Corrections or additions?
These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring and Barbara Fox were prepared for the February 26, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Virtual Proctors, Online Tests
It costs a testing company, an ETS for example, approximately
$30 to administer a test to each individual who signs up. This figure
comes from Koushik Roy, whose new company, Checkspert, has technology
that promises to drop that cost to 7 cents.
Checkspert, with offices at 650 College Road, has a patent pending
for eProctor, its virtual test system. In addition to testing large
groups sitting for a GMAT or an SAT, the technology can be used one-on-one
by tech recruiters, and also by job hunters sending multimedia resumes
over the Internet.
Roy, who received a degree in electrical engineering from Kurukshetra
University in India in 1992, partnered with Romi Raj Singh in founding
the new company. Roy’s background is in consulting on IT issues. He
has worked on projects for a number of companies, including AT&T,
Lucent, and Ernst & Young. Singh’s expertise, says his partner, is
in business and in marketing. Singh, who holds the title of president,
while Roy serves as vice president, worked in marketing for Unisys
before founding Sysnet Technologies, an IT staffing firm with offices
in Yardley, Pennsylvania.
Singh continues to work at his staffing company while Roy and his
team continue developing Checkspert’s technology. While the company
is operating with a small staff and with independent contractors now,
Roy emphasizes that it definitely is "open for business."
The partners have been funding operations from their own pockets,
but are due to receive a $250,000 check any day. After presenting
their technology to the New Jersey Economic Development Authority
(NJEDA), the partners secured a loan in that amount.
With one of his company’s products ready to go, Roy says he is no
hurry to solicit funds from venture capitalists. Doing so would involve
giving away part of his company and he is unwilling to do so until
it is further along.
Checkspert has had talks with ETS, Oracle, Juniper and other companies
that test hundreds of thousands of people a year. Response has been
good. "They’ve been waiting for something like this," says
Meanwhile, the company’s product for recruiters is fully
ready. It is similar to the virtual test administration Checkspert
is working on for organizations that give tests to hundreds of people
at a time, but does not require quite the same level of security.
This is so, Roy explains, because the recruiter will meet his candidates
at some point, while the person taking a Realtor’s licensing exam
or a GRE will have no contact with any human involved in his test.
The virtual test for recruiters also differs from mass tests in that
Checkspert develops not only the technology, but also the content
of the test. The company now has tests on 11 subjects, including Oracle
DBA, C++ Basic Concepts, Active Server Pages, and SQL Server Development.
Recruiters register to give the tests at the company’s website, www.checkspert.com,
and pay $100 for each test. "If a recruiter is testing three candidates,
that is $300," says Roy. The recruiter then sends passwords to
each of the candidates, who log on to the website to take the test.
The candidates need a computer with a Pentium processor, 128 megabytes
of RAM, a microphone, and a web cam. Checkspert is happy to supply
a web cam to any test taker who does not have one. "They cost
just $10 now," he points out.
Sitting at home in front of a webcam, the candidate takes the test
in real time under the vigilant eye of a Checkspert monitor. "If
he talks to anyone or looks at a book, the monitor sees it," says
Roy. The test is stopped the moment cheating is detected.
In addition to helping a recruiter assess a candidate’s technical
skills, the virtual test gives him a look at the potential hire’s
communication skills. Each candidate is asked a series of questions
he must answer orally, giving insight, Roy says, into everything from
his body language to his accent.
Results are sent over to the recruiter the moment the test ends. In
addition, Checkspert archives each test taker’s tape so that it can
be referred to should any dispute about the test ever arise.
Advantages for the recruiter are the ability to test candidates no
matter where they live, doing away with any quandaries over whether
it is worthwhile to pay for transportation and a hotel room for a
potential hire. Expenses for such trips are also erased. In addition,
the recruiter saves time. He no longer has to buy or devise a test,
and he does not have to sit around while a candidate takes it.
For candidates, the advantages are similar. They do not need to spend
time or money traveling to take a test. Any place with an Internet
hook-up becomes a test site. The tool should gain more appeal when
overseas IT hiring picks up again. "Right now, there is a freeze,"
says Roy. But in the recent past any number of companies, large and
small, looked to India, Israel, and other equally distant lands for
IT professionals. Checkspert’s eProctor technology facilities the
Testing for the likes of ETS would be similar to testing for recruiters.
Checkspert would recreate the test experience in cyberspace. Instead
of reporting to a high school auditorium to take a test, perhaps a
GRE, candidates would log on in their bedrooms. Checkspert would replicate
the monitor ratio of a typical testing facility, providing one monitor
for about 24 test takers. It would use tests prepared by an ETS or
by a college, professional licensing board, or similar organization.
The advantage to the testing organization would be a substantial monetary
saving. The need to rent auditoriums and computers and to hire proctors
would vanish, along with the administrative tasks involved in making
these arrangement. Security would also be boosted, because the tester
would gain reassurance that the person taking the test really was
who he said he was.
For test takers, the virtual arrangement would mean freedom from having
to report to a test site that might be some distance from home. It
would also mean that no site would ever be booked up.
Roy says such virtual testing has not taken place because of multimedia
streaming issues on the tester’s side of the computer. His company’s
technology has conquered this problem, and is, he says, unique.
Roy, a resident of Plainsboro who will soon move to East Windsor,
was married last year. He met his wife, Anuradha, through friends
in India. "It was a semi-arranged marriage," he says. Singh,
Roy’s partner, lives in South Brunswick with his wife, Vineet, and
their three young sons.
With start-up funds due to arrive in the mail any day, one product
available now, and others ready for roll-out, the partners are ready
to test their idea in the marketplace.
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
Princeton 08540. Koushik Roy, vice president. 609-520-0564; fax, 609-520-8849.
Home page: www.checkspert.com
Park 08824-5235. Debbie Aguiar-Velez, president. 732-398-1000; fax,
732-422-4676. Home page: www.sistematica.com
In January Sistematica closed its computer and Internet training center
in the center of the state government office complex. At an office
in Kendall Park the company still offers consulting, computer hardware
and software, systems support, maintenance, and bilingual training,
but the owner, Deborah Aguiar-Velez, now has a variety of far-flung
clients. "You go where the work is," she says. Her staff of
six people now offers computer training at client sites.
In the Kean administration Aguiar-Velez had been the director of the
Division of Small Businesses and Women and Minority-Owned Businesses
in the state commerce department. When she founded her company in
1983, training employees to work on PCs was the major focus. When
she opened her office in Trenton (U.S. 1, November 27, 1996) she focused
on training minorities and she also qualified for reduced sales tax
in the Urban Enterprise Zone.
"Now I am doing a lot of consulting work and getting into the
Latino market," she says, citing software clients in Virginia,
financial organizations in Puerto Rico, and the Latino community in
Miami. "The business is snowballing in an interesting way —
using our bilingual ability to do a lot of interesting things."
Princeton 08540. Mohan Reddy, president. 609-720-9800; fax, 609-720-9899.
Home page: www.princetec.com
The software development and consulting firm moved from 3,500 square
feet at 4365 Route 1 South to 2,000 square feet at Windsor Office
Park. It went from 65 to 50 employees globally, with six people instead
of 12 people at the home office. Earlier, the company had been located
at Jefferson Plaza. It was founded in 1998 by Mohan Reddy, Raj Sajankila,
and Srini Nemani to do client server software consulting and Year
"The downsizing is over," says Sajankila, the vice president.
" Our earlier strategy was based on providing people to work on
a project at the client site. We continue to do that but now we also
provide total solutions. We take on projects and handle everything
from the requirement stage through development, testing, and implementation.
"Soon we may be looking to hire more people. We have one new product,
software application for managing contracts, and we are going to develop
custom applications from other products."
Clients’ payment problems plague most software companies in this economy,
and Princetec is no exception. One client who failed to come through
with the funds was a Ramsey-based foundation. For this foundation,
Princetec was working on the Choice Game, an interactive video game
for teenagers that taught values and making the right choices in life.
08619. Maria Valente, president. 609-689-9919; fax, 609-689-9929.
Home page: www.amtechsvc.com
Amtech Business Systems’ offices had been on Broadway, within a block
of the World Trade Center. After the attacks of September 11, owner
Maria Valente moved her business’ main office closer to her home,
according to Sal Pennacchio, office manager of the computer company.
The new address, 14 Hilltop Place in Robbinsville, proved too far
off the beaten path, however, and so the company has moved to 2667
Amtech sells, installs, and services computer networks and software
programs. "Small and medium size companies can’t afford an IT
department," says Pennacchio. This work is the company’s bread
and butter, but it also counts larger organizations among its clients,
and at the other end of the spectrum welcomes walk-in traffic from
consumers toting frozen PCs and laptops. It also installs residential
networks. "You’d be surprised how many people have networks at
home," says Pennacchio.
The new location gives Amtech greater visibility with its small business
and residential clients.
Amtech, which was founded in 1996, also maintains an office in New
York City, at 236 West 26th Street, where it has four employees. Its
Nottingham Way office has seven employees. Pennacchio says the company’s
New Jersey business is growing. "There was a void," he says,
particularly in the area of troubleshooting. "Software programs
are so huge today," he comments. Lots can go wrong, and when it
is too expensive to maintain an on-site IT department, outsourcing
to firms like his can be the answer.
Among the most dreaded sentences in the English language,
circa 2003, is "Please hold for the next available customer service
representative." It is nigh on to impossible to order a sweater,
add HBO to cable service, correct a bank error, check a plane’s arrival
status, or find out why the computer refuses to boot up without being
asked to listen to elevator music or worse for an indeterminate amount
AC Squared Solutions, a start-up located in the Trenton Business and
Technology Incubator, has developed technology that cuts down the
wait by helping call centers to determine just how many reps need
to be manning the phones at any given hour of any given day. The appeal
for consumers is obvious. The appeal for companies which operate call
centers is cost savings. Staffing up enough to answer the phones quickly
during busy times maximizes profits by keeping discouraged customers
from hanging up, and keeping staffing low during slow times cuts personnel
costs, which make up a good 70 percent of a call center’s budget.
Call center scheduling is a growing part of AC Square’s business.
It joins the young company’s expertise in supply chain optimization.
The former specialty involves getting the proper number of people
into call center chairs. The latter involves getting the proper number
of nuts and bolts onto factory floors, and especially of contract
manufacturers working on complex projects for telecom equipment companies
such as Lucent and Nortel.
Turgut Aykin is president of AC Squared. He founded the company with
Sami Saminathan, chief technology officer, whom he met when the two
worked together at Bell Labs. Aykin received his bachelor’s degree
in industrial engineering from the Middle East Technical University
in 1979, went on to obtain a master’s degree from that institution,
and then immigrated to the United States, where he earned a Ph.D.
in industrial engineering from the State University of New York at
He spent the better part of his early career in academe. In his last
position, he was an associate professor in the Rutgers graduate school
of management. His research was in the fields of supply chain optimization
and call center optimization.
He left Rutgers in 1997 and joined Bell Labs in Princeton, working
on supply chain optimization, and then did similar work for IBM. By
2001 he and Saminathan were talking about going out on their own.
He had knowledge of how to most efficiently manufacture complex machines,
and how to most efficiently answer of tens of thousands of ringing
phones. Saminathan, who holds an undergraduate degree from the Indian
Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from Wooster Polytechnic, had
knowledge of how to design software to accomplish these tasks.
Saminathan had worked for Bell Labs for 22 years, and was eager to
own his own business. A resident of Yardley, Pennsylvania, he is married
to Thamarai Saminathan, a pathologist at the Medical Center at Princeton.
The couple has a 12-year-old daughter. Aykin, a bachelor, lives in
Atlantic Highlands. They chose the Trenton incubator, says Saminathan,
because of the reasonable rent and the sales and marketing advice
available. AC Squared would like to find larger offices, preferably
within 15 miles of Princeton, but meanwhile the company, which has
two contract employees, is adding more functionality to its software.
The company has not received any funding but rather has sustained
itself on contracts. "We completed a project for a telecom and
invested the money in developing software," says Aykin. In a typical
supply chain management project, a contract manufacturer, working
on an order from a telecom equipment company, sends AC Squared a monthly
report detailing upcoming orders. "We analyze the data," says
Aykin, "and deliver them plans. What they should buy and stock."
These plans are comprehensive, he says, including everything required
to manufacture, for example, a complex, custom switch "right down
to the number of screws."
Such a service is important, he explains, because the world has speeded
up. "Since 1997 telecom companies wanted equipment delivered in
three weeks, in two weeks." This means that the manufacturer to
which a telecom outsources projects must have every part on hand and
ready to go. "These are not things that can be over-nighted,"
says Aykin. Parts, often coming from overseas, can take six weeks
to arrive. Travel time and customs play a part in the lag time, and
so do the parts manufacturers’ supply issues. "They have to have
time to order raw materials."
One missing part can mean a delivery date will not be met. This makes
the customer, who has orders to fill and installers standing by, most
unhappy. But having too much inventory is a problem for contract manufacturers
too, because it cuts into profits.
"We tell them part by part what they need to stock," says
Aykin. "Each bolt, each screw. This controls costs and improves
efficiency." Just as the big telecom companies have sold their
factories and outsourced manufacturing, so too have the manufacturers
outsourced their production planning.
Providing detailed inventory plans for the manufacture of one-of-a-kind
pieces of telecom equipment accounts for the bulk of AC Squared’s
early business, but Aykin says the company can apply its methodology
to manufacturing of any kind, including less complex off-the-shelf
The company also is gearing up to provide its services to call centers.
Aykin says one of the world’s largest banks is now testing its software
against that of IEX, a Texas-based workforce management software company
that is a leader in the field.
AC Squared’s software uses historical data and weekly updates to arrive
at mathematical models predicting just how many "inbound"
calls a call center will log at any given time. It takes into account
"calendar" events as well as "spatial" events. An
example of the former would be Christmas, a day on which traffic at
a catalog call center might slow to a trickle while that at a telephone
company would soar. Events that change from year to year — cold
snaps, terrorist warnings, special sales, and the start of a new school
year — fall into the latter category.
After calculating expected calls, the software makes up a schedule.
It takes into account percentages of full-time and part-time employees
the call center uses and lets it know exactly how many people need
to be at work at what times to meet timely-phone-answering goals.
There need to be enough people on headsets, but not too many. Idle
operators lead to slim profit margins.
AC Squared offers call centers a number of ways to access its technology.
They can buy the system outright, an option very large customers prefer,
or they can use an Application Service Provider (ASP) model. Call
centers choosing that option pay a yearly subscription fee to log
on to AC Squared’s website (www.ac2solutions.com), enter their data,
and print out a work schedule. A third possibility is to send call
data to AC Squared and let the company do all the work. This service
appeals to small companies, says Aykin, because it means that they
do not need any special expertise and do not have to spend time inputting
Call center scheduling facilitated by software could well be the "next
big thing," says Aykin, who points out that 7 to 8 million Americans
are now working for call centers, as are uncounted numbers of English-speaking
people in other countries, including India and Ireland. Research by
AMR, he says, indicates that software spending for this market could
reach $4 billion.
While AC Squared is preparing to reap its share, anyone connecting
with a human after a too-long stretch on hold might do well to ask:
"Hey, do you guys use workforce management software?"
— Kathleen McGinn Spring
08608-2102. Turgut Aykin, president. 609-393-2600; fax, 609-396-8603.
Home page: www.ac2solutions.com
Montgomery Commons, Princeton 08540. Frank Strasz, president. 609-252-1711;
fax, 609-252-1751. E-mail: Jackie@strasz.com
In January the software development firm moved from temporary
space at 314 Commons Way to 2,000 square feet at 316 Commons Way.
It offers custom software for the telecommunications, financial, and
computer-based testing industry. Among the platforms used are Wintel,
Microsoft.net, and Java Solutions, and 14 of the 20 employees work
at this site.
A graduate of Rutgers College of Engineering, Class of 1990, Frank
Strasz worked for Educational Testing Service and Virginia-based Cysive
in programming, project management, and software architecture. He
and his wife, Jackie, started the business in 1995, they moved it
out of their home last year, occupying temporary space at Montgomery
Commons until the current space was ready. Jackie, a 1998 graduate
of Rutgers Douglass College, has a project management testing background,
most recently for EDS. The couple is has a two-year-old son.
40, Princeton 08540. Hussain Sheriff, director. 609-520-0100; fax,
609-520-0535. Home page: www.postdocme.com
The web development company expanded from a home office in Lawrenceville
to Emmons Drive (U.S. 1, December 8, 2002). It does custom web development
for small business, web-based marketing.
Hussain Sheriff and Asifa Nahad, a husband and wife team from Bangladesh,
founded the company last March. He majored in mechanical engineering
at the Indian Institute of Technology in Calcutta and has master’s
and PhD degrees from Clemson University. She majored in economics
in Australia and has an MBA in international business from Boston-based
Road, Suite 1116, Plainsboro 08536. Sanjeev Sethi, director (strategic
accounts & partnerships). 609-799-5454; fax, 212-412-9009. Home
The software consultancy and design and development services company
changed suites within Princeton Meadows Office Center. It is headquartered
in Mumbai, India.
4390 Route One, Suite 2, Princeton 08540. Prasanna Satpathy, regional
director. 609-580-0011; fax, 609-580-0017. Home page: www.patni.com
Last fall the computer systems company expanded from 2,100 to 3,000
square feet at the same address and added staff for a total of 10
people. It does software consulting, services, off-shore development,
E-commerce, support and maintenance of applications, engineering data
conversion, CAD, CAM, and CAE services. It has offshore operations
08540. Jason Lee Harding, accounts manager. 609-252-9165; fax, 609-252-9121.
Home page: www.spireinc.com
An IT consulting office opened at Montgomery Commons last fall. Based
in Burlingame, California, it offers project management E-commerce
services, data base planning, system administrators, and network architects,
among other specialties.
Kendall Park 08824. Mike Zalepa, president. 732-940-8770; fax, 732-940-8780.
Home page: www.sysfoursolutions.com
In January the information technology consulting firm expanded from
3530 Route 27 to 1,200 feet at 3086 Route 27, Suite 11. Among its
telecommunications clients are AT&T, Lucent, Avaya, and Verizon Wireless.
It has seven workers at this headquarters and 200 people in the field,
doing everything from network support to application developers to
Drive, Columbus OH 43240. Siva Annaparedy, founder and president.
614-841-7501; fax, 614-573-7613. Home page: www.procti.com
The software consulting and development firm closed a 2,500-foot office
on 2525 Route 130 after two years here. The corporate headquarters
is now in Columbus, Ohio. The firm developed web tools and other software
products (U.S. 1, February 7, 2001).
Paul Butera closed Tavata, his software sales firm at 13 Roszel Road,
on December 31. The eight-person company set up sales appointments
for sales representatives of small to medium-sized firms. Clients
ranged from supply chain and customer relationship management solutions
to business process management and a live chat product (U.S. 1, August
The 5 Independence Way office of the computer training and consulting
company has closed, but the web site lists the headquarters in Mumbai,
India, and other offices in Laos and Bangladesh. Aptech had also had
an office on Station Drive.
Giampolo, president. 215-245-2291.
Peter Blood and John Giampolo closed this office and are working at
an office in Pennsylvania. They do custom software for PCs and the
Rupani CPA. Home page: www.genled.com
Last year GenLed.com closed its office on Emmons Drive. It does accounting
and financial analysis tools and applications, plus traditional accounting
and bookkeeping services, also in Metuchen.
& COO. 609-919-1266. Home page: www.velocient.com
This software company, based in Mumbai, India, moved out of 5,000
feet at 214 Carnegie Center last year. Though it has a working phone
number, it has no listed Princeton address. It offers on site or offsite
software development in USA, Europe, and Asia.
MA 02451. Paul Flanagan, CEO. 781-622-6700; fax, 781-622-6799. Home
The Massachusetts-based firm closed its Princeton technology center
at 5 Independence Way last fall. It offers a storage network operating
system with STORos software and had 18 people at this location. Now
it has just over 100 workers, most based in Waltham, with some in
California and New York.
Corrections or additions?
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