SOS International LLC CEO Julian Setian sat down with Ross Wilkers from Washington Technology to talk about the company’s 30 year history in the government services industry. The conversation covered several topics, including SOSi’s start as an interpretation services business and its rapid growth in becoming a 1,500-employee global contractor providing intelligence analysis and IT services to the national security community. You can listen to a full recording of the interview, which is featured on Washington Technology’s Project 38 podcast. Highlights of the interview are detailed below.
SOSi was primarily a language services company when it was founded in 1989. How has the company changed over the years?
Setian: Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves because it’s taken a lot of hard work to get here, and while 30 years seems like a long time, it’s gone by in the flash of an eye. The culture has remained very consistent. Our mission has always been to deliver innovative and high-impact solutions that strengthen and protect our national security. Today, we are the largest private, family-owned and operated firm in the defense and aerospace services industry. We’ve done this with no outside public or institutional capital or ownership, which is unique in the industry, and something I am proud of.
SOSi’s ongoing transformation into the company it is today includes both organic growth and a run of four acquisitions within four years. How have these factors changed the company’s market position?
Setian: We’ve completed four significant acquisitions in the past four years, including New World Solutions (2016), Defense Group, Inc. (2017), STG (2018), and most recently, Vykin (2019). The acquisitions really pulled us into a few new areas, including network operations, cybersecurity, enterprise IT, and software development. Suddenly we went from being only marginally involved in the government technology sector to being a pretty front-and-center player in that market. Now we’ve got a diverse portfolio of service integration-related technology businesses in the government space.
Why are a number of services focused businesses, like SOSi, investing in technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning?
Setian: It’s just the evolution of the technology revolution. People are looking for faster, better ways of doing things. The entire economy is now data driven. There is such a pressing need to collect and analyze more data faster than ever before. If you are a services business and you can’t facilitate what it is you’re doing with some AI-driven, or technology-driven solution, or processing component, or workflow component, then chances are very high that you’re going to be left behind in the new economy. It’s really the competitive dynamic that’s really driving companies like ours to become more innovative and not think traditionally in terms of offering people-driven solutions. Instead, we are looking to inject technology wherever it makes sense in order to perform work more quickly and efficiently.
What will the next 30 years look like for SOSi?
Setian: The marketplace is perfect for a company like ours, because we have the resources of some of the largest players in the industry but also the intimate understanding of our customers’ missions, work environments, and challenges. We are investing in innovative solutions and developing machine learning and neural network solutions for use in artificial intelligence and image sciences. We are looking at building an institution that’s going to endure well into the future.