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So how did a 55-person company started in 2002 as an Internet service provider in West Africa become a key Defense Department contractor?

"Segovia focused on a core competency," said Lt. Col. David Hotop, chief of the experimentation division at the Army lab. "The company delivers large bandwidth with commercial communications and it understands security." Hotop commanded space support teams in Iraq and used the company's IP satellite services.

Farrell said officials at small information technology companies make the same mistake of trying to do everything when doing business with the government. He said Segovia decided to provide only IP satellite services, chose the right companies to work with and the appropriate contracts to pursue, then delivered the services for the business won, said Kirby Farrell, executive vice president for sales and marketing at Segovia Inc., an IP satellite services firm in Herndon, Va.

Dan Heinemeier, president of the Government Electronics and IT Association, an industry trade and lobby group in Arlington, Va., said the company's business strategy sounds so simple but it works. "There's no question the government wants to work with small businesses. They just need a core competency," he said.

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