Alan Shimel talks with Ashley Mehta, CEO and president of Nolij Consulting, about the company’s deep expertise in health care IT, digital health care transformation, testing and evaluation, and the use of emerging technologies to solve issues in the government IT space. Now, the company is going commercial, and Mehta explains how their expertise can benefit IT organizations beyond the public sector. The video is below, followed by a transcript of the conversation.
Announcer: This is Digital Anarchist.
Alan Shimel: Hey, everyone. Welcome to another session here on TechStrong TV. We’ve got a new company, a new guest, first-time guest to introduce you to today. I want to introduce you to Ashley Mehta. Ashley is a founder, CTO of a company called Nolij. It’s not spelled the way you would think though. I’m going to let her explain that. Hey, Ashley, welcome to TechStrong TV.
Ashley Mehta: Thank you, Alan. Thanks for having me.
Shimel: It’s a pleasure to have you on. So I know I already said it so I guess we’ve got to address that first. How do you spell the company’s name?
Mehta: It’s N-O-L-I-J, it’s a play off of knowledge. You know, so I had some friends in the Silicon Valley and they said you have to kind of spell a little different, so that’s what we did when I started the business, yes.
Shimel: Excellent. Well, I guess the question is let’s share with our audience, let’s assume they don’t know anything about Nolij. So why don’t we give them a quick background there and then we can talk a little bit about your background as well.
Mehta: Yeah. No, that sounds great. So Nolij is a woman-owned small business. We started in about 2012. I had worked for some large consulting business to learn all the ins and outs of the business and management side, and slowly just kind of started building my woman-owned small business.
Today we have around 150 employees and we are primarily a health IT company doing work within HHS and the Defense Health Agency. We also do work within Homeland Security within the GSA. So it’s been a lot of fun and we have an outstanding company.
Shimel: Absolutely. Very cool. People think, oh, startups, overnight success. You’ve been at this now for about eight or nine years, and as have I here at MediaOps, working on eight years now. You know, you put everything you got into it, right? You said you worked for some big consulting companies, but give us a little bit more of your background if you don’t mind.
Mehta: Yeah. So I’m originally from Ohio, went to Ohio State University, graduated in marketing.
Mehta: Yeah, yeah. The Ohio State University. We have the Buckeye fans within our family. My dad has had his own business. My oldest brother’s in healthcare in mergers and acquisitions and doing very well. I’ve got a twin brother that’s also in technology and business. And then my dad was, like I said, had his own business, and cousins and uncles.
So we have a big background in basically finance and entrepreneurs and business and I guess it’s just kind of a little bit in my blood.
Shimel: Good for you.
Mehta: Yeah. So it’s been a lot of fun.
Shimel: Yep. So recently Nolij expanded into the commercial market.
Mehta: Yeah. So actually before COVID hit we started kind of thinking about, hey, let’s start exploring into the commercial market, see what’s out there. We do a lot of work within, like I said, health IT. We thought, hey, let’s go and see the private hospitals. We do a little bit of work within the private hospitals in regards to the contract that we have with the Department of Defense, working with them to make sure the electronic healthcare records are integrated with our system, so if any of the military personnel have to go into the private hospitals that their electronic healthcare records are there.
So we’re really just venturing out, getting our feet wet, figuring out if it’s going to be a viable market for us, and hired experts within the commercial markets. So we’re experimenting with the private hospitals and we’re also going to start to experiment with the payers as well, but we just have a very energetic workforce, great employees, a lot of technical talent, and just really trying to figure out how else we can grow. So of course started it before COVID hit and then COVID was interesting.
Shimel: To say the least. [Laughs]
Mehta: Yeah, yeah. But we focused a lot on marketing and kind of getting our name out there, so thanks a lot for this opportunity, Alan. It’s a pleasure and really, truly appreciate it. [Laughs]
Shimel: Oh, no. It’s our pleasure. I mean, part of what we like to do is bring interesting companies, interesting service products to the audience so that they understand. So you’re doing this, let’s say, going on seven years, and you say, you know what, we’re going to – when did you decide to say, okay, we need to get into that commercial market?
Mehta: Yeah. That’s a great question. So one of our largest projects is within the Department of Defense, the Defense Health Agency. So we actually have the pleasure of actually doing the IV&V for software testing for the electronic healthcare records on the Department of Defense Side. And Alan, I’m sure you’re probably familiar with that they’re trying to commercialize the product. It’s called MHS GENESIS, which is a Cerner commercial product, and Dentrix, which makes up MHS GENESIS, which is basically the Department of Defense’s electronic healthcare records that will flow digitally into the VA.
So once you retire from the military and you become a veteran you don’t have to literally hand over your healthcare records to the VA and have them scan it in and upload and that kind of thing, that it’s just all electronically. So it’s just better care for the people that serve our country. And so we’ve been doing all this support, making sure that there’s no defects and that kind of thing within the software. I think it was just kind of a point where, hey, it’s a large project, we do an outstanding job, we know the ins and outs of interoperability and data and defects and how to mitigate a lot of the risk with them in technology and software, which is very complex because there are so many systems that are integrated to make up these electronic healthcare cords.
So we were just thinking that, hey, let’s venture out into the commercial side, see if we can get some business there, provide opportunities for our employees to grow, for the company to grow, and I think it’s always great to get the expertise and get the guidance, and then you’ve got the resources to do the work, but just kind of see what else is out there. So that’s what we’ve been doing. Because you always have to build upon the capabilities that you have, and so the commercial market there’s a lot of opportunities to do that.
Shimel: Absolutely. I want to bring up something, and I hope I don’t embarrass you, but obviously Nolij is a woman-owned or woman-founded run business. In the federal space we have, you want to call them, set-asides for minority, women-owned business, economically-disadvantaged community businesses, stuff like that. We don’t have that as much in the commercial space, frankly. So I wanted to ask you – and I realize you venturing forth into the commercial market is rather new for you, but how do you find it as a woman CEO? The differences between navigating what for you is the comfortable confines of the gov space versus kind of the wild west of commercial.
Mehta: We’re not really focused on the fact that we are – I mean, we are woman-owned because I’m a woman, but we’re really focused on the customer and the technology that we have to offer. So we have to get out there, submit excellent proposals that have to do with emerging technology to help increase efficiencies and decrease risk for clients. Quite frankly, I think on the government side I think I’ve only submitted maybe one or two proposals that are set aside for woman-owned small business. A lot of them are small business and if a woman happens to own it then the government gets those brownie points and allocates those towards woman-owned small business.
But I don’t see tons of opportunities set aside specifically for woman-owned small business. Maybe on subcontracting plans, if it’s a large set-aside, then they’ll say, okay, you have to give 5 percent to HUD zone and 5 percent to woman-owned and 8A and that kind of thing. But I don’t think that – at least I haven’t seen within the agencies that I have been doing a lot of work in, real strong set-asides for woman-owned small business where women are actually competing to win the work. I mean, a lot of times you see these companies that quite frankly are owned by men [laughs] that get their wives to be the woman –
Shimel: Oh, I saw plenty of it. Yeah. One of the companies I founded was about 60 percent of our business was DOD back in –
Mehta: I’m sorry, say that again, Alan. I didn’t hear that.
Shimel: Sixty percent of our business was DOD. This is like in the mid 2005 to 2010 timeframe. And back then it was like native-owned business as a lot of set-asides. And I saw this firsthand and it got me really down on that whole line of doing things. It was like a good idea; try to give native-owned businesses business, right?
But then what they were doing is you would have like this small native-owned business that had one person who as a Native American as the titular head/owner of the company, and then they were just kind of acting as a front for the usual suspects, right? [Laughs] The large integrators. And I realized it was a good idea but in practice it was abused and it’s not what the intent there was. It was wrong.
Shimel: It is. So let me ask you a question. For people out here watching this now, when should they reach – what is the fact pattern, if you will, for when they say, hey, you know what, Nolij may be something that can help us here? Nolij is a company that might be able to help us.
Mehta: What is the what? I didn’t hear that.
Shimel: What is the fact pattern or what is – give us a typical engagement sort of scenario. Commercial companies out there saying, you know what, I’d like to reach out to these folks. They might be able to help us with this problem.
Mehta: Yeah. So we have lots of technologists that are in the areas of quality assurance and software testing, artificial intelligence, RPA, which is robotic process automation. We’ve just recently partnered with probably about eight different emerging technologies, different various artificial intelligence platforms that either helps out with customer service or help out with operations, like a lot of bots. But I would say that the whole integration of systems, getting them to work, making sure there’s no defects, because at the end of the day it’s like the customer, they’re using these systems and they have to be happy, right? Especially when you’re dealing with people’s sensitive information in regards to their personal health information or their personal data, cybersecurity.
We’re also kind of partnering with companies that have various cybersecurity technologies. So I think that we’re just kind of out there. And as a small business, you have to have strong partners to grow as well. Even large businesses have to have small businesses to grow because they have expertise in certain fields. So it’s really just about just building those strong partnerships, being able to go in, do the work with the clients, and just be successful in just making the customer successful. So I think there’s a lot of trust there that kind of goes into that when the customers give you an award.
Shimel: Absolutely. Ashley, you know what I realized? We got into the whole how do you spell Nolij, but we never gave the website for people who may be wanting to get more information. What is the website and if you could spell it.
Mehta: Sure. It’s obviously W-W-W dot N-O-L-I-J consulting dot com.
Shimel: Very cool. Nolij Consulting with an N. I love it. Ashley, thanks for being our guest on TechStrong TV today. Great continued success. Best wishes. Come back and keep us posted.
Mehta: Thanks, Alan. I definitely will do that. Thanks. I appreciate it.
Shimel: Very cool.
Shimel: Alright. Thank you. Ashley Mehta, CEO, cofounder of Nolij Consulting. That’s N-O-L-I-J, here on TechStrong TV. We’re going to take a break. We’ll be right back.[End of Audio]