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Political instability, other threats to global companies driving growth of iJET International

Ken Nisbet, watch operations manager, works in the global integrated operations center at iJET International.
Ken Nisbet, watch operations manager, works in the global integrated operations center at iJET International. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun)

When gunmen burst into the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January and kept Paris on edge for days, analysts at iJET International sprang into action, tracking dozens of their clients' employees' precise locations using a smartphone app and steering them to safety.

For global companies, it is risky just going about business these days. Even on uneventful days like a recent weekday, the company was monitoring protests in Algeria and Australia, dengue fever in Brazil and measles in Canada, and unrest in places such as Egypt, Iraq and Venezuela from a new command center in Annapolis.

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Along with the risks to human lives, such hazards could prove costly for the company's clients. And with more businesses looking for opportunities overseas, it is creating opportunities for iJET to help manage the risk.

The demand has prompted iJET to increase hiring and move into a new headquarters designed to bring all of its local employees under one roof, improve collaboration and enable them to keep eyes on more clients and better follow incidents around the world.

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"The world is changing. Those changes are impacting how we travel and what we're trying to do," said Dave Wingo, director of risk management for Terex, a Connecticut-based client of iJET's that makes heavy equipment used in construction, transportation and mining.

The risk management company iJET got its start in 1999 focused on identifying, explaining and mitigating the risks associated with traveling overseas for business people. But as globalization increases, it is expanding that focus — to expatriates permanently working overseas, facilities and suppliers based in other countries, and elements of companies' supply chains that extend around the world, said CEO Bruce McIndoe at a recent open house of iJET's new black-glass headquarters on Admiral Cochrane Drive in Annapolis.

"We want to be the organization that manages all the risk information in an organization," McIndoe said. "That's a big effort. It takes a lot of effort and money."

Its new 30,000-square-foot headquarters is part of that. The company's employees had been spread across four locations around Annapolis, helping to keep tabs on more than 600 clients' employees 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The company also has offices in London and Singapore that give it global coverage during working hours around the world.

Now the Annapolis workers all share the same kitchen space, common areas and bathrooms — a Silicon Valley-inspired design that promotes collaboration among employees, some of whom might have seen each other only once or twice a year at company picnics or parties, said John Rose, iJET's chief operating officer.

The space is designed with room to grow, with 10,000 square feet open for expansion, Rose said.

The iJET command center, where analysts scroll through maps and databases on computer monitors and watch flat screens tuned to CNN, Al Jazeera America and The Weather Channel, is capable of handling three separate major global incidents, and the company could one day stretch that to five, Rose said.

They also monitor live data from a smartphone app in the hands of clients' employees around the globe. The technology, called Worldcue Mobile Traveler, allows iJET to send the travelers immediate alerts warning of travel hazards, guide them around dangerous incidents or areas, and help them coordinate travel arrangements, including necessary adjustments.

For companies such as Terex, the technology becomes indispensable once they start using it. Terex began working with iJET about eight years ago because its technology was included in an insurance product bought from a third company, Wingo said. Terex officials found it so useful they went straight to the source about two years later, he said.

The company typically sends iJET four or five proposals for travel plans to review each week, and iJET helps manage thousands of movements by Terex's 22,000 employees each month, Wingo said.

That sort of business is keeping iJET busy. Its now has about 200 local employees, including nearly 70 analysts and a tripling of programmers to 30, officials said.

Rose said the hope is that the headquarters expansion will help secure more business, as clients see that iJET can handle a heavier workload.

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Its largest investor is funding the growth. Philadelphia-based LLR Partners provided $10 million, iJET officials said.

Officials at LLR Partners would not confirm that number, saying only that an investment it made to gain a controlling interest in iJET in December 2013 was greater than $10 million and that its investments are all in the range of $15 million to $100 million.

Previously iJET was acquired for an undisclosed sum by Swiss company 3i-MIND in 2011. Its current investors include LLR and Aegis Capital of New York, and the company's management also maintains a stake, said Brian Radic, vice president at LLR.

Radic said the investment firm is confident that iJET will find more business opportunities and stay ahead of its competition as companies increasingly expand their footprints around a world that is experiencing more political instability.

"That reach is becoming more risky," Radic said.

IJET officials say they see the growth as proof of maturation — from a startup in discounted office space in the former David Taylor Research Center to its new headquarters.

Bob Hannon, CEO of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., said the agency helped connect iJET to its first home as well as its new one. He called it "a company we're proud of."

"We kick around the term 'innovation' a lot, but that's what this thing is," Hannon said. "It's taking technologies and know-how and figuring out how it provides to the commercial markets."

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