FSU supplying talent to California-based Pondera Solutions

By Robert Lawson | Jun 20, 2016

TALLAHASSEE – California-based Pondera Solutions, which has plans to double the staff at its Tallahassee testing facility, is working closely with Florida State University (FSU) to tap its talent pool. 

TALLAHASSEE – California-based Pondera Solutions, which has plans to double the staff at its Tallahassee testing facility, is working closely with Florida State University (FSU) to tap its talent pool. 

The company, which specializes in detecting fraud and waste within government, has yet to land a contract with the state, but does test and fine-tune its software at the Tallahassee facility.

Jon Coss, CEO and founder of Pondera Solutions, told the Florida Record in an email interview that the company wants to provide its services to Florida's state agencies but is currently working through several complex variables to make that happen. In the meantime, the company is looking for potential employees within state agencies, as well as through FSU. 

“State government in Florida has always been at or near the top in terms of detecting and dealing with fraud, especially identity theft," Coss said. “So naturally we looked to hire some expertise out of Florida state government. The success of those early hires led to us opening an office in Tallahassee and to our interest in hiring some interns from FSU.”

Jon Coss, CEO and founder of Pondera Solutions   Pondera Solutions

Within the next eight months, the company will reportedly double the size of its staff in the state. Though the company has no direct contract with Florida government, it has contracts in several other states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia, California, Nevada and Iowa. The FSU relationship seems equally beneficial to Pondera Solutions and the college.

“We were so pleased with the contributions of the interns that we expanded our relationship with FSU and now we are an approved placement company for the internship program with the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice,” Coss said. “We look forward to continuing to grow this relationship because we think it benefits the university, Pondera and the students.”

Out of its 45 employees in Florida, California and Ohio, 14 of them work in Tallahassee. The company provides a chance for those already in the legal profession or government service sector, or for students seeking a career in the field, to also enter a career in technology. The company was named to GovTech 100, which is a list of 100 companies dedicated to improving government operations.

Fraud Detection as a Service Software (FDaaS) is deployed in large government programs for Medicaid, unemployment insurance, taxes and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It is a cloud-based system that uses advanced analytics to detect suspicious anomalies, trends, clusters and patterns that may indicate fraud. It then returns the results of its analytics to an Investigative Dashboard with alerts, geospatial analysis and link analysis maps. It runs every single program participant and transaction through a series of procedural models (to identify known issues such as billing medical services for a deceased person, or billings from a fictitious business) and predictive models (to identify previously unknown or emerging fraud schemes). The FDaaS scorecard provides a fraud risk score for every business and the system leverages machine learning to continue to improve its algorithms over time.

Coss explained how Pondera Solutions works via email. He said the systems can improve waste and abuse in growing programs with more demand for online access.

“We developed FDaaS to ‘plug a hole’ in the market,” Coss said. “The problem of fraud, waste and abuse has existing in these programs ever since they began. But the growing size of the programs combined with pressure to make more government services available online has created more improper payments and the need for a modern detection system.”

Coss said he is confident that FDaaS will enhance government operations in Florida.

“We certainly hope to be doing work directly for the state of Florida sometime in the near future,” he said. “It’s difficult to put a timeline on this as government procurements can be complex and lengthy and because we’ll have to compete and win for any contract with the state.  But we’re confident in our solutions, which have been proven against some of the largest government programs in the country."

That won’t stop the company from hiring here.

“Irrespective of any Florida contracts, we will definitely be hiring additional professionals in our Tallahassee operation,” Coss said.

Coss couldn’t share very specific details, but he outlined how the company’s software has helped detect fraud in other states where it is used.

“We have identified instances that most people are familiar with, such as deceased or incarcerated individuals seeking unemployment checks or being billed for medical procedures,” Coss said. “But we’ve also identified more complex schemes such as fictitious businesses designed to perpetrate fraud on a larger scale.”

Tallahassee serves as the headquarters for Pondera's Special Investigations Unit (SIU). The SIU includes certified fraud examiners, data mining experts, statisticians and former government program integrity experts and law enforcement agents.  

“They serve a number of important functions for Pondera,” Coss said. “They design the procedural rules–I joke with them that their job is to empty their heads into the system and then go fill up their heads again, they test the system, and they support specific client investigations.  The team in Tallahassee supports our implementations across the country.”

With Florida being a hotbed of fraud in the system, Coss said his company will continue to reach out to officials. There has been some progress already, he indicated.

“We have provided product demonstrations to various Florida State agencies and several have visited our (Tallahassee) office,” Coss said. “We’ve received great feedback and the results of our system really speak for themselves. In fact, even more than a system demonstration, we prefer government officials simply call our existing clients to discuss how they use our system.  We look forward to competing on upcoming Florida procurements and we’re confident that we’ll be working in our ‘adopted’ home state soon.”

There are four interns currently serving the Tallahassee facility and the company plans to hire more in the fall semester, according to reports.

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