Innovation Spotlight

StrateSphere nurtures the novel ideas

By
From the September 2014 issue of Columbus CEO

Original ideas are at the heart of business operations at StrateSphere.

The Gahanna-based enterprise development company wants to conceive, sell and develop projects that no one else is contemplating, says founder and managing director Tariq Farwana.

StrateSphere focuses on helping small- to medium-sized companies maximize their potential by finding untapped markets, providing strategic planning and developing new projects. In addition to providing venture capital, StrateSphere also offers management consulting and business support services.

The company wants to be involved in ventures where the proposal “doesn’t exist and nobody is thinking about it,” Farwana says.

Building a college in Saudi Arabia that offers an entrepreneurial-based curriculum was one such idea, he says.

Farwana and other leaders at the company are working with Saudi Arabian officials to help develop King Abdullah Economic City on the banks of the Red Sea. The planned city is designed to stimulate the country’s economy with a port, education center, industrial zone and resort area. Saudi officials hope the city will create a million jobs for their citizens.

StrateSphere worked with government officials and representatives of Babson College in Massachusetts to get approval for a college in KAEC that embodies Babson’s focus on entrepreneurship.

The college was a good fit for the city and the country, where 60 percent of the population is younger than 30-years-old, Farwana says. Saudi officials are very focused on diversifying the economy and creating job opportunities for young people, he explains. StrateSphere continues to work on the college, which is slated to open in 2016.

“We don’t just broker the deal. We want to see the deal through,” he says. “That’s the beauty of being in that space. We become the trusted partner.”

In addition to higher education and entrepreneurial projects in Saudi Arabia, StrateSphere also is working on deals in the advanced manufacturing and polymer industries. It has offices in Saudi Arabia and India.

The company also helps businesses find new markets and more ways to be profitable.

“We look at their core competency,” he says. “It may not even be the market they’re serving.”StrateSphere helped Mariposa Insurance Services identify new avenues of revenue by identifying its strengths and finding new uses for them, he says.

Mariposa used to focus primarily on helping insurance companies handle claims following natural disasters in the southern United States. The company was well-known for handling the claims smartly and efficiently, Farwana says.

StrateSphere saw that the company had the resources and technology that would allow it to take on more traditional claims and disaster claims in other areas of the country. Adding those services allowed the company to increase its market share and revenue stream, he says. The company based in Whitehouse, Ohio, also performs risk mitigation services and analytics.

In other instances, StrateSphere provides the capital and business know-how to allow company leaders to focus on their business mission. It acquired Global SX Events and its subsidiary EliteTrax in 2011 with the idea of helping the company further its efforts to increase support and spectatorship of International Cycling Union BMX racing events. Global SX oversees the general management of the BMX Supercross World Cup on behalf of the Union. The company is currently planning for BMX events at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“We’re there to help take the mundane stuff off their plate—the things that are not mission critical or core to the business,” Farwana says.

The business appealed to him because of the demographic Global SX was going after and because of the excitement around the sport, which became an Olympic event in 2008.Farwana and his team have provided valuable guidance, says Johan Lindstrom, CEO of Global SX Events, which is also based in Gahanna.

“We hit it off straight away,” he says. “We know sport and BMX. We had a vision and goals for what we wanted to accomplish. StrateSphere brought the business side of things.”

The company has helped Global SX Events manage its finances, reach new audiences and focus on its mission.

“We were way too passionate to be smart about money,” Lindstrom says. “The key was to bring a business sense and a business mind to this venture.”

The job does provide the opportunity for team members to become mentors, Farwana says. It’s exciting to be a sounding board or help others “peel the onion” as they discover the root of a business issue, he says.

“If there’s a problem, my cell phone should be the one that’s ringing.”

Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.