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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 24, 2000. All rights reserved.
IT Talent: From the Haystack
Last year the dot-com companies got starry-eyed over
selling to consumers. This year, what’s hot are the business-to-business
dot-coms. But in any situation in the years to come, predicts Sonny
Injaty, CEO of Mirronex, the American economy will not be based on
products as much as services.
"All companies, even Cisco, are moving to a service-driven economy,
and once it is there, how do you manage the services?" asks Injaty.
He came up with an E-commerce system that solves one of the peskiest
problems of today, hiring workers, especially computer or information
technology (IT) workers. By 2002 more than half of IT personnel will
be working on a consulting basis. Before, you could hire consultants
by word of mouth, but now AT&T, for one example, has 10,000 consultants,
and you don’t get 10,000 by word of mouth.
At Mirronex Technology in the Princeton Corporate Center, the 34-year-old
entrepreneur leveraged experience in IT staffing and sourcing to create
a neutral hub for clients and vendors to come together to buy and
sell services, plus a pipe to manage the services. Named "mxConnect,"
this product is a Internet-based network to manage the entire supply
chain of IT outsourcing. With it, Mirronex intends to dominate the
online human resources field in the B to B arena.
Mirronex moved in January to 4390 Route 1 North and launched mxConnect
in February. Its first customer was the Limited, a Fortune 200 retailer.
From just 5,000 square feet Mirronex is building out to 30,000 feet.
Injaty has hired at a fast pace, 60 people here and another 20 in
India, and intends to be 200 strong by December. He speaks on "Butterfly
Hubs: Avoiding the Seven Deadly Sins of IT Outsourcing" on both
Wednesday and Thursday, June 7 and 8, at 12:30 p.m. at the New Jersey
Technology Showcase in Somerset. (Also scheduled from this company
are talks on mxConnect and creating brand identity in an E-business
market. Call 856-787-9700 or go to www.showcase.asmcorp.com.)
"What drives people here is that we all belong to the one or two
percent of the population that is changing the economy in ways that
people cannot fathom," says Injaty. "That is the excitement.
What we have seen so far is just the rush. When companies start transforming
the way you do things and add value — that is where the biggest
driver is, being part of this group, focused to achieve a name, or
fame, or whatever you want to call it, and money is just a by product
that comes with it."
The scope of the IT talent problem is mindboggling, as described by
Stephen Neish, vice president, business development at Mirronex. A
high percentage of IT projects are late because firms don’t have time
to bring staff people on and train them. And they don’t want people
on staff trained in one thing when the technology will change to the
next thing. So then they bring in consultants — paid a lot of
money because so few are skilled. But there is a shortage of consultants,
exasperated by a poor allocation of talent to the available positions
and by paper shuffling between the IT department, the procurement
department, and the staffing vendors.
A swamped system takes too long, maybe months, to fill a position.
For every requisition, hundreds of resumes come in. "Managers
can find 500 resumes on their desks on Monday morning, and they spend
their week on hiring, but they are supposed to be doing real work,"
Meanwhile the hiring company has little control. "Two different
offices of the same company could be offering different hourly rates,"
says Neish. In an extreme case, Neish relates, one consultant was
arrested for stealing computer hardware and then three weeks later
was hired into another department in the same company.
Facing such problems, the vice president for IT has a dilemma. "Five
years ago," says Neish, "chief information officers weren’t
a part of the inner management teams, but now CEOs and CFOs are begging
IT departments to come up with quick solutions, to compete."
Compete they must. "The only way left for American businesses
to compete is to apply technology to business situations," says
Neish. "That is America’s advantage, so technology has become
the main driver of competition."
Mirronex considers mxConnect to be the E-commerce hub
that can bring information and control to IT outsourcing. "It
has an end-to-end solution for the entire process, from the moment
a company is deciding which staffing firm to use, through bringing
people on board, viewing their resumes, doing the requisitions, finishing
the hiring paper work, listing expenses, invoicing — we do it
all," says Neish. "No other vendor offers solutions for the
Also, mxConnect is customized to mirror a company’s internal workflow
process — how to route approvals, who has access to certain information,
how to access the chain of command, etc. Rather than do the actual
search for full-time or part-time consultants, it allows the hiring
company to talk to vendor firms who are going to place these consultants
for a certain period of time. "We need to educate the vendors
so they know we are put them in even closer contact with their clients.
Now they can have a real-time link. The second the manager sees the
resume, the vendor knows about it. The instant that client is rejected,
the vendor gets an E-mail about it.
"We are building a marketplace of staffing firms with no paperwork,"
says Neish. "A client can deal with many more vendors without
being bogged down with administration."
How it works: "Consultants from all the firms enter their time
on our online time sheet. In the workflow engine, these timesheets
flow electronically and go to the approving manager who adds an electronic
signature. Once approved, our system grabs the time sheets, works
out an invoice, consolidates all the invoices, and presents one master
invoice. The client makes one payment, and our system separates all
the payments out." Bills stay archived online for seven years,
and beyond that you can receive data in two business days.
The software is suited for crossing boundaries. Large clients such
as the Ciscos and AT&Ts of the world, with a strong international
presence, have centralized procurement, and they need the same solution
across the board. That explains the Bangalore office, which will serve
markets in the Asian subcontinent in places like Hong Kong, Singapore,
Mirronex uses the model of the application service providers (ASPs).
Everything happens at Mirronex. Nothing happens at on the vendor side,
though the client and the vendor can get to their records and download
them at any time. It is always backed up and redundant on the Mirronex
server, which is located at Qwest Communications in Newark.
Mirronex has just announced a deal with Bank of America, then based
in San Francisco, to invoice payments to mxConnect. "We have found
that Bank of America is the most up-to-date bank in E-commerce,"
says Neish. "It was able to do things in things in half the time
it would have taken with other banks."
Current clients include the Limited and Champion Mortgage. Citing
a six to twelve month selling cycle to Fortune 50 companies, and noting
the clock starting ticking in January, Neish says he expects to announce
some mega clients in the next couple of months. He also hopes to have
500 staffing firms on board by July. "We have two ways of getting
vendors," says Neish, "asking clients to bring in their vendors,
and signing up vendors independently." A vendor partner program
is scheduled to be on the website on May 24. The eventual goal is
to create job histories on each consultant who goes through the system.
Every software has its competition. One alternative method is to use
a less complete program, to handle only the billing, for instance.
"One agency can handle the billing for several agencies and accomplish
the same thing on the billing side. It works beautifully," says
the head of one of Princeton’s IT personnel agencies.
"Such a vendor is going to mark up costs by 30 percent," replies
Neish, "and will likely slow down the hiring process. Vendors
who understand our system know that we get their consultants on billing
Other alternatives to the Mirronex solution might be:
takes the time to construct its own work flow hiring process. But
one Fortune 50 firm tried that, and failed. "We had been talking
to them for 12 months," relates Neish, "and after four months
they thanked us for telling them how to do it and went away and were
going to have it built for January 2000. January came and went. They
came to us in March, saying they didn’t have the people, budget, or
resources, and asked us to come back in. We are hoping to announce
them as a client soon."
would not want to route their resumes through a competitor’s system.
"Clients have a problem with neutrality of the staffing firm,"
says Neish. Also, the company doing the hiring would lose significant
18 months building an infrastructure to support the end-to-end system.
Something built in a week is built on sand," he says.
staffing firms that you deal with. One company in New Jersey is narrowing
700 firms down to 10, he says, but that’s like what the Detroit automakers
face. Narrowing sources is more efficient, but you when you need to
increase production suddenly, you end up subcontracting anyway and
paying more as a result.
Sonny Injaty, age 34 and single, is a native of Bangalore,
India, where his father was an insurance executive, and he is one
of six children. He majored in industrial engineering at the University
of Bangalore (Class of 1988) and worked for a number of years at Bellcore.
"I have always been very entrepreneurial, and I started my first
company, an automation company, when I was 18. I watched the red tape
and the bureaucracy in other companies, and it was not an issue of
whether I would start this company, but of when," says Injaty.
After founding this company in 1996, Injaty and his cohorts spent
the early days building IT solutions for regional Bell operating companies,
but they had the idea of building an E-commerce hub for human capital.
The "Eureka moment" came when Injaty and one of the two co-founders,
the chief software engineer (Silvano Ravotto), talked about how the
future American economy is going to be based on services, about how
the outsourcing IT industry has been around for 20 years, yet there
was no order in the way the companies deal with staffing IT needs.
Some new hires left companies such as AT&T, Merrill Lynch, Sterling
Software and Salomon Smith Barney to get in on the ground floor of
a start-up opportunity. Anu Nikale is the third co-founder, and Neish
was the fifth person hired. An alumnus of the University of London
(Class of 1990) with a University of Chicago MBA, Neish was an investment
banker in mergers and acquisitions, edited several financial magazines,
and worked at Virgin Express in Belgium and Eurair.com in California
before seeing the Mirronex opportunity on hotjobs.com
Naz Khan at First Union is the banker, and Brendon Dougher is the
auditor at PricewaterhouseCoopers. The attorneys include Jack Hogoboom
at Lowenstein Sandler in Roseland, and Tom Klein of Wilson Somsini
et al in Palo Alto, plus College Road-based Buchanan Ingersoll, which
has done some patent work. Public relations is being handled by PR
21, part of Edelman Worldwide.
On the advisory board are Eric Clemons, a professor of IT outsourcing
from Wharton; Roger Milgram, an intellectual property attorney at
Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker in New York; Steven Kaplan, who
teaches entrepreneurial science at the University of Chicago; and
Josh Koppelman, CEO of Half.com, in Conshohocken, near Philadelphia.
At first the firm was privately funded by the cofounders plus by contract
revenues. Then it raised money from some very high net worth angels,
and now it is in the middle of closing its next venture capital round.
The VCs must be chosen carefully, says Injaty. "We are looking
for the smart money. In today’s economy you need to get the right
resources, the smart money plus money in general, to make things happen."
In the move to Princeton, "we wanted to get to a place that people
would recognize, and also because Princeton is a high tech corridor,"
he says. For the first year and half, while he and his workers did
business process engineering contracts for bigger firms, they were
looking for the "right idea." It struck. "We cannibalized
and refocused the company and have had tremendous growth, up to 60
people in Princeton and another 20 in India," says Injaty.
Though Injaty works 16-hour days ("for me it is a passion"),
he likes to hire entrepreneurial people who take ownership in what
they do and suggests they need not work more than 60 hours a week.
Soccer is scheduled daily and beer parties once a month.
The search for technical talent can be slow, and Injaty doesn’t use
consultants himself. "Our company is very flat," he says.
"We want to have people who see the light at the end of the tunnel,
who share information, and take input across the board."
"When we look at a person, beyond the technical skill, we like
to understand how they think, how they rationalize, are they logical,
what are their beliefs and fears, and what makes them tick," says
Injaty, who labels himself as liking to deal with people. Though he
studied engineering in college, he remembers that as a teenager he
devoured psychology books, from child psychology to parapsychology.
Analyzing a potential new hire can seem interminable. "In the
early stage of the company we used to ask people to solve puzzles,"
says Injaty. Hiring the vice president of technology took a long time
and involved a dinner with Chinese food and a puzzle that did not
get solved until after midnight.
"We put people to the stress test," says Injaty. "When
our director of sales came, he was from IBM, and we said, `Welcome,
now please assemble your chair.’ We tell people to please leave their
egos at the door."
"We like to take something and build a lot of value, for the team
and shareholders and industry as a whole. We have seen that when people
join us, they become much smarter people compared to their counterparts.
I take a lot of pride to be a part of this team."
Injaty likes to contemplate the brand-new Mirronex logo, a butterfly,
because it represents a transformation. "We believe in helping
businesses transform — the butterfly’s wings bring the processes
into its body, and the body is the hub of the network." Initially,
he says, people both loved and hated it. "They called it the moth.
But that is the strong reaction that we create."
What Injaty enjoys most: "The excitement of taking something from
nothing to something big, and looking at it and saying, `You built
this.’ It goes beyond building companies — we are truly revolutionizing
the way business is done."
— Barbara Fox
08540. Sonny Injaty, president and CEO. 609-243-0300; fax, 609-243-0380.
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