When an information technology company forms, founders often want to try to make their mission as broad as possible. But finding the right niche can make a world of difference, Daniel Cohen-Dumani said.
“It helps to focus on a particular service or product,” said Cohen-Dumani, 45, founder and CEO of Rockville-based Portal Solutions. “You can’t be all things to all people.”
About a decade ago, Cohen-Dumani founded the company, with its main focus to deliver products and services for Microsoft SharePoint, a Web application platform developed by the high-tech giant that has become more popular in recent years.
Portal Solutions made the Inc. magazine list of the fastest-growing private companies for several years, seeing revenue more than double between 2007 and 2011, to almost $5 million.
The employee count also more than doubled in that time period and now is at 45, with most in Rockville.
“We did a lot of planning for growth, but you also need to have some luck,” Cohen-Dumani said. “You have to have the right niche in the right place at the right time. There is now tremendous demand for our services.”
The Swiss native met his wife, Lisa, in France through business connections. He credits his move to Montgomery County to his wife, a Potomac native.
The lifestyle in this country can be faster paced, especially in more populated areas, Cohen-Dumani noted. In 1997, he became CIO and senior vice president of ExecuStay, which provides furnished stays of more than a month, usually for company relocations. The company was purchased by Marriott International in 1999 and remains a division of the Bethesda hotel giant.
Cohen-Dumani then joined Bethesda marketing business On Campus Marketing as chief technology officer and executive vice president in 2000 before leaving two years later to form Portal Solutions. His father owned a business, so being entrepreneurial came somewhat naturally, he said.
The company has expanded its focus beyond SharePoint somewhat since its inception to provide strategy, planning and design for the entire suite of Microsoft’s productivity and collaboration tools available online through Office 365.
Part of Portal Solutions’ digital workplace efforts was opening a Microsoft experience center in Rockville that provides a hands-on environment for customers to learn about the system.
Besides the recognition from Inc. magazine, Cohen-Dumani and his business have received accolades from SmartCEO magazine and the Tech Council of Maryland, which recently named Portal Solutions a runner-up for its first annual Outstanding Place to Work award. He also is involved in local organizations, including as vice chairman of the MdTech division of the Tech Council.
Portal Solutions works hard at creating a flexible work environment where people can work from home offices nationwide as well as locally, he said.
“We hire the best people, wherever they are,” Cohen-Dumani said. The company has a satellite office in Massachusetts, and employees work at home offices as far away as Seattle.
Portal Solutions also does catered lunches for employees on Fridays and has a fully stocked kitchen with healthy snacks. Other events include cook-offs and off-site outings.
“We know we can’t be successful without taking care of our employees,” he said.
Cohen-Dumani is successful at listening to employees and involving them in improving the business, said Richard Harbridge, a technology strategist with Microsoft who formerly worked for Portal Solutions.
“It’s rare to find a CEO that truly understands not only customers’ needs and employees’ needs, but also a CEO that actually understands the technology services work at a deep level,” Harbridge said.