KEYW: Adaptation by Iteration

KEYW Corp. expands core technology to balance risk


For technology firm KEYW Corp., government budget constraints are not hindering the company’s growth, according to Chris Donaghey, vice president of corporate development and communications.

KEYW is leveraging its existing investments in cyber and geospatial by developing new programs based on each customer’s needs—essentially building off of smaller programs to create larger ones, instead of starting from scratch.

“We’re designing, developing, and evolving the systems specifically to what the user community is asking for,” said Donaghey. “We are maximizing data reuse and the systems that are in place to help diminish some of the upfront development costs for the larger systems [our customers] may be contemplating.”

Donaghey added that this strategy is possible thanks to KEYW’s ability to look at opportunities on both a small and large scale.

“Our most successful programs started out small and went to thousands of users because we focused on what the users were telling us and how the system may or may not fit their needs,” he said.

“At the end of every cyber problem is a geospatial problem.”

— Chris Donaghey, vice president of corporate development and communications, KEYW Corp.

Founded in 2008, the Hanover, Md.-based company supports intelligence agencies and the Defense Department with advanced cybersecurity, cyberintelligence, and geospatial intelligence solutions. In addition to its government customers, KEYW recently expanded into the commercial space.

Donaghey said he finds value in KEYW’s membership with USGIF because the Foundation has expanded beyond the geospatial realm into other areas such as cyber and counterterrorism—two additional verticals in which KEYW is active.

“At the end of every cyber problem is a geospatial problem,” Donaghey said.

Commercial Expansion

While KEYW has developed initiatives in the cyber and geospatial worlds in order to grow with the defense and intelligence communities, it is also expanding into the commercial realm.

Comparison of two KEYW-collected images (left to right): long-wave infrared (LWIR) and high resolution electro-optical.

Though commercial companies may have firewalls, intrusion-detection systems, and any number of point solutions, most do not have the capabilities needed to stop the most serious threats, according to Donaghey.

“[We are] leveraging our Intelligence Community heritage to introduce a cyber defense system for commercial enterprises,” he said.

Its commercial expansion initiative, nicknamed “Project G,” is well under way, and the new software is expected to be available in the second quarter of 2013.

Discovering Non-Standard Geospatial Data

In addition to its expansion within the commercial sector, KEYW is also working on developing a system to make non-standard geospatial data easily discoverable. There is an enormous amount of non-standard data now available, such as geo-tagged photos from handheld mobile devices.

“It’s really about ingesting what we think are going to be pretty massive volumes of data coming from these non-military type systems and making all that data discoverable to the analysts,” said Donaghey, who expects the amount of non-standard geospatial data to continue to grow exponentially over the next several years.

Beyond this initiative, KEYW is also actively developing next generation synthetic aperture radar systems and high-resolution electro-optical (EO) camera systems, such as the EO system for the Army Geospatial Center’s Buckeye program.

“In addition to the management and dissemination of geospatial data, KEYW is very active in other aspects of the TCPED process, including sensor development, collection, and processing of various sensor data,” said Donaghey.

Unique Office Culture

To offset the often serious nature of the work that KEYW’s employees do, the company has a strict no-tie policy and a laid-back office culture. CEO Leonard Moodispaw named the company after his favorite vacation spot, Key West, Fla., and created the parrot logo to honor his affinity for Jimmy Buffett. Conference rooms are named after writers who lived in Key West and the office hallways are named after streets in the town.

“In some cases these are very serious missions and we try to offset that intensity on the mission side by creating a culture that is more relaxed and open,” said Donaghey.

Though the office culture is relaxed, KEYW employees take their work very seriously. The company also isn’t afraid to invest in internal research and development efforts.

“At KEYW, we are willing to take on more risk when it comes to developing new products and services [to meet the] customer’s demand by using our own profit dollars instead of waiting for a contract to be awarded,” said Donaghey.


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