Millennium bug drives Agiss expansion |
The following is an article which appeared in the Ottawa Citizen this spring and provides useful background information. Particularly noteworthy is "Agiss' approach is undergoing pilot tests at three major federal government departments. Each is a potential multimillion dollar job."
Office expansions, acquisitions ready local firm for year 2000
Mariusz Rybak, chief executive of Agiss Corp., says his company will be well positioned to cash in on the demand for
year 2000 solutions - Rod Macivor, The Ottawa citizen
James Bagnall - The Ottawa Citizen
The Rybaks are on a roll. In the past two years, these Polish-born entrepreneurs have acquired a group of technologies and put them under the wing of a hot new company, Agiss Corp., valued at $77 million U.S. early this week on the Nasdaq exchange. Mariusz and Andy Rybak --
respectively the chief executive and executive vice-president of Agiss -- are now laying the foundation for what they hope will be some truly
rapid growth. The brothers announced yesterday that Agiss Software Corp., the Ottawa-based operating arm of Agiss Corp., have opened
new offices in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City. They also confirmed in an interview that they are planning this year to acquire one or more companies, likely based in the Ottawa region. the main driving force for all this activity is the "millennium bug." Governments and large businesses alike are spending billions to upgrade accounting, payroll, telephone and other computer programs so they'll be able to recognize the year 2000. Most of necessary revisions to the computer code are being handled by in-house staff. But the job is so big that a fair chunk of the effort expected to be handed over to third party specialists like Agiss. The Ottawa firm provides services and software, packaged under the Remedy2000 brandname, that expedite the job of re-writing software code. Agiss' approach is undergoing pilot tests at three major federal government departments. Each is a potential multimillion dollar job. "People still don't really understand how critical the problem is", says Mariusz. But he also believes it's inevitable that computer network operators will very soon be seized by a sense of urgency -- and only companies that are already well positioned to fix their millennium bug will benefit. "We have to move very quickly to be ready because there isn't much time left," says Mariusz. Until recently, the Rybaks had been content to run a pair of family owned companies that specialize in environmental technologies. This conformed to an early interest in the field by Mariusz, who has a degree in environmental engineering from the University of Olsztyn in Poland. By the mid-1990s, Mariusz began to expand his environmental interests. In the process, he and his brother acquired Ottawa-based CPAD Technologies Inc. and Agiss Power Technologies Corp., which provided the base for a jump into the millennium bug industry. Both companies are in the environmental technology field -- CPAD, for example, makes products that can detect explosives, chemicals or drugs. But the two firms also employ a lot of software developers. Mariusz decided he could make better use of his software engineers by steering their efforts into Agiss Software Corp., a new company he created in late 1996.
Agiss will concentrate on the fast-developing market in fixing millennium bugs, in some cases drawing on the expertise of CPAD's computer experts. However, in order to create a compelling package for Agiss to offer, Mariusz needed fresh technology. Mariusz scoured the continent, hunting for Year 2000 experts. Early this year, he found one he liked in ConSyGen Inc. of Phoenix, Arizona. ConSyGen makes a tool that automates the conversion of software code. In Jan., Mariusz signed a marketing pact which gives Agiss Software government and markets in eastern Canada -- and non-exclusive rights elsewhere. Mariusz still wasn't satisfied. In order to market his millennium bug solution in a high-profile fashion, he had to take his company public and do it quickly. Issuing shares through a conventional initial public offering would take many months. It would also divert a lot of his time just when Agiss needs to spend all its effort selling its services. So Mariusz began searching for a shell company -- one with few or no assets but which already has a listing on a public exchange. Enviro Industries Inc., and environmental technology company based in Cocagne, New Brunswick, fit the bill. Enviro, initially incorporated in 1988 as a Delaware holding company, traded on the Nasdaq over-the-counter market, a stock exchange network run by accredited securities dealers. In late February, Enviro acquired Agiss Software Corp. in a reverse takeover that gave Rybaks controlling interest. Enviro last month was renamed Agiss Corp., thus becoming the new parent company and taking over the Nasdaq listing. For the Rybaks, who own two-thirds of Agiss Corp., it's just the beginning. Agiss Software is to become their vehicle for creating and selling a family of software products. It already markets a handful of environmental software products, such as a waste management and inventory control system. And Agiss is developing its own millennium bug software packages. So what happens on Jan. 1, 2000? The Rybaks are already one step ahead. Even as they gear up to sell millennium bug fixes, they are positioning Agiss to thrive as a different kind of computer services firm. They will help companies and government departments shift programs from mainframe computers to networks of personal computers. The Rybaks have also indicated they intend soon to take CPAD public. Clearly, the region is going to hear a lot more from this family in the next few years.