Arlington, VA

Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

(Updated at 1:45 p.m.) Startups in Arlington and the D.C. area need to take “bigger swings” if the region hopes to become a tech hub like Silicon Valley.

That’s the message from a panel discussion hosted by DCA Live earlier this month at Marymount University in Ballston.

At the Big DCA Growth Summit, panels of investors, founders, academics and other innovators reflected on Arlington’s big Amazon HQ2 win and what might be ahead for the area.

Amazon’s presence, with its forthcoming office campus in Pentagon City and some 25,000 planned jobs, will help bring excitement and more business diversity to a local tech scene that’s heavy on government contractors and cybersecurity firms.

“I’m honestly convinced that Jeff Bezos was looking for a place that had less hype around it,” said Mark Walsh, a local angel investor. “D.C. is begging for more attention for the good stuff it does outside of the government.”

If Amazon could bring with it more of a West Coast tech mindset, panelists said, it could help the D.C. area better compete with Silicon Valley’s tech ecosystem and generate more billion-dollar “unicorns.” More big startup investment wins would, in turn, help fuel investments in more startups — a virtuous cycle.

“Too many companies in the Mid-Atlantic — the exits were good but only a couple hundred million dollars,” said Scott Frederick of Rosslyn-based Sands Capital. “We need to take bigger swings and get more billion dollar companies like Cvent and EVERFI. Entrepreneurs in this region should think bigger. In the Valley they go to restaurants and park next to Bugattis — it’s a different mindset.”

(There’s another argument to be made, however, for not running an otherwise healthy business into the ground in an effort to become a unicorn when it could be a profitable multi-million dollar company.)

Frederick said, as others have noted in the past, that there’s a bit of gap between seed funding for early startups and growth capital for more mature companies. Those seeking Series A and B rounds, between the seed and later rounds, sometimes struggle to find it from investors, hurting the region’s tech ecosystem.

Funding hasn’t been a problem for at least one local startup co-founder, who recently raised $8 million, with more on the way. Eman Pahlevani, co-founder of Rosslyn-based catering marketplace Hungry, said that the affluent D.C. area is particularly good for those seeking early funding from angel investors.

“D.C. has one of the most robust angel communities. You can raise money fairly quickly in D.C. just by having relationships with angels,” said Pahlevani, who was also a cofounder of Livesafe. “If you’re successful here, word spreads quickly. It’s easier and quicker to raise money here than on the West Coast, and I’ve done both. I just think the opportunities here are immense.”

Another local asset: lots of people who are in a position to help local startups.

“Entrepreneurship is a contact sport,” said France Hoang, co-founder of Tysons-based BoodleAI. “As in, [personal] contacts. This is where my network was.”

Hoang said a key to bigger startup exits is finding fearless startup founders who can take risks and handle the dark “WFIO” moments that many startups experience — as in, “we’re f–ked, it’s over.” Pahlevani agreed.

“We’ve had our WFIO moments,” said Pahlevani, who added that part of startup success is in motivating one’s team and not lamenting the challenges. “There’s a lot of time spent building internal momentum, celebrating the smallest wins and building team momentum. Everyone working with you needs to believe it’s going to happen. Get your rocketship going. Get everyone on board.”

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Amazon and JBG Smith could one day brush off the dust on Arlington’s long-underused dark fiber network.

The Arlington County Board was scheduled to vote on issuing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for the tech giant and developer to discuss the “ConnectArtlington” network during its meeting this Saturday, November 16.

The network currently provides internet service to many county buildings, but was once promised to be a way for local businesses and organizations to also access access high-speed internet at faster speeds and cheaper rates than available from larger commercial providers like Verizon.

“The purpose of this item is to discuss the County’s Fiber Optic Network ‘ConnectArlington’,” said Jack Belcher, the county’s chief information officer, when asked for more information about the County Board item.

“An NDA is necessary as the fiber network and its location is considered critical infrastructure of the County,” he added.

Arlington previously spent $4.1 million building the 10-mile underground cable network. But in February, an ARLnow investigation revealed that almost no businesses were able to license the network due to “flawed” legal requirements.

A spokeswoman for Amazon told ARLnow that the county had included the dark fiber network in its pitch for the company’s second headquarters, and that the upcoming County Board vote was “just part of exploring everything that Arlington had included in the original proposal.”

“We don’t have specifics to share about our ongoing discussions but look forward to learning more about the program,” the company spokeswoman told ARLnow, adding that the NDA will allow the county to “fully brief” Amazon about the capabilities of the network.

However, the exact details for how Amazon and JBG Smith could use the network are murky.

County staffers removed the Amazon item from the agenda after ARLnow called company and county officials for comment yesterday (Tuesday), keeping JBG Smith’s NDA consideration in the agenda document.

“Agenda Item #18 was removed because the County wasn’t able to get feedback yet from the company,” said county spokeswoman Jennifer Smith.

JBG Smith declined to comment when asked for more information about the company’s interest in the network.

And as of today (Wednesday) at 12:30 p.m., the agenda included no staff reports to the Board with more information about the items. Smith said the documents had not been uploaded due to a “technical issue” and were due to be published later today.

As for other organizations looking to “light” the dark fiber network?

“Parties are able to use the fiber network and we are in negotiations with several entities today to also use it,” Belcher said.

Aboveground, Arlington has also approved a proposal for a faster, more advanced 5G cellular network.

Nearby, Alexandria is putting out a bid to build its own dark fiber network as well.

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What’s Next with Nicole is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.

As technology changes, we must reframe our mindset on public transportation, specifically our bus systems.

Metro and ART Bus ridership have continued to decrease annually while the use of rideshare and mobility services such as Uber, Lyft, and Bird scooters have skyrocketed.

This year, D.C. area rideshare revenue is estimated to be double that of Metro. Projected operational revenue for Metro in 2019 is projected to be about $830 million while the American Community Survey estimates that rideshare revenues in the Washington D.C. area will be about $1.5 billion.

I would estimate that this discrepancy is linked to a simple cost-benefit analysis for commuters. Think about it. You have two options for getting to work in the morning:

Option 1: You leave your home, walk/drive/bus/bike to the nearest metro station, hop on a train, switch lines if you have to, and then walk/drive/bus/bike the last mile to work. The minimum fare is $2.25 for the train during peak hours (not including an extra $2 if you take the bus to the station)

Option 2: You order an Uber Pool or Lyft Line which arrives right outside your home, the driver picks up one or two passengers along the route, and then drops you off right in front of your office door. Many times the cost of these ridesharing services are competitively priced as compared to Metro at around $7 and will continue to go down, especially with the advent of autonomous driving technology.

Instead of competing with these ridesharing services, Metro needs to partner with them. Contracting with ridesharing companies is already a reality in cities across the country, even just across the river in D.C. In the NE and NW parts of the city, D.C. is testing DC MicroTransit to offer free rideshare through a public-private-partnership with the rideshare app, Via. In other areas of the country, cities have piloted rideshare programs for seniors aging in place, rail users needing a lift for “the last mile,” and more.

At a minimum, Arlington should require companies like Uber and Lyft to share their metadata on rider’s routes to identify hot spots. This would allow us to understand more clearly where people are going to and from and where there is demand for transit in order to optimize our service routes.

When looking into the not so distant future, we know that autonomous vehicles are coming and must be considered for long term planning. Almost all ART bus operational costs are inflated by labor costs (80%) which will only exacerbate the fight with autonomous ridesharing services in the future. Olli, a company that operates autonomous 3D-printed buses, is already in service on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington. Olli is merely the first generation of autonomous bussing technology and at a cost of $100,000, is less than half the cost of Arlington County’s minibuses.

As we contemplate improvements to bus service along Columbia Pike and Route 1, the most heavily used bus service areas in Virginia, we must make sure costly long term infrastructure improvements consider very near term technology changes. Arlington has been at the forefront of transportation innovation and as our public transit system continues to decrease in both ridership and revenue, it is time to shift the paradigm on how to invest in our future.

Nicole Merlene is an Arlington native and former candidate for Virginia State Senate. She has served as a leader in the community on the boards of the Arlington County Civic Federation and North Rosslyn Civic Association, as an Arlington Economic Development commissioner, in neighborhood transportation planning groups, and as a civic liaison to the Rosslyn Business Improvement District.

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Anytime you’re online, you’re at risk for a cybercrime.

Whether checking email on a home computer or updating social media on a mobile phone, we are all targets for the growing number of sophisticated tactics designed to trick us and gain access to our personal information.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness month and a great time to learn how to better protect ourselves online. If you’re busy (like most Arlingtonians) you don’t have time to research every way to safeguard yourself online. Knowing this, I want to share one impactful step you can take this month to make a difference: 2-Factor Authentication (2FA).

You probably already use 2FA when banking online. If you’re not familiar with 2FA, I find it helpful to think of it like the lock on your front door. Standard usernames and passwords are like a lock and key. If a hacker has access to both, they can login to your accounts. Using 2FA is like adding a PIN pad to your front door.

In addition to the lock and the key, a hacker would also need your PIN code to open the door. That extra layer of security makes it just a bit harder to access your information — and most criminals will move on to easier targets.

What many people don’t realize is that 2FA can be used on all kinds of websites. Beyond banking, many email providers, shopping sites and delivery services support 2FA. If you do one thing this month to enhance your cyber safety, visit a resource like www.twofactorauth.org, find the most common sites you use, and take a few minutes to enroll yourself.

Richard Archambault is the Division Chief for Information Security, Privacy and Regulatory Affairs for Arlington County Government’s Department of Technology Services.

Arlington is consistently ranked one the nation’s Top Digital Counties. You can learn more about their efforts here.

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Startup Monday header

Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

DivvyCloud, an Arlington startup specializing in cloud-based cybersecurity, is planning to more than double in size with a move into a new much larger new headquarters in Courthouse.

It’s is far from the only cybersecurity company working in Arlington, but DivvyCloud carved out a niche as a cloud-focused security option that not only fixes gaps in security coverage but makes it easier for a company to see where its security is weakest.

Today (Monday) the company moved into a new 13,000 square foot office at 2111 Wilson Blvd, an office over six-times larger than its old 2,000 square foot office in Rosslyn. In a press release, CEO and co-founder Brian Johnson said the office expansion is a result of adding new employees, with more expected down the road.

“[Since 2018] the company has grown from 20 to 55 local employees — an increase of 175 percent — and plans to reach at least 120 employees within the next year,” Johnson said.

The company has netted some sizable investments over the last year, along with new contracts with customers from Pizza Hut to Fannie Mae. In an email to ARLnow, Johnson said the expansion is justified by an increasing need in cloud-based coverage — particularly in light of recent major data breaches.

“In our recent report, we found that 77% percent of respondents reported having two or more clouds, yet less than half of respondents were able to accurately identify the risk of misconfiguration in public cloud as higher than the risk in traditional IT environments,” Johnson said. “Countless major data breaches, including Honda and Capital One, have been caused by misconfigurations just in 2019 alone. As a result, more and more companies are realizing the need for an effective solution to prevent misconfigurations and properly secure cloud and container infrastructure.”

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This article was sponsored by Arlington Economic Development‘s Business Investment Group.

The marketplace for technology to assist aging adults is expected to grow to nearly $30 billion in the next few years, according to Arlington’s own Consumer Technology Association.

Seniors and their families and caregivers are eager to acquire new tech-enabled products and services that would provide better care and improve the quality of their loved ones’ lives. Hence, entrepreneurs, innovators and technologists are increasingly focused on the growth opportunities in serving older adults.

To address this issue, Culpepper Garden and Arlington County are hosting a unique competition to identify and provide funding and pilot program opportunities for innovative companies and technologies focused on helping improve the lives of low-income seniors. This competition is open to companies and individuals from early seed stage to established corporations from around the world.

Judges are looking for products and ideas that are helping older adults leverage technology to stay healthy, improve their mobility and better connect to their family and community. Companies selected to pitch will receive valuable feedback from older adults, health care providers, businesses and government officials. The three winning companies will have the opportunity to trial their product or service at a residential community in Arlington.

Culpepper Garden and its nonprofit owner, the Arlington Retirement Housing Corporation, are celebrating 50 years as an award-winning residential community that was one of the nation’s first to serve the needs of low-income seniors as they age in place. Culpepper Garden is home to over 340 residents and is located on North Pershing Drive.

Participants have the opportunity to:

  • Win $12,000 in funding for each of the top three winners
  • Pilot their technology or approach at Culpepper Garden and a formal evaluation to provide to future customers
  • Become a leader in social impact technology benefitting low income seniors
  • Build relationships with competition judges including venture capitalists, medical professionals, company CEOs and government officials
  • Receive mentoring, feedback and advice from health care providers, senior and assisted living experts, older adults and other stakeholders
  • Solicit customer testimonials
  • Receive recognition and publicity about their company and technologies

To learn more and apply, visit Culpepper Garden’s website.

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Virginia Tech’s 100% online Master of Information Technology program has been ranked the No. 1 online graduate degree for cybersecurity nationwide in the 2019 rankings list from CyberDegrees.org, a Washington, D.C.  based company.

In addition, the program was named one of the three best online graduate information technology programs nationwide for the seventh consecutive year in the annual rankings from U.S. News & World Report.

Based at Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church, the online program is offered jointly by the Pamplin College of Business and College of Engineering. The interdisciplinary nature of the program allows students to develop a range of skills and focus their studies in a topic that best serves their career goals.

Cybersecurity is one of 11 areas of specialization that students can use to tailor their degree. Other areas include Analytics and Business Intelligence, Big Data, Health Information Technology and Software Development.

The program also offers six graduate certificate options for professionals that are not looking to pursue a full degree.

The program plans to continue adding new courses and graduate certificates that keep up with current trends in tech, particularly as the wider university takes on a central role in the cybersecurity ecosystem.

In 2010, Virginia Tech launched the Hume Center to lead the university’s research and experiential learning programs in national security. The center now has a research facility in Ballston.

In 2018, the Commonwealth of Virginia announced that Virginia Tech will lead its $25 million Commonwealth Cyber Initiative.

For more information about Virginia Tech’s 100% online Master of Information Technology Program, visit vtmit.vt.edu or sign up for an upcoming information session.

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A tech company specializing in the creation of blockchain software has selected Arlington County for its U.S. headquarters, beating out a competing bid from D.C.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced the economic development win today, saying that the company — Block.one — plans to create 170 new high-skill jobs in Arlington over the course of three years.

“The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Arlington County to secure the project for Virginia,” noted a press release from the governor’s office. “Governor Northam approved a $600,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist Arlington County with the project. The company is also eligible to receive a Major Business Facility Job Tax Credit for new, full-time jobs created.”

A press release from the company quotes the CEO as saying the region’s tech talent helped attract it to Arlington.

“We are excited to be setting up Arlington, Virginia as our U.S. headquarters,” said Block.one CEO Brendan Blumer. “The region boasts a rich combination of security, engineering, and IT skills that we seek, and its proximity to the nation’s capital positions us close to the policy innovation around digital assets and distributed ledger technology in the U.S.”

Though the prospect of even more high-paying jobs in Arlington, on top of the thousands on the way at Amazon’s new HQ2, may seem like a big win, it should be taken with a tiny grain of salt: the best-laid tech plans do not always pan out. The 1776 incubator that came to Crystal City in 2015 amid much fanfare is closing, for instance, and then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s announcement of 184 new jobs being added by tech firm Trustify has not borne fruit — the company is in bankruptcy and facing numerous lawsuits.

The full press release from the governor’s office is below, after the jump.

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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.

Fresh off a win at the Small Biz Challenge, Arlington startup Boolean Girl is now headed is to Nationwide’s “Pitch to Win” contest as a finalist.

The company sells classroom kits aimed at getting young women interested in coding as part of an effort to combat the gender disparity in the tech industry.

The Pitch to Win competition is scheduled for Oct. 3 and includes an all-expenses-paid trip to the insurance company’s headquarters in Ohio, where the groups will present their business proposals to a panel of judges. The winning business will be awarded $100,000, with the runner up receiving $20,000 and third place earning $10,000.

Co-founder Ingrid Sanden said the winnings from Pitch to Win would help the company expand into middle-school-age sets.

“Winning the Pitch To Win competition would propel Boolean Girl Tech’s efforts to keep middle school girls engaged and excited about moving from basic coding to complex, real-world projects,” said Sanden. “Typically, there is a dramatic drop off in participation in STEM and computer science classes in middle school, so bridging the gap from elementary to high school and beyond is a crucial step as we close the gender gap in STEM careers.”

Boolean Girl will be competing with six other companies from across the country, from a skateboard grip tape business to a company that makes AI-enabled digital stethoscopes.

Boolean Girl launched in 2014 around the same time Google’s lack of diversity was making headlines. Since then, the company has developed a build-it-yourself box set for $169.99 and a kit that including ten boxes, ten monitors and a variety of accessories for $5,000. The company also offers a coding summer camp in Arlington.

Photo courtesy Boolean Girl

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Morning Notes

Local DJ Competing for World Championship — “Arlington resident Ross Volpe, known professionally as DJ Throdown, won the DMC U.S. Finals DJ Battle and will represent the U.S. on Sept. 28 in London at the DMC World DJ Championships.” [InsideNova]

Friday Fire Call at Ballston Harris Teeter — “ACFD on scene of the Ballston Harris Teeter for reports of flames coming from a seafood display. Firefighters on scene say it’s a malfunctioning refrigerator, per scanner. Expect emergency activity on N. Glebe Road.” [Twitter]

Broadband Provider Opens Office in Clarendon — “Boston-based Starry Internet, a new internet service provider deploying fixed wireless broadband, announced that it has expanded to Arlington, Virginia, with a new office space. The company’s 8,300-square-foot Virginia office is owned by Rooney Properties, and is located in the Clarendon neighborhood… Starry offers an internet-only product costing $50 a month with a 200Mbps download speed.” [Technically DC]

Employees Win Suit Against Fmr. Arlington Startup — “A group of former Trustify Inc. employees have been awarded $259,425.49 in back pay, lost wages and damages against the former Arlington private investigator company and its founder and former CEO, Danny Boice, according to a Sept. 4 order in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Tech Company Raises $2.5 Million — “Shift5, Inc. a cybersecurity company that builds hardware and software products to defend weapon systems, air platforms, and commercial transportation systems raised an additional $2.5 million in venture funding.” [PRNewswire via Potomac Tech Wire]

Memorial Bridge Construction Update — “Arlington Memorial Bridge is getting a makeover and some much needed structural support during its repairs… Adam Tuss got an exclusive look at the construction project on the Potomac.” [NBC 4]

ACFD Welcomes Retired Firefighter on 1,000 Mile Run — “On Saturday, September 14th, retired firefighter Justin Rowe will completed his 1,000 mile run from Maine to the Iwo Jima site (USMC Memorial) in Arlington. Tower 104 flew a flag to help welcome and congratulate him on this amazing achievement.” [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

GMU to Expand Va. Square Campus — “George Mason University wants to transform its Arlington campus into an ‘innovation district’ as it kicks off an Amazon-inspired overhaul… Mason expects to use the expansion to add 3,000 to 4,000 graduate students to the campus by 2024.” [Washington Business Journal]

Man Arrested For Assaulting Police in Ballston — “At approximately 8:32 p.m. on September 11, police were dispatched the report of a disorderly subject inside a restaurant who had allegedly been throwing items and threatening staff. Upon police arrival, the business staff requested the subject be banned from the property. While speaking with the subject, he threatened an officer and took a defensive stance. While placing him under arrest, the subject became combative, kicked and spit at the officers.” [Arlington County]

Home Inventory Tight in Arlington — “New listings in Arlington declined 16.5% in August compared with last year, said Chris Finnegan, vice president at Bright MLS. The median sale price for all home types in the 22202 ZIP code, where Amazon is building and staffing up HQ2, was $749,000 in August. It’s a 23% jump since the company made its HQ2 announcement in November 2018.” [Washington Business Journal, InsideNova]

Coffee Beanery Open in Va. Square — Coffee Beanery, a coffee chain with locations across the northeast, has opened a new location at 3444 Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square. [Facebook]

Tech Company Picks Arlington for U.S. HQ — ” Varjo, the technology leader in industrial-grade VR/XR headsets, today announced the opening of its U.S. headquarters… in Arlington, Virginia, located just outside of Washington D.C.” [Varjo via Potomac Tech Wire]

Potomac Kempo Now Open — Martial arts studio Potomac Kempo yesterday held a grand opening ceremony for its fifth location, at 3650 S. Glebe Road, in the Potomac Yard area. The studio started holding classes on Aug. 31, we’re told. [Facebook]

Video: USS Arlington Crew Welcomed at Fire Station — “Crew members from the USS Arlington were welcomed at Arlington’s Fire Station 5 before running in the The Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial Race. The USS Arlington honors the 184 victims and the thousands of emergency, fire and rescue personnel of Arlington County and localities in the National Capital Region who provided critical emergency assistance after the attack on 9/11.” [YouTube]

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