NexGen survives on slow-growth diet.

Author:Caley, Nora
Position:Hightech Coloradobiz - Brief Article - Statistical Data Included

It doesn't sound like a late 1990s high-tech company, but it is. There's been no go-go years and no debt for NexGen Technologies Inc., based in Northglenn. Its two founders, Nadeem Rafiq and Chris Elliott, insist on slow, controlled growth.

In their first year, 1997, Rafiq and Elliott worked from their homes. They pooled their savings and borrowed no money to launch. They hired their first employee more than a year after the startup.

"We never had a big party where we were hiring like crazy," says Rafiq, president. "We believe in sustained, controlled growth, instead of going into chaos mode and running into growing pains."

That business strategy has worked through the high-tech industry's worst recession. NexGen is a professional services company for customers with high-tech needs. It doesn't develop software, but it helps clients develop products with software, specializing in Web technology, systems integration, database development and geographic information systems. Its client list includes Storage Tek, RTD, and the Bureau of Land Management. It is working with the BLM to develop a fire-history Web site that will provide Department of the Interior fire-history information interactively to the public. "You can pan around on a picture and see neighborhoods bordering on fire areas," explains Elliott, vice president. People will be able to print out maps of the fire history for a specific area.

On Sept. 1, NexGen will move into 8,000 square feet of space on 120th Avenue near Interstate 25 in Northglenn. It will move its 34 employees from a little more than half that space it currently occupies across 1-25 on 120th.

"Over the years we tried to keep it a flat organization," says Elliott. "We can't keep it flat forever, but we have a different culture here than I've seen in other companies."

Employee ownership is at the root of that different culture. NexGen gives employees stock, not superficial perks or stock options.

"From the minute of the stock grant, they have an interest in the success of the company," says Elliott.

And employees appreciate the benefit. "Not one person has said, 'Hey...

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