By Amber Kennedy

In a year when many businesses were disrupted, Norfolk-based TechArk Solutions not only grew, but thrived. Inc. Magazine has included the business on its annual Inc. 5000 list, a ranking of the fastest-growing private businesses in the country.

The digital solutions business, owned by ODU alumnus Pratik Kothari '06, saw a revenue growth of 59% year over year in 2021. The Inc. recognition comes shortly after the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce named TechArk as Norfolk's Small Business of the Year and Kothari as Entrepreneur of the Year.

Inclusion in the Inc. 5000 list after a year of global upheaval is particularly notable, according to Inc. Editor-in-Chief Scott Omelianuk.

"The 2021 Inc. 5000 list feels like one of the most important rosters of companies ever compiled," he said in a news release. "Building one of the fastest-growing companies in America in any year is a remarkable achievement. Building one in the crisis we've lived through is just plain amazing. This kind of accomplishment comes with hard work, smart pivots, great leadership and the help of a whole lot of people."

Since the company started in 2012, TechArk has grown from a two-person team to more than 100 employees specializing in web design, digital marketing and software development. It is the only Norfolk-based business on the list.

TechArk is in the Norfolk Innovation Corridor (NIC), a "technology zone" that enables startup firms and firm expansions to receive tax incentives and the benefits of doing business in an area with densely clustered physical, networking and economic assets. The goal of the NIC is to attract and retain technology companies while serving as a magnet for a talented and diverse workforce.

"One of my goals at TechArk is to continue to attract tech-savvy creatives to the Hampton Roads area," Kothari said. "Working with the other organizations within the NIC benefits us and the entire region by continuing to promote Norfolk as a hub for technology in Virginia."

Through TechArk, Kothari continues to collaborate with his alma mater. One of his favorite projects was producing an online portal and video training series with ODU's Center for Implementation and Evaluation of Education Systems and the Virginia Department of Education. The series enabled tens of thousands of Virginia educators to receive social, emotional and behavioral health training when schools across Virginia were suddenly faced with a quick transition to remote learning.

Kothari's contributions to growing entrepreneurship in Hampton Roads have included presentations for students at the Strome Entrepreneurial Center, where he took an entrepreneurship course in 2014. He has also served as a board member of the Entrepreneurs' Organization for Southeast Virginia.

In addition, TechArk has offered internships to ODU students, providing real-world experience before they graduate. "We are constantly impressed by their talent, work ethic and desire to improve," Kothari said, noting it's a great feeling to be able to give back to the University that "opened so many doors for me."

"It is exciting to see a local entrepreneurial technology company and ODU alumnus recognized in a national ranking," said Nancy Grden, associate vice president of the ODU Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and executive director of the Strome Entrepreneurial Center. "However, contributions from Pratik and TechArk go well beyond a ranking since they are consistently an 'entrepreneurial ecosystem contributor' here at ODU and in our region."

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