TechWise, a small, Colorado Springs-born business, has successfully expanded its footprint both locally and in a blossoming overseas market. Today, the consulting company has grown to employ approximately 200 people worldwide and is positioning itself to help other small companies break into those same, under-tapped markets.

A private, woman-owned business, TechWise was started in 1994 by current CEO Shawnee Huckstep. The company initially provided Front Range clientele with technical training in Microsoft operating systems. In 2004 TechWise was contracted by Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base to provide similar services, and by 2006 the Department of Defense became one of the company’s most lucrative clients, according to TechWise General Manager J Chesney.

That same year, TechWise acquired 23 government contracts as a prime or subcontractor, he said.

But relying on DoD contracts wouldn’t always be a safe bet, Chesney added. The company currently contracts with the government on a couple handfuls of projects across the country, but federal budget cuts, Chesney said, meant a need to think outside the box — and the hemisphere — for Huckstep.

“[Huckstep] was able to foresee Department of Defense contracts shrinking due to budgets and sequestration,” Chesney said. “She saw the light to go to the United Arab Emirates to provide our same goal of improving human performance.”

Since 2011, the company has opened two offices in the Middle East, one in Abu Dhabi and one in Dubai, thus launching the TechWise Global subsidiary.

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“[Huckstep] saw an opportunity to collaborate and be part of the Gulf Cooperation Council market,” Chesney said of the political and economic union of Arab states, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.

While not disclosing TechWise’s specific clients, Chesney said the Middle East is primed for Colorado Springs’ involvement.

Fertile ground

According to Michael Boatner, vice president of TechWise North America, the modern and evolving UAE has rapidly developed a need for emerging technologies, and the subsidiary already has procured 11 contracts since expanding to the region.

“The UAE is a medical mecca for advanced Western medical care for the whole region,” Boatner said. “People come from south Asia, Africa and the Mediterranean to Abu Dhabi for medical care.”

He added that a large extension of the Cleveland Clinic is planned for the region, and that other tech fields could benefit with similar strategies.

“There are lots of high-tech options in the UAE right now,” Boatner said. “They are a very green society and are looking for advances in alternative energy, solar panels, nuclear power. They announced recently their space agency. They have a very ambitious goal of putting a manned module on Mars by 2021. So there’s a very rapid timeline for companies that can provide space support of any kind.”

Boatner said TechWise’s expansion to the Middle East and Huckstep’s related expertise may help ease entry for other local companies.

“I don’t think most local businesses can afford to spend six months knocking on doors in a place so far away,” Boatner said. “But we have a presence on the ground, which makes it much easier for new companies. [Huckstep] is very connected to the American Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Embassy.”

Chesney agreed, adding, “[Huckstep’s] goal is to help valued partners here in Colorado Springs and along the Front Range. She’s tested the waters over there and proven we can be successful. She’s let us know the water’s fine.”

Chesney said many invaluable lessons have been learned from TechWise’s expansion, and those lessons can also be passed to other companies with similar aspirations.

“This was our first time in a foreign market, so you learn to deal with language barriers, laws, customs, currency and performance expectations,” Chesney said. “Here, in our government contracts, the government gives you a performance work statement. They tell you specifically the tasks they want you to accomplish and the deliverables they want from you. Over there is a brand-new environment and all of these [variables] change.”

Sister cities

Boatner said Colorado Springs, Abu Dhabi and Dubai have shared characteristics that could further possible, profitable partnerships.

“Colorado Springs is a destination city. Not on the scale of Abu Dhabi, but we are tourism-centered. … It’s serendipitous that we’re here and can create this connection,” Boatner said. “We have opportunities that may not be absolutely unique to Colorado Springs, but that do make us a great partner. We’re exploring the possibility of sister-city relationships and sharing the cultural attractions of both places.”

Chesney said Colorado Springs offers a highly educated workforce with expertise in technology, health care and defense contracting due to the regional military presence.

Chesney added, however, that fallacies regarding the Middle East could be one of the biggest hurdles the region faces when it comes to foreign investments.

“It’s a modern and hospitable country,” he said. “Abu Dhabi is kind of the equivalent of Washington, D.C., and Dubai is like their New York City. It’s a great place with unlimited business and cultural opportunities.”

Boatner said TechWise has set  its sights on continued expansion overseas, including additional offices in the Middle East and an entry into Northern Africa.

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