they steal the key and know your PIN," Newberry says.
Even with increasing competition, Newberry still sees opportunity, and couldn't imaging being in any other industry. "It's fun," Newberry says. "It's fun."