Six years ago Brian Parish had an idea of how to help higher education institutions solve operating problems they face everyday: getting students into the courses they want, capturing and tracking custom data and integrating existing systems.
So in 2004 Parish started iData out of the basement of his Del Ray home.
"It was just me for the first year and half," he said. "Now we have 18 employees plus a series of subcontractors."
Last month that vision earned his firm, iData, a spot on New York-based Inc. magazine's 500 list as one of the nation's fastest growing privately held companies.
This distinction places the Alexandria firm in the ranks of technology giants Microsoft, Oracle and Intuit.
"Fast growth at any time is a big achievement; fast growth during the past few years is just short of miraculous," said Inc. editor Jane Berentson. "The Inc. 500 consists of these just-short-of miraculous companies, the ones that through ingenuity and ambition have increased revenue, hired employees, and grown fast in difficult economic times."
iData now operates out of a four office/conference room suite at 225 Reinaker Lane. However, only four staffers occupy the space on a daily basis.
"It really doesn't make sense to have our people work out of this office when our clients are spread throughout the country and abroad," Parish said. "We hire from a network of contacts. Since we work with colleges and universities all over, it makes more sense for our people to operate from diverse locations.
Most of Parshs employees call the northeast home.
iData made the Inc. list by registering a 683-percent revenue growth over the last three years. It now ranks number four among companies in the education sector and number 438 in Inc.'s overall list.
Their specialty is helping higher education institutions succeed with their multiple administrative systems and institutional research processes. iData has accomplished this by assembling a unique team of higher education industry experts, according to Parish, a Northern Virginia native.
"Every school has some specialized needs. Our mission to help each of our clients with their administrative systems and create new methodologies to solve problems that may have been troubling them for years," he said.
As an example he cited the annual student crunch to register for the courses they want to take in a given semester. In many cases the students get in lines in the gym or another rallying point. When a course is full, that's it, and those that missed the number cut have to make other choices, Parish said.
"With our technology the university is able to forecast those demands and make the necessary accommodations, he said. It's a win-win for the school and the students.
Parish is also a cheerleader for locating a business in Alexandria. He likes the public transit options.
"When deciding to move the business from my home, this was the perfect location, he said.
Although the recession did cause some iData clients to put a hold on their IT consulting, that is now opening up again, according to Parish. "If we continue to live up our promise we will continue to grow," he said.