WASHINGTON'S LEADING BUSINESS MAGAZINE

Ernst & Young's Northwest Entrepreneurs of the Year

By Randy Woods |   August 2009   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION

The business is susceptible to market swings, as it often depends on school budgets, but Vernier expects his newest product release, a handheld data collection interface called LabQuest, to help carry his company through the current downturn with little impact to its overall growth.

Finalists:

Rajeev AgarwalRajeev Agarwal, Founder and Managing Consultant, MAQ Software

Rajeev Agarwal created MAQ Software in 2000 with the belief he could build a software company that develops technology in half the time and at half the cost of competitors. Agarwal’s entrepreneurial spirit dates back to his youth, when he overcame adversity to be admitted to a top university in India. Since leaving India for the United States, Agarwal held various management positions at Microsoft before branching out on his own with MAQ. During the past nine years, his company has achieved 474 percent growth, and now provides research and development for new technologies related to Microsoft’s Windows and Office products. By complementing his personnel in Redmond with other teams in India, MAQ provides round-the-clock software support service. Recently, the company’s focus has shifted to cloud computing, social networking sites and new computing platforms such as smart phones. Agarwal has also established a nonprofit organization promoting education to children in India, where he spends about three months of each year helping to build math and science facilities.

Fred BrownFred A. Brown, Founder and CEO, Next IT Corp.

Fred Brown is one of the few IT specialists who knows how to lasso a wayward calf as well as he knows how to develop a software algorithm. Raised around horse ranches and rodeos, Brown leveraged his parents’ entrepreneurial spirit into the creation of seven businesses. His latest venture, Spokane-based Next IT, was launched in 2002 to help personalize web-user interactions through natural language. Using his own money as well as funds from angel investors, he acquired software developer Spectre AI and further developed an algorithm now known as ActiveAgent. Using a combination of information retrieval, natural language processing and customer experience technologies, the technology can understand user intent and provide tailored responses quickly. One of his recent triumphs using this technology was the popular “Ask Jenn” customer interface feature on the Alaska Airlines website. Brown serves on the board of trustees at Gonzaga University and supports several educational and scientific