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Call-Monitoring AI Startup Wins $5 Million Investment

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup 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.

Have you ever called a helpline and heard a message saying the call may be recorded for training and quality purposes? ExecVision, a startup based in Rosslyn, might be at the other end of that call.

“We’re one of the systems that sits behind [a call], allowing managers to coach [service representatives],” said Jesse Williams, director of marketing at ExecVision.

Williams said ExecVision’s conversation intelligence software, a type of artificial intelligence, can signal and flag key moments in a call to help improve performance and sales. ExecVision can also identify recurring problems with calls that can be used to review and improve performance.

ExecVision’s tech can be applied to either sales calls or customer support calls. Williams said any company that uses phone calls heavily in relation to their product could be a good fit for ExecVision.

The AI has processed over 8 million calls since it was founded in 2015, but a new funding bump aims to expand those operations considerably.

The company recently secured $5.4 million in funding from Edison Partners, an investment firm in New Jersey. Williams said funding is a significant increase over the $2.5 million the company had raised up to that point.

“We’re excited to join the portfolio,” said Williams. “The majority of this investment is targeted at scaling up our operations and marketing strategy.”

Over the last year, ExecVision has undergone several changes to their program to improve administrative functionality, from a new transcription engine to a metrics tab. Most recently, the company created a new manager dashboard, allowing sales executives to track the logistics of coaching for their team. According to the press release:

“Sales executives can track the amount of coaching their managers are providing to their team, how effective that coaching is, how their coaching activities are distributed across the team, the time spent coaching, and the impact of coaching activities on their team’s performance over time.”

ExecVision was founded by David Stillman and Steve Richard and shares an office with their earlier startup, Vorsight, an appointment scheduling firm.

Williams said the company has a staff of around 35 employees, with plans to expand to 50 employees by the end of the year.

Photos of ExecVision software and co-founder Steve Richard courtesy ExecVision

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Morning Notes

Christmas Travel Crunch Starts Today — “A record number of people are expected to travel this Christmas season, spurred on by economic comfort and relatively modest gas prices… This year INRIX, a traffic data firm, has forecast the very worst time for drivers to set out on the highways, and for the Washington region, that’s five days before Christmas, on Dec. 20, between 1:15 p.m. and 2:15 p.m.” [Washington Post]

County Manager Pans ART Service — “‘The ART bus performance, recently, stinks,’ Mark Schwartz said during a meeting with Arlington County Civic Federation delegates… In the second quarter of 2018, on-time performance dropped to 83 percent from 92 percent a year before, according to data provided to the county government’s Transit Advisory Committee. Ridership in that quarter was down 14 percent from a year before.” [InsideNova]

Free ART Rides Today and Tomorrow — “Free ART rides on Thurs. December 20 & Fri. December 21. Everyone rides for free! Happy holidays and thank you for riding ART!” [Twitter]

Small Fire in Under-Construction Home — “ACFD is on the scene of a small trash fire at an under-construction home near Discovery Elementary and Williamsburg Middle School.” [Twitter]

Ballston Company Announces New Funding — “Acendre, a leader in secure, cloud-based talent management software for regulated industry verticals, today announced a majority growth investment from Strattam Capital. The investment will enable Acendre to accelerate its growth and more quickly advance its innovative, easy-to-use Software as a Service (SaaS) talent management platform, which helps organizations solve some of today’s most challenging hiring problems.” [Acendre]

Amazon Joins Arlington Chamber — “Amazon.com Inc. has agreed to join the Greater Washington Hispanic and Arlington chambers of commerce and could join more in the region in 2019… The e-commerce giant formally joined the 760-member Arlington chamber on Dec. 3. and subsequently sent a senior public policy official to its annual meeting on Dec. 7, said Kate Bates, chamber president.” [Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Georgetown Wawa Opening Today — “What an exciting couple of days this week will bring, for fans of hoagies and tacos and caffeine and alcohol-infused frozen Pepsi products. Wawa announced Monday it will open its second D.C. location Thursday, in Georgetown at 1222 Wisconsin Ave. NW. As usual, the event will feature free coffee and a sampling of Wawa fare, in addition to a ‘Georgetown-inspired beverage.'” [WTOP]

Nearby: D.C. Population Breaks 700K — “Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released new official population numbers that put the District’s population at 702,455 as of July 1, 2018. The District’s population has risen every year since 2006 and has soared by more than 100,000 people since the 2010 Census.” [PoPville]

Flickr pool photo by Maryland Nomadic

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Crystal City Startup Acquires Holographic Football Training Program

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 Crystal City-based startup’s new acquisition will start to move the company toward offering hologram technology.

ByteCubed, a startup ARLnow first profiled in 2015, launched a new subsidiary, ByteCubed Labs, LLC, in November. The new subsidiary’s first offering will be “Pre-Game Prep,” technology from Maryland-based developer Mixed River that uses holograms for sports training.

The technology is currently being used by the Baltimore Ravens, who use the technology to simulate the opposing team on the field and react to real-time data, according to a release. Microsoft’s “HoloLens” glasses allows users to play-back recent plays and simulations.

“The acquisition of Pre-Game Prep and the launch of ByteCubed Labs allows us to expand our leadership in complex data analysis and advanced engineering to a new market of professional and college football teams,” ByteCubed CEO Ahmad Ishaq said in a statement.

Troy Jones Jr., who had helped oversee the product at Mixed River prior to acquisition by ByteCubed, was also hired as vice president of business development and operations at ByteCubed Labs.

“Pre-Game Prep” will now be offered through ByteCubed Labs, although the working relationship with the Baltimore Ravens will continue. The company’s specific plans for the holographic technology haven’t been announced yet, but the Washington Business Journal reported that security planning for events was one of the potential uses cited for the tech as it shifts from sports to government use.

ByteCubed also recently acquired InterKn, a data analytics and machine learning platform, and CHIEF, a branding and marketing agency.

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APS Fees For Lost, Damaged Devices Leave Some Parents Frustrated

Some parents are fuming over the school system’s decision to charge them for damage to school-issued laptops and tablets this year, arguing that officials shouldn’t pass along the costs of a mandatory program for students.

The School Board agreed to a policy change ahead of this school year, stipulating that parents could be charged if officials see any “intentional or negligent” damage to a student’s device. All county elementary and middle school students are currently issued iPads, while high schoolers receive MacBook laptops, as part of the “1:1 device” program the school system first kicked off in 2014.

Arlington Public Schools still takes responsibility for “routine maintenance or standard repairs” to school-owned devices, under the terms of its “acceptable use” policy. But the school system does reserve the right to charge parents hundreds of dollars for substantial repairs, or replace a lost device.

“People were concerned about the expense at first, but everyone told us: don’t worry, you’re not going to be liable for these,” Danielle Werchowsky, the parent of a sophomore at Yorktown High School, told ARLnow. “A lot of us didn’t ask for these pieces of equipment… but APS chose this path and they should have to figure out how to fix it and how to pay for it, not charge us.”

APS spokesman Frank Bellavia points out that the Board approved such a change back when it was still setting a new budget back in May, in order to “reduce the number of devices being damaged.” The issue has bubbled up now, however, largely thanks to an email from the Yorktown Parent Teacher Association sent out Monday (Dec. 3) laying out the exact cost of repairs.

Werchowsky says many parents were completely unaware of the size of these fees until that email went out (though they are posted on the APS website), and they felt a bit of sticker shock. A “complete replacement” of laptop could cost anywhere from $634 to $734, for instance, while an iPad would cost a family $279.

“I just got a bill for $100 for repairs to my son’s iPad,” Val Steenstra wrote in a Facebook post on the matter. “He pulled it out of his backpack and the screen was glitching. No discussion of fault. No questions about if he did something to damage it. Just a bill.”

“These kids have their laptops for four years, but there’s no depreciation taken into account here, you’re still paying $700,” Werchowsky added. “These aren’t like a home computer where it’s in one spot… And their frontal cortex aren’t necessarily fully developed, they lose things. My son would forget his coat if I didn’t remind him.”

Yet Bellavia notes that only 3 percent of all the school system’s devices are lost, stolen or damaged each year — and even then, “the most common occurrence” is a lost charger. For iPads, replacements for those cost $27: for MacBooks, it’s $53.

Bellavia adds that APS is “self-insured,” so the school system is only charging parents “the actual costs APS pays to have the repairs made.” Given the tight budgets the school system has been facing recently, officials are particularly eager to find ways to defray any costs they can.

“The self-insurance covers the costs to repair accidental damage and situations where the families are unable to pay the full cost of the repair,” Bellavia wrote in an email.

But Werchowsky and many of her fellow parents argue that any fee is too high, considering that they harbor serious concerns about using the devices in the first place, making the potential costs all the more frustrating. Some Arlington parents have managed to collect hundreds of signatures on a petition urging APS to to cut back on how often young students are exposed to the devices — the Board itself has even considered moving to a “2:1” or “4:1” device policy for elementary students, as a strategy to control costs and reduce screen time for younger kids.

“It’s not that I’m anti-computer, but I just don’t think a lot of it has been well thought out,” Werchowsky said. “You really can’t opt out, even if you have screen addiction concerns.”

Yet Bellavia notes that concerned parents do have some options, even if the devices will remain a key component of APS curricula moving forward.

“During the school day, teachers build lesson plans with the knowledge that every student will have their device to use as appropriate to support their learning,” Bellavia said. “Families which have concerns that the device might be damaged outside of school hours can request that the device be kept at school.”

File photo

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A New Internet Provider is Coming to Arlington

Starry Internet, the Boston-headquartered residential internet provider, is officially expanding their D.C. presence into Virginia.

Rosslyn and Clarendon residents will have access to Starry first, with Ballston, Pentagon City and Crystal City on deck as part of their DMV expansion plans.

Starry is all about fast internet and great service — they offer speeds of 200 mbps download/100 mbps upload and it’s a flat $50.00/month. No long-term contracts, no extra fees piled on, and no cable/phone bundles.

Their touchscreen smart router, the Starry Station, is provided to every subscriber at no additional cost. Plus, you can contact Support 24/7 directly from the Starry Station or the Starry App.

Get access ASAP by helping to bring Starry to your building! Head to the website to check availability at your address, then follow the prompts to connect your building manager or condo board to Starry.

Building installation costs nothing and is non-invasive; Starry simply connects to existing wiring and installs a small antenna on your roof (learn more about the technology powering their network).

Questions? Follow up in the comments or reach out to our support team anytime!

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Four Arlington Tech Companies Rank Among Top 500 Fastest Growing Firms

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup 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.

Several Arlington startups have made an appearance on Deloitte’s top 500 fastest growing technology companies in 2018.

The annual “Fast 500” list looks at companies developing everything from entertainment to biotech nationwide. Overall, the survey found that the fastest growing industry sector was software, accounting for 64 percent of the total tech company growth over the last year. On the list were four Arlington software companies: Distil Networks, Mobile Posse, Fonteva, and Higher Logic.

The highest on the list was Distil Networks, ranked at number 131.

Distil Networks is a bot mitigation network that scans incoming data to filter out “bad bot” traffic hiding among the human and “good bot” information streams. The aim is to protect websites from data mining, spam and fraud.

“Founded in 2011, Distil was at the forefront of the bot problem before bots were part of everyday discourse, particularly surrounding social media and election meddling,” said Tiffany Olson Kleemann, CEO of Distil Networks. “We’re the experts at protecting websites, mobile apps, and APIs from automated attacks. We’re honored to be listed among so many esteemed and innovative companies solving some of today’s most challenging security and business problems.”

Over the last year, the company saw 872 percent growth. The company is located in Ballston at 4501 N. Fairfax Drive.

The next highest was Mobile Posse Inc. at number 237. Mobile Posse develops non-intrusive advertising on mobile devices, which delivers messages to locked screens and home screens. The company works with major North American phone carriers like Verizon Wireless and AT&T.

“Our experts at Mobile Posse are dedicated to creating new and innovative solutions to put the content people love at their fingertips,” said Jon Jackson, Founder and CEO of Mobile Posse, via email. “The ‘Fast 500’ is an award that punctuates our belief that we are moving into a new era of mobile content discovery, one where innovative solutions make it simple and easy for smartphone users to thrive and win.”

Jackson said one of the biggest events for the company over the last year was the launch of Firstly Mobile, a new platform that allows advertising content to be placed on the home screen and be accessible by swiping. The new product aimed at making advertising as “frictionless” as possible.

Jackson said soon after launch, Mobile Posse topped 7 million active daily users. Overall, Deloitte said the company saw 387 percent growth over the last year. The company is located in Ballston at 1010 N. Glebe Road.

At 286th on the list is Fonteva, a company that sets up membership software for associations and organizations.

“It is an honor to be recognized among so many talented companies,” said Jerry Huskins, Fonteva CEO and co-founder, in a press release. “Our past, present and future is a testament to the passion and engagement of our employees, customers, and partners. This combination is a force to be reckoned with and has resulted in a business with products that make us incredibly proud.”

Over the last year, Fonteva saw 291 percent growth. The company is located in Ballston at 4420 N. Fairfax Drive.

Higher Logic, a cloud-based engagement platform, sits at 348 on the list. The company offers organizations new ways to set up online communities and automate marketing.

The company, located in Rosslyn at 1919 N. Lynn Street, saw 228 percent growth over the last year.

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Arlington Startup Aims to Save Sharks with Artificial Intelligence

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup 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. 

(Updated at 4 p.m.) JJ Linser and Jack Linkous have a dream. They want to save sharks, and they want to do it with artificial intelligence.

They are the co-founders of L2Platforms, a startup in Arlington founded earlier this year, that aims to use an AI program to track boat movements and identify suspicious behavior.

“Visualize different places where this fishing is taking place as a huge map,” said Linser. “We want to figure out, based on previous illegal fishing activity, where that is currently happening. It’s all about tracking those patterns.”

Right now, Linkous says the only way to really catch illegal shark fishing is through random searches. Linkous says the aim of L2Platforms is to help direct those searches and make them a little less random.

“With limited resources, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack,” said Linser. “Right now, we’re trying to refine that.”

Using publically available data sources, L2Platforms should be able to model where illegal fishing takes places.

Linser said all of this data is fed into an AI that continually learns from these events and builds a map of suspicious activity. It’s a lot of data, there might be 100,000 suspicious events registered drawn from billions of points of data, but the AI will refine those events down to ones where it is 90 percent sure something illegal is occurring.

Because of the scale of the data being collected and processed, Linser and Linkous say they want to start small.

“We’re going to start with a place like the Galapagos islands,” said Linkous. “There’s a lot of sharks around there and a lot of nefarious fishing. We’ll start small with [tracking that] and grow from there.”

The development of the AI technology behind L2Platforms is largely drawn from Linser and Linkous’s experience working in the defense industry.

“We both have experience writing these kinds of models,” said Linkous. “I come from a defense background and you see these same types of stuff being funded at the Department of Defense. We want to use our knowledge in fields that get less love.”

The pair is currently working with Neil Hammerschlag, director of the Shark Research & Conservation Program (SRC) at The University of Miami.

“[Linser and Linkous] have been supporting my shark research with their impressive skill-set,” said Hammerschlag in an email. “It is an exciting collaboration. In addition, we have conceived an exciting collaborative research project that uses artificial intelligence to inform shark conservation efforts. We are currently seeking funding for this research project.”

Linser said L2Platforms is currently looking at working with conservation foundations for funding, then possibly looking at government grants starting in 2019. If they can secure funding, Linser says they hope to hire a small team of engineers over the next year.

Linser and Linkous, who met while walking their dogs, are both Arlington residents. They are working from home for now, but say they are currently looking for an office somewhere along a Metro corridor in Arlington, specifically because of the technical talent in the area.

“Arlington is where we have a core group of engineers that we know,” said Linser. “There are lots of talented software engineers in this area.”

Photo courtesy Neil Hammerschlag

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With Amazon On the Way, Arlington Hopes to Attract West Coast Tech Firms

Arlington and Virginia economic development officials have landed the big prize — Amazon — and now are hoping that the e-commerce and cloud computing giant’s arrival will help them lure other West Coast tech firms.

Victor Hoskins, Arlington Economic Development Director, said Friday at the DCA Live Big Growth Summit in Crystal City that he and state officials have taken trips to Silicon Valley and other West Coast locales in an effort to convince companies to consider moving or opening offices in Arlington.

But Hoskins now plans to double down on those efforts with a revamped approach. The time is ripe, said Hoskins, with Arlington enjoying the Amazon afterglow and California cities grappling with sky-high housing costs and office rents, pitched competition for talent and other problems.

“We do go out there [to the West Coast] but not in the same focused way that we’re thinking about now, which is lining up and showing them: here is the talent, here is the transportation, here is the housing, here is the opportunity that you have,” he said.

“We’re really focused on expanding companies, so fast growing tech companies,” he added.

Hoskins said that the D.C. area as a whole is “an undervalued asset” and needs to do a better job of branding itself as one of the top 5 tech cities in the country, which he argues it is. The region is rich in tech talent and provides easy access to East Coast markets and Europe, in addition to the federal government, he said.

Others who spoke at Friday morning’s event echoed Hoskin’s call to put the D.C. area in the same conversation as top tech destinations like the Bay Area, New York and Seattle.

“I think we’re a serious technology city,” said entrepreneur and venture capitalist Michael Avon. “It’s an amazing branding moment for an area that’s done a very bad job of branding itself” due to competition among regional jurisdictions.

D.C., Maryland and Virginia, Avon and others argued, have done a good job of fixing their biggest individual weaknesses. D.C. and Maryland are now considered more pro-growth and pro-business than just a few years ago, Avon said. Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, meanwhile, touted the work he and current Gov. Ralph Northam have done to promote Virginia as a diverse, welcoming place and reverse the state’s previous anti-LGBT and “transvaginal ultrasound” reputation. That coupled with Virginia’s stable pro-business environment, he said, have allowed the Commonwealth to steal deals away from places like North Carolina.

But can Arlington and the region effectively compete with long-established tech ecosystems like the Bay Area? Yes and no, says high-profile angel investor Jason Calacanis.

Calacanis, long a proponent of startups locating in Silicon Valley, said via email that investors like himself no longer expect companies to base their entire workforce in the Bay Area. Large satellite offices, he suggested, may become the norm.

“It’s a great idea for founders to have their HQ in the Bay Area and 50%+ of their workers in a city with half the operating costs,” he told ARLnow. “Five or ten years ago I would have told founders to bite the bullet and make it work here, but costs are just bonkers and people don’t want to live in crime-filled, dirty San Francisco any more.”

“My firm, launch.co, which has 15 team members, has four [employees] based in Toronto for this very reason,” Calacanis added. “We couldn’t find growth, marketing and designers in the Bay Area.”

To Jonathan Aberman, a D.C. area tech consultant and venture investor, talent is the key to the area’s ascendancy. But it’s not the only factor.

“This is a very, very good market for talent and that is the biggest reason why companies locate other places, they locate because they need talent,” said Aberman. “If you add on top of that that there are more Fortune 500 companies — who buy technology — located this region than many people appreciate, and you add on top of that proximity to the federal government, which is a big buyer of technology, all those things come together to make this a really really good market to open an office.”

The biggest weakness in the local talent market, according to both Aberman and Avon, is a lack of experienced product builders — people who have the know-how to guide the development of a technology product. But that may be about to change.

“One of the big things Amazon will bring is product people,” said Avon.

Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber

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Cutting-Edge Tech Company Two Six Labs Expands in Ballston

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup 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 some cool stuff going on inside Two Six Labs, a security technology company based in Ballston.

Two Six Labs works in research and development, primarily with the Department of Defense and other government agencies like DARPA. The company’s offices are a mix of segmented workspaces and mechanical workshops.

The company was founded in 2010 as tech company Invincea’s lab group. The group moved to Ballston in 2013 to be closer to the government clients. In early 2017 the group broke away from Invincea and took on its new name.

Chris Greamo, President and CEO of Two Six Labs, said the group is currently almost entirely supported by government contracts. Over the next few years, Greamo said one of his goals is to shift that balance to about 60 percent supported by government contracts and thirty percent by commercial ones, typically with a private sector variant of the technology developed for government use.

One recent example is Sigma, a low-cost radiation monitoring device. Greamo referenced the unexploded pipe bombs sent across the country last week and said his nightmare would be a radiological version of those bombs. Greamo said enough of them scattered across a wide area can provide a comprehensive net of coverage to catch those types of threats

“Imagine if every police car could monitor for those types of threats,” said Greamo.

DARPA’s contract with Two Six Labs also allows the company to retain the rights to their products, meaning Sigma will soon be commercially available to hospitals or large stadiums.

There was talk that DARPA might leave Ballston, but when the organization stayed Two Six Labs doubled down on their presence in the area. Greamo said the group had continued to grow and expand at its current location on the fourth floor of The Ellipse (4350 Fairfax Drive) but eventually reached a point where they were too large for the building.

Last Wednesday (Oct. 24) the company announced it would be moving to Ballston Metro Center at 901 N. Stuart Street, increasing from 19,000 to 29,798 square feet.

The group has also expanded across the country, with offices in Mount Laurel, San Antonio, Austin and Tacoma, but Ballston remains the central location for the company. Greamo also said the group is hoping to expand in the region and is looking for a new office in Northern Virginia because many employees are finding the commute untenable. Greamo said the group is looking at Reston in particular, likely avoiding Tysons because of the area’s reputation for heavy traffic.

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Morning Notes

MCM This Weekend — The Marine Corps Marathon is taking place Sunday morning, shutting down a bunch of streets around Arlington. Many of the street closures will be centered around Crystal City, a favorite gathering spot for spectators who root on runners on the final leg of the race, and Rosslyn, which hosts the starting miles of the race and its Finish Festival.

Last Days of Clarendon Grill — Long-time local nightlife spot Clarendon Grill is closing and hosting its final musical performances this weekend. [Twitter]

Candidates Weigh in on LGBT Center — “Wonderful in theory, but perhaps impractical in the current economic environment. That’s the Cliff’s Notes version of the response of the two Arlington County Board candidates to a calls for creation of a local community center specifically geared toward the county’s LGBT community.” [InsideNova]

Big Raise for Arlington Startup — Courthouse-based WireWheel, a data privacy compliance SaaS company, has closed a $10 million Series A round. Total funding raised to date is $13 million. [WireWheel]

Storm Approaches — “Here comes our nor’easter. Rain starts today and it’ll last into early tomorrow. It may amount to nearly two inches in some spots. Our weather turns windy tonight and perhaps much of tomorrow, when we could see some late-day clearing. Luckily for Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon, shower chances are low.” [Washington Post]

Local GOP Getting Jump on Recruitment — “In recent years, the [GOP] has not only not been competitive in Arlington races, but at the local level often fails to field candidates at all. Presswood, who has been party chairman for almost three years, has worked hard to try and reverse that trend.” [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy John Broehm

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Arlington Moves to Embrace 5G Tech, Though Critics Worry County is Dragging Its Feet

Arlington is gearing up to embrace the arrival of the next generation of cell network technology, though some observers worry county officials aren’t acting fast enough to expand access to 5G in the area.

Telecom companies are slowly, but surely moving to deploy equipment for 5G, the fifth generation of network tech, in communities around the country, in order to realize the new network’s promise to drastically increase mobile internet speeds and enable all manner of new innovations, from driverless cars to virtual reality video games.

Workers typically have to attach antennas and other equipment to street poles or traffic signals as part of that process, meaning that local governments (and, often, concerned neighbors) can have a say in how companies handle the installation.

While some utility companies are working directly with network providers to allow 5G tech on street lights, many localities are increasingly moving to craft zoning regulations to allow telcos access to government-owned street poles. Arlington hasn’t gone quite that far, but the county is at least dipping its toe in the water with 5G tech.

After state legislators passed a new law last April, the county began allowing companies to attach “small cell facilities” on privately owned structures in the public right-of-way. Even more recently, Arlington’s begun accepting applications for companies looking to attach the equipment to “cobra-style street lights” — smaller poles named for their snake-shaped heads — in public areas, according to Department of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin.

Golkin expects the change “will allow for deployment of 5G infrastructure in dense areas throughout the county,” and Arlington leaders see the move as an incremental step for the county to take to meet the demands of the telecom industry.

“We’re trying not to be a hindrance to this, while still balancing community concerns,” said County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “Before, this sort of thing required a County Board review and a long process. Now, within a couple of months, it can get approved administratively. Whenever a carrier company is looking to deploy small towers anywhere, this is a predictable and affordable way to get it done.”

Even still, the change doesn’t seem drastic enough to Jonathan Kinney, an attorney at the Arlington firm Bean, Kinney and Korman, who works with developers and business owners on land use and zoning matters.

He laments that the county still won’t allow 5G tech on larger, 30-foot-high poles in urban neighborhoods along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, which he sees as a key step for the county to achieve full 5G coverage in its most populous areas.

“My point has always been that 5G is going to come here, but it really doesn’t do us any good as a community to act otherwise,” Kinney said. “With all the defense contractors and cybersecurity companies here, we shouldn’t be one of the last communities to do this. We should be one of the first.”

Kinney believes the county’s failure to act more aggressively on 5G tech will hamstring its chances to lure all manner of big companies to the area, most notably Amazon. He points out that the company singled out access to advanced network tech in its list of requirements for picking a second headquarters, and he feels the county just hasn’t lived up to the pace set by other HQ2 contenders like those in Texas or California.

“It just seems like this is low hanging fruit, this is something we could do pretty easily,” Kinney said. “But there’s not any strong advocate on the County Board pushing it forward… it just needs a little bit of leadership.”

Dorsey, however, argues that the Board has indeed tried to provide that leadership, and claims that 5G is “not something where we think we’re behind at all.” He says the county “just hasn’t had much unsolicited interest [from the private sector] that’s evolved beyond exploration and discussion at this point,” but that the county has been responsive when called upon.

For instance, Golkin notes that the county has “approved several permits over the last year for vendors to attach small wireless facilities to private structures.” That includes Verizon, who worked with some county apartment owners to install some 5G equipment on several large buildings to test out the tech in a residential setting.

Verizon spokesman John O’Malley says the test “was part of a series of trials” the company did in 11 large localities over the course of 2017. The company’s since removed that equipment, and moved on to testing 5G broadband service in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Dorsey says the county “would be open to exploring” additional partnerships with telecom companies moving forward. He suggested that, as the technology evolves, Arlington could agree to buy a new round of street lights that already have 5G equipment installed on them, instead of retrofitting it to existing poles.

“I would argue that we’re an ideal community for that kind of partnership, because we’re so small and so dense,” Dorsey said. “We are well aware that, if the potential of all the lab tests are realized, we’re talking about an incredible expansion of productivity, which will be incredible for our businesses.”

Yet Kinney cautions that Arlington’s ability to experiment with 5G could soon be constrained by new regulations the Federal Communications Commission is mulling, which would require states and localities to quickly approve 5G deployments, eliminating some discretion in setting personalized standards.

Those changes may be a ways off yet from going into effect, but Kinney notes that Arlington’s lengthy public engagement process for any policy change means the county can’t afford to wait much longer.

“It could take a year to get through the whole process,” Kinney said. “But they could make the legal changes pretty quickly and then come up with the specific policy, and just move it along… We just need to start now.”

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‘BroCon’ Coming to Arlington Next Month

A gathering called BroCon is coming to Arlington in October, but it’s probably not what you think it is.

The convention, which is taking place in the D.C. area for the first time, is being held from Oct. 10-12 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City. Registration costs as much as $500 per person.

BroCon is not, as one might guess by the name and the Arlington location, a meeting of former fraternity members and fist-pumping enthusiasts. Rather, it is a convention for network security professionals and academics.

Bro is open-source software that has been used to monitor computer networks since the early days of the internet.

The three-day conclave is billed as “the most important community event for users, developers, incident responders, threat hunters and architects who rely on the open-source Bro network security monitor as a critical element in their security stack.”

“This year join your colleagues who rely on Bro for technical talks, demonstrations and discussions about the project, its many applications, and its future,” says the convention’s website. “If you’re interested in the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape and how Bro can help your organization by providing better data about network traffic, then BroCon 2018 is a critical event for you.”

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Technology Classes for Older Adults at Arlington Independent Media

Technology is everywhere but older adults are often on the sidelines when it comes to using computers, tablets, smartphones and the internet. Arlington Independent Media’s Technology Classes for Older Adults hopes to change that.

In relaxed and fun workshops, AIM’s classes clearly explain today’s most common communication technologies. Computers, smartphones, social media, photography and the internet are among the areas covered in these informative and low cost workshops. All workshops are held from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., at Arlington Independent Media’s facility in Clarendon.

Basic Internet Literacy — Wednesday, September 26
Cost: $40.00

Whether you are new to computers or have been using them for years, our Basic Internet Literacy class will help older adults surf the internet safely and with confidence. Participants will learn the basics of web browsers, how search works, and how to create safe user names and passwords.

Smartphone Basics — Wednesday, October 3
Cost: $40.00

Designed specifically for older adults, this one-session workshop starts at the basics and teaches participants how to get the most from their smartphones.

Smartphone Photography — Wednesdays, October 10 & 17
Cost $80.00

This hands-on, two-week workshop will demystify smartphone cameras and teach participants how to create great pictures with them. Older adults will learn photo basics, picture composition, free photo apps, image editing and more.

Social Media — Wednesdays, October 24 & 31
Cost $80.00

This two-week class will provide an in-depth examination of the most popular social media platforms and help participants create a safe and secure on-line presence. Creating profiles, finding friends and family, privacy settings, on-line safety and how to avoid scams and fake news are among the topics covered in this fun workshop.

For more information or to enroll contact Jackie Steven at 703-524-2388 or visit www.ArlingtonMedia.org.

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Morning Notes

Heat Advisory in Effect — Arlington and D.C. are under a Heat Advisory from noon to 8 p.m. today. The heat index this afternoon is expected to reach between 100 and 105 degrees. [National Weather Service, Twitter]

Hacked Sign Causes County Concern — ARLnow’s report about an electronic road sign near Shirlington being hacked to display a vulgar video game meme prompted a serious conversation at county government headquarters. “To some this is a ‘prank’ to me it is an indication of a lack of security on a portion of our [technology] infrastructure,” Arlington’s Chief Information Officer wrote in an internal email chain. “What if the message was ‘Terrorist Attack in Washington, please leave the area'[?]” [State Scoop]

Flag at Gov’t Buildings to Be Lowered for McCain — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered the state flag lowered to half-staff until sunset on Sept. 2 in honor of the late Sen. John McCain. The order applies to all local, state and federal buildings in Virginia. [Twitter]

Late Night Ramp Closure Planned — “The ramp from the southbound George Washington Memorial Parkway to eastbound I-66 and westbound Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) will be closed Wednesday night, Aug. 29 and Thursday night, Aug. 30 from midnight to 4 a.m. each night for work on the I-66 overpass, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [VDOT]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Arlington Officials Hail the Arrival of Small Business SyLearn as a Modest, Yet Meaningful, Win

While most ribbon cuttings for new businesses around Arlington tend to be full of pomp and circumstance, SyLearn’s grand opening in a modest Virginia Square office building Wednesday was a family affair.

CEO Jay Chandok, who helped found the new IT training company, busily urged guests to help themselves to a full buffet, as the daughters of Chandok and other staff members snapped pictures of new arrivals with iPhones. One made sure to introduce each visitor to one of her dolls, which she’d given a Hawaiian name: Leilani.

The event, much like SyLearn itself, was relatively small in scale. But Arlington officials say arrival of such businesses in the county is just as important as some of the bigger names economic development staffers are focused on these days.

“People think that they spend all their time on the Amazons and Nestles of the world, and while those are certainly important, this is really the bulk of what they do,” County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey told ARLnow. “It’s these small businesses that we hope will become big businesses someday.”

Chandok says the county indeed helped connect him with real estate brokers as he searched for a home for his new business, which was born out of another, similar program he worked on in Arlington.

He landed on a suite in an office building at 3330 Washington Blvd. It sits just behind George Mason University’s Arlington campus, but a bit off the beaten path of the bustling Rosslyn-Ballston corridor — Dorsey expects that certainly helped “lower the cost of entry a bit.”

Chandok hopes to eventually start hosting as many as 200 students each year in the space, with a pool of eight instructors to help them earn certifications on the latest software, or even make a career change and embrace IT.

“We’re looking to help people who aren’t going through four-year institutions, and we’re not bound by the same red tape as they are,” Chandok said. “We can help career changers, or career upgraders. Anyone who’s looking to test the waters and see what else is out there.”

With a legion of federal agencies, not to mention contractors, nearby, Chandok surely won’t lack potential customers. Dorsey also hopes that the county’s school system will consistently “provide a pipeline of talented students” interested in IT, noting that “we can only do so much” when it comes to career education.

Board member Libby Garvey, a longtime School Board member herself, also pointed out that SyLearn could be a perfect fit for the many veterans in Arlington, should they want to build on the tech training they received in the military.

“They have incredible talent that we need to tap into,” Garvey said.

With that sort of pool of would-be students available, Dorsey expects to be attending another ribbon cutting for SyLearn sooner, rather than later.

“As he grows, I want you to find him a bigger space,” he implored the economic development staff in attendance.

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