Press Club

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 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.

Two companies that help grocers and shoppers get the best deal have reached a deal of their own.

Canadian artificial intelligence company Fobi is set to acquire Basket, an Arlington-based startup’s grocery pricing app that lets users compare in-store and online prices for items, according to a press release.

Basket, which was developed by Grocery Shopping Labs, provides its data to product manufacturers and retailers so they can understand shopping trends, such as how often shoppers search for products at different stores and what drives purchasing decisions. Fobi, based in Vancouver, provides insights from retail, sports, entertainment and tourism data to its clients, which include large companies across the globe.

“Basket has always been about taking the blindfold off shoppers to help them save money and time, and simultaneously providing shopper insights to some of the top [consumer packaged goods] CPG brands and retailers,” Grocery Shopping Labs CEO Neil Kataria said in the release. “Now, together with Fobi we can significantly grow our audience, delivering more value for shoppers and more value for the CPG brands we work with.”

Tech startup Basket co-founder Andy Ellwood talks at an event marking its move to Arlington in 2016 (file photo)

Basket was started in 2014 in D.C. and moved to Clarendon in 2016. The company raised $12 million in capital and has had hundreds of thousands of users.

Basket allows people to scan barcodes for their favorite products to create smart shopping lists that compares prices for products across various local stores, online shops and delivery companies, as well as the cost of the entire list across all of the stores. Basket’s data combined with Qples by Fobi Grocery Coupon Network app will give users a better experience and optimize cost savings for the brands, the release says.

“Shoppers can simply scan the product barcode and see if there are any coupons available for that product from Qples by Fobi, and if there are, they can be applied automatically at checkout,” according to the release.

The idea for Basket came to Kataria when he was a child, clipping coupons with his family and comparing his grocery list across five stores near him, he previously told ARLnow. As an adult, he realized the amount of money he was wasting by not comparing prices and began to aggregate data generated by shoppers.

The app built a community of shoppers who shared prices from grocery stores across the U.S.

“I’m excited by the opportunity we have together with Fobi to transform the grocery business with pricing visibility and shopper data, but I’m also excited about taking this transformation to other industries next,” Kataria said in the release.

The acquisition of Basket is well-timed, as inflation rises and manufacturers and consumers are even more interested in saving money, Fobi CEO Rob Anson said in the release.

“This deal immediately grows our revenue streams and immediately grows our addressable audience and the amount of shopper data that we have access to,” he said. “Our combined AI & Big Data capabilities will now enable a new era of personalized marketing at scale with unprecedented data analytics, and valuable insights as to campaign performance and measurement for the retail ecosystem.”

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Morning Notes

Clouds over Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by Jeff Vincent)

New Bikeshare Station Near Shirlington — “Hey Arlington! We’ve installed a new station at S Wakefield St & 28th Rd S, and it’s a perfect day to stop by and take a ride.” [Twitter]

Data Centers Coming to Nat’l Landing — “The plan to establish 5G connectivity in Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard, reshaping the larger community into a technological hub, includes a new addition: data centers. JBG Smith Properties, the area’s dominant property owner, will set up two “urban edge” data centers to serve as hubs for carriers and data aggregation.” [Washington Business Journal]

Clement Blasts Board Raises — “An independent candidate for Arlington County Board says she’d be OK with a major pay raise for County Board members, if they were providing adequate oversight duties. But they’re not, Audrey Clement contends. ‘Where is the hard work in avoiding hard decisions by kowtowing to staff?’ Clement asked in a recent campaign missive to supporters.” [Sun Gazette]

Metro Announces New CEO — “WMATA’s Board of Directors is excited to announce the selection of its new General Manager/CEO who will transform the agency and redefine how Metro continues to be an integrated part of the region’s success. Randy Clarke, the current President and CEO of Capital Metro (CapMetro) in Austin, TX, will begin his new position at WMATA late summer and was selected following an exhaustive nationwide search, which included important stakeholder and public input.” [WMATA]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 70 and low of 51. Sunrise at 6:01 am and sunset at 8:12 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Jeff Vincent

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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 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.

HUNGRY still has an appetite for growth.

The Ballston-based food tech startup acquired its third company in as many years.

HUNGRY offers an online catering marketplace connecting companies with local chefs. Last week, it announced the acquisition of California-based healthy snacks company NatureBox, which delivers its products to homes and offices, and has its own private-label bulk snacks.

“NatureBox’s healthy snacks will be an outstanding complement to HUNGRY’s business-catering solutions, creating a game-changing combination of exceptional quality and service,” HUNGRY co-founder and CEO Jeff Grass said in a statement. “Companies right now are looking for one partner to handle all of their in-office food, snacking, and beverage needs, and now more than ever, HUNGRY is that complete partner for them.”

Hungry founders Eman Pahlavani, Shy Pahlevani and Jeff Grass (courtesy photo)

NatureBox, which has served over 3.5 million consumers and thousands of corporate clients, previously raised nearly $60 million in funding, a press release said.

“We’re proud to join forces with HUNGRY, and we’re excited that now even more people will be able to enjoy our amazing, healthy snacks all over the country,” NatureBox CEO John Occhipinti said in a statement. “We’re grateful to Jeff and the whole HUNGRY team for believing in what we’ve built and taking it to the next level.”

The acquisition furthers HUNGRY’s national reach and increases its healthy options.

The startup launched in late 2016,  and has since expanded to more than 10 markets across the U.S., and acquired companies LocalStove in Philadelphia and Ripe Catering in New York City.

Outside of the D.C. area, HUNGRY is available in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, New York City, Austin, Dallas, Los Angeles, Nashville and San Francisco.

It has added food truck options and Virtual Xperiences, where groups can purchase online cooking classes with name-brand chefs and supplies sent directly to participants’ homes.

During the pandemic, it brought Nationals Park fan favorites to customers’ doors when the stadium was closed. It has since ended that partnership as fans are able to return to cheer the baseball team on in person.

HUNGRY has grown quickly over the last two years, earning a spot on the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 and debuting at No. 434 on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies in 2021. It also was named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies and Best Workplaces for Innovators.

Last year, it raised $21 million in a star-studded funding round, bringing on board actress Issa Rae, “America’s Got Talent” host Terry Crews, NFL player DeAndre Hopkins, NBA player Lonzo Ball and boxer Deontay Wilder.

Previous HUNGRY investors include Jay-Z’s Marcy Venture Partners, Kevin Hart, Usher, Todd Gurley, Bobby Wagner, Ndamukong Suh, and celebrity chefs Tom Colicchio and Ming Tsai.

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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 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.

Caitlin Iseler had great benefits in her executive search job, but nothing that supported her as a working parent.

She loved working at consulting firm Korn Ferry and wanted to be exceptional in her career but also wanted to do the best she could as a mom.

“I was like these (benefits) are great but this isn’t really solving my challenge of wanting to be a great mom and really wanting to be present and having those health wins outside of work,” she said. “I became really passionate about this concept of how do you support people in their time outside of work so they can be great at work.”

Happyly Founder Caitlin Iseler and her family (courtesy of Caitlin Iseler)

So, in 2019, she and co-founders Liz Regard and Randi Banks started Happyly, a platform companies can offer employees that provides activity plans and ways to give back to the community. Twenty corporations, including Navy Federal, her former employer Korn Ferry and Appian, offer Happyly’s service to their employees.

“It shouldn’t take a lot of time or money to do great things with your family and to really live your best life outside of work,” Iseler said. “So our platform is designed to support those experiences for real connection and again it all ties back to, for employers to ‘take care of people and they’ll take care of your company.'”

Last week, the Arlington-based company launched a new website and this week will roll out a new version of its app.

“There’s a lot coming down the pike in terms of our product evolution and around this give back component,” Iseler said.

The Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation is a Happyly investor, and the company recently received a grant from the Commonwealth Commercialization Fund. The startup also participated in the 757 Accelerate program and has several other investors from Virginia and the University of Virginia, Iseler’s alma mater.

“So for us, it’s just such a good place to be, and that has a lot to do with how we’ve been embraced by the state in terms of trying to bring this idea to life,” she said. “And I was in the D.C. area for 15 years after college… it’s home in so many ways.”

Over the next year, Happyly looks to add 30 to 50 more corporate clients and to double its roster of eight full-time employees and 120 ambassadors, which create content across the U.S. They’re hiring across many different categories, Iseler said.

“At the end of the day, building a business and being an entrepreneur is challenging and humbling because I get to live my purpose,” Iseler said. “I’m really proud of the team that we built and being able to bring together people who have such different experiences but are united by this purpose.”

Happyly co-founders Randi Banks, Caitlin Iseler and Liz Regard (courtesy of Caitlin Iseler)

But it is difficult to create a new category.

“You have to find the right companies at the right stage to introduce something so different,” she said, noting after launch only about a quarter of the companies really “got it.”

“But those are the ones we need to focus on, right, because we don’t need every single company in the world, we need the ones that really care and get it,” she said. “And we hope that in a couple years that this new category will be something that every company is thinking about.”

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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 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.

There are two “waves” one Arlington analytics company is riding: the health care industry’s inefficient use of data and the need for the U.S. to get a handle on health care costs.

Virginia Square-based CareJourney was founded in 2014 and uses data analytics to help organizations understand their customers and efficiently grow as the industry focuses more on keeping people healthy rather than just treating ailments.

CareJourney started as a service advisory business, so it was providing management consulting to the first few customers, CEO Dan Ross said.

“Pretty soon we figured out that we were sending some of the same things to each customer and so it was kind of a hint that we were on to something that could be repeatable software,” he said. “And so one of the first things we did, you know, in about three, two years in, was to start to pivot into a software business.”

The CareJourney team (courtesy of CareJourney)

CareJourney has about 120 customers, including health care organizations and providers. Ross said the company’s growth has been fast, adding about 10 to 15 customers every quarter since it began focusing on software in 2017.

And last year, CareJourney began partnering with other companies as well. It recently announced a new partnership with Credo Health, which automates digital medical record retrieval. The partnership allows clients to grow more efficiently and manage care for an increasing number of patients.

“When you put the two pieces of technology together, in our case, our data with their software, it just allows their end customers to do more than they would have been able to do just with the Credo software,” Ross said.

CareJourney has about five partners similarly incorporating the CareJourney data into their services.

Ross attributes the company’s success to its hyper-focus on solving customers’ problems, and its hiring, developing and coaching employees, as well as building a good culture. He said it has about 100 full-time employees, mostly in the D.C. area.

When CareJourney was started, its founders — Ross, Aneesh Chopra and Sanju Bansal — lived locally and had already started other businesses in the area, so Arlington was a natural choice to locate the new company.

“We expected to be hiring a lot of tech-oriented people… Arlington is like one of the hotbeds locally of places to start and have a tech business,” Ross said. “So it’s kind of an easy choice, nearby and sensible.”

Ross said to start a high growth business, a company needs to be in an important and large space and “riding some waves.”

“The adoption of analytics, technology in health care, and also this like screaming need for more efficiency are two big waves that we ride,” he said.

As the health care industry increasingly transitions to focus on incentivizing health systems to keep people healthy — called value-based care — versus treating them for illness and ailments, the need for data analytics is also growing.

“The whole point of value-based care is not to pay for when someone’s sick, whatever that is, but instead to flip the incentives around and incent the health care delivery system to take care of patients, whether or not they are sick,” Ross said.

One example is when using CareJourney’s data, one of its clients noticed a high number of hospital admissions over a month or two stemming from a similar condition.

“And so using our data, they were able to go back and look and say ‘oh, well, people who hadn’t seen a urologist — as this is in the senior population — had this, like, unusually high rate of hospital admissions from UTIs,'” Ross said.

So the client implemented a urologist screening, and the data showed that it prevented hospital admissions.

“When you keep somebody out of the hospital, that’s just a huge win in health care,” Ross said. “That’s probably the number one thing we can do, is just, in general, keep people out of the hospital.”

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Morning Notes

A United States flag and a Ukraine flag along the W&OD trail bridge over Langston Blvd (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Local Tech Co. Makes Acquisition — “Arlington’s Fluence Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: FLNC) said Monday it has reached a deal to acquire Nispera AG, a software-as-a-service company from Switzerland focused on the renewable energy sector. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.” [Washington Business Journal]

Students Plan Earth Day Event — “Several local high schools and their environmental-club student-leaders are partnering with EcoAction Arlington for an Earth Day community event on April 23 from 9 a.m. to noon at Bon Air Park in Arlington. The initiative will help to raise funds as well as educate the public, in addition to serving as a cleanup event at the park.” [Sun Gazette]

Poll Finds ‘Missing Middle’ Support — “The Zillow report, which surveyed 12,000 adults across 27 metro areas, found that 80% of respondents in the DC region were in favor of allowing accessory dwelling units (ADUs), duplexes and triplexes in residential neighborhoods. 70 percent of respondents in the region believe that allowing these types of homes in residential areas would have a positive impact on the availability of more affordable housing options.” [UrbanTurf]

It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 73 and low of 55. Sunrise at 6:37 am and sunset at 7:43 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Looking for books at the Columbia Pike Branch Library (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) Arlington’s public libraries are trying to figure out how to get patrons back after Covid closures.

Since starting to reopen in mid-2021, library use has been down more than 25% from pre-pandemic levels, the Sun Gazette reports.

In a budget presentation with County Board members, longtime library director Diane Kresh acknowledged that the 75,000 users of her system in the days before COVID had dwindled to 55,000 today. (She didn’t do the math for board members, but it represents a drop of roughly 26.5 percent.)

“We want those people back. We’ve got to bring them back,” said Kresh, on hand to push for a library-system budget increase of 6 percent to $15.9 million and a staffing increase to about 140 full-time-equivalent positions from 131.

Meanwhile, while printed material remains the centerpiece of local libraries, digital rentals are quickly catching up. Kresh’s budget presentation cited the following national figures.

In 2009, non-digital materials made up 98% of a library’s collection. In 2019, that number was 45%.

In 2019, use of digital collections is at an all-time high of 37% of all collection use. This is triple what it was in 2013.

But in terms of borrowing, more physical books are borrowed than digital ones, with roughly 5.6 physical books borrowed per person per year and 3.5 digital.

The presentation noted that hold times in Arlington are long for popular material, like the novel The Lincoln Highway. Digital holds — e-books and e-audiobooks — are roughly twice as long as that for print, the presentation said, with 702 holds for the digital versions compared to 264 for print.

Hold times from library budget presentation (via Arlington County)

Arlington’s public library system, like others across the country, has been evolving its offerings, adding digital material rentals, holding various events and children’s activities, opening makerspaces, providing free meeting space rentals, and offering free Wi-Fi — indoors and outdoors — in addition to computer rentals.

A library is very much a public space: a place to meet up, study, research, create things, and participate in community activities.

Ultimately, though, much of the library system’s physical footprint and operational focus remains devoted to printed materials, at a time when you can read many books instantly on a screen and complete research projects entirely online.

There’s nostalgia for the democratization of knowledge unlocked by the Gilded Age rise of public libraries in the U.S., and print materials are still undoubtedly popular, but there is an argument to be made that libraries could serve more people by repurposing some space for more computers, kids activities and other public functions.

On the other hand, fewer physical books on the shelves could backfire and turn off some devoted patrons while failing to attract marginally higher numbers of new patrons.

What do you think? Should Arlington Public Library should consider gradually de-prioritizing print and using the space for other community uses?

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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 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

(Updated at 9:15 a.m. on 03/29/22) International startup accelerator ZEBOX is gearing up to open its U.S. headquarters in Crystal City in April.

Construction has been underway at 1550 Crystal Drive since Gov. Ralph Northam heralded the arrival of France-based accelerator in February 2021.

The company is slated to inaugurate the space — with sweeping views of Crystal City, Reagan National Airport and the Potomac River — on April 26.

ZEBOX will be bringing together promising startups with concepts that could solve the world’s supply-chain issues and giving them the physical space and mentorship they need to succeed.

The accelerator will also be connecting these startups with large shipping and transportation companies, such as BNSF Railway and the Port of Virginia, that need these smaller companies’ ideas and products to keep their goods moving quickly and secure their data.

“These big companies pay a service fee for us to come in and teach them how to innovate,” says ZEBOX America Vice President Charley Dehoney. “Then, we find startups that can help their business grow and we play matchmaker.”

ZEBOX is choosing companies that have already demonstrated some success and are in various early fundraising stages, from a pre-seed round to Series B. Nine startups will be relocating to Crystal City next month as part of ZEBOX’s first cohort.

The accelerator’s leaders aim to have D.C.-area-based startups comprise up to 40% of the startups located in its offices. The Crystal City location will be ZEBOX’s flagship hub, Dehoney said, because “we have the most robust startup ecosystem in the world.”

The local startup scene’s strength has been mostly in government-related ventures and cybersecurity, but that reputation has evolved as Amazon cements its foothold in the region, he says.

Dehoney points to JBG Smith, which is bringing ubiquitous 5G connectivity to Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — collectively known as National Landing — to give startups the technological infrastructure they need to innovate.

“Amazon needed this infrastructure because they want robotics, drone delivery and autonomous vehicles,” Dehoney said. “It’s the perfect place for us to have a supply chain-mobility focused accelerator.”

ZEBOX America Vice President Charles Dehoney, left, and Chief Operating Officer Patrick Duffy, right (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A year ago, the supply chain was not a topic of dinner-table conversation, nor was it a concept that Americans budgeted into how they planned their holiday shopping, for example. But all that changed with the pandemic, says Dehoney.

“These supply chain issues have always existed. They were exacerbated by Covid, then the world shined a light on it,” he said.

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A woman holding an Apple iPad (file photo)

(Updated at 4 p.m.) Oakridge Elementary students are no longer allowed to take their school-issued iPads home due to reports of “inappropriate use.”

The policy will be in place “for the foreseeable future,” Principal Lynn Wright told families in a School Talk email, after “teachers, students and families have shared that iPads are being used inappropriately outside of school hours.”

“Please remind your children that the iPad is a learning tool specific to school assignments,” Wright wrote.

Word of the email comes a day after Arlington County police were dispatched to the school for a report of “pornography” on a student’s iPad. ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said no one was arrested or charged following the report.

“At approximately 10:39 a.m. on March 24, police were dispatched to the 1400 block of 24th Street S. for the report of a juvenile incident,” she told ARLnow. “The investigation determined no crime had occurred.”

Separate from Thursday’s police dispatch, APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said that a rumor about “several incidents of Oakridge students using their iPads to view hard-core porn” was “not true.”

In 2017, a group circulated an online petition calling for APS to “discontinue immediately the current 1:1 iPad program within APS elementary schools for grades K-5,” which supplies each student with an APS-purchased device. The petition garnered just under 400 signers.

The iPad email comes amid a rise of violent incidents and other misbehavior in and outside of schools, as we reported yesterday.

The full email to Oakridge families is below.

Greetings Oakridge Families.

Students’ iPads will remain at school for the foreseeable future. This is a result of an increase of technology misuse and breach of the APS Acceptable Use Policy that students and families acknowledged at the start of the year. Teachers, students and families have shared that iPads are being used inappropriately outside of school hours. Inappropriate use includes, but is not limited to: nudity, inappropriate Google searches, messaging via Google docs, video downloading, recording other students without their consent, and gaming. Additionally, students have become heavily reliant on the use of their iPads for Non-APS related activities. We are going to re-establish the expectations specific to this technology. Please remind your children that the iPad is a learning tool specific to school assignments.

We are currently checking all iPads to ensure that they are being used appropriately. If we discover inappropriate content on your child’s iPad, you will be notified immediately.

To ensure that children have access to the technology during the school day, we ask that you return all charging equipment. This will help create more consistent and clearly defined iPad usage routines. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding. We want your children to remain safely engaged in their learning. Please contact either Mr. Sean Jones (ITC) or myself if you have any questions or concerns.

Take care,

Lynne Wright

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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 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Cryptocurrency — and the technology underpinning the latest developments within this world, like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) — are complex enough to make the average person’s head spin.

Enter OVRT, a new Arlington-based crypto-community that exists to offer locals and D.C.-area artists free education on cryptocurrency, like bitcoin, and how they can dive into this wholly digital financial world and make money in it.

OVRT is co-founded by Scott Parker, who is behind a bevy of businesses throughout Arlington like Don Tito’s restaurant and Bearded Goat Barber, and Northern Virginia local Ryan McNey, who Parker considers a “borderline certified expert” in cryptocurrency.

“We both have a lot of energy, we both love to work on stuff, and we’re both were excited about this space,” Parker tells ARLnow. “It makes sense for me to be able to connect him to local business people, entrepreneurs, artists — anyone I can help with OVRT. I’ve been successful with helping a lot of people come join the OVRT movement, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Their aim is threefold: first, educate locals about cryptocurrency; second, help artists earn a more sustainable living from their art using NFTs; and finally, open up conversations about this wholly digital financial world with lawmakers and regulators.

OVRT logo (courtesy photo)

So what are all these concepts?

Cryptocurrency is a form of encrypted digital currency. It is stored on the blockchain, which is basically a “digital ledger.” People use blockchain technology to make non-fungible tokens, or unique versions of things like digital artwork or sports memorabilia that can be digitized.

And how does all this benefit artists?

NFTs are fundamentally a way of verifying someone owns something digitally. There is a contract attached to that image, McNey notes, and every time an NFT gets bought or traded, the person who issued it can take a cut. That contrasts with physical art that is sold by the artist once, only to appreciate in value without returning any of that value to the original creator.

For artists, NFTs can mean significant income in royalties without cuts to managers and middle men. They can use NFTs to make money on their artwork, which might otherwise circulate the internet via screenshots and illegal downloads, without them seeing a penny, he says.

The co-founders of OVRT say successful artists will make great reference points when they discuss the benefits of cryptocurrency with lawmakers and regulators, who will eventually be drafting policies and regulations governing these transactions.

“As someone who’s been in crypto for eight years, I know that for us to succeed, it’s vital that policymakers and regulators are making informed and educated decisions versus reactive ones,” McNey said.

But the conversation cannot begin with heady jargon like “yields, staking and decentralized banking,” he says. It has to begin somewhere tangible.

“I’m going to talk to them about art,” he said. “We have to meet them where they are.”

OVRT is fully remote right now, but eventually, Parker and McNey would like to open up a space — likely in Arlington, given Parker’s local connections — where they can showcase artists and host events. Next Wednesday (March 30), they are launching OVRT’s first NFT called “HYPEES,” made by Matt Corrado, a prolific D.C. artist who has worked with Nike, Heineken and Converse.

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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 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

As a commercial real estate broker, Greg Carpentier always felt he was missing or struggling to find two important pieces of information when negotiating office deals.

Floor plans and square footage.

“It was a treasure hunt,” he said.

If that information did exist, Carpentier says it was disorganized and did not reflect the upgrades landlords would make to suites and amenity spaces. But those numbers had to be accurate since the constantly fluctuating amount of usable space determines the price to buy or lease office space.

So he set out to do something about it. Carpentier talked to colleagues and clients — who shared similar frustrations — and researched the competition. Finding few competitors, he hired an overseas software developer to build a prototype solution: a platform for real estate brokers, architects and landlords to store, access and share floorplans and other office layout information.

That’s how floorwire, based out of Carpentier’s apartment near Rosslyn, was born. He incorporated the company in 2019, had domestic software developers build a new version of the software, and began taking on clients in 2020. He assembled a small team of employees in August.

Brokers, architects and landlords are not the only people who benefit from a 21st-century alternative to scrolls and scrolls of paper floorplans. The product saves tenants time and money and gives them peace of mind, says Abby Caldwell, a former client of Carpentier’s who is now the Director of Operations for floorwire, the first letter of which is deliberately displayed as lower case.

“I was in a few situations when I was a tenant where I was under pressure to move quickly and acquire additional space on a tight timeline,” she said. “The current leasing timeline is longer than you might think, and we save you time by creating a more efficient process. Also, the tenants sleep easier at night knowing the data is accurate.”

A promotional graphic from floorwire (courtesy photo)

Carpentier’s company began taking on clients during the pandemic, which he says was the catalyst the commercial real estate market needed to abandon its outdated, low-tech approach to calculating and keeping tabs on square footage.

“What Covid did, as a whole, is make everyone realize how far behind commercial real estate is with regard to technology,” he said. “It exposed the problems and sped up the need for technology.”

For example, he said, Covid pushed people in commercial real estate to invest in sensors that are more accurate than architects at measuring office layouts, which are being reconfigured on a massive scale to entice workers back into the office.

“It’s a great opportunity to change the model,” he said.

This emerging industry sector is dubbed “proptech,” or property tech. Carpentier says venture capital funding is flowing into the sector, which he predicts will grow rapidly in the next five years.

“There’s so much opportunity for such a fundamental industry,” he said. “There’s a lot of money in commercial real estate. It’s a huge market: second to the stock market.”

As proptech grows, so too does floorwire. In August 2021, the company was able to hire full-time employees. In 2022, its leaders aim to take on new clients and keep working with existing ones.

“I’m really excited to take groundwork we laid in 2021 and run with it this year,” Caldwell said.

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