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by ARLnow.com — May 19, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

School Board Hears Opposition to Enrollment Proposal — At last night’s School Board meeting, during a public hearing about a proposed update to APS’ enrollment and transfer policy, some spoke out against what they saw as a policy that would disadvantage applicants to choice schools who do not live near the school. Among those speaking in opposition to the proposal was former U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra, who has also created a Medium post explaining his opposition. [Medium]

Spraygrounds to Open Next Week — Arlington’s “spraygrounds” — play areas for children where water shoots up out of the ground — will open for the season starting Friday, May 26. The spraygrounds are located at Drew Park (3500 23rd Street S.), Virginia Highlands Park (1600 S. Hayes Street), Lyon Village Park (1800 N. Highland Street) and Hayes Park (1516 N. Lincoln Street). [InsideNova]

Startups Galore in Crystal City — More than 300 startups now call Crystal City home, according to the neighborhood’s business improvement district. That’s thanks in large part to coworking spaces like WeWork and 1776, but other startups in Crystal City have grown beyond a small, shared office. [Twitter]

by ARLnow.com — May 4, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

Police Warn of Fraud Scheme — The Arlington County Police Department is warning that home repair and tree service fraud schemes become more prevalent in the spring. Police say to be wary of would-be service providers who approach or knock on your door unannounced, pressure you to make an immediate decision, claim to have leftover materials or to be working in the area, and only accept cash payment. [Arlington County]

Arlington Restaurant Makes Sietsema’s Top 10Ambar in Clarendon has been included in restaurant critic Tom Sietsema’s list of the top 10 new restaurants in Washington. It is the only Virginia restaurant on the list. [Washington Post]

Beyer Supports Budget Bill — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) says that while it’s not perfect, he supports the compromise omnibus funding bill that passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Beyer says the bill contained key environmental protections and funding for scientific research. [Rep. Don Beyer]

No Endorsement from Garvey — County Board member Libby Garvey says she will vote in the upcoming Democratic caucus, but so far she is not endorsing any candidate for County Board. [InsideNova]

ACDC Candidate Forum — The Arlington County Democratic Committee held its candidate forum/debate last night, with all four candidates for County Board weighing in on topics from affordable housing to WMATA and transit to diversity in county government. [Blue Virginia]

Trustify’s Swanky Digs — Arlington-based startup Trustify’s new 8,000 square foot office in Crystal City has “a view that arguably is one of the dreamiest” among local startups. The design of the office was “‘film noir’-inspired.” [DC Inno]

by Katie Pyzyk — April 3, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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.

by ARLnow.com — February 15, 2017 at 8:35 pm 0

Jim Vandehei (photo courtesy Axios)Jim VandeHei was a political writer for the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post before co-founding Politico in 2006.

A decade later, Politico is a major force in the news industry and VandeHei has moved on to found another media startup: Axios.

Launched in January and based (for now) at MakeOffices in Clarendon, Axios has made some big hires, broken some big stories and is growing rapidly, thanks in part to investment from major media companies.

In this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we talked with Jim about his vision for Axios, the current state of the media industry and his take on what’s happening inside the Trump White House.

Some of the initial headlines about Axios, before it launched, revolved around a number VandeHei threw out as a potential price for a subscription: $10,000 per year.

“It could be that number, it could be higher,” VandeHei told us. Large companies and lobbying groups, he said, have that kind of money to pay for information that’s valuable to their business.

For those of us who don’t have thousands to spend on enterprise-focused news and analysis (the subscription service will be launched at a later date) the site and its email newsletters, from marquee names like co-founder Mike Allen and former Fortune columnist Dan Primack, are free. The first thing you’ll notice: the emphasis on brevity. It’s a key ethos at Axios and VandeHei says the goal is to give busy people only the facts they need — “long enough to give you what you need but not so long that it bores you and turns you off.”

In addition to the subscription business, Axios is making money by holding events and by selling advertising to blue chip advertisers like Bank of America, Walmart and BP. VandeHei said that at a time when Facebook and Google are vacuuming up many of the dollars streaming into digital advertising, a diversified revenue stream is important.

On the topic of Trump, VandeHei was candid about what he described as “an unprecedented presidency.” We asked him what might happen to Arlington and the D.C. area under Trump, given the president’s rhetoric about “draining the swamp” and reducing the size of government.

“I don’t know, and I don’t know because the president doesn’t know,” VandeHei said. “I think people assume he came with a very specific plan and a very team that would carry it out, and none of those things is true. They’re making it up on the go.”

VandeHei, who together with Allen interviewed Trump last month, said the president does not have “a strong ideology” outside of immigration and trade. Other issues, he said, are “fully negotiable.”

Lest an optimist think that Trump will get his administration to stabilize and function more like those before it, after a rocky first few weeks in office, it probably isn’t going to happen, according to VandeHei.

“People need to pinch themselves,” he said. “This is not normal.”

“Having had pretty good visibility into this White House, it’s a mess and I’d say it’s arguably worse than you think it is,” VandeHei said. “It’s just competing factions, no trust… it’s a tough way to run a White House. We’re three weeks in, half the people at the senior level think they’re on thin ice and going to lose their job, the other half are angling for a better job that they can have, and none of them are focused on carrying out an agenda that’s going to be awesome for America.”

“The idea that he’s going to suddenly change and that he’s suddenly going to run a more stable White House or that he’s going have a very clear vision of where he wants things to go… there’s a very low percentage chance that that happens. I would just anticipate this level of volatility and this level of insanity until further notice.”

That all said, VandeHei defended Axios’ Trump Tower interview and Mar-a-Lago visit from others in the journalism world who criticized it for appearing too cozy with the incoming administration.

“I find a lot of these arguments silly,” VandeHei said when asked about that and about the turmoil over the news organizations pulling out of the White House Correspondents Dinner now that Trump is president.

“Most reporters are liberal, no doubt about it. Most of them are being egged on to take a very hostile stand against Trump and Republicans,” he said. “But guess what, Republicans run town, they have the House, they have the Senate, they have the White House, they’re about to have the judiciary, they have almost every state government. This is a Republican-run country and you darn well better figure out what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.”

VandeHei had the following advice for journalists in the Trump era: focus on facts, hold people accountable, avoid media “self-flogging” and “maybe stay off Twitter.”

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

Photo courtesy Axios

by ARLnow.com — February 9, 2017 at 9:15 am 0

Government helicopter against a gray sky (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

New Clarendon Cafe Has ‘Oatmeal Program’ — Baba, the new Balkan-themed cafe in the basement of Ambar in Clarendon, has an “oatmeal program,” says its owner. Baba will serve La Colombe coffee, two types of “fancy oatmeal,” as well as oatmeal packages for takeout. [Washingtonian]

School Board Wants to Lift Pay Cap — It’s unclear why the Virginia General Assembly capped the pay of Arlington School Board members at $25,000, but the School Board is hopeful that a measure making its way through the legislature will pass, allowing members to raise their salaries in 2021. [InsideNova]

Accenture Acquires Part of Endgame — Consulting and professional services firm Accenture has acquired the federal government services business of Arlington-based startup Endgame for an undisclosed sum. [WTOP]

Longtime Arlington Teacher Dies — Margaret (Peggy) Huddleston, a Washington-Lee grad and longtime W-L teacher and guidance counselor, has died at the age of 92. [Falls Church News-Press]

Delays Likely at DCA — Between high winds in the D.C. area, and flight cancellations and delays due to the snowstorm in the Northeast, there may be significant impacts on flights at Reagan National Airport today. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — January 26, 2017 at 6:00 am 0

Companies are offering free employee lunches to boost productivity, morale, and well-being; at the same time they’re helping to fight hunger in Washington, D.C.

Would you buy your employees a free lunch if it meant greater workplace productivity? Lunch is an important meal that holds some serious potential for businesses that seek to boost workplace productivity, culture and teamwork.

At some of the most successful companies in Silicon Valley, like Google, free lunch as a perk has been standard operating procedure for some time and it has enhanced their competitive edge in the market. Simply put, free lunches for their teams translate into increased business success and profitability. Not only does a free meal increases employee happiness, it also becomes one of those braggable benefits, helping to recruit and retain top talent.

Free lunch may sound expensive, but doesn’t have to be, says Shy Pahlevani, founder of HUNGRY.This Washington, D.C. based startup developed a unique office and catering service, that connects top chefs making incredible food to offices across the city.

“Our unique business model enables us to deliver top chef made food, directly to your desk,” Pahlevani says. “We deliver meals that are made daily by local chefs and delivered to offices around D.C.”

With a recurring lunch plan, employees order from menus prepared by top local chefs. The food is then delivered to the office any day of the week. Menus can be customized to meet health and dietary restrictions, including vegan, vegetarian, paleo, dairy-free, and gluten-free options.

After each meal, employees provide feedback to help office managers decide which dishes worked best.

“Think about the last time everyone on your staff got what they wanted from office catering,” Pahlevani says. “Either the order wasn’t easy or it was really expensive. We created HUNGRY to provide companies a better option.”

Free lunches are now becoming a standard workplace perk for some of the highest employee-rated companies nationwide. A free meal can save employees’ time, helping them to work around meetings and deadlines. Office meals also break the monotony of daily routines, like the “lunchtime rush hour.”

Take for instance Washington, D.C. It’s a city filled with plenty of fast-casual options, including up-and-comers like Sweetgreen and Beefsteak. In this market, competing for consumers’ lunch can be tough, and pricey. In fact, diners spend on average a minimum of about $12.29 per day on food.

“We offer companies an ability to provide their teams high quality, healthy meals in a way that helps foster team building,” Pahlevani says. “Rather than have your team leave the office and go in different directions for 60-90 minutes every day, you can provide them an incredible meal from a top chef (which they will greatly appreciate) and instead they will enjoy lunchtime bonding and talking with their co-workers. It also saves everyone time which enables them to accomplish more each day in the office.”

At the same time, this delivery option feeds into the corporate social responsibility of leading Fortune 500 companies. For every two meals purchased through HUNGRY, one meal is donated to fight hunger in the D.C. region via a partnership with the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

“A free lunch is not just a good return on investment for employee satisfaction,” Pahlevani says. “It’s a way to impact the community by supporting local chefs and fighting hunger.”

The preceding promoted post was written and sponsored by Clarendon-based startup HUNGRY.

by Tim Regan — January 10, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

Startup Arlington logoArlington Economic Development is once again “calling all techies” for a chance to win investment capital, temporary office space and lots of recognition.

AED is currently accepting applications for its second Startup Arlington competition. The contest, which last occurred in 2015, is part of the county’s ongoing effort to bring startups to the area.

Oppleo Security, a cybersecurity company from Montana, won the first Startup Arlington competition.

This year’s competition is nearly identical to the first, said AED spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell. Companies that apply by Jan. 31 stand to win three months of lodging at WhyHotel/The Bartlet and incubator space at 1776 “with access to expert mentorship and a powerful network to help the company grow,” according to the competition’s website. The winning company will also receive a $25,000 investment from Kiddar Capital.

Each applicant chosen as a finalist will be required to submit a 90-second video that demonstrates why their company should be chosen by a panel of judges and members of the voting public. Voting takes place between Feb. 21 and Feb. 28, according to the county.

But there’s a catch: Applicants can’t be residents of D.C.; Prince William, Fairfax, Loudoun or Arlington counties in Virginia; or Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland, according to Startup Arlington’s rules.

“We’re hopeful for a wide pool of applicants,” O’Donnell said. “We launched the competition at this year’s CES to reach a large audience.”

by ARLnow.com — January 9, 2017 at 8:45 am 0

Snow on brick in Fairlington 1/7/17

Beyer Warns of Obamacare Repeal Ramifications — “The Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act will have disastrous consequences for Virginia,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said Friday, citing recent studies. “Hundreds of thousands of our neighbors will lose life-saving, affordable health coverage. The state also stands to lose as many as 100,000 jobs, $30 billion in gross state product, and $50 billion in business output. This is unacceptable and irresponsible.” [House of Representatives, Commonwealth Fund]

Will Startup’s Growth Add Arlington Jobs? — Just before the new year, president-elect Donald Trump said that Rosslyn-based OneWeb will be creating 3,000 jobs as it prepares to launch hundreds of satellites to deliver broadband internet around the world. Will those jobs be coming to Arlington? An Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman said the agency was not sure, while a OneWeb spokesman told ARLnow.com only that it was opening a new office in McLean.

Op-Ed Warns ‘Ignore Arlington’s Bad Example’ — The Arlington County Board’s recently-passed home sharing regulations are a “bad example” for other Virginia localities considering similar rules, since Arlington prohibited renters from renting their homes on Airbnb and other platforms. “The opportunities created by the sharing economy shouldn’t be restricted to only those few who are deemed worthy,” says a fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, in an op-ed. [Richmond Times Dispatch]

County Board Members Take Regional Roles — “Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette will serve as 2017 Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board. County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol will serve as chair of the Northern Virginian Transportation Commission’s Legislative Committee, and has joined the leadership of the Virginia Railway Express Operations Board.” [Arlington County]

New Year, New Offer for New Advertisers — Join dozens of satisfied advertising clients and get your business’ message out to the greater Arlington community with ARLnow.com. Learn more about our advertising options and check out our new winter deal for new advertisers: book at least a month of advertising and get another month free. [ARLnow]

by Katie Pyzyk — December 30, 2016 at 8:45 am 0

Market Common Clarendon decorations

Teardown Business Booming — Arlington is one of the Northern Virginia areas that continue to see significant home teardown rates following the recession. The high land values make it more economical for many builders to tear down old homes and construct new ones rather than renovating existing structures. [Wall Street Journal]

Tech Company Moving to Arlington — Online stock video business VideoBlocks says it is moving from its long-time home in Reston to Arlington in 2017. The tech company’s growth is making the current 7,500-square-foot space too cramped, so the goal is to find an approximately 20,000-square-foot space in Arlington. [DC Inno]

Ninja Moves Prompt Police Call — Police responded to Paisano’s on N. Pershing Drive yesterday afternoon for a report of a man performing “ninja moves” outside the restaurant. There were no reports of anyone being harmed or of any arrests. [Twitter]

Free NYE Metro Rides — Metrorail and Metrobus rides will be free after midnight on New Year’s Eve (Saturday), courtesy of a sponsor: Miller Lite. Metro will stay open until 3:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day (Sunday). [WMATA]

Free Cab Rides Through Sunday — SoberRide will continue its seasonal free taxi service through Sunday. Users can call 1-800-200-TAXI for a free ride home, up to a $30 fare.

County Facilities Closed Monday — Like the federal the government, Arlington County will close its facilities on Monday in observance of Sunday’s holiday. Parking meters will not be enforced but trash and recycling collection will continue as usual.

by ARLnow.com — December 20, 2016 at 9:00 am 0

Christmas lights at Penrose Square (Flickr pool photo by Bekah Richards)

Earlier School Closing Decisions — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy says the school system will try to make school closing decisions earlier this year, preferably the night before a snow or ice event. [InsideNova]

Remy Has Role in New Netflix Series — “Arlington Rap” guy Remy Munasifi has a prominent role in the new Netflix comedy series Brown Nation. [IMDB, Mashable]

Arlington Company Gets $1 Billion Investment — Rosslyn-based satellite internet company OneWeb has received a $1 billion investment from SoftBank. The Japanese company said it’s the “first step” in its $50 billion commitment to President-elect Donald Trump to create jobs in the U.S. [Reuters]

Flickr pool photo by Bekah Richards

by ARLnow.com — December 9, 2016 at 9:15 am 0

Ballston time lapse photo (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Fmr. Arlington Resident John Glenn Dies — John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, has died at the age of 95. In an article first published in 2012, the Arlington Public Library blog recounted the five years that Glenn and his family lived on N. Harrison Street in Arlington. [Arlington Public Library]

Soon: Central Place Apartments, Restaurants — Residents are expected to start moving into the new Central Place apartment tower in Rosslyn at some point during the first three months of 2017. Restaurants coming to the ground floor of the building include Sweetgreen, Little Beet, Nando’s Peri-peri and McDonald’s, while Cava Grill and Compass Coffee has signed leases for the Central Place office tower. [Washington Business Journal]

Fort Myer Getting Drone Detector — Officials from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall said at a recent Arlington civic association meeting that the base is working to procure a drone detection system. The base commander said he’s worried about “miniaturized tools of terror, specifically drones carrying home-made bombs.” [Pentagram]

Video: Ovi Delivering Pizzas in Arlington — Okay, it’s just a commercial and didn’t really happen. But a new 30-second TV spot from Papa John’s imagines Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin delivering pizzas in Arlington in 2001 as he pursues a childhood dream to become “the best pizza delivery boy in the world.” [Russian Machine Never Breaks]

Local Startup Scores Big Military Contract — Clarendon-based cybersecurity firm Endgame has won a $18.8 million contract from the U.S. Air Force. It’s believed to be “one of the largest endpoint protection software purchases in the Air Force’s history.” [Fedscoop]

Startups Recognized By County — Arlington County recognized four of the county’s fastest-growing companies this week as part of its second-annual “Fast Four” competition. The honorees were the Nicecream Factory ice cream shop in Arlington, Ballston-based Deep Learning Analytics, Clarendon consulting firm Enterprise Knowledge and Ballston-based software company Convoke. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

by ARLnow.com — December 1, 2016 at 10:10 am 0

Christmas trees (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Per Student Spending Questioned — Arlington Public Schools is again being questioned about why it has the highest per-student costs — $18,957 — of any suburban D.C. jurisdiction. Fairfax County, the largest school system in the state, has a per-student cost of $14,432. [InsideNova]

Woman’s Tireless TSA Protest — Alyssa Bermudez, a former Army staff sergeant and Bronze Star recipient, has been tirelessly protesting in front of Transportation Security Administration headquarters in Pentagon City, claiming that she was sexually harassed and fired for complaining about it. Other complaints and a lawsuit point to an alleged culture of harassment within the agency. [Washington Post]

ACPD Officers Meet Shaq — NBA great Shaquille O’Neal visited with D.C. area police yesterday on Capitol Hill to raise awareness of the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs. Several ACPD officers were photographed with the 7’1″ O’Neal. [Twitter, Twitter]

AFAC Needs New Van — The Arlington Food Assistance Center is seeking donations to help it buy a new cargo van, after one of its old vans broke down while on a grocery run. [Fox 5, AFAC]

LiveSafe Launches Navy Pilot ProgramArlington-based startup LiveSafe has launched a six-month pilot program with a big client: the U.S. Navy. LiveSafe’s app will be used by sailors in Hampton Roads, Va. and in Rota, Spain “in an effort to prevent sexual assaults and combat other destructive behaviors before they happen.” [Stars and Stripes]

Arlington Man Tweets Hillary Sightings — Arlingtonian Adam Parkhomenko, a long-time Hillary Clinton aide and booster, is helping grieving Democrats by turning the former presidential candidate into a “wandering folk hero.” He’s doing so via a social media account that keeps track of photos of Clinton “in the wild” since she lost the election. [Vanity Fair]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

by Katie Pyzyk — November 15, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

The following is the fifth and final article in a weekly series about a “day in the life” of companies at the MakeOffices coworking space in Clarendon. The series is sponsored by MakeOffices.

Although coffee is readily available at the office when Local News Now Founder Scott Brodbeck arrives, he typically brings his own. He knows that he’ll need the earlier jump start before leaping right in at the office and turning on the police scanner while sifting through readers’ news tips.

While the business aspects of Local News Now and much of the daily writing for local news website ARLnow.com are done at the MakeOffices Clarendon home base, covering news means being ready to go out on assignment at any given time.

“For us, the location is great. Being able to walk to so many things has been huge,” says Brodbeck.

Obviously, there’s far more to Arlington than just Clarendon, but being based at such a central location in the county makes for easy transportation to story locations. Staff usually walk, run or drive to stories, although Brodbeck explains that they have not yet delved into a very Arlington-esque mode of transportation while on the clock.

“We haven’t biked to any stories yet, but it’s something we’re considering,” he says with a laugh.

On one particularly busy news day last month, Brodbeck took the short walk from his office to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly opened Hyatt Place Hotel in Courthouse. He snaps photos and listens to speeches from corporate and county leaders as dozens sip champagne to celebrate the new development at the space previously occupied by Wilson Tavern, and Kitty O’Shea’s before it.

(Brodbeck refrained from imbibing the bubbly on the job, but isn’t opposed to an after-working-hours beer from one of MakeOffices’ kegerators.)

Along the way to the event, Brodbeck does what reporters do: He keeps an eye out for other potential stories. That means taking photos of progress at two nearby construction sites, investigating a “temporarily closed” sign at Five Guys (it has since reopened) and making a note to stop at the just-opened Blumen Cafe after the ribbon-cutting event.

Business does not come to a halt at Local News Now headquarters when Brodbeck and other reporters are out in the field. Back at the office, Director of Sales and Business Engagement Meghan McMahon gears up to meet with advertising clients. For her, location is also key for conducting work tasks.

“I work with a lot of local Arlington businesses. Being able to run in and out of the office to meet people… is very convenient,” she says.

McMahon’s life recently changed with the birth of her daughter and now another important aspect comes into play daily: balancing work life with being a mom.

Returning to a coworking space after maternity leave at first seemed overwhelming for McMahon, who suddenly had to factor breastfeeding into her daily routine. “When I first came in I saw that everything’s glass, everything’s open. I wondered where my privacy would be,” she says. “I was a little stressed about how to be in a working office environment and also be able to pump and do the things I have to do to be a new mom.”

But it turns out that MakeOffices Clarendon has an amenity McMahon wasn’t aware of at first. There are small, completely private, secure rooms called “wellness centers” that she now takes advantage of twice each work day.

“That was a sense of relief for me,” she says. “I can take a few minutes out of my day and go relax in the wellness rooms… It gives me 20 minutes of alone time so that I can get ‘mom stuff’ done.” (more…)

by Katie Pyzyk — November 1, 2016 at 1:35 pm 0

The following is the third in a weekly series of articles about a “day in the life” of companies at the MakeOffices coworking space in Clarendon. The mini-series, which will run this fall, is sponsored by MakeOffices.

Move over Willy Wonka, the employees at SharpSeat are now the ones offering golden tickets. Whether for concerts or sporting events or theater performances, SharpSeat hooks up secondary market buyers with their dream tickets. The service essentially “is like StubHub, but cheaper,” say co-founder Andrew McCulloch.

He and the other two co-founders, Mike Williams and Brad Kurtzman, met while attending James Madison University and moved to Northern Virginia to take jobs after graduating. They attended a lot of ticketed events upon moving to the area and found themselves giving advice to friends looking to buy good tickets, too. But there was one major problem.

“There’s a ton of fees that we got sick of paying when shopping around on other sites,” McCulloch says. “We saw an opening in the secondary ticket market.” That’s when they decided they could do it better.

The three did a lot of research on secondary market ticket sales and ended up using their industry knowledge to start SharpSeat as a side project. “We found the average person didn’t know to look any further than Stubhub for secondary [tickets]. We saw an opportunity there to give them a better alternative,” Williams says.

They all eventually left their jobs to work full-time on SharpSeat. “We basically wanted to find a way to make tickets cheaper for the end customer,” McCulloch says. “We knew if we could find a way to keep costs down and still get access to the same tickets the big guys were getting, we could pass the savings on to customers.”

Their average day is a lot different now. The employees live in Virginia Square — two live together and the other lives down the street — so the MakeOffices Clarendon location where they work makes for an easy commute.

“One of the best parts is not having the commute around D.C.,” McCulloch says. He also found it important to stop working from home every day. “Keeping work and life separate was big for me because working in my kitchen all the time I’m [distracted]… Plus, here we’re surrounded by a bunch of other entrepreneurs that are getting things done.”

Being among other entrepreneurs has helped the employees stay motivated when doing their daily tasks, which include maintaining the website, coordinating with site developers, researching what events are coming up and fielding calls from the customer service team. And according to Williams, one of the big challenges they constantly face is marketing.

“For every business, [marketing] is probably 90 percent of the battle,” he says. “Just getting the word out there and getting people to visit the site, more than just your family and friends.”

Thanks to the business’ growth since launching two years ago — there is currently about $2 billion worth of tickets listed on the site, although it fluctuates seasonally — the team recently has been able to hire out for help with that marketing burden.

“Now we’ve hired a marketing firm to help us and we’re really looking to expand,” Kurtzman says. “This is our first business so we kind of learn as we go. We had to teach ourselves everything.”

They also outsource much of the customer service to a team in Chicago, but not all of it. The co-founders all use their venue expertise to give advice to customers who contact them looking for tips on purchasing the best tickets.

“So often people ask what’s the best value and where’s the best place to sit,” says McCulloch. “We know where you’re going to get a better value… Just little intricacies like that help out when we’re talking to clients.” Williams agrees, adding, “We have good knowledge of all the D.C. venues so we help people out” with getting the best ticket for their money.

To remain experts in the industry, the three often do offsite work — attending different types of events locally as well as traveling to other cities to check out their venues. “Obviously, it’s really fun to do that, but it is a part of what we have to do [for research],” Williams says.

Kurtzman explains that traveling to sites is how they gain knowledge of the best seats so they can offer direct customer support. “StubHub doesn’t really do that kind of thing,” he says.

When the SharpSeat employees aren’t traveling, they take advantage of the amenities in the MakeOffices Clarendon coworking space.

“Getting dedicated office space around here… is pretty unrealistic, especially for a small company like us,” says Williams. “Even for something half as nice as this, if you want a dedicated space the rents around here are so much that it just never really made sense to us. When this space opened up we couldn’t believe how cheap it was for what you get.”

One of the perks included in that price is a set of rotating taps of regionally-brewed beers. The SharpSeat co-founders say they like to head to the kitchen to try out new brews, relax and meet employees from the other businesses in the coworking space.

“Plus, I love the massage chairs,” Brad says, as the others laugh. “I usually use them once a day.”

Between the MakeOffices benefits and the satisfaction of doing a job they love, the SharpSeat team experiences something many typical employees don’t: They actually enjoy going to work.

“At my old job, I hated going to work. Now I love coming to this office,” Kurtzman says. Williams agrees, saying with a smile, “It’s kind of crazy that we’re voluntarily coming into an office after we wanted so badly to get out of one.”

by Katie Pyzyk — October 31, 2016 at 12:15 pm 0

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.

There’s a well-known phrase claiming that from necessity comes invention. But sometimes it’s more the case of “from annoyance comes invention.” That’s exactly what prompted a local entrepreneur to invent an app to ease lost wanderers’ frustration at the grocery store.

Basket Helper app by Safety Now SolutionsMinh Tran, of Safety Now Solutions, has created an app called Basket Helper that points users to desired items at a Giant grocery store. It’s not for all Giant stores; very specifically, it’s for the Virginia Square Giant at 3450 Washington Blvd. Right now it’s a pilot that Tran hopes will expand to include other locations.

He took this on as a personal side project, unrelated to Safety Now Solutions’ typical work.

“We usually do public safety software, but this project I made kind of for myself because I was so frustrated with the shopping process,” he says. “Basically when I go to the supermarket I often don’t know where things are. It’s frustrating to walk up and down the store [aisles] staring at the sign that’s above you just to find the right aisle.”

Although some grocery stores have similar apps that show customers which items are in which aisles, Giant does not. Enter Tran and his test pilot.

Basket Helper app by Safety Now SolutionsThe app functions simply: Users type in the items they want to purchase, hit “search” and the store aisle number appears. The platform is programmed to accept many partial word matches or alternate spellings, so entering “lightbulb” and “light bulb” should both provide the correct aisle. Some brand names also come up with a match.

A unique way Tran envisions the app helping people is when they send someone else on an errand to the store. Users can go onto the website app and “actually send your partner the link” showing all the items’ locations, says Tran. “You can type in the things you need and then copy and paste the search link to your partner and they would know which aisle to go to,” he says. That means no more “I couldn’t find it” excuses from the person who went on the errand.

The pilot launched earlier this month on iOS, Android and a website app. Currently it is independent of the Giant grocery chain, but Tran hopes to change that. He has pitched the app idea to Giant and is waiting to hear if they’ll buy it and expand it to other stores. He’s also considered contacting Safeway, because that chain’s app only allows users to search for one item at a time.

Devising the app itself only took a day or two; what’s been time consuming is entering all the items into the database. But Tran only expects to deal with that for the pilot. Once stores purchase the app, they’ll then enter the information themselves. “You can do it quickly if you have multiple people doing it in multiple aisles,” Tran says. Perhaps, for example, employees could add the items to the database as they restock the shelves.

Keep in mind that this prototype can’t guarantee that every single item in the Virginia Square Giant is listed. But so far it comes pretty darn close; with about 3,000 searchable items, Tran estimates about 75 percent of the store’s items are in the database.

“I thought a tool like this would be helpful,” he says. “I wanted to see if people would embrace the idea.”

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