- The Washington Times - Monday, April 3, 2000

Modeling and building on-line support systems has become so important that the business world equates it to designing houses.

Architecture that's what McLean-based BluePrint Technologies does for companies of all sizes.

Clients come to BluePrint when they want to integrate all of their computer systems. BluePrint designs a plan, and often carries it out.

"The name … it's because we help companies come up with their blueprint design and sometimes help them with the shape of the house," said Roger S. Hebden, one of BluePrint's founders.

Most recently, the 3-year-old company helped United Parcel Service Inc. design its software system to provide computer communication between machines that sort packages and tracking devices.

"They have to keep up," said BluePrint President Ralph Alexander. "It's about minimizing time in development and maximizing time they get in operations."

BluePrint was started in the spring of 1997 by Jeanne O'Kelley and Mr. Hebden, two software engineers from Rational Software Corp., of Cupertino, Calif. Two years later, they brought Mr. Alexander on board, who is now president and chief executive officer.

His presence gives the two founders time to concentrate on parts of the company they know best. She oversees sales and marketing and Mr. Hebden is in charge of information and education.

Working at Rational, Mr. Hebden discovered a "huge need" for architecture consulting. So he and Ms. O'Kelley jumped on the start-up wagon with BluePrint.

The market for companies like BluePrint is big, analysts say.

"It's a multibillion-dollar market," said David Grossman, analyst with Thomas Weisel Partners in San Francisco. "It's a large, but highly fragmented marketplace … it's relatively wide open."

BluePrint's founders say they always knew there was interest in a company like BluePrint, they just "never realized the demand was so huge," said Mr. Hebden.

The company began with the two founders working in a small office in downtown McLean, "a tiny room with two desks and three chairs one of which was broken," Mr. Hebden said.

It was started with $525,000. The founders invested $50,000 each. A third partner, Jon Hopkins, joined the company in the fall of 1997. Mr. Hopkins, now chairman of the company's board of directors, contributed $250,000. AT&T;, BluePrint's first client, also helped the company by giving it $175,000 in seed money as part of their contract.

By early 1998, BluePrint had five employees and $250,000 in revenue. Today the company has 50 employees and three offices in two states. Revenue in 1999 was $4.2 million. Growth for this year is projected at 200 percent, according to the company.

The company's main offices are in McLean, about a mile away from each other. One serves as headquarters and the other as a training and education center. The company also has a 10-employee office in Denver.

"We expect to move [into the West Coast] in the future," said Mr. Alexander, who also wants to open offices in Chicago and Atlanta.

BluePrint today maintains 10 accounts, including UPS, NASA, Capital One, Fannie Mae, and EchoStar. It also helps out about 10 other companies. A typical contract lasts three to four months, but some clients have stayed longer.

Businesses, so far, have spent an estimated $85 billion creating Web sites, said Dan Malkoun, analyst with Arlington-based Friedman, Billings, Ramsey.

By 2002, companies will have spent more than $200 billion in expanding those sites for heavy business, he added.

"Basically every CEO in the world is faced with the challenge of getting his company on the Internet," Mr. Malkoun said. "And if they are already, the big question is 'How do I use the Internet to transform my business model and take advantage of the efficiency of the Internet?' "

So BluePrint is a busy place.

"It's not a nine-to-five job," Mr. Hebden said. "This is very much a 2000 company, so our engineers and consultants can manage their own schedules."

But he noted that often employees are still in the office at midnight or 2 a.m., a practice Mr. Hebden himself is often guilty of.

"I try not to do that," he said.

Technology companies, grappling with a tight labor market, are using everything from Starbucks coffee, pool tables and in-house dry cleaning to lure workers.

BluePrint offers a one day all-expenses-paid skiing trip to Winter Park Resort near Denver as part of a three-day semiannual companywide meeting.

"Next year we'll just have two buses," he said.

Aside from running a business, Mr. Hebden spends a lot of time on the road teaching courses and seminars across the county. In response to the high-tech worker shortage, he started a partnership with the University of Maryland, helping the school improve its technology curriculum.

Is there an initial public offering in BluePrint's future? Perhaps.

"We want to be open," Mr. Alexander said. "I came with the intention of taking the company public, but that's certainly not the only option."

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