SOS International looks both back & ahead as it turns 30
- By Ross Wilkers
- Sep 11, 2019
Reston, Virginia-based SOS International is celebrating its 30th birthday this year and the family-owned company has a celebration planned later this month to mark the milestone with employees, their families and some government customers all invited.
CEO Julian Setian will admit that it is difficult carving out time to reflect on SOSi’s journey from its start as a contract interpretation service provider for courthouses in greater New York City.
Today, SOSi is an almost 1,500-employee contractor that provides intelligence analysis and IT services to the national security community.
But Setian was succinct when I asked him in an upcoming Project 38 episode about how he has thought about the SOSi story since it was founded by his mother in 1989.
“Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves because it’s taken a lot of hard work to get here of course, and while 30 years seems like a long time it’s gone by in the flash of an eye,” Setian said.
“In some ways it’s drastically different, and in other ways it’s not different at all,” Setian added. “The culture of the company has remained very consistent since the day it was founded.”
So what is different about SOSi today? The company’s first federal contracts were for language translation and analysis services to support law enforcement agencies.
Over the years, SOSi expanded to providing more of that work for Defense Department and intelligence agencies along with foreign media monitoring and open source collection support.
“Now we’ve got a diverse portfolio of service integration-related technology businesses in the government space,” Setian said.
That includes work to develop machine learning and neural network solutions for use in artificial intelligence applications and image sciences. Setian also said SOSi performs some grey collar work as well, including building runways for military forces deployed around the world.
SOSi’s ongoing transformation into the company it is today includes both organic growth and a run of four acquisitions within four years -- dating back to the 2016 New World Solutions purchase -- to grow more of the intelligence and technology services footprints Setian described.
Most recently, SOSi added cloud development and agile software work in its purchase of Vykin Corp., a company certified to integrate commercial network offerings in classified environments.
But arguably the most transformative deal in SOSi’s history came in the spring of last year when it acquired STG Inc. to further move up the food chain of the federal IT market’s middle tier.
“It really pulled us into a few new areas: we essentially took the STG business and added them as two new business units to our portfolio,” Setian said. “Suddenly, we went from being only marginally involved in the government technology sector to being a pretty front-and-center player in that market.
In STG, Setian said SOSi gained a more substantial business in network operations and cybersecurity along with other enterprise IT services like software development.
SOSi is not done being a mid-tier buyer in the ongoing consolidation wave sweeping through the market.
“The marketplace is perfect for a company like ours because we have the resources of some of the largest players in the industry, but have the intimate understanding of our customers’ missions, work environments and challenges that they face,” Setian said.
Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.