Telezoo Zips Through Purchasing Process

Telezoo Zips Through Purchasing Process<@VM> Corp.

Elias Shams

By Steve LeSueur, Staff Writer

When Bryan Cloyed, a telecommunications analyst with Fairfax County, Va., needs information about the equipment and services he helps buy for the county, he might spend several hours reading trade magazines and searching the Internet trying to find the best companies and deals.

But lately Cloyed has been able to cut down his search by at least an hour each week by using a new Internet service called, which finds the needed products and gets him directly in touch with the vendors.

"Too often, local governments can get locked into just one vendor," said Cloyed, who does long-range planning for Fairfax County's telecommunications services branch. But Telezoo, he said, "is a good place to quickly find things related to telecommunications."

Located in Washington, Telezoo began operations in March. It was co-founded by Elias Shams, a former network engineer in the federal government. He became frustrated by the length of time it took to compile reliable information about potential telecommunications vendors whenever he made purchases for the Transportation Department and other agencies where he worked.

"It could take up to three to five months trying to find the right product, the right vendor and the right cost," said Shams, Telezoo's chief executive officer. "And many times you would make the wrong decision anyway."

Shams wanted to create an electronic tool that would enable buyers to compare different brands of telecommunications products, such as cables, modems, routers, surge protectors and switches; send inquirers to qualified vendors; and even make purchases in a matter of minutes rather than months.

Telezoo is free to government and commercial buyers, who can log onto the Web site and select the service they want to use without having to register. Users who want to buy can search through a menu of different products and select the ones they are interested in purchasing. Telezoo's search engine then will find the companies that make products matching the buyers' specifications.

The Web site offers other free services too, such as technical white papers by participating vendors, a search engine to find qualified systems integrators for large projects, and the capability to post requests for proposals and requests for information.

"Our goal is to take the power out of the sellers' hands and put it in the buyers' hands by giving them the ability to search and compare features on a lot of different products from different vendors," said Shams.

Telezoo's service also puts small vendors on an equal footing with large vendors, because it does not require any marketing or sales promotion, he said. The search engine simply matches products with the buyers' requirements.

Telezoo makes its money from the telecommunications companies that list their products and services on the Web site's central database. Telezoo has signed up 500 vendors, including AT&T Corp., CACI International Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Computer Sciences Corp., Electronic Data Systems Corp., Litton Industries, Lockheed Martin Corp., Lucent Technologies, Oracle Corp. and TRW Inc.

Shams said there probably are about 5,000 potential vendors and services providers, but Telezoo already has a significant number of the major players.

Waldir Saliba, a project manager with the Department of Transportation, recently used Telezoo to put together a budget for a $125,000 pilot project to use virtual private network technology at his agency.

"Before, I would have to call up each company one-by-one to get the information," said Saliba, who estimated that Telezoo helped cut in half the amount of time spent putting together the budget information.

Telezoo's other co-founder is Shams' wife, Sharmine Narwani, who serves as the company's marketing communications director.

It took nearly two years to build the technology and get Telezoo up and running, according to Shams, who declined to say how much money has been invested in the company. He has provided the bulk of financing through money he made when his previous employer, Yurie Systems Inc. of Landover, Md., was sold to Lucent Technologies. He also has received financing from angel investors in Europe, he said.

The 14-employee company works out of the basement of Shams' Washington home, but he hopes soon to move to an office in McLean or Arlington, Va. "My goal is to have a positive cash flow by the middle of 2000," he said.

While Telezoo's service is designed for both commercial and government buyers of telecommunications products, the company is making some improvements to attract more government purchasers. One improvement is to put General Service Administration schedule products on the Web site; another is to customize the RFP service to accommodate government procurement processes.

Fairfax County's procurement regulations, for example, mandate specified procedures for buying telecommunications equipment and services, said Cloyed. Consequently, he uses the site to gather information about products and services but not to make the actual purchases.

Cloyed said he even used Telezoo to help his church in Woodbridge, Va., after a lightning strike downed the church's phone system. After putting a request for quotes on Telezoo, he received a response less than two hours later from a vendor that could do the work, he said. Location: Washington

Founded: 1997

Chief Executive Officer: Elias Shams

Employees: 14

Business: Electronic commerce
site for buyers and sellers of
telecommunications products
and services

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