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Technology and Mission

Starta provides an integrated Internet-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application. We are proud to be one of the earliest companies to offer a service-based application with a rich desktop-application-like user interface that now characterizes "Web 2.0" applications. During our first five years, Starta exclusively focused its mission on the Affordable Housing industry, but as of 2005 it began an initiative to offer its business systems to organizations regardless of industry.

As a small business ourselves, we take special interest in serving other small businesses, although we have designed our technology to scale to organizations of any size. Starta's mission is to offer superior, affordable, technology services that can be used by any organization to improve productivity and communication while reducing costs. One of the greatest values is our unique ability to help companies work better with their partners and vendors

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Early History

The concept for Starta began in 1999 during the worst snowstorm that Raleigh, NC has witnessed. The idea initially came about while Gordon Blackwell, Sr. and his son Gordon Blackwell, Jr. were enjoying lunch at the only restaurant that managed to maintain power during the unprecedented storm. Gordon, Sr. was a well-known developer of apartments for the low-income housing industry, and his son was a strong developer of technology. Gordon, Sr. had found that the affordable-housing development industry was largely being ignored by the major software vendors of the day, as the industry was considered too small and complex.

Gordon, Sr. had realized that he was experiencing a growing need for technology that would enable him to increase his organization's production without constantly increasing staff. Gordon, Jr. saw this need and decided to incorporate a new technology company to meet the challenge. The company was incorporated as cStruct, Inc. in 2000, and later became Starta Development, Inc. in 2001.

The initial design of the system focused entirely on construction management and online bidding. However, Starta rapidly recognized the urgent need to manage the entire development process. Document and Information Management features were added to the existing core of Proposal and Contact Management later in 2001. STARTA continued to strengthen, evolving into an extremely functional Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that seamlessly extended across multiple organizations.

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Redesign from the Ground-Up

In early 2003, the Starta team undertook a ground-up redesign of the system, which completely discarded the existing code base for the system. This initiative, code-named "Jericho," was partly focused on migration to the Microsoft .NET platform, but was also aimed at consolidating and refocusing the system architecture based on Starta's better understanding of their target industry's needs. The new version of the system, 5.0, was entirely redeveloped in about 22 weeks, and was a massive success for the company.

The key underlying component for the Project Jericho architecture was a revolutionary new concept, the Business Operating System (BOS). Starta's BOS is a platform for rapid development of scalable, secure, online business applications. Core BOS functions include a robust task-based security model, directory service, and a project-based module framework. Another key attribute of the BOS is a high degree of customization--the entire user experience can be customized within the scope of a client account, providing an extreme amount of flexibility to meet unique business needs.

The Development Management module was the first application developed on Starta's BOS framework, and was completely targeted at serving Affordable Housing Developers. Shortly thereafter, Starta added a Case Management module for serving the Legal industry. The Case Management module was something of a landmark for the BOS, as it was the first time a plugin-based module had been fully developed on the platform--this was putting the supposed benefits of the BOS to the test. This first trial for the BOS was even more successful than Starta had hoped for: it only took two developers four days to develop the first version of the Case Management module, which included a new flavor of Document Management, along with other system standbys like journaling and contact management.

Throughout 2004, Starta greatly expanded its product offering. Online checklists and Document Routing features were added to the existing Document Management offering. Project Management capabilities were added, and the reporting capabilities of the system were radically extended. Additional data became trackable within the Development Management module, and its first Property Management features were established. An improved new user interface was also introduced in September as part of version 6.0 of the system.

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National Expansion

In 2005, Starta began a strategic partnership with Enterprise Community Partners (ECP). Among other business activities, ECP delivers hundreds of loans and grants to the Affordable Housing industry across the nation. ECP's business requirements included the Development Management module which had been Starta's cornerstone product for years, but their needs dramatically extended the existing functionality. Working hand-in-hand with ECP, Starta broadened and strengthened its services to support a robust new Funding Management section of the system.

The 2005 year was notable for many reasons other than the addition of the Funding Management features. Starta introduced even more compelling reporting capabilities, the powerful Process Tracking form of Project Management, and extended the core directory service of the BOS into a full-fledged Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. The user interface also took another remarkable step forward with version 7.0 of the system, and the system became more cross-browser compatible. Aside from these major landmarks, many other smaller modules were added to our system throughout the year, including Public Applications, Funding Provider Management, Training Management, and more.

In early 2006, Starta recognized that it could meet the demand for full-featured Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tools for small businesses, a great need which was being neglected by the mass market. Workspace Management was designed as a module to support every kind of organization, regardless of industry and size. Small non-profit organizations can leverage the power of Workspaces and related modules as easily as enterprise-class corporations, making Starta an ERP for everyone, rather than just for industry titans. Workspaces extended Starta's Document, Project, Data, and Communication Management tools to the world at large, rather than only to the Affordable Housing industry. In addition to Workspaces, Starta extended its additional services to general business, including:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Expense Management
  • Proposal Management
  • Online Applications
  • Class Registration & Online Exams

After serving the Affordable Housing industry for five years, Starta wanted to continue serving the small businesses that were often overlooked by other technology providers. Starta announced a remarkable pricing model that delivers to even the smallest companies the tools that were once available only for the Fortune 500

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Strategic Direction

Starta has achieved a significant value proposition for the Tax Credit industry (LIHTC, NMTC, and Bonds). The system also extends well by tracking and managing market-rate loans as well as grants. Starta intend to maintain its core competence of serving the affordable housing industry. Growth of the system will continue to be client-driven and when appropriate, new features will be offered to all clients as custom development.

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