Prize Money Helps Tech Firm Expand Its Reach

ZaraCom Technologies, a developer of an artificial intelligence technology, is the winner of a business plan competition for women-owned firms that was sponsored by a Rockville, Md., economic development group.

ZaraCom aids wireless carriers in identifying bottlenecks on their networks to better manage traffic flow. Its clients include telecom firms KDDI and Softbank of Japan, along with China Mobile.

Lisa Chan, co-founder of ZaraCom, told the Small Business Blog that the company plans to use its $10,000 award to market its technology to U.S. carriers such as Verizon Wireless and AT&T.

Chan said she believes ZaraCom's network management technology could help alleviate some of the concerns telecom firms have over the "network neutrality" debate, since some data traffic carriers have been criticized for blocking or slowing certain applications on their networks, causing others to say that all traffic should be treated "neutrally" and without favoritism.

Many wireless carriers currently use spreadsheets to manually design how to best manage network traffic, Chan explained, but the spreadsheets are often riddled with errors. The mistakes cause firms to purchase extremely expensive equipment they may not need.

"With our tool, the accuracy could be higher than 94 percent," she said.

ZaraCom's U.S. headquarters are in a Rockville business incubation center, where it employs 10 people. Worldwide it has 30 people in offices in China, Taiwan, Singapore and Japan.

"A business plan is really important for a small company because it helps you develop guidelines and milestones... and think about future activities," said Chan, who noted that ZaraCom's winning submission to the Rockville Economic Development Inc. was the 29th version of its business plan.

Other winners - all from Maryland - were InfraTrac, a Silver Spring firm that uses technology to detect counterfeit medications; Baltimore-based Syan Biosciences, which offers "lab on a chip" technology; and The Turning Point, a Frederick acupuncture and Chinese wellness center.

By Sharon McLoone |  April 2, 2008; 12:15 PM ET Profiles in Entrepreneurship
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