Conway-developed software can be a firm’s crystal ball

Rapid Insight Inc., one of seven tenants in the business incubator launched by the Conway-based Mount Washington Valley Economic Council, is developing software that can help companies predict the future.

According to founder Mike Laracy, the software can be used by companies to “understand, explain and predict the actions of their customers.”

For example, he said, “a company might want to predict which of their customers are going to switch from their product or service to a competitor’s product or service. To accomplish this task, the company needs to build a statistical model, but building one of these models can be a daunting task. Our software changes that. Our software cranks through all of the company’s data to come up with these statistical models automatically.”

Laracy compares what the software does to taking a drive to Boston for an important meeting. There are numerous factors to take into account in making sure you’re not late, including time of day, whether it’s a weekend or weekday, weather conditions and road construction. By mentally processing all of the information, you come up with a prediction of your travel time.

“Companies do the same types of things, but on a much larger scale,” he said. “They’ve got all kinds of data stored in massive databases, and they want to use the data to make forecasts and predictions. Our product boils the entire process down to a series of statistical algorithms that will find all of the relationships in a company’s data, put it together into a statistical equation and assign predictions to each of their customers or prospects almost effortlessly.”

So far, MCI has hired Rapid Insight to build statistical models designed to help the telecommunications company compete more effectively in the marketplace.

Laracy, 33, said he first came up with the idea for the software five or six years ago.

“For several years I had wanted to create this software but didn’t have the guts to give up the paychecks,” he says. “I started fiddling around with the idea and learning to program about 2-1/2 years ago.”

Laracy founded Rapid Insight in April 2002, and he moved into Mount Washington Valley Economic Council’s business incubator last October.

The incubator provides businesses with shared services and equipment — including a receptionist, copy machine and conference room — and a T-1 Internet line.

“Being in the incubator is great,” he said. “One of the biggest advantages of being here is having other people around to bounce ideas off of. Because we’re all start-ups, we’re all dealing with similar problems and issues. When one of us comes across an issue that we haven’t dealt with before, there’s a very good chance that someone else has already been down that road and dealt with that issue. If one of us has a technology question or a legal issue, we can walk right down the hall and we’re bound to find someone who has the answer.”

Rapid Insight has so far grown to a staff of three. Scott Steesy started working with Laracy last spring and joined the company full time in June. Tim Ashnault came on board as another full-time software engineer this winter.

Laracy said he sees no reason high-tech firms like his own can’t thrive in the North Country.

“It doesn’t matter where you are anymore,” he said. “You no longer need to be in a city. There are lots of highly-educated, bright people here, so finding the right people with the right skill sets hasn’t been a problem so far. In addition, there are lots of talented people who want to move here, so, as we grow, filling positions with the right people shouldn’t be an issue.”

But he said there are still challenges.

“For a small company like ours, the toughest thing is gaining credibility in the marketplace,” Laracy says. “Getting a big company to give us that first meeting is typically a tough sell. But once we’ve got an audience with them, and we can show them our solutions, they realize that we’ve got something that can really help their business. Once we’re able to gather up enough momentum to gain that credibility, it will become much easier to sell our products.”

And there will be many more products to sell as Rapid Insight continues to grow.

“The sky’s the limit,” Laracy says. “There are so many applications I see a need for that haven’t been produced yet.”

Contact: Rapid Insight, 447-1980, e-mail

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