Ex-Touchstone execs launch new tech-focused consulting firm

Kickstand founders rely on experiences gained at their old company

“Smaller and faster is better” appears to be the appropriate mantra of Kickstand, a recently launched government solutions provider founded by industry veterans Tony Summerlin and Jason Khan.

They’re the pair that previously led Touchstone Consulting Group, which was acquired by SRA International Inc. in 2005.

Summerlin and Kahn struck out on their own last December.

“What we’re doing now is a little bit more technology-focused than we we’ve done in the past,” Khan told Washington Technology during a visit. “But our strategy really is about being fast, not building a long-term, multiyear contract but getting a lot done in a short period of time.”

That approach will gain traction over time and attract new customers, Kahn added.

The underlying principle at Kickstand is to go in, do the work successfully and leave, a model that was unsustainable at Touchstone after SRA bought the company, Summerlin said.

“We’re in the get-it-done and leave [mode] rather than ‘we’d really like to grow this account,’ ” he said.

“We’re running tough programs and doing tough things,” Summerlin said, adding that it has been harder to find qualified employees for Kickstand than it was for Touchstone.

“We’re aiming pretty high. We want to be [those] one-adviser or two-adviser people,” he added.

Khan said rather than go after large indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts, he and Summerlin want to use their e-government, cloud computing and cross-agency cybersecurity expertise to help agency CIOs and program managers implement clearly targeted programs.

“Now with the current administration and the new push for open government, there are a lot of buzzwords flying around, and we’re hoping we can add some clarity to that,” Khan said.

Summerlin said business transformation is Kickstand’s sweet spot.

“We’ll apply the best technology and we’ll bring the best technologists into town to do it, but you’d better have the business figured out,” he added.

Kahn said there “are definitely some challenges in a business start-up trying to get work right now,” especially if you’re not an 8(a) certified or disadvantaged small business.

Kahn said that he and Summerlin had been in that position before and were successful, and they are beginning to see some new opportunities opening in the government sector, including the divestiture of corporate entities due to organizational conflict-of-interest rules and a greater reliance on task orders.

Summerlin has set a $100 million in revenue goal for Kickstand to reach in a few years.

To grow the young company and its nine employees, he said the firm will use some of the start-up funding it has received to acquire “very discreet, focused groups, probably in technology advisory areas or very good policy governance people” who have a very tight set of skills and focus on one specific area.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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