How a local CEO muscled through bankruptcy and pivoted from coworking to software

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that highlights Arlington-based startups, founders, and local tech news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

A relatively new app that helps startups navigate the labyrinthine government contracting process, collaborate with each other and land contracts has recently nabbed its third state funding round.

The goal of the app, called FedScout, is to improve the outcomes for companies that set out to work for the government. Of the 120,000 companies that register to sell to the government each year, about 60% drop out after the first year because of how difficult the process is, according to the app’s founder, Geoff Orazem.

Orazem founded the Eastern Foundry — a coworking incubator for government contractors that has since gone out of business.

“Ever since I left the Marine Corps and McKinsey & Company, this is what I’ve been trying to do: Make the federal government work with startups more effectively,” he tells ARLnow. “This is just the new chapter toward that goal.”

Orazem founded Eastern Foundry in Crystal City in 2014, later expanding to Rosslyn, adding space to its Crystal City location in 2017 and expanding to North Carolina in 2019. While these coworking spaces fostered collaboration between tenants of each space, he said Eastern Foundry just couldn’t encourage “cross-pollination” from Crystal City to Rosslyn for which he had hoped.

Eastern Foundry in Rosslyn in November 2019 (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

“It turns out, even though [Rosslyn and Crystal City] are only 15 minutes apart, people are busy and it’s hard to convince people to drive, find parking and then pick up kids from soccer,” he said, adding that fostering collaboration between Virginia and North Carolina was an even taller task.

Then came the one-two punch of the rise and fall of WeWork — which, supported by large foreign investors, was able to pump out offices while hemorrhaging money — and the remote work shift caused by Covid. But by 2021, Eastern Foundry closed a checking account that contained $0 and court records indicated the coworking company had no cash and neither owned or leased any commercial property, according to the Washington Business Journal, which reported the company’s bankruptcy filings in 2022.

“WeWork distorted a market. The wake off their bow put a hole in us and then we went straight into Covid. I don’t think there’s a world where we could stay open. We were one of many operators that went under,” he said. “[That] was eight years of my pride, love and personal money. Eastern Foundry’s demise was a huge loss.”

His saving grace was a separate company he founded in 2016, called Federal Foundry.

It oversaw the development of online resources for tenants who needed education in nabbing a government contract as well as an online forum for finding business partners. Orazem wanted to streamline the spreadsheet tenants used to connect with each other and provide education to everyone, not just who happened to be in the office when he was.

Federal Foundry, located in Crystal City at 2011 Crystal Drive, launched FedScout in 2020 and added more features in 2021. Today, the app helps users find relevant contracts and partners and estimates their chances of winning contracts, among other information.

“The success of the government will be on whether it can innovate and deliver better services and projects to the men and women who are being asked to do difficult missions with bad services,” Ozarem said. “The first iteration was a physical one… It was doing well and it was scaling, thanks to support from state and government, but unfortunately that experiment was cut short. The mission never stopped — it just pivoted, through a new company and a new experiment. Thankfully, this experiment is not so beholden to the physical space and the costs that support it.”

Federal Foundry has been enjoying support from the Commonwealth of Virginia, including most recently a $75,000 state grant announced last month as well as some $173,000 across two state-sponsored funding rounds in 2021 and 2020.

FedScout grant announcement banner (via VIPC/LinkedIn)

The most recent grant comes from Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation’s Commonwealth Commercialization Fund (CCF). Orazem says the $75,000 will go toward further developing the app’s community for contractors and online educational resources.

VIPC has distributed more than $39 million to Virginia startups, innovators, and entrepreneurs since 2012.

“We are pleased to award a CCF grant to Federal Foundry,” said Sean Mallon, VIPC’s commercialization vice president, in a statement. “VIPC’s CCF grant program provides funding to small technology businesses when they need it most: early-stage development. Our goal is to help Virginia companies grow and lead the nation in innovation, opportunity, and job creation. Federal Foundry is building a valuable tool that will make it easier for emerging government contractors to do business with U.S. government entities.”