Arlington, VA

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

The landscape for tech jobs is changing, according to a new study from the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA).

Although California still enjoys the No. 1 position for job postings, it is losing jobs while openings surge from Texas to Florida.

Virginia continues to hold its own as a hub for tech talent and jobs, coming in fourth for overall tech jobs and Artificial Intelligence jobs posted in March. Job postings increased enough from February to land the Commonwealth in the sixth, while it ranks eighth for work-from-home positions.

“While Virginia does not rank among the states with the highest tech industry employment growth rates over the past five years, this is largely due to the fact that the Commonwealth of Virginia already has a very large tech industry,” Suzanne Clark, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, said. “States that have seen the most spectacular growth in tech industry employment are by and large ones that began with very small tech industries.

Clark said the organization wants to see more economic diversification in the form of more private sector — as opposed to public sector — tech jobs.

“Much of Virginia’s underperformance in tech sector growth is attributable to our over-reliance on the federal government for tech sector jobs,” she said.

Arlington is doing its part to sustain Virginia’s tech job growth, according to Arlington Economic Development. The county’s tech industry is expected to stay ahead of the growth of the tech industry nationwide over the next five years, said Kirby Clark, a spokeswoman for AED.

“Arlington maintains its competitive edge for tech talent with its highly educated workforce, above-average millennial workforce participation, a cluster of higher education institutions and proximity to innovative government agencies,” she said.

Arlington’s tech industry grew by 19.3% from 2015 to 2020, nearly 4% more than the national average. It is expected to grow by 15.6% over the next five years, compared to the expected national growth of 14.7%, the AED spokeswoman said.

Last year, Arlington’s top industries included computer systems services and technical consulting services, sectors she said are poised to continue growing.

Many of the employers with the most job postings in March have headquarters or prominent outposts in Arlington: business and tech consulting group Deloitte has a space in Rosslyn, Amazon is moving into its HQ2 in Pentagon City, consulting group Accenture has three spaces in the county, including a cybersecurity center, while another consulting group, ICF International, has an outpost in Crystal City.

The local Deloitte office is also driving a 361-position increase in AI jobs in Arlington, with its recent announcement that it will launch a new AI research center to advance federal work, Clark said.

“Demand for AI professionals has grown substantially since 2017, when there were 165 total AI jobs posted in Arlington,” she said. “Fast-forward to 2020, there were 1,172 AI jobs posted in Arlington.”

The VEDP spokeswoman said the demand for people with AI skills in Virginia during the past year was more than twice the national average.

Nationwide, thousands of tech jobs are remote opportunities, and Kirby Clark said AED is dedicated to ensuring Arlington remains an attractive place to work from home.

“Many employers intend to adopt a hybrid work model following the pandemic, making Arlington well-positioned to remain a hub for companies by enabling them to offer an attractive home and work environment in a single setting,” Clark said. “Whether working at an office or home, Arlington will continue to provide an outstanding quality of life that attracts people to live here.”

The VEDP spokeswoman, meanwhile, said the organization expects hybrid to be the new norm as well, which could help lift up the state as a whole, not just its large metro areas.

“Capitalizing on tech telework positions is also an important opportunity for rural and small metro regions that might not have been first in line to land tech jobs in the past,” Clark said.

Charts via CompTIA 

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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 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

All eyes — and phones — are trained on the rollout of 5G.

The next generation of mobile internet service promises higher data rates, meaning more people will be able to access the internet simultaneously and enjoy, among other things, higher quality videos and faster download speeds.

Telecommunications companies can either buy new, custom 5G hardware or install 5G servers on existing cell phone infrastructure. Many companies are opting to use servers because they are cheaper and more flexible than buying hardware, according to Jim Shea, the co-founder and CEO of the Rosslyn-based startup DeepSig (1201 Wilson Blvd).

How these servers run, however, could be improved, Shea said.

His startup is looking to make these servers run smarter, not harder, using machine learning, or artificial intelligence (AI). DeepSig is currently testing a solution, which would be a simple software upgrade for these servers, in its Rosslyn lab.

The software could have political and environmental consequences for the rollout of 5G, Shea said. It is a goal DeepSig has been working toward since it was founded four years ago.

“I call this the inflection point,” he said.

DeepSig has been working with a number of government organizations and private companies, trying to raise enough money to launch the lab and hire the staff needed to develop this smart software. It finally launched the lab in March.

“We’ve been building toward this,” Shea said. “It takes a long time, but once you can prove your product is valuable, you can scale rapidly. This lab is key to us getting our tech out there.”

Currently, phones are constantly seeking a good cell connection and telling local wireless network hubs, called “base stations,” when the connection is bad. In that case, the base stations may increase power to improve the signal quality.

Using DeepSig’s software, the 5G servers will repurpose the information coming from cell phones to understand the station’s surroundings and what may impact signal quality.

For example, Shea said near his WeWork office, the cell signal bounces off Rosslyn’s tall buildings. Using AI, the 5G server could learn how the signal interacts with buildings and harness these patterns to improve signal quality without having to resort to ramping up the power.

“That’s what we’re proving out with the AI lab,” Shea said. “We know of large industrial partners who are excited about our tech. By June or July, we’ll be making calls through our labs and inviting people to come and see the tech at work.”

The software improves the 5G server’s performance without ramping up the power, which Shea said is better for the environment.

“Everyone’s worried about global warming,” he said. “Our software reduces energy consumption.”

Ultimately, Shea said the goal is to also get DeepSig’s technology embedded into American-made 5G hardware.

Currently, American mobile providers can choose from three of the four major hardware providers, all outside of the U.S.: Finland’s Nokia, Sweden’s Ericsson or South Korea’s Samsung. (Telecom companies cannot work with the Chinese company Huawei over data privacy concerns.)

Shea said DeepSig’s tech will help make American-produced hardware competitive in the marketplace.

“The problem in the U.S. is that we don’t have a domestic [5G] industry,” he said. “We hope to be part of the group that gets the U.S. to rehome this technology back here. There’s a lot of interest in the government to get that to happen.”

Photo courtesy DeepSig

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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 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

Territory Foods, a meal delivery service that lets consumers personalize to their diet, recently announced it raised $22 million in a recent funding round.

Territory delivers its healthy meals directly to consumers through “a decentralized back-end marketplace” that partners with local chefs in the communities served by the company.

The Rosslyn-based startup caught the interest of investors that have put their money behind companies such GoPro, the online consignment service thredUP, the vegan “meat” alternative Beyond Meat and the fast-casual salad chain Sweetgreen. Two retired sports celebrities, soccer player Abby Wambach and NFL tight end Vernon Davis, also invested.

Territory Foods has enjoyed 250% year-over-year growth and is poised to increase its footprint nationwide, according to Rick Lewis, a general partner of U.S. Venture Partners, the investment group that led the funding round.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Territory Foods, a mission-driven brand who has built an incredibly distinctive business model by tapping local chefs who make healthy-eating attractive, tasty and attainable to consumers around the country,” Lewis said in a statement. “More than ever, we need true innovation in the food space.”

The new round of funding will allow Territory to expand the number of chefs it works with and provide customers more meal options, said CEO Ellis McCue.

“We go to great lengths to create optimized, personalized meals for each consumer and empower our chefs with data about our customer’s taste and nutritional preferences so they can tailor each meal, ultimately providing more variety than other delivery options out there,” McCue said in a statement.

The startup has raised $44 million to date, which Territory Foods said is the most venture funding raised by a female-led company in the ready-to-eat food category.

According to the company, Territory’s meals are made from scratch using responsibly-sourced ingredients.

“Territory’s ever-rotating, regionally curated menus always feature fresh non-inflammatory ingredients that optimize whole-body health, support a wide variety of dietary preferences, and have minimal to zero environmental impact,” the company said.

The startup launched in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria in 2012 but the company now lists its headquarters as being based at the WeWork in Rosslyn (1201 Wilson Blvd). Territory Foods has grown to serve over 20 major U.S. markets from coast to coast.

Partner chefs and restaurants hail from all over the U.S., and D.C.-area customers will recognize one partner restaurant — local restaurant chain Founding Farmers. Of Territory’s partner food-service companies, McCue said that 42% are women-owned and 38% are led by people of color.

Territory Foods also partners with Feeding America, donating proceeds, meals and volunteer hours to fight food waste and hunger in the U.S., according to the website.

Territory announced last winter that it was recognized as a Best Company for Women and McCue a Best CEO in a 2020 awards competition from the startup Comparably. The awards recognize workplaces that are good for women, have a diverse workforce and promote work-life balance, among other categories.

Photos via Territory Foods

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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 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

When Arlington resident Michael Morgan suffered an anxiety attack, he had no idea that the source of his recovery would one day become a business.

The attack was a slow burn. Morgan started feeling unsteady on his feet and a few months later, he could not get out of bed.

After seeking therapy, he realized his physical state stemmed from business and personal troubles: smarting from two startups that sank, due to legal and financial missteps, and reeling from his father’s recent cancer diagnosis.

He said the attack “was 100% related to the entrepreneur life” while the diagnosis “hit me like a ton of bricks.”

Morgan, a biochemist, has a green thumb, and his first steps outside his house were to his backyard, where he healed through gardening. He did not intend to turn his hobby into a company but his friends saw his gift and spotted the business opportunity. This year, Morgan launched Shimo, an organic gardening kit for novices with a little space.

Sustainability runs like a vein through his three ventures. Morgan’s last two ventures included a sustainable phone and Everblume, a hydroponic appliance that nearly made it to the business-launching TV show Shark Tank.

But unlike these two, Shimo grew more organically, he said.

“Entrepreneurs will often start by creating a product and finding customers,” he said. “This time, it was the customer saying, ‘I think you have a good product.”

Shimo takes Morgan back to the root of gardening, too.

“When you think about growing food, it’s really that simple: soil, seed, water, sun,” the biochemist and entrepreneur said. “Why over-complicate it?”

The kit ($50-$60) ships to customers’ doors and includes 100% organic soil, seeds, plant food and a grow bag made from recycled material. Morgan said Shimo makes growing food less intimidating for newbies.

“People ask me, ‘Why is this unique?'” he said. “I tell them, ‘Go to Lowe’s or Home Depot one weekend, go to the Lawn and Garden Center, and then tell me where you’re going to start. There are thousands of seeds and fertilizers to choose from. Then, they get it.”

Families can grow delicious lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and more for as little as two dollars per harvest, which he said could be a boon to people who live in food deserts.

The bags and the soil will last several years and the recurring costs are just new seeds, fertilizer and an annual soil amendment, Morgan said.

“Shimo uses the concepts we’ve used for several thousands of years and puts a spin on it for an urban or suburban environment, where people don’t have space or access to land, but still are interested in growing their own fresh food,” he said.

With his bounty, Morgan said he has pickled unripe cherry tomatoes to use in martinis instead of olives, made sage sticks and lavender oil, and is working with a D.C.-based mixologist to craft a cocktail using the flowers from mustard greens. He is compiling these ideas and other tips and tricks for his website’s blog.

Ultimately, Morgan aims to cultivate a community of micro-homesteaders around Shimo. He envisions people swapping knowledge, experiences, stories, as well as their own recipes and DIY ideas.

“I know it’s cliché, but when you think about agriculture, society, and history has been, it has always been community-driven,” he said.

Photos courtesy Shimo

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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 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

When Megan Gray was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 23, doctors told her she could never drive again.

She had to get rides from family and friends or hail Uber and Lyft drivers. Forgetting something at the grocery store meant more hassle than returning was worth and calling a car got expensive.

“Becoming epileptic changed my life,” Gray said. “People don’t realize how important driving is until you need it and can no longer do it.”

Rather than give up her independence, however, she decided to create a technology that could help her. Once she did, Gray founded Moment AI, which is developing an artificial intelligence system that can detect, monitor and analyze human health abnormalities that occur on the road.

“Moment AI can change the way drivers drive by providing the vehicle with more knowledge than it ever has had before about the driver’s health,” she said. “Our algorithms are made to adapt to the unique drivers in the U.S. Our goal is to provide more access to driving to people who have disorders.”

Gray tinkered in her 500-square foot apartment with technology she bought from Amazon using money she made playing poker. Her circle of epileptic friends tested out her technology along the way.

Once she established her company and brought on a co-founder, Gray said investors took notice. Within a year, SoftBank — the multinational Japanese company that runs the world’s largest venture capital fund (and famously invested big in WeWork) — backed her.

Another high-profile investor is Nvidia Corporation, which helped to develop the AI technology in Tesla vehicles.

And now, Moment AI is partnering with Samer Hamdar, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the George Washington University, to create a prototype of an in-vehicle AI system that could detect the start of a health problem, take control of the car and guide the car and driver safely to the side of the road.

“Mobility and certain core services should be available to all people, including those with health problems and demanding work environments,” Hamdar said in a press release. “Moment AI is a special project: it showcases the need for transportation equity and builds on a personal story to launch an academic-industry partnership that may have a significant impact on the lives of many in need.”

Now, Gray and her team have access to vehicles, simulators and graduate students to develop this potentially life-saving tech. Hamdar and his team will use driving simulators to create images and videos to train AI systems to predict and detect fatigue, seizures, strokes and heart attacks.

“We literally went from my living room to a WeWork in Arlington and now, a research lab in D.C.,” she said. “It has been pretty fast-paced.” Moment AI is headquartered at the WeWork in Rosslyn, after moving from the Crystal City WeWork, which recently closed.

Gray is also working on a way to get the tech into existing cars for those who cannot afford a new car with built-in AI.

The founder and CEO is the first woman and first African American to partner with the GWU transportation lab. In addition to breaking down such barriers, she is particularly proud that a record number of graduate candidates applied to work on her project with Hamdar.

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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 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

After several years of quietly building, a local IT management company — temporarily leaning into cybersecurity — is enjoying huge gains.

C3 Integrated Solutions, which helps government contractors use Microsoft cloud solutions, saw 172% growth over the last two years. According to the company, located in Rosslyn, those numbers make C3 the fastest-growing IT management company in Arlington.

Inc. Magazine ranked it the 69th fastest-growing company in the D.C. region for 2020 and ranked it among the top 2,000 companies nationally.

“I’ve been joking that it’s an overnight success 13 years in the making,” co-founder and president Bill Wootton said. And those numbers are for growth in 2019.

“2020 ended up being an even better year for us,” Wootton said. “Even with COVID-19, we had our best year ever last year, and this year, with some of the new services and solutions we’re about ready to roll out, we’re going to keep going in the same direction — up and up.”

C3 Integrated Solutions started a decade ago while Wootton and co-founder Kevin Lucier, an Arlington native, worked for cable and telecommunications company RCN. They wanted to give clients outside-the-box solutions and decided to start a company that would do just that.

When they took the plunge, however, they struggled to stay afloat in a mature industry crowded with similar companies. Three years in, Microsoft cloud services went online, which they saw as a lifeline.

Listening to some clients talk about the cloud, Wootton and Lucier saw a new opportunity and decided to jump ship. But there was one problem: neither had IT experience.

The duo hired people with the right expertise, including Kevin’s brother James — as well as long-time IT veteran Jason Tierney — and C3 Integrated Solutions was (re)born.

C3 focused on providing IT services to nearby companies, which, in Arlington, meant many of their clientele were defense contractors. That incidental relationship proved a huge boon to C3 a decade later when it found a new market to enter: cybersecurity.

Today, the company also helps government contractors keep their companies secure while meeting changing cybersecurity regulations. C3 is taking advantage of new cybersecurity regulations for defense contractors that the government codified in November, which Wootton and Lucier saw coming four years ago.

“We’ve been a mover in this particular solution set for three to four years now, and it’s just now starting to get mainstream recognition,” Wootton said. “We have a track record in an area where people are just realizing there’s a market shift.”

These regulations will take five years to roll out just for the defense industry, he said. The government is looking to expand these requirements to other departments, which means C3 is poised to ride this wave for a while.

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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 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

The finish line is in sight for a Clarendon-based startup that has developed a wearable breathing sensor called Respa.

Zansors, located at 3100 Clarendon Blvd, has created an inch-square device that connects to a mobile app, showing wearers their breathing patterns. Originally created to help people screen themselves for sleep apnea from the comfort of their home, Zansors has also tailored the product to fit the needs of fitness enthusiasts who want additional data on their exercise.

The company has been around nearly nine years, during which time the product has gone through research and development and has been beset by engineering and developmental delays, said co-founder Abhijit Dasgupta. Now, Zansors is in the final stages of developing the app and connecting it to the device.

“We’re looking forward to ramping up this spring and getting out the door in the summer,” Dasgupta said. “It’s obviously a good feeling that we’re in the final stretch. It’s a lot of work, effort and sweat equity. The hiccups have been frustrating, but we’re just trying to hammer it home.”

Dasgupta, who has a doctorate in biostatistics and previously worked in medical research, said the idea for a wearable breathing sensor came from seeing how common — but under-detected — sleep apnea is.

“To create a device that can allow you to detect it at home, you wouldn’t have to get wired up, and spend the night in a foreign bed,” Dasgupta said. “We felt sleep studies weren’t reflective of your own sleep experience.”

The wearable sensor detects how sleepers move and breathe and warns doctors of abnormal patterns, he said. But Respa is a screening product, not a diagnostic one, he said.

Over time, Zansors started looking into other areas where breath and motion are synced, and made it work for athletes and fitness buffs.

“It’s the same device, leveraged in different ways,” he said.

Dasgupta and his team have other ideas for repurposing the product for respiratory diseases, something at the forefront of their minds due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although it has become fodder for future development, the pandemic has also hurt Zansors’ ability to travel, meet buyers and clients and raise investment money, Dasgupta said. When personal protective equipment was hard to come by, Zansors pivoted to selling high-quality masks with filters, which it sold to several U.S. Army and Air Force bases, he said. Now that PPE is easier to find again, Zansors has refocused on the Respa.

The company is also in active talks about possible military usage of the device, Dasgupta said.

“There are plenty of ideas out there but we need to get this out the door so that we can put this in the ‘done’ column,” he said.

Initially, most of Zansors’ work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, through its Small Business Innovation Research grant program, as well as a few investors in Northern Virginia. The Arlington community specifically has been supportive of Zansors, Dasgupta said.

“I think it’s great that we’re in Arlington,” Dasgupta said. “Arlington is a great place to center a business because there’s so much going on: There’s so much networking and the business development groups are good.”

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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 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

(Updated 1:20 p.m.) Arlington resident and avid cyclist Carla Uriona spends most of her time demystifying data for people.

The English major-turned-coder-turned-designer is the co-founder of Factor3 Digital, a small, Arlington-based design company that creates data visualizations for nonprofits and corporations. In addition to design projects, she and co-founder Evan Potler spend a good deal of time helping prospective and current clients understand the fundamentals of responsible data visualization so they can do the work in-house if they wanted.

“Not enough agencies take that mentoring perspective,” she said.

Uriona founded Factor3 Digital partly out of frustration. The nonprofit firms she worked for, which farmed out some of their digital operations to contractors, often called on her to “translate” what the firms were doing.

“I think that those of us who are in these specialized fields, we live in our heads all the time,” she said. “Some don’t want people to see the ‘magic formula,’ and I fundamentally disagree with that so much.”

So in 2017, she and Potler, who had worked together at three nonprofits before, took the plunge to “be the firm we wish we could have hired” — the one that takes the time to cultivate relationships with clients and mentor them.

She said the pandemic led her and Potler to do some soul-searching about how much they want the company to grow or take on new clients.

“We had no idea before the pandemic how much we needed our clients and how much relationships mattered,” she said. “We’ve decided that we want to stay small enough so that we can personally focus on the majority of projects.”

Although it means sacrificing large-scale growth, Uriona — who has always worked for nonprofits — said she feels fulfilled in her work. About 80% of Factor3 Digital’s work is with nonprofits, and work with corporations makes up the remaining 20% and subsidizes the lower rates Factor3 Digital offers to nonprofits.

“The folks who are corporate know that — I wonder if it makes them feel good about the work they do,” she said.

The pandemic has led to more soul-searching among designers who work with data. Graphics of case numbers and transmission rates are everywhere but prone to misinterpretation, which can be deadly, she said.

“That points to a need for data literacy in schools,” she said. “I assure you, I’m going to make sure my son, who’s in sixth grade, knows how to read data.”

But the responsibility also falls to designers, who have to do a better job designing charts and graphics that regular people can understand.

“I don’t think we have gotten there yet,” she said.

This reckoning started before the pandemic as data became democratized and products to make graphics became more readily accessible.

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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 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

After a turbulent two years, a Ballston-based weightless flight company named ZERO-G is once again ready for take-off.

The company, with its administrative headquarters at 4601 N. Fairfax Drive, announced a recent financing round led by private equity firm Rock Mountain Capital. ZERO-G’s CEO Matt Gohd said this investment will help purchase another plane, add more takeoff cities for its consumer flight program, and support the company’s renowned weightless research lab.

Founded in 1995, ZERO-G chartered its first specially modified Boeing 727 boasting a “microgravity experience” in 2004, and has since hosted scientists and celebrities from Stephen Hawking and Buzz Aldrin to Kate Upton and Martha Stewart. Early investors and riders included Tesla founder Elon Musk and Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google. ZERO-G has also conducted 211 research missions on its Federal Aviation Administration-approved planes, leading to major advances in multiple industries.

“Our goal is to provide the most accessible, most unique extraordinary experience that someone could have — literally, floating like an astronaut in ZERO-G — while being able to support growing research in microgravity,” Gohd said.

The upward trajectory came to a halt in 2019, when the company had major issues that kept the planes grounded, according to the CEO. The financial distress was so extreme that the company could not make payroll and in November, the previous CEO resigned and Gohd took the helm.

The new CEO raised a “rescue round” of funding, began charting a new course for the company, and watched the first plane of his tenure take flight in late January 2020. But one month later, the research staff started talking to him about the coronavirus.

“They said it would be much worse than people thought,” he said.

They were right: Flights were canceled through July 2020 and 90% of staff were furloughed.

But now, with the end of the pandemic in sight, the appetite for microgravity is skyrocketing, he said. ZERO-G resumed operations in August and sold out most flights, a trend that has continued this year.

For about $7,000, people can buy a seat on a flight or for $175,000, companies and groups can charter the entire plane. ZERO-G also makes money from studios shooting movies and commercials on the plane.

“There’s nothing that compares to what we do,” Gohd said.

With the funding he started raising in August, the CEO envisions buying a plane or two to meet this rising demand. The funding will also support research, which he said is the fastest-growing sector of ZERO-G’s operations because of renewed interest in space.

ZERO-G works with NASA and a number of universities to run experiments in microgravity, to see how fluids move or to see how things react in Martian or lunar gravity, both of which ZERO-G can simulate. Outside of ZERO-G, many researchers have no other way to do this work without incurring huge costs, he said.

“We’re the only way to provide an interactive platform for researchers,” he said.

Rock Mountain Capital founder, David Stonehill, now a board member for ZERO-G, commended Gohd for revitalizing the company and credited him for its growth.

“ZERO-G’s unique experience is valued by consumers, corporate customers, entertainment companies, and scientific research teams at NASA and beyond,” Stonehill said in a statement.

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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 1812 North Moore. 

Recent Yorktown High School graduate Eva Gary is bringing the magic of princesses, princes and superheroes to kids — from a safe distance and over Zoom.

At the height of the pandemic, Gary, a lifelong performer and musical theater lover, decided to defer college for a year. She wanted to re-apply to competitive musical theater programs that she could not get into and wait until more schools and classes are in-person.

With the extra time she had, she started Princess Wish Parties, granting the wishes of kids who want to see their favorite fairy tale characters.

Over the last year, Gary and her squad of characters have visited virtual art parties, events for school pods, and drive-up parties. The dance, do crafts, play games and perform sing-a-longs with kids.

“I love working with kids, and performing, and this is the most magical combination of those two things, literally,” she said.

Gary started “princessing” for other companies as a sophomore, saying it was the perfect job for a teen who needed improvisation practice and had experience working with kids. She took a break from it to apply for college, but when she ultimately decided to put college off for one year, she picked it back up.

Although she was skeptical of the first socially distanced party she attended, Gary said the experience did not change much: She still could believably embody a princess character, sing, dance and form connections with the kids.

Bolstered by the positive experience and encouraged by her mom, Gary took steps toward launching a princess company. She found second-hand “Snow Queen,” “Mermaid Princess” and “Rapunzel” costumes and wigs — these companies are not affiliated with Disney, for the record — and tested them on neighborhood kids who she said are in “the princess stage.”

“The girls believed it and were so excited about it,” she said. “That was when I realized I can do this. Having had a little bit of experience as a performer, I knew I needed to get my head around the business side, but performing would be the same.”

Since then, she has virtually auditioned and hired actors, many of whom she knew from other “princessing” gigs and the musical theater community. She has quickly added on more princesses and expanded her offerings to include princes and superheroes.

“Every second of free time is spent on this company and recently, applying for schools,” she said.

Working as a princess this year has helped her hone her craft as a princess and a performer.

“I think I’ve grown immensely as a princess performer from my sophomore year until now,” she said, adding that she also has to “be prepared to remind their kid to not put dirt in their mouth — in a friendly, princessy way.”

Now that the company has taken off, she said she plans to manage the company and hire actors from a distance during college, and delegate the logistics of handling parties to one of her younger sisters.

“It’s been harder than I expected, but I could spend every waking moment working on this and I would be happy,” she said

Photo courtesy Princess Wish Parties 

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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 Shirlington Gateway. The new 2800 Shirlington recently delivered a brand-new lobby and upgraded fitness center, and is adding spec suites with bright open plans and modern finishes. Experience a prime location and enjoy being steps from Shirlington Village.

Arlington-based auto-refinancing startup MotoRefi recently announced $10 million in funding, led by Moderne Ventures.

The funding announcement comes after a year of gains for the four-year-old company, CEO Kevin Bennett tells ARLnow. In 2020, MotoRefi — based at 1010 N. Glebe Road in Ballston — raised $9.4 million, saw the number of users on its platform double and saw its revenue grow six times over. It facilitated over $250 million in auto refinancings and brought on an additional 100 employees.

(Bennett said MotoRefi does not release the number of users.)

The company, which was created by a team of venture-builders from Alexandria-based QED Investors, matches drivers looking to refinance their auto loans with credit unions and community banks. Bennett, who has worked on four other D.C.-area startups, said QED Investors co-founder and managing partner Nigel Morris asked him to lead the fledgling startup.

“Most consumers don’t know they can refinance their cars,” he said, contrasting it with a more commonly-understood home refinancing. “Only 47% know they can refinance their car and 2 to 3% do it.”

And unlike refinancing a home and or some student loans, where online platforms such as Rocket Mortgage and SoFi have made the process easier and more transparent, Bennett said this part of the market has not had its “Rocket Mortgage moment.” MotoRefi changes that, he said.

“People rightly don’t see the process as laid-out fairly,” he said. “One of the things that’s attractive about this startup is that it has a real very specific impact on people’s lives. We see the results of our work every day and that’s incredibly motivating.”

The startup handles the refinancing process from soup to nuts, checking credit scores and matching users only with the rates from banks and credit unions that they qualify for, Bennett said. The average customer saves about $100 a month.

For the smaller credit unions and banks that MotoRefi partners with, Bennett said the startup provides them access to customers they would not otherwise be able to reach. The startup also smoothes out the onboarding of new customers by streamlining the process of gathering documents and matching people with companies based on whether they would be approved, he said.

“We’re more efficient than our competitors because we’re the first real tech company in the space,” he said. “Our approval rates are higher, and it’s much less work for that credit union to review and fund a loan since we’re only sending customers who we know are a match.”

MotoRefi’s revenue comes from a number of different streams, Bennett said. The startup charges customers a processing fee in their loan and lenders pay MotoRefi for access to the people seeking loans, he said. The company also sells car-related services like a gap warranty.

Photo courtesy MotoRefi

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