Arlington, VA

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring Shirlington Gateway. The new 2800 Shirlington recently delivered a brand-new lobby and upgraded fitness center, and is adding spec suites with bright open plans and modern finishes. Experience a prime location and enjoy being steps from Shirlington Village.

Last spring, Kapil Thangavelu and Travis Stanfield quit their tech jobs to launch Stacklet and help companies secure and manage their cloud networks.

Then the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic.

“Markets were in free fall and companies did not know what to do,” said Thangavelu, an Arlington local who founded Cloud Custodian, a popular open-source solution for securing and managing cloud systems, while working at Capital One.

Six months later, Stacklet — which builds on Cloud Custodian and provides professional services that an open-source project cannot — was starting paying off. The Clarendon-based company had raised $4 million in funding in August.

Last month, investors pitched in $18 million. Stanfield said that money will help realize his goal for 2021: to raise the company’s public profile. With the funding, the co-founders plan to hire more staff in engineering, marketing, sales and customer success and publicize the existence of Stacklet.

The company is backed by prominent investors, including renowned venture capitalist Lee Fixel, who has also backed Spotify and Peloton, and Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Foundation Capital. In this round of funding, Stacklet also gained a new individual investor: Liam Randall.

Randall is an Arlington local who “believe[s] in Stacklet so much [he] joined the company.” He was most recently the vice president of software innovation at Capital One.

The forced remote work of 2020 has accelerated the need among companies to transition their software and services to the cloud, and many are turning to Cloud Custodian, which means investors are turning their sights on Stacklet, Randall said. That is because Stacklet gives companies the extra support and features Cloud Custodian cannot, Stanfield said.

Open source is amazing, and the best way to develop certain kinds of software, but open source does not solve some of the real, material concerns that enterprises have,” the Stacklet co-founder said. “They want to know that they have a team that they can work with that prioritizes their needs.”

If the cloud is a metaphorical road in terms of what it enables users to do with their computing vehicles, Stacklet provides the guardrails, Randall said.

“We help people to know that they can use the cloud safely without accidentally driving off the cliff,” he said. “The cloud does let you configure things how you want them, and frequently, there are accidental configuring errors that lead to security implications, governance implications and cost implications.”

Often, Thangavelu added, cloud security relies on companies and employees “making the right choices all the time,” as physical security relies on people not forgetting to lock their doors.

But sometimes, people forget and do things online that could compromise a company’s cloud network.

“Whatever accidents happen, Cloud Custodian and Stacklet ensure the overall organization and customers’ data are secure,” as well as cost-efficient and well-managed, Thangavelu said.

One year ago, Stanfield said he and Thangavelu were nervous about the future, taking on a huge risk as the world was shutting down to combat the coronavirus.

Instead, this past year contained the moments that Stanfield said “have given us the confidence that this is good.”

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As early as mid-spring, light poles along Wilson Blvd in Clarendon will be outfitted with new fixtures that monitor crowds and identify potential emergencies.

The technology will be installed sometime this spring as part of a pilot project involving multiple Arlington County departments as well as Comcast, the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative and US Ignite — a nonprofit focused on community innovation. The initiative is dubbed the “Safety and Innovation Zone demonstration project.”

During its recessed meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the County Board voted 4-1, with Takis Karantonis dissenting, in favor of the pilot project. US Ignite is donating $90,000 to buy the light fixtures, which Comcast will provide, along with a three-month trial of public Wi-Fi in the area.

Karantonis said his vote should not be interpreted as a vote of no-confidence, but rather, it should signal that he is still skeptical and would like to see more public engagement.

The primary use for the fixtures, to be installed along the 2900 block of Wilson Blvd, will be “people counting,” said Holly Hartell, who presented the project on behalf of the Department of Technology Services. In other words, the light fixtures will monitor crowd sizes and flow to recognize unexpected movements that could indicate a potential threat or emergency situation.

“This is an effort to speed things up where seconds and minutes count,” said Arlington County Fire Chief David Povlitz. “If we could gain information to send the right resource to the right place in a timely fashion that could really accelerate us operationally and also safety-wise.”

The light fixtures do not have the capacity to videotape people, capture images or provide identifying information, Hartell said. They can pick up the presence or absence of an event they have been programmed to detect, such as a large crowd moving quickly. This data will be converted into text and sent to a dashboard in the county’s Emergency Communications Center.

“Everything will be anonymous,” Hartell said. “You will never be able to identify an individual person.”

Later on, the technology could be used to detect falls, blasts, shots, and distress cries, as well as sudden temperature changes or the presence of smoke.

The fire chief added that “this [pilot] is just a start and we hope to be able to build this out in the county in time.”

“We are aware of people who are concerned,” Hartell later told ARLnow, of questions raised about the project. “I understand their concerns, and I want to give them the confidence that what we’re looking at is not going to be in any way impacting their privacy.”

The partners in the project — CCI, US Ignite and Comcast — are all providing best practices on collecting data while respecting privacy, she said. The county has also developed a privacy framework to use as it goes about the project.

“We are protecting people’s privacy while improving our services,” she said.

The pilot project will be in place for about one year. The first few months will be spent refining the uses for the technology, followed by six months of data collection, and finally, an assessment period. Next spring, the county will decide if the project could be replicated elsewhere. At that time, there will be robust public engagement opportunities, Hartell said.

During the meeting, Hartell said the block was chosen because it has a vibrant business district and a “pretty active restaurant and pedestrian activity,” even now during the pandemic.

One incident the technology might have caught in that location, had it been in place a few years ago: the famous 2018 Cheesecake Factory incident, when a promotion for free cheesecake got out of control

The original proposal was to focus on social distancing and mask-wearing, according to the staff report. A small number of business members of the Clarendon Alliance were consulted on the idea, and their concern led to a shift away from coronavirus measures, staff said.

Photo 1 via Google Maps, photos 2-3 via Arlington County

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Arlington resident Celia Edwards Karam is at the top of her game.

She is the Chief Audit Officer for Capital One, and was just named the first independent member of the Board of Directors for Zola, a popular online one-stop-shop for wedding planning services.

Zola’s founder, Shan-Lyn Ma, tapped Karam for the position, and after a series of conversations with the company’s leadership, Karam was officially in.

“I guess I must have done okay in those interviews,” she said, laughing.

While she got married before anything like Zola existed, Karam said she is joining the board to help Zola find opportunities for growth and new corners of the $55 billion wedding industry to explore.

The appointment adds to a resume that includes degrees from Harvard and Stanford universities, 14 years at Capital One and volunteer work with the nonprofit Commonwealth, which helps vulnerable people achieve financial security.

Her achievements seem to flow from one source. “It all comes back to [the question], ‘How might we make choices that are actually helping people get to better outcomes?'” she said.

Karam draws inspiration from her experience as a Jamaican immigrant. She came to the U.S. with her family when she was five years old, and watched her parents work hard to give her and her siblings access to education and better opportunities.

“Financially speaking, we didn’t have a lot to work with,” she said. “The sense you get instilled is one of gratitude and one to give back.”

This sense manifests in Karam’s concern for people, and making their lives easier. She says Capital One, Zola and Commonwealth share this customer-centered pursuit.

But these companies also share Karam.

In recent years, the chief audit officer has grown more confident in sharing her perspective as a Black woman — something that she did not always do. As a child, she was taught that the way to achieve equality was by ignoring color.

“The way to succeed, in my mind, was for my bosses not to notice the differences,” she said. That changed five years ago.

“I came to what might sound like a ridiculous conclusion: The fact that I am a Black woman actually makes me different,” she said.

Keeping in mind her bad experiences suppressing her identity, today she encourages business leaders to show employees that their perspectives, informed by their diverse identities, are valued. It is one reason she said she admires and wants to work with Ma — one of the relatively few women running successful new tech companies.

“If you don’t have the numbers, there’s nowhere to go from there,” she said. “But you only get a diversity of perspective if the people who are there feel like they can actually share what’s on their minds.”

Karam jokes that outside her work, she does not have too many hobbies she can pursue because she has three kids — ages seven, 10 and 12 — who she shuttles to “what feels like hundreds of sports activities.”

In the 10th month of remote work since the shutdown this March, she said she and her kids have started taking lots of walks with the family dog through Arlington. She, her husband and kids have called Arlington home since 2007.

“Arlington is actually a pretty amazing place to live,” she said. “It’s exactly right mix of urban and suburban for our family.”

Photo courtesy Celia Edwards Karam

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(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) Goodbye Ruby Tuesday, Microsoft is going to hang its name on 1300 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.

The tech giant announced today that it has signed a lease to establish a new sales hub at the Arlington office building, which formerly housed the chain restaurant on the ground floor. Last month the County Board voted to allow the former Ruby Tuesday space to be used for office purposes, in anticipation of “a sizeable office tenant.”

In a LinkedIn post, Microsoft said its new hub at 1300 Wilson Blvd, also known as Commonwealth Tower, would “become the new home of our regional Global Sales and Marketing Organization teams, and the Microsoft Sales Headquarters Office for the [D.C.] area”

The office is expected to open in mid-2022, after a construction project set to kick off this summer. The office brings Microsoft closer to a major customer: the Pentagon, which awarded the company a $10 billion cloud computing contract in 2019.

Microsoft will occupy more than 180,000 square feet of space in the 15-story, 360,000 square foot building, a source told the Washington Business Journal after the announcement.

It’s the latest D.C. area move for the Redmond, Washington-based company. In May, Microsoft announced that it would be creating 1,500 jobs at a new research and development hub at Reston Town Center.

The full LinkedIn post is below.

With Microsoft’s growing presence in the Washington, D.C. area, today we signed a new lease at 1300 Wilson Blvd in Arlington, VA. This will become the new home of our regional Global Sales and Marketing Organization teams, and the Microsoft Sales Headquarters Office for the DMV (Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) area. My U.S. Regulated Industries team, including our Microsoft Federal organization, will operate out of this new facility.

These new offices will feature a Microsoft Technology Center, state-of-the-art customer facilities, and innovative employee workspaces to support collaboration and innovation. It is built to help us engage with customers more personally, using our latest technologies to help them reimagine the digital transformation efforts of their organizations and agencies.

From the facility to the location itself, everything about this project was planned with our customers in mind, creating a proximity that enables us to support their evolving needs. Additionally, this move unites our teams in the mid-Atlantic region, fostering a communal atmosphere that can inspire us to do our absolute best work.

While we are all navigating the remote work environment, securing this space is an exciting step that maps to current needs around our growing presence, and ensures that when we transition back to the workplace, we can do so as seamlessly as possible. Construction on the site will begin this summer and we look forward to opening it to employees in mid-2022.

I am excited about the potential that this new DMV Sales Headquarters enables for our growth in the region, our ability to create more meaningful customer engagements, and the opportunity to provide modernized workplaces for our teams.

Photo via Microsoft

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Morning Notes

Free T-Ball This Spring — “Arlington Babe Ruth (ABR) is now offering free T-Ball to boys and girls ages 4-6. ABR recognizes that young players will try multiple sports in order to see what sticks, so we’ve eliminated registration fees for the youngest players. The free ABR Blastball and T-Ball programs are excellent ways to introduce boys and girls to baseball, using simple drills, a soft ball and lightweight bats, and a fun-oriented approach that teaches the rules while building enjoyment for the game.” [Arlington Babe Ruth]

Most-Read Arlington Library Books — “These are the books Arlington readers turned to the most in 2020. Unsurprisingly, many top fiction titles were part of a series, and many top nonfiction titles reflect a yearning for social justice and a desire for human connection.” [Arlington Public Library]

Virtual Meetings Lead to More Participation — “The Electoral Board was actually in the midst of conducting a meeting in March when the county government began battening the hatches and closing facilities while the COVID crisis was taking hold. Its meetings since then have been conducted on an electronic platform. There is a plus side to that. ‘Attendance has certainly increased – it has more than tripled,’ county elections chief Gretchen Reinemeyer said.” [InsideNova]

GW Parkway Lane Change — “Years of side-swiping, rear-ending and near misses have prompted traffic pattern changes to crash-prone sections of the George Washington Memorial Parkway and Interstate 395. Northbound traffic on the George Washington Parkway is permanently narrowed into a single lane at the crosswalk near Memorial Bridge.” [WTOP]

New Year Video from Arlington Children’s Chorus — “Watch this video of a song we wrote and performed that we did to bring some good cheer to the local community this holiday season… After all our festive activities were cancelled, writing a song trying to capture a little bit of the spirit of the season was a way to let our children’s voices be heard. It’s been amazing how much joy has blossomed from such a difficult situation!” [YouTube]

Distinction for Arlington Biotech Firm — “[Arlington-based] Kerecis is the fastest growing company in the regenerative-tissue market in the United States according to SmartTRAK Business Intelligence, which compared industry-sales and market-share data for 3Q 2020 to 3Q 2019.” [Kerecis]

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Once high-flying local startup Trustify was able to grow due to a massive fraud perpetrated by its former CEO and co-founder, according to federal prosecutors.

Just three years ago, Danny Boice was the toast of the Arlington startup scene. Virginia’s former governor and Arlington’s former County Board chair praised his plan to add 184 jobs in Trustify’s sparkling new Crystal City offices — a plan that, if carried out, would have made him eligible for nearly $120,000 in economic development incentives.

But the grand vision for a thriving “Uber-for-private-investigators” service never came to fruition.

Behind the scenes, the investments that allowed Trustify to grow were being solicited with fraudulent information, overstating Trustify’s financial performance, and eventually the facade came crashing down. The company was placed into bankruptcy proceedings last year.

Boice, a 41-year-old Alexandria resident, pleaded guilty this week to one count of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud in connection to the scheme, according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice. He’s set to be sentenced in March.

Not only did Boice lie to get $18.5 million in investment, the DOJ said, but he diverted nearly $4 million to his personal benefit, including homes and a private jet.

While some frauds may go unnoticed, the Trustify fraud was called out in real time by a devoted critic of Boice and the company. A local tech watchdog who went by the name “Mr. Cranky” wrote at the time of the governor’s jobs announcement, on a now-defunct blog, that Boice and his ex-wife/co-founder were “two low life scum, pretending to be entrepreneurs.”

“It is my opinion that Danny and [his ex-wife] are financing their luxurious lifestyle by crowdfunding money for their Dumpster Fire and using that cash for vacations, house payments, and private schools while investing little in the company,” he wrote. An earlier “Mr. Cranky” post reprinted a letter from Boice’s attorney demanding that he “cease and desist from continuing to publish false and intentionally disparaging statements about Mr. Boice and his company Trustify.”

The full DOJ press release about Boice’s guilty plea is below.

The former chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of Trustify, Inc. (Trustify), a privately-held technology company founded in 2015 and based in Arlington, Virginia, pleaded guilty today to his involvement in a fraud scheme resulting in millions of dollars of losses to investors.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

Daniel Boice, 41, of Alexandria, Virginia, pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud before Senior United States District Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia. Sentencing is scheduled for March 19, 2021.

According to admissions made in connection with the plea agreement, beginning in 2015,  Boice fraudulently solicited investments in Trustify, a privately held technology start-up company that connected customers with private investigators. Boice raised approximately $18.5 million from over 90 investors by, among other things, falsely overstating Trustify’s financial performance. Despite representing to investors that their funds would go towards operating and growing Trustify’s business, Boice diverted at least $3.7 million for his own benefit and to fund his lifestyle. This included the purchase of a home in Alexandria, Virginia, travel by private jet, and furnishing a seaside vacation home.

The FBI’s Washington Field Office is investigating the case.  Trial Attorney Blake Goebel of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Carlberg of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.

Individuals who believe they may be a victim in this case should contact the Victim Witness Services Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at 703-299-3700 for more information.

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Morning Notes

Police Called for Man Spitting on Bus Passengers — An incident on a bus prompted a police response Thursday afternoon. Per ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage: “At approximately 1:38 p.m., police were dispatched to the report of a disorderly subject on a Metro bus in the area of Columbia Pike and S. Dinwiddie Street. The suspect left the area prior to police arrival and a search by responding officers returned with negative results… The call for service alleged the subject was acting disorderly and spitting on individuals on the bus.”

Arlington Company Is Among Fastest-Growing — Ballston-based Hungry is the fastest-growing technology firm in the D.C. area and the 18th fastest growing tech company in the nation, according to a new list from Deloitte. Another Ballston tech company, Evolent Health, ranked No. 402 in the U.S. [Deloitte]

NAACP Statement on H-B Incident — “We are pleased that the principal took swift action to notify families and meet with affected students and that the Superintendent followed up with a letter to APS families with an honest depiction that did not minimize the significance or harm it caused. This act of racial violence is the latest and most egregious in a progressive pattern of racist incidents occurring within our schools.” [Press Release]

Grant to Help Local Tourism Recover — “Arlington Convention and Visitors Service has received $10,000 from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Recovery Marketing Leverage Program, designed to help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging limited local marketing dollars through a local match of state grant funds.” [Arlington County]

ACFD Hosting Kids’ Bedtime Stories — “We are extremely excited to host our 4th Virtual Bedtime Story/ Fire Engine Tour! Spots are limited and previous events have maxed out quickly. If you are interested in joining please email [email protected] Can’t wait to see you Monday night.” [@ArlingtonVaFD/Twitter]

More County Website Problems — Arlington County’s website again suffered technical difficulties yesterday afternoon. The issues were resolved within a few hours. [@ArlingtonVA/Twitter]

Gondolas Gaining in Popularity — “Air gondolas — ski-lift-type conveyances that have become common sights in South American cities like Medellín, Mexico City and La Paz — could one day dot the U.S. urban landscape, some transportation planners say.” [Axios]

Nearby: Car Plows Into CD Cellar — The CD Cellar store in Falls Church was damaged after a car came crashing through one of the front windows earlier this week. “Someone thought we were a drive-thru record store,” CD Cellar quipped on social media. [Facebook]

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A 1970s technology is causing a very 2020 problem at Arlington County’s drive-thru coronavirus testing site.

The collection site at 1429 N. Quincy Street is, as of publication time, temporarily closed. The reason, according to Arlington Public Health spokesman Ryan Hudson, is because “the site is having some technical issues with its fax line.”

The site closed shortly before 11 a.m. today. Police were called to the site to assist with traffic control, with a large number of vehicles reportedly in line at the time of the closure.

Arlington’s seven-day moving average of PCR-based tests performed reached 632 per day today, a new local record, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. Arlington’s test positivity rate currently stands at 6.9%, down slightly from 7.2% a few days ago.

The trailing seven-day total of new cases reported in the county is 386 as of Thursday morning, setting a new record for the fourth day in a row.

Those hoping to get a COVID-19 test while the drive-thru site is closed can either go to the county’s walk-up testing site at the Arlington Mill Community Center or go to one of several local private testing sites.

Update at 2:15 p.m. — The testing site has reopened.

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Morning Notes

Real Estate Market Remains Hot — “A total of 264 properties went to closing in October, up 25.7 percent from the 210 transactions a year before… The Arlington-wide average sales price of $757,378 recorded in October was up 14.5 percent from $661,447, with a 16.7-percent increase in the average sales price of single-family homes (to $1,148,445) and a 2.7-percent increase for attached homes, such as townhouses and rowhouses (to $537,547).” [InsideNova]

Investment for Arlington Tech Firm — “The Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) today announced that Virginia Founders Fund (VFF) has invested in Rosslyn, Va.-based Mesh Intelligence, developer of a proactive food safety and supply chain solution to predict upcoming and evolving risks and disruptions globally to help organizations plan and act faster.” [GlobeNewswire via Potomac Tech Wire]

A-SPAN Gets New CEO — “The Board of Directors of A-SPAN, a nonprofit organization that provides life-saving supportive services for vulnerable people, has announced the appointment of Betsy Frantz to the position of President/CEO on a permanent basis.” [Press Release]

Outdoor Music Prompts Complaints in F.C. — “Live music has been a major draw for Falls Church Distillers over the past few months, which has moved outdoors due to Covid-19 concerns. However, residential neighbors in nearby apartment complexes haven’t taken to the adaptation as well.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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Morning Notes

Frederick-to-Arlington Transit Proposal — “Proposed transit service connecting Arlington to Frederick (Md.) and points in between remains on the table, but barely, after scoring low in a recent cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Virginia and Maryland state governments… As envisioned, the transit route would start at Frederick six times each workday morning and terminate an hour later at the Pentagon, with intermediate stops at Monocacy, Urbana, Germantown, Gaithersburg, Montgomery Mall and Rosslyn.” [InsideNova]

Women Groped in Aurora Highlands — “At approximately 7:18 p.m. on November 3, police were dispatched to the late report of an assault. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 6:30 p.m., the victim was running in the area when the suspect approached her from behind and grabbed her buttocks. The victim yelled, and the suspect fled on foot, then entered the passenger side of a vehicle and left the area.” [ACPD]

Data Breach Affecting Hospital — “Virginia Hospital Center (VHC), a community-based hospital providing medical services to the Washington, DC metropolitan area for 75 years, has recently learned of an information security incident experienced by one of its vendors… [an] unauthorized party may have acquired a backup of the database that compromises certain limited elements of VHC’s donor and fundraising information, as may be the case with other nonprofits affected by this incident worldwide.” [Press Release]

Grand Opening for New BusinessPaint Nail Bar (1520 Clarendon Blvd) is holding its grand opening celebration this weekend, from 5-8 p.m. on Saturday. “Champagne and light bites will be served and all attendees will receive a goody bag,” the business says. [Facebook]

Tea Returns to the Ritz — “The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City is now offering Afternoon Tea, bringing a time-honored tradition at an affordable price – all with safety and the health of guests in mind. Offered in their fyve restaurant, featuring globally inspired dishes, the hotel’s Afternoon Tea service is available at three price points, perfect for adults and children celebrating a special occasion or looking for a weekend respite from the day-to-day.” [Press Release]

More Nice Weather on Tap — “Quite a stretch of tranquil weather ahead of us as high pressure dominates into early next week, resulting in dry conditions and temperatures running 5 to 10 degrees above normal for early November.” [@NWS_BaltWash/Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

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