FAST 50: Research Innovations founder just couldn't stay away from federal market

Research Innovations CEO Rich Briggs sold his first business after a successful 15-year run, but the challenge of the federal market lured him back for more.

Sometimes, even after growing a business and selling it to a large company, the craving for being in the business world does not die away. At least, it didn't for Research Innovations CEO Rich Briggs.

Briggs founded his first business in 1994 and grew it for around 15 years before selling it. “I think that was a great experience, but I missed the ability to focus on driving a culture of innovation that you can do at a small company that’s really focused on specific areas,” he said.

Now he's back again, and things are going well, with Research Innovations holding the No. 31 spot on the 2016 Washington Technology Fast 50 with a compound annual growth rate of 68.62 percent.

“One of the key things that caused me to create this company is to be able to focus on creating an environment where really talented engineers and world class subject matter experts wanted to be to work together and create magical capabilities for the warfighter,” Briggs said.

He selected the name “Research Innovations” to signify a focus on innovative research and development. “We want to focus on not just doing things that are already being done, but also coming up with the next thing,” he said. “How can we build something better that has better characteristics in terms of efficiency or cost.”

Briggs’ passion is using leading edge technology to figure out how to fill a gap or do something better, which means he and his employees work very closely with end-using organizations to understand their challenges, he said.

Research Innovations focuses on cutting-edge research and development primarily with the Defense Department, Army and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Services-wise, the company specializes in command and control, next-generation implementation of systems, data analytics and mobile capabilities.

Some of the projects that Research Innovations is doing at DARPA and the Office of the Secretary of Defense include using tactical mobile capabilities, big data analytics and visualization to support situational awareness and decision making.

For example, Briggs said, think of a smartphone that’s been “ruggedized” in terms of software and security that can be used in tactical environments.

“We led an effort for DARPA to create a secure ecosystem around that capability, deployed it to several thousand users in Afghanistan and ultimately transitioned it into the U.S. Army’s program of record to make it available to the entire force,” Briggs said.

Right now, the company sits at 50 employees, but the company is about to add to its ranks, particularly in the areas of engineers and military experts.

“We’ve got a lot of good, passionate people, but we also like to have fun and work together in a good team environment,” Briggs said. He and his team are excited to be moving into a new facility over the next couple of months where they will leverage a “Silicon Valley approaches” to team environments.

The company has also recently hired a talent and community manager whose sole job in the organization is to bring in passionate people to work for the company and grow a great culture, Briggs added.

Going forward, Research Innovations will be focused on coming up with solutions that are applicable to a variety of things and are free from “vendor lock-in,” as Briggs put it. “You have to be able to create solutions that the enterprise can embrace and bring value to everybody.”

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