68°Mostly Cloudy

VDOT Looks for Innovative Transportation Ideas at Hackathon

The Virginia Department of Transportation is looking to “developers, planners, futurists, big data lovers and problem solvers” to help address the state’s biggest transportation questions.

Today (July 17) and tomorrow, participants in VDOT’s second SmarterRoads Hackathon and Idea Jam Series will gather at startup incubator 1776’s Crystal City campus. They will use VDOT’s open data sets and SmarterRoads portal to develop projects.

Last year’s event, held in Virginia Beach, produced a mobile app capable of providing real-time traffic signal information and a system to optimize road pavement schedules, among other concepts.

Winners receive cash prizes up to $1,000 and some successful entrants will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas at a future workshop.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine will deliver a speech tomorrow afternoon, before the event wraps up with an awards ceremony at 4 p.m.

File photo

0 Comments

Arlington Startup Selected for Smart Cities Business Accelerator

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. 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.

A county startup was one of just six companies selected last week for a business accelerator focused on helping cities be smarter and more livable.

Arlington-based Greater Places will participate in the Smart City Works Infrastructure Actuator, the first in the Greater Washington area, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced on Friday.

The accelerator focuses on growing young companies that help make cities smarter, more livable and more resilient. This program, operated in conjunction with the Center for Innovative Technology, is anticipated to help drive innovation in infrastructure while fostering economic development.

Also in the program are McLean- and San Jose, Calif.-based UnomicEdge; Integrated Health Solutions of D.C.; Infraccess of New York; Chicago-based Capital Construction Solutions and PlanIT Impact of Kansas City, Mo.

Greater Places provides urban design solutions including models of transit-oriented development, and it is already looking ahead to the growth of driverless vehicles. It comprises a soon-to-be-launched mobile app as well as the website, which have evolved from it previously being published as a physical textbook, and is based at startup incubator 1776.

Founder Lisa Nisenson previously helped create “Cards Against Urbanity,” a parody of the irreverent card game “Cards Against Humanity” to get players thinking about urban planning while poking fun at the cities they live in.

The incubator program consists of an intense 90-day business boot camp where startups are mentored in creating a sustainable and successful business, with a focus on identifying pilot opportunities, testing and marketing opportunities.

Smart City Works brings together subject-matter experts, industry leaders and investors to help launch, build, and grow successful startups.

Nisenson said in an interview that one-on-one mentorship is one of the most helpful aspects of the program.

The one-on-one attention that everyone’s getting is so completely essential,” Nisenson said. “There’s other types of incubators, and a lot of times you don’t get that one-on-one, it’s just, ‘Here’s the business model canvas, here’s the PowerPoint, check it out.’ In this case, they can go straight into your data and tell you what to modify and look at customer segments. It’s that attention to really honing in.”

The spring program ends on June 28 with a Demo Day, where companies will have the opportunity to pitch and demonstrate their technology to an audience of external mentors, investors and stakeholders.

“This first-in-the-nation business accelerator affirms Virginia’s role as a leader in creating livable, resilient communities,” said McAuliffe in a statement. “It will harness our region’s valuable assets and will attract technology companies from across the globe to the commonwealth. The actuator will allow us to bring cutting-edge technology to market, deploying these innovations in smart communities across Virginia and making us a national model for smart cities.”

0 Comments

Making the Student Housing Search Easier with 4stay

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. 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.

Attending college comes with a variety of challenges, but the team behind 4stay doesn’t want finding secure and affordable student housing to be one of them.

The Crystal City-based startup’s founders — Akobir Azamovich and Faridun Nazarov — spent the past six years working in the housing rental field to learn industry trends and best practices. They recently launched 4stay with the help of Crystal City’s 1776 startup incubator.

4stay functions similarly to rental sites like Airbnb, but it’s for short- to medium-term student stays rather than vacations. Students — including graduate students and interns — can search for available housing based on factors like property size, neighborhood, length of stay and whether they prefer to live alone or with others.

The listings showcase the properties’ features, prices and photos. Residences come in a variety of types, from an entire apartment to a room in someone’s house, but they all must be fully furnished and the student must have an entire bedroom of their own.

4stay employees assist those on both sides of the housing equation. On the property side, they work with families or individuals who wish to rent out a room to ensure the owner can provide a safe, student-ready residence. On the rental side, employees learn about a student’s needs and their length of study to negotiate the lease. The 4stay team indicates that it also benefits students because its prices often are more reasonable than other choices.

“By providing options beyond realty companies in a centralized location, it’s a much more appropriate way for students to find the price point they’re looking for,” says marketing manager Leah Wald.

Azamovich and Nazarov are from Tajikistan and went to school in Northern Virginia. They have firsthand experience with the sometimes challenging and cumbersome process of finding student housing, especially in an unfamiliar city.

“The founders… want to help other students overcome their problems of finding safe, affordable housing near their school,” says Wald. “Having dealt with these problems themselves… is why they decided to found their company.”

The business currently serves students in the D.C. metro area, with a focus on Arlington and Northern Virginia. Although the 4stay team expects to spread into other cities at some point, right now they’re focused on ensuring a quality experience instead of expansion.

“Our primary goal to make sure platform is best it can be… and helping as many students as possible,” Wald says.

0 Comments

Airports Authority Enters Partnership With Startup Incubator 1776

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. 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.

Passengers at the region’s airports could have an easier time during their travels thanks to a new partnership between the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Crystal City startup incubator 1776.

1776 front deskThe partnership, announced last month, means the two organizations will work together to find and mentor firms that look to use technology to make air travel more efficient. That technology includes proposals that can benefit airports, transit agencies and more.

MWAA operates Ronald Reagan Washington National and Dulles airports, as well as the Dulles Airport Access Highway and the Dulles Toll Road. It also manages construction of the Silver Line project into Loudoun County.

“In today’s rapidly changing world of business and commerce, it is imperative that transportation providers, such as airports, take advantage of new technologies that help us meet the demands and expectations of our increasingly mobile customers,” said MWAA president and CEO Jack Potter in a statement.

Already, 1776 is affiliated with companies that look to improve the travel experience in and around airports. The startup incubator, which has an office at 2231 Crystal Drive in Crystal City, partnered with mobile application company Airside Mobile to add Automated Passport Control devices that help international passengers arriving at Washington Dulles International Airport be processed more quickly.

Reagan Airport (file photo)MWAA also has been innovating through a partnership with CLEAR, a firm that helps its members move quickly through airport security lines and advances the use of biometric technology for security screening.

Additionally, the authority has invested in mobile app technology to aid security screening and airport signage, and is developing patented processes and technologies to make airport operations more efficient.

“Startups and new technologies continue to rapidly disrupt the way we travel from point A to point B,” said Evan Burfield, cofounder and CEO of 1776, in a statement. “1776 is excited to partner with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to harness the latest innovations within the transportation and aviation industry.”

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Pedestrian crossing the street in Clarendon in front of traffic

Arcing Insulator at Rosslyn Metro — An electrical issue on the Metrorail tracks outside of the Rosslyn station caused delays on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines during this morning’s rush hour. The arcing insulator prompted single-tracking and a large fire department response. [WJLA]

Beyer to Shadow DCA Worker — Today, from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is expected to “accompany contracted wheelchair agents to learn first-hand their role helping passengers with disabilities at Reagan National Airport.” The workers and their union, 32BJ SEIU, are fighting for a $15 per hour wage. Currently, they receive as little as $6 per hour plus “unreliable tips.”

Samsung Collecting Note 7 at DCA — Electronics manufacturer Samsung has set up a booth at Reagan National Airport to collect their now recalled and discontinued Galaxy Note 7 phones, which are banned from flights due to a propensity to randomly go up in flames. [Twitter]

I-395 HOT Lane Update — VDOT updated the Arlington County Board yesterday on its “managed HOV/toll lanes” project slated for I-395. County staff is currently studying traffic and noise impacts to Arlington and the project’s allocation of at least $15 million per year to transit along the corridor, which the county believes is insufficient. [Arlington County]

Tech Incubator Founder Moves to Arlington — Evan Burfield, the founder of D.C.-based tech incubator 1776, has moved to Arlington with his wife and one-year-old daughter. Burfield chose a $1.6 million home in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood outside of Crystal City, calling it “a great buy on an up-and-coming area.” 1776 has a location in Crystal City that Burfield said is performing well. [Washington Business Journal]

Police: Arlington Man Called Reporter the N-Word — An Arlington man, 21-year-old Brian Eybers, has been arrested in Charleston, South Carolina on disorderly conduct and drug-related charges. A local TV reporter in Charleston says Eybers called him the N-word and then stood in front of his news van, blocking it from leaving. [The State]

Interview with Poet Laureate — Northern Virginia Magazine recently interviewed Arlington’s new poet laureate, Katherine Young. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

0 Comments

Local Startup 540 Is Helping Government and Contractors ‘Get Sh*t Done’

Startup Monday header

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, plus other local technology happenings. 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.

It goes without saying the federal government has a lot of data, perhaps an incomprehensible amount of it, and all of it stored away on servers near and far.

Crystal City startup 540 Think of all the contracts, bid proposals, analyses, surveys and every other piece of internal and external business communication Washington receives, creates and keeps over the decades, and you have a gi-normous pile of virtual information. And much of it is in accessible, and therefore, not very useful.

Three-and-a-half years ago John O’Brien, a former government employee with a penchant for building things, decided to create a way that made that digital information accessible, and therefore useful, to government agencies and to companies eager to do business with the government. He started 540, named for the sum of the internal angles of the Pentagon, knowing that his experience within the government and later at a contracting firm could help make dealing with the government successful.

He was right: Just three-and-a-half years later the 18 employees — more than double this time last year — of 540 stay busy at Crystal City’s 1776 startup incubator helping the government and its contractors get things done. In fact, that’s their mantra: #getshitdone.

Crystal City startup 540“That’s really our focus,” said Chris Bock, chief operating officer. “Our mission is to try to help the government lean forward in it’s approach to using technology, especially emerging technology.”

“We have a mission of connecting internal groups across the government by continuing to promote/deliver data sharing strategies,” wrote O’Brien in an email conversation. “Much of this has begun in the ‘government -> public’ realm — but we find it is still behind in the ‘government <-> government’ space.

“We are working hard to ensure that the same approaches and technologies are used to accelerate that data sharing as well.”

The niche 540 is filling is one the federal government is admitting it needs help with: Emerging technology. “We definitely see the government pushing toward modern technology,” Bock said, “and I think the government recognizes that it’s beneficial to them to try to take advantage of what modern technology can bring.”

Crystal City startup 540But because of the age-old labyrinth that impedes progress — you don’t see too many “disruptive” federal tech programs — assistance is required.

“At a deeper level it’s about helping the government unlock it’s data,” Bock said. “Some of it is locked away in a legacy system somewhere. Some of it is stuck in PDF documents or in some other hard-to-get-at format. We’re building capabilities to help the government unlock that data–and to help them do cool things with it.”

To do this, 540 is using tools not uncommon in Silicon Valley, but 540 also builds its own tools, Bock said, “so you access data, see it and understand it.”

For example, if a company that lost out on a federal bid wanted to know what they could have done better next time by comparing their bid to others or looking for trends that work, the bid and contract data might be published in a way that makes it unsearchable.

“We build what we call a ‘data harvester,'” said Bock. “It extracts the data, indexes it and makes it searchable. You couldn’t do that before.”

To date, 540 is totally bootstrapped and as a services company, “that’s not necessarily difficult,” O’Brien said.

“We have government contracts that we are currently executing against and driving revenue and allowing us to grow our business,” added Bock.

As for finding new clients, 540 is in big on networking, to the point of taking a leadership role in presenting new or small but always like-minded companies–many of them from Arlington–to agencies likely to work with them.

“We take every opportunity to speak at conferences and appear at events and trade shows to get the message out about 540 and what we do,” he said. “And for companies not accustomed to working with the federal government, it can be very daunting.”

The good news is, the federal government is trying to break down those barriers “and make it easier and make it accessible,” said Bock. “We feel we’re sort of a good bridge for that.”

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Apples and cider at the Fairlington Farmers Market

Post Endorses Dorsey and Cristol — The Washington Post has endorsed Democrats Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol in the race for Arlington County Board. The paper writes of the pair’s opponents: “Both are serious candidates and have attacked what they consider Arlington’s profligate spending… Yet neither has advanced convincing proposals to trim spending or explained why enlarging the stock of affordable housing should not be a priority in a place where the supply of it has diminished rapidly with gentrification.” [Washington Post]

County Board Push Poll Criticized — A “push poll” in the Arlington County Board race is being criticized after two residents say the caller asked misleading questions and didn’t disclose who had paid for it. Board candidate Michael McMenamin said he commissioned a poll but the script explicitly said that it was paid for by his campaign. [Washington Post]

Tour of New 1776 Offices — The newly-refurbished office of tech incubator 1776 in Crystal City is being debuted this week. The office includes a full kitchen, and the incubator is seeking two chefs to cook for its members. [Washington Business Journal]

Kaine Speaking at GMU Arlington Campus — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) will give a speech on Congress and war powers at George Mason University’s Arlington campus tonight at 7 p.m. “Kaine has been a leading voice urging the Obama administration to seek a specific authorization for U.S. military action against ISIL while pressing his congressional colleagues to debate and vote on the mission – one he believes goes well beyond the legal scope and intent of existing authorizations from 2001 and 2002,” a press release notes.

Drunk Man Calls 911 for Ride to Arlington — A drunk hotel guest in Vienna, Va. was arrested last week after twice calling 911 to request a ride to Arlington. [InsideNova]

0 Comments

Incubator 1776 Looks to Help Arlington Startups in New Crystal City Location

Four months after a triumphant announcement featuring the governor and county leaders, startup incubator 1776 is starting to warm up to its new Crystal City offices.

The company recently opened its new location at 2231 Crystal Drive, less than a half mile away from the Crystal City Metro station. The new 1776 office is spacious and bright, with walls made up of mostly windows overlooking Reagan National Airport, the Potomac River and D.C.

1776 came to Crystal City after acquiring startup funder and research firm Disruption Corporation, which previously ran its Crystal Tech Fund and offered office space to startups in the space. Both companies were working on a similar system that tried to determine which startups were worth investing in.

Disruption founder Paul Singh joined the 1776 team but left shortly after the acquisition was completed, according to the Washington Business Journal; the paper later revealed that 1776 hastily acquired Disruption after Singh’s company ran out of money.

The office space is currently being redesigned to make the new place look more like 1776’s headquarters, near Scott Circle in the District. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Donna Harris, said 1776 saw a chance to expand its footprint, its network and its mission in Crystal City.

“We saw a real opportunity to try and bring together the region’s abundant resources to help empower those startups, and to drive new economic growth across the region,” Harris said.

Since its arrival in Arlington, the incubator has held a Challenge Cup and hosted Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) to celebrate the White House’s Startup Week. During his visit, startup members of 1776 talked about their products, and a couple of the startups gave demos.

The new Crystal City office is similar to the original D.C. office in that it is a hub for startups, Harris said. The company is planning to use its new location to provide classes, curriculum items, events and mentoring for startups in Arlington.

“As part of our effort to create new opportunities for local startups throughout the Washington Metro region to grow and scale, we plan to use our Crystal City campus as a hub for connecting startups to the growing innovation economy and the powerful talent, expertise, corporations, and government agencies in Crystal City and throughout Virginia,” Harris said.

1776 is also looking to help connect startups with institutions within the private sector and government that are connected with cyber security and data, Harris said, and the location in Arlington helps the company provide these resources.

“As the headquarters for the world’s most important government agencies, regulatory bodies, corporations and policymakers, we believe there is unique promise right here in the Washington metro area for civic-minded startups — and unique resources they can’t find anywhere else,” Harris said.

1776 isn’t the only startup incubator in Crystal City. Eastern Foundry, which works to connect new businesses with government contracting, is a few buildings over at 2011 Crystal Drive.

What makes 1776 unique, Harris said, is that the incubator looks to help startups in industries that are important to everyday life but are hard to change.

“Everyday, there are hundreds of startups working diligently on ideas that have the power to transform and improve our lives as citizens,” Harris said. “We are excited to see how we can work with those startups to improve Arlington’s community and economy.”

0 Comments

D.C.’s 1776 Incubator Expanding Into Crystal City

1776 announces expansion into Crystal City (photo via @1776)The heralded 1776 tech incubator and seed fund is moving into Crystal City, bringing tech bonafides and millions of dollars with it.

Today, on the roof of 220 20th Street S., Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes, Vornado CEO Mitchell Shear, 1776 co-founders Evan Burfield and Donna Harris and former Disruption Corporation CEO, and now 1776 Managing Director, Paul Singh joined forces to make the announcement.

“We’re proud that this new partnership will be anchored in Crystal City, which is increasingly becoming a globally-recognized home for world-changing startups,” McAuliffe said. “This new, unprecedented level of regional collaboration removes the traditional regional boundaries, creating tremendous opportunity for broad-based economic growth that benefits the entire region, and offering a model for future, long-term economic growth throughout Virginia and the D.C. Metro area.”

As part of its deal to expand in Crystal City, 1776 acquired Singh’s Disruption Corporation, a combination of a venture fund and financial advisory firm. Disruption’s headquarters on the 10th floor of 2231 Crystal Drive will be 1776’s base of operations in Arlington, according to Crystal City Business Improvement District Angela Fox.

“One of the beauties of Crystal City is there is so much space to expand, and if they do well, that’s certainly the thinking in all of this,” Fox told ARLnow.com this afternoon.

Earlier this week, 1776 announced a partnership with Montgomery County, and the incubator’s announcement today makes it one of the, if not the premier, dominant forces in the D.C. area technology space. In 1776’s new headquarters, it will already have member companies like Bloompop, Power Supply and Onomono Media.

1776 also hosts the Challenge Festival, an international, weeklong festival aimed at bringing together entrepreneurs in the energy, education, health and transportation sectors. The company anticipates more than 10,000 industry members will attend, and the opening party will be in Crystal City, at 2121 Crystal Drive, on May 8 from 7:00-11:00 p.m.

The incubator hopes to leverage the still-significant hub of government agencies and contractors in Crystal City, as well as the close proximity to the Pentagon, in its latest expansion.

“This region’s growing innovation economy and its future economic growth are closely linked, which is why at 1776 we’ve focused our attention on creating new opportunities for regional innovation and unfettered access to the networks that exist across regional borders,” 1776 co-founder Donna Harris said in a press release. “Between our partnership with Vornado and the acquisition of Disruption, this exciting new venture will allow us to bring together ALL the tremendous assets this region has to offer, from the NIH and MedStar in Bethesda to the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin in Crystal City, and create one of the most vibrant technology communities in the country.”

Photo via @1776

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list