There’s nothing like a roaring pandemic to accelerate growth — that is, for companies in critical fields like the medical industry or digital communications, where global demand ramped up after COVID-19 broke out.
And that growth has trickled down to a number of New Mexico technology firms, such as Albuquerque-based Indica Labs Inc., which encompasses the best of both worlds, offering software products and services for the medical community to enable digital-based pathology, clinical research and drug development.
In fact, at the height of the COVID outbreak in spring 2020, Indica partnered with a Virginia-based information technology firm to create a global, online repository for microscopic images of coronavirus-infected tissue — financed and hosted by the National Institutes of Health — that has allowed thousands of researchers in hundreds of countries to analyze autopsy tissue and biopsies from virus victims.
The company, which launched in 2011, has created a proprietary platform, dubbed HALO, for pathology software and services that are embedded with specialized algorithms and artificial intelligence to conduct computational molecular analysis of images. Since launching HALO in 2013, Indica has focused largely on the pharmaceutical industry, generating a formidable base of customers involved in drug development.
And more recently, it’s created new software products for clinical research, such as the digital coronavirus repository, and for diagnostics to improve lab pathology. In May, for example, it launched a new deep learning-based screening tool, called HALO Prostate AI, that’s designed to assist pathologists in identifying and grading prostate cancer in core needle biopsies.
The company experienced rapid growth well before the pandemic started, reflecting growing adoption of digital pathology in the medical industry. More than 800 customers now use its software and services globally, including the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical firms, said Indica founder and CEO Steven Hashagen.
It moved in 2019 from a 3,000-square-foot office in Corrales to a 14,000-square-foot facility in northwest Albuquerque, boosted by $600,000 in state Local Economic Development Act funding. It also maintains field teams in five other countries, including the UK, Japan, China, Switzerland and Cyprus.
But while Indica’s expansion reflects consistent, organic growth, the pandemic also accelerated demand for its products and services as more medical professionals seek digital options to manage their work.
“We never laid anybody off in the pandemic,” Hashagen told the Journal. “We had increasing demand from people working outside of their labs. Many of them travel to multiple sites and facilities in different places, but our software enables them to stop traveling and work remotely.”
Indica joined the Flying 40 for the first time this year, immediately rising to the top of the above-$10 million list after growing its revenue by 323% over the past five years, from $5.4 million in 2017 to $23 million last year. Its workforce expanded from 21 to 83 employees in the same period.
High flyers above $10M
Like Indica, the top 10 revenue-growing companies in the above-$10 million category all report triple-digit expansion since 2017.
Taken together, those companies grew their collective revenue by 160%, from $213 million in 2017 to $553 million last year. Their combined workforce more than doubled in the same period, from 1,587 employees to 3,240.
Most companies faced significant challenges in the pandemic, from inability to meet directly with customers to supply-chain shortages. Supply-chain problems continue, and many are now struggling to recruit needed talent in today’s fickle labor market.
But most have successfully overcome the challenges to resume rapid growth. And some — especially information technology firms — saw demand increase throughout the pandemic as more firms moved to cloud-based operations and remote workforces.
IT firm Speridian Technologies, for example, reported a 150% leap in revenue last year, from $66.6 million in 2020 to $168.2 million in 2021.
That immensely accelerated its five-year growth rate, earning it second place on this year’s above-$10 million list — up from ninth place last year — based on a 239% expansion since 2017, when it reported $49.6 million in revenue.
IT consulting and engineering firm Advanced Network Management also reported major growth last year, with revenue climbing 26% from $158.8 million in 2020 to $200 million, making ANM the Flying 40’s second-highest revenue earning company for three years in a row.
The company has significantly expanded its cybersecurity services alongside the other network management and IT support it offers to accommodate customers’ growing demand for cloud-based operations, said ANM CEO Raminder Mann.
“Our clients are all getting cloud-dependent, because everyone wants to work from home, and we need to secure it all,” Mann told the Journal. “We’ve made a lot of investment in cloud capabilities, which has contributed to our growth.”
On the other hand, supply-chain issues are impeding even faster expansion. ANM actually had $243 million in customer bookings last year, but it could only invoice $200 million in actual shipments because of delivery delays.
“The supply chain is a real drag,” Mann said. “We just booked an order for the Denver International Airport, but we won’t ship until August, which reflects the problems we face.”
Other firms on the above-$10 million list report robust, ongoing growth.
Metis Technologies Inc., for example — a woman-owned engineering firm that provides space mission support for NASA and other government entities — has earned spots on the above-$10 million list for four years in a row, after breaking out of the below-$10 million rankings in 2018.
The company, which launched in 2011, has actually dropped in the rankings over the years, falling from third place in 2019 to ninth place this year.
But it continues to report solid annual expansion, reaching $16 million in revenue and 120 employees last year. That’s up from $7.5 million and 60 employees in 2017.
In fact, the Small Business Administration named Metis founder and CEO Joy Colucci as its small Business Person of the Year for 2022.
“We now have 11 years under our belt and we’re getting some real traction,” Colucci told the Journal. “… A lot of being successful is learning how to take the punches and stick it out even as you get bogged down in day-to-day issues and challenges. But there are many wins along the way, and we’ve done nothing but grow every year.”
Below $10M awardees
Most companies on the below-$10 million list showed significant growth as well over the past five years, albeit at much lower revenue levels than the Flying 40’s above-$10 million and top-revenue honorees.
Taken together, those companies reported $40 million in combined revenue, up from $18.4 million in 2017. Their collective workforce expanded from 158 employees to 245 in the same period.
Active Optical Systems LLC headed the pack, after growing its revenue by 688%, from just $433,000 in 2017 to $3.4 million last year. Its workforce also expanded from 3 employees to 18.
The company makes “deformable,” or foldable, mirrors and related hardware to control laser beams. It launched in 2005 as a spin-off firm from MZA Associates, another long-time Flying 40 company that does modeling and analysis on laser systems and imaging for defense agencies.
MZA, however, focuses on IT and software to enable beam control for laser weapons to acquire, track and engage targets from long distances at the speed of light.
AOS broke away from MZA to focus on the needed hardware for control systems, particularly the mirrors used to warp and shape light into precision beams that can effectively slice through atmospheric conditions to accurately hit intended targets, said company co-owner and CEO Justin Mansell.
After decades of development, the military is now working to deploy laser weapons in the field, creating major opportunities for both AOS and MZA.
“Directed energy technology is really coming of age, and our surge in growth reflects that,” Mansell told the Journal.
The company spent its early years fully developing and perfecting the hardware, which includes a suite of tools for laser operators to bend, twist and point the deformable mirrors, plus sensors to measure the atmosphere, detect targets and track the laser beam, said AOS co-owner and Chief Operating Officer Jesse Jameson.
That’s put the company in the right place at the right time, as directed energy systems take off.
Like MZA — which ranked fifth this year on the Flying 40’s above-$10 million list — AOS is climbing the ranks, moving from 13th in the below-$10 million list in 2020 to fourth place last year, and first place this year.
And it anticipates another 26% hike in revenue this year as well, to $4.3 million.
Meanwhile, other below-$10 million companies continue to grow at a steady clip. Data analytics firm RS21, for example, took second place again this year after growing its revenue 356% since 2017, from $1.87 million to $8.5 million. The company won second place last year too after reaching $6.1 million in 2020.