PhillyDeals: Woman builds a rep for call centers, profits

For the third time in 15 years, Claudia B. Timbo has started a new call center up in Blue Bell. This time, she's calling it CompanyVoice, and leasing a floor of a vacant Aetna Inc. building on Harvest Drive - enough space for 125 people - with options to take the three other floors as business grows.

Timbo says her new clients include law firm Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson L.L.P., which handles homeowner tax claims for the City of Philadelphia, Continental Bank, and trucking companies seeking sales leads.

Linebarger hired CompanyVoice based on Timbo's "reputation and success" as "a local woman who runs this woman-owned business," as well as the firm's "strong information-technology credentials," the law firm's managing partner, Sharon Humble told me.

Timbo's business partner is Eric Raymond, founder and former head of employer health insurance consultant Corporate Strategies Group Inc. Financial backers also include a sorority of business contacts from her previous companies, including Nanette Carney, whose Carney Group, based across the street from CompanyVoice, helps recruit "gold-collar workers," retired managers and office workers, who Timbo says are easier to find in today's weak economy.

Timbo says services like hers charge clients in the low $30s an hour, pay the workers around one-third of that, and keep about 15 percent as operating profits. The rest goes for expenses.

She and her investors sold her previous company, Corporate Call Center, which handles Medicare claims for Blue Cross insurers, to Radnor-based Guardian Capital Partners for something north of $10 million four years ago. Timbo hopes to win new insurance contracts after her non-compete agreement ends in June.

Timbo opened Procall Teleservices as a branch of Progress Bank back in 1997. "She's very effective," both in the call-center business, and in lining up business and financial partners for profitable deals, former Progress chief Kirk Wycoff, now a bank investor at Patriot Financial Partners, told me.

Tyco bribes

Industrial-equipment maker Tyco International Ltd., based in Switzerland for tax purposes but run from offices near Princeton, has agreed to pay the government $27 million in fines and penalties in connection with illegal payments to corrupt officials in the 10 years ending in 2009, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission said Monday.

Tyco admitted its people broke the law after an internal investigation. Tyco had no immediate comment.

A Tyco unit that makes valves for oil, construction and water-supply companies pleaded guilty in Virginia on Monday to federal criminal conspiracy charges in violation of the U.S. Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act. "The company paid bribes" to Saudi oil officials to win contracts, according to the Justice Department.

The SEC cited examples of Tyco officials' knowingly making "illicit" payments in China, Thailand, Turkey and other countries, and quoted a Tyco official, in an internal e-mail, noting that "Hell, everyone knows you have to bribe somebody to do business in Turkey."

Student capital

Josh Kopelman, partner at Philadelphia-based venture investor First Round Capital, has started the Dorm Room Fund to back collegiate entrepreneurs. Kopelman says his firm has committed $500,000 to finding and funding student projects, and is seeking other investors.

"College campuses are wonderful ecosystems for creating disruptive ideas," Kopelman says in his pitch. "Facebook, Microsoft, Dell, Yahoo, Google all started in a dorm room. . . . Never in history has it been cheaper or faster to start a company" thanks to cheap cloud servers and open-source software.

Mitchell home

Before she was Comcast's NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent, and also Mrs. Alan Greenspan, Andrea Mitchell was a Philadelphia radio reporter. She'll be back Oct. 24 to draw a crowd for the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce annual meeting, which president Rob Wonderling and incoming chairman Daniel K. Fitzpatrick of Citizens Bank say they hope will draw 1,500 to the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Contact Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, or @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.