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by Ethan Rothstein — May 4, 2015 at 12:30 pm 395 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

ByteCubed founder/CEO Ahmad IshaqAhmad Ishaq immigrated to the United States when he was little, fleeing Afghanistan with his parents for political asylum from the Soviet Union. He grew up in Southern California, developed an American accent and a laid-back, West Coast disposition.

Now, he’s leading one of Arlington’s fastest growing companies, going from five employees just a few years ago to close to 100 by the end of 2015. Ishaq is the founder and CEO of ByteCubed, a government contractor and consulting business focused on ensuring the best decisions possible for its clients.

“I came from a very poor family, lived a really modest lifestyle,” he said from ByteCubed’s space in Carr Workplaces in Clarendon. “That helped mold me into being very driven. I’ve always been thinking what I can do bigger.”

Ishaq moved the area for an internship with the Defense Intelligence Agency. That internship turned into a full-time job, where he continued to push up the ladder. He left the government to work as a director at Mantech International, but after a year there he struck out on his own.

“I wanted to solve the Big Data problem,” he said. “I wanted to figure out how to take information out of classified documents, analyze it and feed it back to the government so they can make better decisions.”

In 2010, he started to “build the infrastructure” of his fledgling company, holding off on growth while he did so. He took a subcontract with the Computer Sciences Corporation for data analytics. That contract allowed him to hire a handful of employees and get ready to land the big deal.

ByteCubed's offices in Clarendon's Carr WorkplacesIn 2014, after years of working on his proposal, Ishaq secured a $325 million contract with Department of Defense in October. Since then, he’s hired 30 people and plans to hire as many as 50 by the time the year is over. ByteCubed is already the biggest tenant in Carr Workplaces, occupying several different offices in the coworking space.

Soon, they will move to Crystal City, after Ishaq was personally courted by Vornado/Charles E. Smith President Mitchell Schear. Their new, 6,000-square-foot space is along Crystal Drive, and ByteCubed will have plenty of opportunities to grow.

Other than the $325 million contract, ByteCubed also works with a handful of private companies. He also secured the contract to help administer $1 billion a year through the DoD’s Small Business Innovation Research fund, which gives grants to private companies to develop new technologies.

“We’re helping the government make better, smarter purchases by aggregating the data and automating the processes,” he said.

It’s a simple enough concept, but one the government has had problems with in the past. That’s a big issue, Ishaq said, considering the government spends as much as $70 billion a year for research and development.

“A lot of times, people get a problem, come up with a quick, fast solution and it ends up being terrible,” he said. “Our solution is addressing the bigger problem of the government looking for a quick fix.”

ByteCubed's offices in Clarendon's Carr WorkplacesByteCubed is chasing 10 different government contracts that will be awarded over the next 12 months. If the company lands just one of them, “we will double in size,” Ishaq said. Those contracts will all focus on the niche Ishaq has targeted for his company: “increasing innovation or reducing inefficiencies.”

That, he said, is the way he’s found to give back to the country that gave his family a safe place to live when he was a boy.

“A lot of people in similar situations appreciate the fact that we were given a second chance, and feel very invested in giving something back,” he said. “It’s why I’ve always been focused on solving government needs and problems.”

by Ethan Rothstein — April 27, 2015 at 12:00 pm 572 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

The Worden Tech Solutions teamChristopher Worden had wanted to be a member of the U.S. Marine Corps since he was 4 years old.

Five years into his service, during a training run, he twisted his ankle and his foot jammed into train tracks. Worden stubbornly — he was a Marine, after all — kept running and training on the injury, while his leg became more and more damaged. His bone plate grew in the wrong direction, and overcompensating for the injury caused him to blow out his knee and two discs in his back.

By the late 1990s, he was medically discharged from the Marines after having served Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton at the White House. Almost two decades later, Worden now finds himself more connected to the Department of Defense than he has been since wearing his dress blues.

Worden is the owner of Worden Technology Solutions, a government contractor that specializes in streamlining information technology services, cybersecurity and professional services. WTS has found a niche, Worden said, in the way it completes its tasks.

“We use technology as a tool to accomplish missions, not as a solution,” Worden says. “I do a lot of homework, try to identify where [the client’s] pitfalls and problems have been. I say ‘here’s what the problems are and here’s what we can fix.'”

It’s simple, unoriginal concept, but it has resonated with multiple DoD clients, and has continued to win Worden contracts. Considering WTS is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business, he’s in a strong position for government contracts that are legally mandated to involve “set-aside companies” like his.

Worden Tech Solution's office at Eastern Foundry in Crystal CityWorden got his first contract in 2009 as a one-man business with the Navy. In 2011, he was able to officially incorporate and launch his company, hire employees and work for more contracts. That includes winning an 18-month-long slog for a Navy Space and Warfare Systems Command contract.

“That kind of process is enough to make a lot of people go ‘I’m done,'” Worden said. “But that’s why I was able to win, because I was too stubborn to quit. I would not give up.”

Worden’s success has led to other agencies inquiring into his company’s services. WTS has been a subcontractor for huge businesses like Northrop Grumman, trying to meet their set-aside requirements. And the company’s office in Crystal City’s Eastern Foundry incubator has helped with all of it.

“With 40 companies here, you can hit all the set-asides,” Worden said. “Plus the location is absolutely the best, plus you have the potential to meet other companies. As a small business, you tend to work on your own and you become bitter. This is about taking advantage of something that’s in front of you.”

Still, there’s one client Worden hasn’t worked for yet, one he’s had on his mind since he was 4 years old. The same one he said he used to chase recruiters when he was 14 he wanted to serve so badly: The Marines. Despite his confidence, the meticulous Worden wants every possible duck in a row before he goes for his dream job a second time around.

“I don’t want to stumble on myself walking into the Marine Corps,” Worden says with a sheepish grin. On the days where his leg injury hurts too much, he has to use a can. Speaking with ARLnow.com last week, he barely walked with any limp at all. “I want to be sharp. But we are getting ready to talk soon.”

by Ethan Rothstein — April 20, 2015 at 3:45 pm 1,121 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Mindcubed founder and CEO Habib Nasibdar, right, and CTO Prasad IndlaHabib Nasibdar immigrated to the U.S. from India to attend George Washington University business school just after Sept. 11, 2001, and now he’s the founder and CEO of a startup he feels is making his adopted country a better place.

He is the founder of Mindcubed, a data analytics company serving public safety agencies, based in Ballston. Mindcubed provides a platform for police departments, court systems and correctional facilities to look at all their data, analyze it easily, ensure it’s accurate and usable, and predict outcomes for potential decisions.

In a time where political pressure on public safety departments has seemingly never been higher, Mindcubed services are in high demand.

“There is a political alignment happening and more and more talking about how we understand criminal justice data,” Nasibdar told ARLnow.com from its shared workspace at Metro Offices in Ballston. “We really are helping criminal justice agencies and public safety departments understand their data for precise decision-making.”

Four states have entered into pilot programs with Mindcubed, and Nasibdar expects to sign contracts within six months on multiple deals for the service. Mindcubed’s first client, when the company launched in late 2012, was the District of Columbia’s sentencing commission, which hired Nasibdar to help it analyze why so many young people were being incarcerated for nonviolent crimes.

Mindcubed logoNasibdar got his start combining data and public safety in 2005, when he was working for a small government contractor and won a contract with D.C. to build an information-sharing infrastructure among its public safety departments, a key recommendation to localities in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

An engineer by trade, it was that first contract that gave him the bug to improve public safety. As an Indian immigrant, he said it gave him a way to serve.

“I always felt I never got an opportunity to serve this country and I felt this is a way to help my adopted country,” he said. “This is my way of serving. There’s no better way to feed my kid and my family than to do what I’m doing.”

Because Mindcubed serves government clients, it typically takes 18 months from first contact to secure a deal on a contract. But, he says, patience is a virture. He didn’t bootstrap his company to make a quick buck and move on.

A screenshot of Mindcubed's Grid platform“We are not 25-year-olds in shorts writing on a whiteboard,” he said. “Our approach is very methodical. We’re persistent in the area we know we are successful. This market is just developing, and we see so much opportunity in this domain.”

The platform allows, for instance, a police department to answer questions of policy makers about how many marijuana arrests were made in the jurisdiction, then to break the statistics down into how many of those were under the age of 25, and how many of the under-25-year-olds arrested for marijuana crimes were suffering from mental illnesses. All of the data in their system is cross-checked for accuracy and compliance.

“Agencies right now cannot answer in real time all these permutations and combinations,” he said. “All of these questions lead to more questions. We provide analytics, compliance and prediction, and combine them to make it extremely easy to use. Present that to bureaucracies, and that’s like magic to them.”

by Ethan Rothstein — April 13, 2015 at 1:45 pm 446 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

The MoDev UX conference, held at Artisphere last year (photo courtesy MoDev)An Arlington startup focused on software developers for mobile platforms was born when the iPhone 2 was the newest smartphone on the market and Blackberry devices were everywhere.

MoDev started back in January 2009 not as a company, but as a Meetup group of a dozen mobile developers in Piola in Rosslyn. The idea was to start a community for developers building mobile application, a vacuum in the D.C. area at the time, MoDev founder Pete Erickson said. The aim was to generate conversation and collaboration among developers in the “new ecosystem.”

“I didn’t plan to run it as a business, it just kind of happened.,” Erickson said. “After doing it for about a year, we had over 1,000 members and people started bringing us money because they were looking for developers and wanted to sponsor our group.”

The first sponsorship was a $50-per-month agreement with Blackberry, and the others started to roll in. Erickson was consulting and launching another startup, Disruptathon, but by 2011, it became clear that MoDev was poised for big enough things for him to jump on full-time and steer the ship.

In December 2011, MoDev organized its first conference, a 350-person affair at Gannett in Tysons Corner. Since then, the company has curated almost 40 conferences around the world with tens of thousands of combined attendees. Several have been at Artisphere in Rosslyn, which is why Erickson is leading the charge to save the arts venue from extinction.

The conferences have ranged from mobile development to wearable technology to exponential growth, the key theme of MoDev’s future, Erickson said, as well as the entire startup industry’s.

MoDev founder Pete Erickson (photo by Paco Alacid)“We’re watching a whole bunch of industries transform in a number of years,” Erickson said, citing Uber, AirBnB and Waze as exponential-growth startups that have had groundbreaking impacts on their respective industries. “The opportunity to manage products in an exponential world is vastly different and exciting. It’s actually very daunting, and we think the whole skill and method of developing exponential products is so different, there needs to be a conference that addresses it.”

That idea — having a need for conversation and collaboration surrounding an issue — has always been the impetus for MoDev.

Erickson said the mobile development community in D.C. had to come together when he started MoDev, which has been bootstrapped from the beginning, because that’s the only environment in which true innovation can flourish.

“You want to bring people together as often as possible, because that’s when ideas get born,” Erickson said. “It’s always rewarding for me to hear the testimonials of people who have gone on to build great apps together, be successful together, or even just try together.”

Among the companies that have benefitted from MoDev’s services are local startup success stories LivingSocial and WeddingWire. Other MoDev community members including Rosslyn-based TMSoft Founder Todd Moore and Reston-based app development company SavvyApps.

The MoDev UX conference, held at Artisphere last yearIn addition to organizing their own conferences around the world — including through a chapter in Hong Kong — MoDev also organizes conferences and events for others. Clients include Google, Amazon Samsung, Microsoft and Capital One, which is sponsoring MoDev’s Minimum Viable Product conference, coming to Artisphere next month.

“We’ve watched some of the largest companies in the world use MoDev to reposition themselves,” Erickson said. “We’ve got an impressive roster of companies we’ve worked with to help them build their development.”

More than just conferences, MoDev also helps these companies strategize about their mobile development goals, and what they need to become successful in the changing landscape.

Erickson has called himself a “visionary,” and he’s constantly thinking forward. He operates MoDev and his team from his home office in Arlington, and they don’t even use email anymore.

“We live in an exponential time, and we’ve shifted our company from linear to exponential,” he said. “Understand all that and knowing how important it is to be successful today, we’re going to inject this exponential conversation into everything we do.”

Photos top and bottom courtesy MoDev. Photo, middle, by Paco Alacid

by Ethan Rothstein — April 6, 2015 at 12:00 pm 620 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

PicIt! Founder Bobby Vanzetta(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) Bobby Vanzetta has a notebook he keeps with ideas for new businesses, apps and other possible creations, but for the last few years, one has become his singular focus: an iPhone social picture game.

Vanzetta is the mind behind PicIt!, which allows users to take a photo, turn it into a riddle game and share the game with friends. The game was born while Vanzetta was a senior at James Madison University. Now, Vanzetta is 25 years old, living in Ballston, working in I.T. sales and his app has been on the iTunes store for two months.

“It starts a conversation,” he said over coffee at Buzz Bakery, near his home, last week. “It appeals to a lot of different people. When people share games, it’s more personal than a Snapchat or Instagram. You might not know who’s looking at your snap, but you when when people are playing your game.”

A screenshot of a PicIt! gamePicIt! syncs with Facebook, allowing those with iPhones to share their created games with their friends. Anyone with the game can take a picture or use one already on their phone. They can add filters to the picture, draw on it and create a game.

Games could be an inside joke among friends, Vanzetta said. You can watch a movie, take a picture of a scene and see who can recognize it. Or you can take a photo of a landmark and ask “where am I?”

The app is free, but Vanzetta has employed a “freemium” model, one in which he generates revenue with in-app purchases. Users can buy more colors to draw with, more filters, lifelines for multiple guesses or hints. They can also buy coins directly to use for in-app purchases.

Vanzetta said the app appeals to people who like to think creatively and interact with their friends in different ways.

“I like sending and receiving creative games that make you think,” he said. “My friend sent me some meat on the floor. The answer was ‘ground beef.’ It’s simple but at the same time creative and fun.”

A screenshot of the PicIt! appVanzetta was able to raise $50,000 for the app from friends and family, took out a $60,000 loan and invested $30,000 of his own money toward development of the app — he used a Reston company, Savvy Apps, to help build it — and what will become a viral marketing campaign. He already paid one Twitter account with more than 100,000 followers to tweet about the game and had his biggest download surge yet.

The full app launched in February, and, as of Friday, it had 750 downloads. He hopes to get to 10,000 downloads — what he thinks is a “critical mass” for a freemium app — within three months.

“The freemium business model, 1 percent of people give you 60 percent of your revenue,” he said. “You get your core users” and they drive the business.

Vanzetta said he plans to add features — video games, an Android version and game rankings are all on his mind — and he’s “constantly iterating.”

He hopes he can quit his day job and become a full-time app company CEO, but Pic It! is not the be-all, end-all for him. He has that notebook of ideas, and he wants to work his way through it.

“I can’t wait for that moment where it makes sense to leave my day job,” he said. “Some people have their own baby idea. I’m happy to sell this off when and to whom it makes sense, and jump to the next thing.”

by Ethan Rothstein — March 30, 2015 at 12:00 pm 711 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Outl.it co-founder Lucien ZeiglerAs more and more news websites are embracing paywalls — restricting access to online content to those who pay a subscription fee — one Arlington startup is trying to break them down.

Lucien Zeigler and co-founders William Treadway and Christian Zeigler (Lucien’s brother) founded Outl!t for just that purpose. Zeigler works for the Saudi-U.S. Trade Group and compiled a daily newsletter on U.S.-Saudi business interests. His credit card bill showed he was spending more than $100 a month, simply for access to a variety of newspapers.

“Paywalls are becoming more and more common, and they’re essentially roadblocks for consumers,” Zeigler told ARLnow.com last week. “I thought, why can’t readers pay very small amounts of money, double or triple what advertising would pay, to get access to paywall content?”

Starting next month, readers can. Outl!t will be available to the public under the idea that readers can pay for what they read and nothing more. A user will launch an account with a set amount of money. Outl!t partners with news organizations to bring them content, and, if the content costs money to read, pennies will be deducted from the user’s account. Most stories will cost 1 to 5 cents, Zeigler said, unless they’re free or exceptionally long.

“We’re anti-subscription,” Zeigler said. “We feel those are really inefficient. You’re essentially paying for a lot of content you’re not really getting to see. You can see more if you don’t have to pay bulk subscription costs, you can just get things à la carte.”

The function of à la carte news reading is just one plank of the Outl!t platform. It will also allow independent writers to publish on their own, and allow readers to see their work for free, or for a fee. Zeigler said eventually he plans on launching original content, produced by Outl!t staffers, to add to the mix of voices users can find.

Zeigler said he’s loath to use the “disrupt” buzzword, but he thinks that’s exactly what Outl!t is capable of doing to the news industry.

An example of Out.lit's platform“We took a look at the media industry in general, used a lot of open data and what we saw was an industry that was spiraling downward pretty quickly,” he said. “We thought we needed not just a Band-Aid, but a totally disruptive type of solution, where we rebuild everything from the ground up.”

There will be no advertisements on the network, and each user can choose which news outlets stories will appear on their home page. After seeing the headline and first line of text or so, readers can decide whether they want to spend the money to read the full article.

Outl!t has received a seed investment for an undisclosed amount from an undisclosed investor, and has already lined up partnerships with 20 or so news organizations. For every purchase of a story, Outl!t and the news organizations divide the revenue.

Customers can join for free on Outl!t’s website now in anticipation of the company’s launch next month. Their initial deposit will be matched to encourage more use and demonstrate the product’s viability.

Although making money is the goal of any new business, Zeigler is a lover of news and passionate about the potential for Outl!t to reverse the downward trend of the industry. The company is based out of Zeigler’s Arlington home, but it will be looking for Arlington office space soon.

“Just like iTunes did with the music business, we aim to provide marketplace efficiency for providers of all sizes, from the largest newspapers to the blogger, writer, or journalist that has something of value to contribute to the world,” Zeigler said. “That’s our goal with Outl!t — to level the playing field in this business.”

by Ethan Rothstein — March 23, 2015 at 6:00 pm 1,795 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Cowork Cafe, a new coworking concept in Boccato in ClarendonA Monday in Boccato Gelato & Espresso in Clarendon looks vastly different now than it did two months ago, thanks to a new Arlington startup called Cowork Cafe.

Founded by David James and Ramzy Azar, Cowork Cafe is a partnership between the two entrepreneurs and Boccato (2719 Wilson Blvd) owner Christian Velasco in which James and Azar rent out Boccato’s lounge for 9 hours on weekdays, and offer it to members for $200 a month. Those members get souped up WiFi, $50 in food and beverage credits, soundproofed phone booths and, soon, personal lockers for storage.

From 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Velasco puts stanchions through Boccato’s lounge separating a dozen or so tables — including bars that function as standing desks — for Cowork Cafe members, and keeping a small handful for walk-in Boccato customers. During the cafe’s busiest times in the evenings and on weekends, the stanchions are removed and it’s a full-fledged coffee and gelato shop once more.

“I totally understand the challenges of a food establishment; it’s dependent on volume,” Azar told ARLnow.com over coffee at the cafe. His parents own restaurants, he said, which is party of why old friend James asked him to cofound the venture. “As soon as I understood what coworking was about, it seems like a great way to contribute to the establishment.”

James came up with the idea after years of working at home as an independent software developer left him feeling “a little isolated.” He ventured to coffee shops with his laptop, but those started to become too crowded, too noisy and too distracted. Walking by Boccato’s empty lounge space on a weekday spawned the idea.

Cowork Cafe co-founders Ramzy Azar and David JamesNow, Cowork Cafe has 20 paying members, and two other restaurant businesses have reached out to become the home of the next Cowork Cafe.

“It’s something that could be a lot bigger than here,” James said. “We’re excited about the ability to scale quickly. Restaurants already have space, and we can just plug in and go. That means we can try out a place with low risk.”

Of course, some might raise their eyebrows at the idea of charging $200 a month to work in a space that was previously free, but James said the advantages to membership and the price hit a sweet spot for teleworkers and self-employed professionals.

“Most of the people that work here don’t need to go to a place to work,” James said. “But people can see the benefit of being around a community. If you haven’t worked form home a lot, it’s probably hard to understand.”

The 20 members are a hodgepodge of writers, developers, self-employed professionals and teleworkers, James said. Some have routines and come in most of every weekday. Others float in and out and use it more like a regular coffee shop. With the $50 in food credit, any member can go to the counter and get a coffee or empanada without taking out their wallet; Azar called it a country club-like system.

“Self-employed folks come to these spaces anyway,” he said. “It’s not an office. It has a rustic feel and a great sense of community.”

“A place like this encourages abstract thinking,” James added.

James and Azar didn’t just show up and launch the cafe on Feb. 2 — they put in some key infrastructure, like four soundproofed phone booths for phone calls and video conferencing. James said they installed about 50 plugs and business-class WiFi. They also didn’t quite know what to expect — they put a sign on the retail storefront on Wilson Blvd, held a few open houses and hoped for the best.

The expansion plans are underway sooner than either expected, but James and Azar aren’t saying yet where or when the next Cowork Cafe will be.

by Ethan Rothstein — March 16, 2015 at 12:15 pm 1,695 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

ValueCrates founder Adam GenestAdam Genest had wanted to be an entrepreneur his whole life after hearing about the successful businesses his grandfather and father started.

A previous venture, and e-commerce platform, failed. Genest belonged to an entrepreneurship group and was looking for the next big idea when a friend suggested an idea he saw in Arizona, about renting crates out to movers. Genest thought about his own moving experience to an apartment in Rosslyn, and knew right away the idea had legs.

He bought 10 crates and a dolly and launched a website. ValueCrates was born.

The idea is as simple as can be: for $19.99, someone moving can rent 10 plastic crates and a dolly. You can rent 25 crates for $29.99, 35 crates for $34.99, 50 crates for $49.99 and 75 crates for $79.99. The crates can be held for a month and are delivered and picked up for no extra charge by Genest himself.

Genest started with just the 10 crates and dolly when he launched in October 2014, and he said he’s been sold out since the first weekend.

“I knew the business made such good sense that I had to try it,” he said. “I’ve turned down over 1,000 crate orders because I’ve been sold out. This was achieving a level of success I hadn’t achieved before.”

Genest didn’t launch ValueCrates with a startup blueprint: build a value proposition, create a minimum viable product, beta test it and always build to scale. Instead, he launched as soon as he could and was glad to do things inefficiently early on. Many business advisors might pull their hair out hearing how many customers Genest has turned away; Genest said he’s been focused on keeping the customer’s he’s had happy.

“I meet every one of our customers,” he said. “I get to talk to them and see how we’re helping them. I ask them questions about the business, and they feel, and I know, that they’re not just numbers.”

Each crate is 23.5-by-15.7-by-12.4 inches and can hold a maximum of 80 pounds. Genest offers one size crate and one size dolly, keeping his costs and options simple, and keeping prices low. When he’s asked customers what they think of the price, some have said he should raise it.

“They say ‘I feel like it’s unfair to you,'” he said.

A two-bedroom ValueCrates pacakgeDespite the low prices, ValueCrates is profitable and completely bootstrapped, Genest says. It’s still run out of his apartment, which would be more of a problem for he and his wife if the crates weren’t consistently sold out. Despite Genest’s satisfaction with building a company without regards to scale or efficiency, it’s a situation that cannot last.

Now the successful entrepreneur is in the market for storage space and is in talks with manufacturers in China. He’s been buying crates and dollies from Home Depot to this point, not a practical solution considering he eventually has eyes on servicing multiple cities. He says that’s still a ways away.

“My ultimate goal is to get D.C. right,” he said.

Genest is still telling too many customers for his liking that he has no crates available — “turning down orders sucks,” he said frankly — so he’s looking for $200,000 in investment to scale faster.

ValueCrates has strayed from the traditional startup blueprint, but Genest thinks there are lessons he’s learned that can translate to any business.

“I learned it’s OK not to be scalable and profit-focused right away,” he said. “I would have made mistakes, would have rushed it … the only reason I’m successful is because of the mistakes I’ve made in the past.”

by Ethan Rothstein — March 9, 2015 at 1:00 pm 377 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Healthcare entrepreneurs at work at LiftOff Health (photo via Facebook)Crystal City’s rebranding as a hub for all kinds of innovation has a new entry in its portfolio: LiftOff Health, a new incubator for healthcare startups.

Founded by Michael Slage, an entrepreneur and former NASA employee who also founded Better Health Box and Healthengage, LiftOff Health is in office space above the Crystal City Shops, given to them for a six-month trial period by Vornado, and Slage said it’s the perfect launching pad for an industry that has gone curiously underdeveloped in the D.C. startup scene.

“A lot of angel groups and places like the Dingman Center don’t really invest in healthcare because they don’t understand it,” Slage said. Along with being an incubator and coworking space, LiftOff will serve as a vetting agency, helping to prepare investor presentations for its clients and validation studies for investors.

“We stand between companies — the risk-takers — and hospitals — the risk avoiders,” Slage added.

LiftOff will wear many hats, but the company still has to “figure out what we are,” Slage said. Is it an incubator, a coworking space, a trade association for healthcare startups, a nonprofit? All could theoretically apply, but Slage said the company is ready to assume all forms.

“It all comes down to how we increase innovation in healthcare,” he said.

There are a couple ways Slage and his cofounders, Sandeep Pulim, Ludmila Litvyakova and Pratik Patel, plan on spurring innovation. First, is a partnership with Marymount University. The school is in negotiations to invest in LiftOff, and partner to provide educational programming. In fact, Slage said when he brought the idea to MU President Matthew Shank, Slage said Shank’s enthusiasm was part of the impetus to start the company.

Second, Slage said he reached out to dozens of foreign embassies in D.C., whose countries are thirsty for better healthcare products. While the U.S. market is tough to break into because of daunting federal regulations, the barrier to enter the market in foreign countries is much lower. LiftOff is already capable sending its clients on a five-day “trade mission” to the United Arab Emirates to set up partnerships in one of the world’s wealthiest countries.

“In the UAE, there’s a huge need for the things we take for granted here,” Slage said.

Third, LiftOff is partnering with the increasingly vital TechShop, just a few blocks away, for a new “Health makers” program. Many of the startups the incubator hopes to bring on as clients will be building and testing new devices, and there are few better resources than the maker space in Crystal City.

LiftOff Health's office space in Crystal City (photo via Facebook)LiftOff currently has 12 clients in its 5,000-square-foot space, and it’s looking for more. Slage and his team take equity in their clients’ companies — between 4 and 8 percent — or accept cash for a new tenant. LiftOff already has $500,000 in investment and is looking for another $500,000 to grow its incubator program.

Part of how the company has been able to take off so fast — they only entertained serious discussions around the idea starting last November — is its partnership with Vornado. Seeing LiftOff’s potential, Vornado gave Slage the space rent-free for six months “to see what we can do with it.” The space opened in January.

If the company is successful, there is hundreds of thousands of square footage in Vornado’s portfolio for it to grow into. Vornado and the Crystal City Business Improvement District are betting it will be.

(more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — March 2, 2015 at 12:00 pm 423 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Notify Anywhere Founder Ajay Maheshwari, right, and Sahaj ShardaThere are billions of people on the planet with no access to Internet. Ajay Maheshwari wants to connect to all of them.

Maheshwari is the founder and CEO of Notify Anywhere, a mobile platform that allows users to notify a list of contacts or subscribers in a wide range of ways, from social media to email to text or phone messages. It can be used for restaurants to tell customers about specials, coaches to tell players about practice cancellations or family members to reach out in case of emergency.

“There is a need of a platform to provide people with a unified notification medium,” Maheshwari said from Rosslyn, in his borrowed space from Notify Anywhere’s mentor company, Miracle Systems.

Maheshwari’s example of a coach notifying a team is personal — his wife was taking his daughter to soccer practice in Ashburn one rainy morning. They hadn’t heard from the coach so they assumed practice was still happening. The Maheshwaris arrived to an empty practice field and, when they got the coach on the phone, were told that he had no way of contacting all the parents.

“I decided we needed to come up with an automated critical process, triggered at an event so users don’t feel like it’s a burden to notify people,” Maheshwari said. “People want a simple thing. They want to reach their audience, irrespective of the network.”

A screenshot of the Notify Anywhere appSeven months ago, Maheshwari formed the company with his cofounder, who goes by Shikha, applied for a patent and got to work. He brought on a developer, like many startups, but his is unique. Sahaj Sharda and Maheshwari met at a “hack-a-thon” in D.C. after Sharda’s team impressed with a quick-built app to “make children accessible to the education industry.” Maheshwari saw it, was impressed, and brought him on board.

Sharda is 16, and his team was a group of his classmates from Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County.

“I was excited about the idea,” Sharda said. “It was similar to what we had built. When you’re developing anything, you’re looking at your target audience. Ours don’t have Internet access, but they’re still in the community at large. It’s a big problem in terms of accessibility.”

That’s why one of Notify Anywhere’s key selling points is its partnership with global telecommunications providers. In more than 200 countries, the app can access the phone infrastructure, allowing users to send voice and text messages over a network instead of requiring both end-users to download the app.

The infrastructure access and ability to send “robo-calls” sets the app apart, Maheshwari says. It’s is cloud-based, syncs with the phone’s contacts

“We don’t have any direct competition,” he said. “I don’t see any other companies doing it.”

Notify Anywhere is currently in a beta test, and Maheshwari said the response is “overwhelming.” He expects to hit the open market by April.

To this point, Notify Anywhere has been bootstrapped by the former federal government employee, and funded with friends and family money. As the launch date approaches, the company is seeking angel investors and venture capitalists to inject funding for engineering, marketing and sales.

The app will be Android-only to start, but an iPhone app isn’t far behind. It will be free for most users, and, in less than two months, live and “fully-formed.”

by Ethan Rothstein — February 23, 2015 at 12:00 pm 1,172 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Patdek's Robert Melton, left, and Jay GuilianoRobert Melton is a software developer who has built command centers for the FBI and local law enforcement agencies, but eight months into his latest project, building software for patent lawyers, he said “we were a complete failure.”

“It was a really hard year,” Melton admitted from his office at Clarendon’s Link Locale.

Melton has since turned it around, and he and founder Jay Guiliano are less than two months from launching Patdek, which they hope will be a game-changer in patent law, and potential the entire legal industry.

The concept appears simple: give patent lawyers a tool to find relevant information in patent applications and cases, both current and past, and a way for them to easily share it with clients and colleagues. The concept is so simple, in fact, that when Guiliano pitched his startup idea to Melton, asking him to be his developer, Melton thought for sure something like it already existed.

The Patdek team says nothing brings together the content of patent cases — terabytes worth of data comprising hundreds of millions of documents, all in Patdek’s system —  with the tools to search them easily in a usable way.

“These massive companies have the capabilities to do it,” Melton said. “But they don’t have the motivation to build a holistic tool like this for a niche market.”

The biggest challenge, Melton said, was avoiding converting the documents to text, something that would make them unusable for lawyers, who hold original documents sacred. All of the documents in Patdek’s system are images of the original, meaning a lawyer can take a paragraph from a patent case, highlight the text, send it to a colleague with the information and it can be used worry-free in court.

Guiliano knows how useful and how powerful the tool could be if executed properly. He’s been a patent lawyer for 19 years, and is still in practice challenging patents at his day job, and he’s been the driving force behind Melton’s seemingly ever-increasing workload.

Patdek screen shot“Jay is someone with a clear vision of where he wanted to go,” Melton said. “After eight months, we couldn’t select text or highlight characters. Jay said, ‘We need that. It’s super frustrating using other apps that have that. I don’t want to be frustrated.'”

Why is it so important, and so frustrating not to have? Guiliano said, as a lawyer, he needs to be able to answer questions about cases quickly. Right now, there’s no easy mechanism to do that.

“I want to be able to set up a case in five minutes,” he said. “That’s our goal. How do we take out all the time leaks and make it smooth and easy to do?”

Eight years ago, he knew he wanted to solve this problem, but only in late 2013 did he decide to get the ball rolling to do it himself. That’s when he reached out to Melton, a self-described “gun-for-hire” developer, to help him build it.

Now, less than two months away from their expected launch, the gun-for-hire and the attorney realize they might have something even bigger on their hands than a niche patent software tool.

“We see a lot of markets for this because we accidentally built a platform,” Melton said. “Everyone wants to use the app in different ways.” (more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — February 9, 2015 at 12:15 pm 469 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Dexter Industries Founder John Cole and the RaspberryPi computer that powers his robotsDexter Industries Founder John Cole is sitting at his desk in Rosslyn’s ÜberOffices, but he won’t be there for long.

The head of the educational robotics company hasn’t stayed in one place much in his adult life. After graduating from George Washington University, he worked as a petroleum engineer for Halliburton in Louisiana. From there he launched a biodiesel startup, worked in reconstruction for the State Department in 2008 in East Baghdad at the height of the Iraq War,  moved to Mexico City, then back to D.C., followed by a stint in Afghanistan working for USAID, a few years in India and, now, Arlington.

India is where his company, which sells robots made from LEGOs, affordable materials and open-source computers, took off.

“I literally just put up a website, started to work on projects and blog about that,”  in 2009, Cole said. The former chemist taught himself how to build a website and a rudimentary e-commerce platform, just like he essentially taught himself how to build robots. That was in December 2009.

The company started slow after that. His first projects were with LEGO Mindstorms, basic robots with motors that can move around. Cole designed sensors to help them detect walls, and from there he was off to the races.

While in India, Cole decided to turn his attention full-time to Dexter Industries. Soon after, a $30 teaching computer called Raspberry Pi came out. The Raspberry Pi is designed to let anyone connect and use the computer for whatever they choose. It’s open source, meaning a tinkerer like Cole can bend it to his will.

Cole designed what he called a BrickPi. The system connects the Raspberry Pi computer to a LEGO Mindstorm robot, and allows those who purchase it to turn legos into ball cannons, tanks and anything else they can think up. Cole launched a Kickstarter campaign in June 2013 with a goal of $1,889.

He raised more than $127,000.

“It was a big turning point in our company,” he said. “That’s when things really started to take off.”

With thousands of customers more than he expected, he had to figure out a way to deliver on all his orders. Being a do-it-yourself type already with a nose for adventure, Cole got a visa and traveled to China, set up meetings with manufacturers and distributors, and built his production network from the ground up.

“There’s a great quote I’ve heard: ‘You’ll know success when you feel panic,'” he said. “There were thousands of orders. That was a stressful experience.”

The components of Dexter Industries' GoPiGo robot Cole ran the campaign from India, and the Kickstarter was so successful that he took an old “Dukes of Hazzard” airhorn he bought — “everyone in India has these really cool airhorns on their cars,” he said — and built a robot to have it go off every time the Kickstarter received a donation.

Last year, Dexter Industries launched another robot called the GoPiGo, available on their online store for $84.99. The kit includes a RaspberryPi and components to build a robot that moves. While the BrickPi has sold more total orders, the GoPiGo is currently Dexter Industries’ hottest selling product.

The next phase of Dexter Industries’s growth, Cole hopes, will come in education. He wants to take his products — which he calls a “hacker’s paradise” — and bring them into the classroom to get kids excited about building robots.

“Our market up until now has largely been makers and hackers,” he said. “We always considered ourselves an education company, but we’ve been educating the educated.” (more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — February 2, 2015 at 12:15 pm 667 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

OmniEarth COO and cofounder Jonathan Fentzke(Updated at 1:15 p.m.OmniEarth COO and cofounder Jonathan Fentzke says his company likes to stay “under the radar,” an ironic phrase considering its plans to launch 18 satellites to generate data from around the world in a host of different sectors.

Officially launched in February 2014, OmniEarth takes geospatial data and provides analytics for a broad range of companies. This could mean telling municipal water suppliers which parcels are using too much water — crucial in drought-ridden areas like California — or telling oil and gas companies where there are faults along their pipelines.

“More than 80 percent of data these days has a location along with it,” Fentzke told ARLnow.com from his office above the Crystal City Shops this morning. “Remotely sensed data can give you an indication of how things are changing on a global scale.”

Fentzke and his cofounder, CEO Lars Dyrud, have been friends for more than a decade, but both were working in the applied physics laboratory at Johns Hopkins University when they realized their work for the public sector had use for private companies. Hosted payloads, when one entity rents extra space on a rocket being launched into space, were growing more and more common, and Fentzke and Dyrud wanted to bring it to market.

“We did three years of customer discovery, talked with more than 200 potential clients and saw that there really was traction for this business,” Fentzke said. “We sell information to people who know what to do with it, and we sell analytics to the people who don’t.”

OmniEarth logoOmniEarth’s main business model is selling applications of their data to its clients. That can be predictive models for the effects of the weather on a crop to multinational farm companies, where forests are being illegally cut down or even something Fentzke called a Twitter “happiness index,” which takes the mood of tweets and compares it with the location of people tweeting them, drawing maps based on the data.

OmniEarth is barely a year old and has already received about $3.5 million in funding, with partnerships with massive companies like Harris and Ball and local tech companies like Dynetics. They have partnered with Spaceflight to launch a constellation of 18 small satellites, monitoring “multi-spectral data,” with imaging outside of the visible spectrum (i.e. infrared light).

“The satellites are like our utility, and data and analytics is like our plug,” Fentzke said. “If you don’t have a plug, you can’t access the utility, like electricity.”

Fentzke, an aerospace engineer by training, says OmniEarth is “by scientists, for business users and decision-makers,” and the company is attempting to trademark the slogan “every day, everywhere.” The Board of Advisors reads like a who’s who of the cross-section of industries the company caters to, from a retired U.S. Air Force general to oil and gas executives to a former NASA administrator.

Part of OmniEarth's headquarters in Crystal CityThe company is growing faster than many other Arlington startups, but for what Fentzke and Dyrud have in mind, this is only the beginning. OmniEarth has already bought a smaller company called IRISmaps to leverage its geospatial data and continues to look to expand.

“This is not a get-rich quick scheme,” Fentzke said. “Our goal is to grow something that stands alone. We didn’t just blindly pick this business because satellites are cool. It’s a tool for data, and when you know how to leverage remotely sensed data, you have market-leading information, and it’s legal.”

In another year, the 20-person company expects to double in size and bring in “some big dollars” by the end of 2015. OmniEarth may still fly under the radar as a big-growth company in Arlington, but it won’t be a secret for long.

“The moment I think it’s valuable for us to wave our flag and say ‘hey look at us,'” Fentzke said, “we’ll do that.”

by Ethan Rothstein — January 26, 2015 at 12:30 pm 1,040 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

The BTCS team in their Rosslyn officeBitcoin is hard to explain. It’s a “crypto-currency,” and it’s worth real money — just like Euros and pesos are worth real dollars — but it’s completely digital.

Blockchain Technology Consumer Solutions — or BTCS for short — was launched in 2013 as Bitcoin Shop, an ecommerce platform that allows users to buy goods with bitcoins and other digital currencies, like Dogecoin or Litecoin. Bitcoin Shop founders Michal Handerhan and Tim Sidie, now COO and lead developer respectively, had bought bitcoins but didn’t know how to spend them. So they created a way.

“They got some immediate traction from consumers and offers to help fund the company,” Chief Marketing Officer Charlie Kiser told ARLnow.com from BTCS’ Rosslyn office this month.

Kiser, who has worked in startups for years in the D.C. area, joined the team along with now-CEO and Chairman Charles Allen. In February 2014, Bitcoin Shop went public, raising $1.875 million in its initial public offering.

“Going public is not the most traditional route for startups,” Kiser admitted, “but it’s great in terms of speed and confidence in getting something closed. The idea was we could be one of the first publicly traded companies and we could accomplish some things in an industry with a lot of unknowns.”

In fact, most of the crypto-currency industry is unknown. While the currency exists, it’s not run by a bank or a government. It’s decentralized and far more unstable than currencies of developed countries. One bitcoin was worth more than $1,000 U.S. dollars near the end of 2013. Earlier this month, it was down below $200, and currently it’s hovering around $240.

BTCS logoThere is no mint for bitcoins, either. Instead of a government printing them, they are “mined.” BTCS has a partnership with a bitcoin mining company in Israel. How are they mined? Anyone who wants a bitcoin must provide technological maintenance to the bitcoin system. The more bitcoins are circulating in the world, the more work a “miner” must do to get a bitcoin.

Bitcoins are exchanged and circulated on the “blockchain,” a “de-centralized peer-to-peer network” that works “effectively as a ledger system, reporting transaction,” Kiser says. Bitcoin was simply the first use of the block chain — many more are anticipated down the road.

That’s what intrigued Allen, a former engineer who was working at an investment bank before joining the company.

“I said ‘this company’s going to be much bigger than e-commerce,'” Allen said. “Bitcoin is basically the Internet in 1995. Back then, no one thought it had any use, but the technology made sense. At the heart of bitcoin, the technology makes sense.”

A bitcoin ATM at the BTCS officeBTCS has invested in a company that produces bitcoin ATMs and is currently developing a bitcoin wallet, similar to Google Wallet, that will help its users keep their currency secure. BTCS hopes to be an access point for anyone to enter the crypto-currency space, in any form they choose.

“We’re hoping we can be a market leader into giving access to the digital ecosystem,” Kiser said. “We’re hoping BTCS is where you come for all that.”

Unlike other startups in emerging industries, BTCS has public investors to answer to. Investors can look to the four investments and one partnership BTCS has made as signs of progress toward market leader status. However, it’s simply too early to tell if these early gambles will pay off.

“We are long on bitcoin and blockchain,” Kiser said, “and we are getting ready to enter the valley of innovation. Whether it’s the currency or the blockchain, there’s been enough invested to know in five years whether there will be a consumer case for it.”

Through its investments and products, BTCS hopes to be the ones to usher the new technology into that era, but it’s waiting on the industry to help.

“There are all these problems that the technology solves,” Allen said. “They just haven’t been built yet.”

by Ethan Rothstein — January 12, 2015 at 12:00 pm 606 0

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Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

The logo in ThreatConnect's office(Updated at 1:55 p.m.) One of the most promising companies in the cybersecurity space is based in a small office in Shirlington, where it helps Fortune 100 companies protect themselves from hackers.

ThreatConnect, which changed its name from Cyber Squared in November after it received $4 million in funding, formed four years ago, and launched its data security software platform in August 2013. In the year and change since, it has grown to serve 650 companies, 3,300 users and “40 of the Fortune 100 companies,” CEO Adam Vincent told ARLnow.com last week.

ThreatConnect is poised in the coming year to add more than 50 jobs and move to bigger office space. Vincent says he wants to stay in Arlington because, he says, “I live here. I like it here.”

The company started in 2011 when Vincent and three co-founders — Chief Intelligence Officer Richard Barger, CFO Leigh Reichel and Product Director Andrew Pendergrast — left their jobs in the cybersecurity industry to start their own company because, as Vincent said, they were “frustrated private companies couldn’t protect themselves against hackers.”

“These hacker groups are like if Navy SEALs showed up at your office building,” Vincent, a lover of metaphors to explain his complicated industry, explained. “There’s not too many buildings that can protect themselves.”

Cyber Squared launched consulting for private businesses on cyber security to pay the bills while they were bootstrapping themselves and building out their ThreatConnect platform. The platform allows companies to sign up for free and connect to other companies’ data, to give them more information when combatting cyber threats. The more companies that sign up, the more powerful the tool becomes.

From left, ThreatConnect cofounders Adam Pendergast, Richard Barger, Adam Vincent and Leigh ReichelSecurity is very “silo-ed,” Vincent said, and when the data each company acquires on threats can’t reach each other, each company’s defenses are weaker because of their lack of knowledge

“We built a brain in the network,” Vincent said. “They already had the arms and legs. We connect them.”

Vincent also compared each company to a section in the orchestra, and compared ThreatConnect’s software to the conductor. “I don’t know if you’ve ever heard an orchestra without a conductor, but it doesn’t sound very good.”

And while the sound of cellos not playing from the same music as tubas doesn’t sound appealing, it doesn’t come close to describing the attack companies — and their customers — have come under since ThreatConnect launched.

More than 40 million Target customers had their data hacked on Black Friday in 2013. JPMorgan Chase was hacked in summer 2014, affecting 73 million families, according to the New York Times. And, most recently, Sony Pictures was hacked in a suspected cyber attack from North Korea, prompting it to not release its movie, The Interview, as planned.

Every time one of those major hacks has occurred, ThreatConnect’s phone lines have started ringing, Vincent said.

“All of our brands are constantly under attack,” he said. “We’re in a world today where people are going to take what they want via cyber and it’s happening around the world. This is a sophisticated operation. It’s important we figure out a way as a market to solve it.”

ThreatConnect's Shirlington officeIn addition to the free platform, where the large majority of ThreatConnect’s users come from, the company also offers two paid versions of ThreatConnect. One, recommended for companies Vincent described as “in between the Fortune 5,000 and the Fortune 500,” is called the private cloud, where ThreatConnect doesn’t share the companies data externally, it protects the company internally.

It’s third option “On-prem” targets the “biggest of the big” companies, offers them “analyst on-demand service” — which Vincent described as “tele-medicine” for cybersecurity.

There are less than 50 paying ThreatConnect clients at this point, but that’s where Vincent expects the boom to happen this year. To help grow that side of the business, ThreatConnect announced today the hiring of its first vice president of sales, Matt Brenner, formerly of SourceFire, acquired by Cisco Systems for $2.7 billion.

“The market is just now starting,” he said. “We believe we have a massive opportunity to sell to the masses.”

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