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For the week of July 26 through August 1, 2000

Tracking an $800 billion market

Wood River Technologies uses a smart Web site and efficient search engines to tap a giant government market


"Governments buy everything that has ever been made and every service ever performed."

Richard White, Chief executive, Wood River Technologies


By PETER BOLTZ
Express Staff Writer

Making Wood River Technologies tick, from left to right, standing: Dick White, chief executive and president; Eric Aaserud, vice president; Tom Luparello, vice president. Sitting: Left, April Ellinwood, controller; and Amy Spain, marketing director. Express photos by Willy Cook

Twenty years ago, when Richard White was building a government computer services company, Program Resources, Inc., in Washington, D.C., it never occurred to him to build a new business in Ketchum which would also service government offices in Washington.

But today, he’s doing just that.

Wood River Technologies, located over Silverado Western Wear on Main Street, is an Internet business which gathers information on services and products the federal government is seeking to buy. This information is, in turn, sold on a Web site named fedmarket.com to vendors who subscribe to the service.

White, 61, the firm’s chief executive, and his partners and vice presidents, Eric Aaserud, 35, and Thomas Luparello, 36, started Wood River Technologies five years ago.

"Governments buy everything that has ever been made," White said, "and every service ever performed."

This is the foundation of the $800 billion dollar market Wood River Technologies is helping to serve.

Fedmarket.com offers several services to those looking to sell to a government entity. Three of these are Bidengine, Construction Projects and IT Bids.

Bidengine is a search engine like Yahoo or Lycos except it searches a smaller field more intensely. It "finds bid and proposal opportunities posted by international, federal, state, city and county governments, along with universities, school districts, public buying cooperatives and large companies that have chosen to post their business opportunities on the web."

Construction Projects is another specialized search engine which "locates and tracks construction opportunities on federal, state and local government Web sites." It also allows subscribers "to track which projects other companies are bidding on and keep up with the competition."

IT Bids is a third specialized search engine that "scours the Internet and locates web-based bid opportunities" for information technology companies.

Another part of Wood River Technologies is Web design. According to Aaserud, the company’s vice president of content and business development, this part of the business is focused on the valley.

The philosophy here, he said, "is to make clean, professional looking, easy to navigate and aesthetically pleasing sites."

Some of their web clients are Walrus Gear, Scott USA and the city of Ketchum.

Designed by Technologies’ Mike Hone, Walrus Gear won Site of the Week from the Menlo Park, Calif.-based magazine Communication Arts on Feb. 6.

One of the things the magazine lauds the site for is that it "is a simple, straightforward and easy-to-navigate online catalog that assists people with finding what they need quickly and easily."

Communication Arts continues:

"The Web is all about providing alternative ways to get information and this site is a great example of how to furnish it."

A third part of Wood River Technologies is its Internet service SVidaho.net.

White likes to say he has a layman’s viewpoint of Internet service, and that Luparello, his vice president of technology development, is the technical expert.

"The slowest Internet service in use is a modem-based dial-up service," White said. "A dial-up service is inherently limited to 56K."

A modem allows the digital signals of a computer to be converted to analog signals which can be transmitted across a phone line. A modem working at 56K means it can transmit 56,000 digital bytes per second.

While SVidaho.net offers this kind of dial-up service, it also offers a service 20 times faster than the 56K which dial-up can provide—wireless.

The speed of wireless versus dial-up is "the difference between discernible waiting and instantaneous response," said White. In other words, users never feel like they are waiting for their computers to respond to their commands.

White said, "You put an antenna on your roof, and we put an antenna on our roof. The speed of the radio signal which runs between these two antennae runs at T1 speed, or 1.2 megabytes per second." This is 20 times the speed of a 56K modem.

A T1 line is a dedicated fiber optic phone line that the phone company runs straight to a business or a residence.

"The downside to wireless," said White, "is that we have to have a reasonably direct line of sight between the two antennae." Additionally, there is a limited broadcast range of roughly three miles.

Luparello answered questions about the reliability of the radio signals used in wireless.

"If there was a big enough storm, or a big enough bird on the antenna, it is conceivable the signal would be affected," he said.

But even if there was an effect, he said, "it would not be like cutting the line." You would see the effect "as a slowdown, not an interruption."

Wood River Technologies itself is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, the company is expecting to hire in the near future, according to White.

White says that salaries may not be equal to what can be found in major cities for comparable jobs, but he does assure applicants that "working hours at the company are flexible so the mountain enthusiasts among the staff can take advantage of the outdoor opportunities in the valley."

 

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