Tysons, VA

Tysons-based company hatchIT launched a new site in February to connect independent engineers, developers and entrepreneurs in the D.C. area.

Called Hatchpad, the site allows users to create a social media-type account to talk with people working on new projects, seeking jobs, hiring or simply wishing to network in their field, according to the website.

People can sort through posts and project collaborations based on tech stack (a.k.a. coding language), region or work location — at home, part-time or in an office.

Hatchpad founder Tim Winkler said that the idea came to the team after realizing talent recruitment in the area was difficult for startups and product designers. “It’s often hard to cut through the noise of government contracting,” he told Tysons Reporter.

The site only caters to people in the D.C., Virginia, Maryland and Baltimore areas, but Winkler said there are plans in the works to expand the site’s capabilities — both geographically and feature-wise.

Though there isn’t a way for people to chat on the site just yet, startups and engineers are encouraged to post a blog or video interview showcasing their projects, according to Winkler. From there, people can get in contact with one another by finding contact information online.

Roughly 450 people have accounts on the site, Winkler said, adding that more than 1500 people are on their listserv for a weekly email update.

For example, Reston-based startup Hawkeye360 uses the site to advertise job listings and talk about its product.

Like almost every other company, Hatchpad adapted to changing norms prompted by COVID-19 within the last few months.

“There is a push for us to bring a new line of virtual events during this time,” Winkler said, adding that engagement with digital events can be more difficult than with in-person events.   

Before the pandemic hit, according to Winkler, people were more likely to attend in-person events since it was easier to gather and organically network over food and drink.

“Folks seek that social interaction and that’s why they enjoy physical events,” he said. 

To solve this problem, hatchIT and Hatchpad are considering putting together invite-only, “round table” digital events where roughly 10 industry professionals would come together over a specific topic.

These events, potentially called “Hatchpad Huddles,” would be around 30-45 minutes in length and give people the opportunity to speak up and stay engaged, according to Winkler.

Though a lot of companies are experiencing hiring freezes, Hatchpad is encouraging the use of its platform by offering fun ambassador perks for current members.

People who bring new users onboard may score prizes like Hatchpad socks or free tuition to certain online workshops, much like the podcast Morning Brew does, Winkler said. “We really want the site to grow organically.” 

Photo courtesy hatchIT

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A new Tysons tech startup imagines a world where people can pay for goods and check into their favorite fitness studio with a smile.

Yombu, a biometrics and “identity management” company, is already working with more than 350 businesses around the world to manage the way clients check-in their patrons and manage payments using fingerprint identification, facial recognition and similar biometrics, according to Derek Sanford, the CEO and one of the company’s three co-founders.

Biometrics, according to the Department of Homeland Security, are defined as unique physical traits that can identify a person and are already used by government agencies like at immigration checkpoints.

Instead of governmental uses, Yombu is trying to set up a system where users won’t have to go through the process of setting up new accounts every time someone visits a different salon or a new service.

With the software, people can be identified by their biometrics and auto-populate basic information with a tap of a finger or glance at a camera.

“You have to fill out your name, birth date and all of that information every single time. With our system, you can just access your account and repopulate all of that,” he said.

Yombu also allows for “customer and employee check-in, access control, liability waiver verification, payment acceptance, [and] employee attendance,” according to the company’s website.

The founding trio settled on Tysons as a headquarter because a lot of the team was already located in the Northern Virginia area and happened upon a co-working space at 1751 Pinnacle Drive they liked.

Since its founding roughly five years ago, Yombu recently partnered with Mindbody, a California based scheduling company, to serve fitness centers and spas to help with digitization services.

Part of the reason Yombu has been successful, according to Sanford, is because of the growing trend to declutter front desks and modernize a hassle-free check-in process.

“It’s where everyone really wants to go. There’s a lot of systems out there, but not a lot of cohesion,” he said, adding that many systems don’t work well together and people don’t want to see printers and clutter on a desk.

Instead, Yombu’s leadership sees a future where a check-in desk involves a computer and tablet to the side.

Though the company has “fingers in a lot of different pies,” Sanford told Tysons Reporter that it is ahead of competing companies because the team is willing to reiterate products, push forward to meet ever-changing demand and blend several services into one package.

As the company looks to the future, Sanford said that the company is putting a heavy emphasis on facial recognition, since customers seem to be requesting it at a higher rate. With the rise of COVID-19, people will be less inclined to touch communal surfaces in the future, he added.

“Fingerprint is tried and true, fast and cost-effective, but a lot of people were asking about facial recognition,” Sanford said. 

For people who are concerned about security in an increasingly digital world, Sanford said the company doesn’t sell any personal data and closely follows the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations, which he thinks are stricter than regulations in the United States.

People have control over their own data, he said: “If they want to delete their data or change it, that’s their prerogative.”

In the next several years, Sanford said he hopes Yombu becomes worth billions of dollars and focuses on innovating to help consumers and build alliances with partners.

Photo via Yombu/Facebook

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The Vienna entrepreneur behind TicketFam decided to launch yet another startup to meet the rising demand for homemade face masks around the country.

Every Mask Counts only has two face mask designs on its website so far, but its founder, Arian Shahbazi, said that the goal is to educate people about the ongoing pandemic and promote safety.

“This website is created to promote people to wear protective face masks during this COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Shahbazi, who told Tysons Reporter that the company has over 150 masks ready to hit the market.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear cloth face coverings — not surgical masks or N-95 respirators that medical workers need — in public places to slow the spread of the virus.

For each mask sold, the entrepreneur said he will send another mask to a hospital in New York, where Shahbazi’s friend works as a health care professional.

Each mask sells online for $14.95 and includes free shipping anywhere in the United States, the website said. Customers can choose from either a Black Panther fabric design or a variated pink and white pattern in sizes small/medium or large/extra-large.

Soon, Shahbazi said people will be able to choose from over 10 different patterns, each of which are handmade and reusable after a wash.

For people in the Virginia and D.C. area, Shahbazi said he will also offer free curbside drop-off to people who are nervous about leaving their homes or accepting packages from the mail.

Shahbazi, who is producing the masks along with the help of close family members, said that there will be as little contact with the masks as possible.

Photo courtesy TicketFam

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1 Million Cups Fairfax decided to move weekly meetings online to keep helping local startups and tech gurus during the coronavirus outbreak.

The group’s meetings and community events, which were usually in-person on Wednesday mornings, will be held online until further notice through a free digital software called Zoom, Silvia Ferguson, a spokesperson for the group, said.

Ferguson added that more details will be released online shortly.

1 Million Cups Fairfax, which is a part of a chapter initiative, allows local entrepreneurs to network with one another and receive feedback on business pitches.

Though Ferguson said that she isn’t sure how the economic downturn will potentially affect startups, she did say that members of Office Evolution — a co-working space that sponsors 1 Million Cups — and attendees that she has spoken to seem to be in good spirits.

The next 1 Million Cups Event will be held digitally this Wednesday (March 25)  from 9-10 a.m. People should be able to visit the event page soon for an updated link to the digital event, according to Ferguson.

Photo via 1 Million Cups/Facebook

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After Reggie Holmes was laid off from his job, he decided to take control of his career path and begin his own business, Enthuse Creative.

Since its founding in Tysons around 2013, the company has branched out to offer customers a variety of branding, strategy and design services — helping clients develop a unique sense of identity, according to Holmes.

Enthuse Creative operates as a multi-functional branding agency to help companies distinguish their talents and focus their efforts. Though the final product will vary depending on a clients’ needs, Holmes said he wants to help people target their own sense of identity and market.

Regarding the creation of Enthuse Creative in 2013, Holmes said he “wanted to be in a position where I could create my own opportunities,” adding that the ability to be creative and think outside of the box in his professional career is important for him as an art degree graduate.

When Holmes was in the process of the career transition, he said he realized that creative positions were “tenuous,” especially if someone wasn’t a high-up and wanted to solidify their career.

Coming up with the name for his company, Holmes said that “‘to enthuse’ means to build joy or happiness, so at the end of the day I want to help businesses be enthusiastic about their brand.”

Since the beginning of 2020, Enthuse has worked with roughly 20 different clients, many of whom come from different backgrounds and need various degrees of assistance, Holmes said.

One of the most inspiring projects Holmes said he worked on was a campaign for Meridian International Group, which promotes global leadership and U.S. diplomacy efforts.

For the group, Holmes said he helped to create an annual report, as well as marketing materials and a logo for a specific program.

“It’s great to know work I’m doing is being seen outside the United States,” he said, adding that he found it humbling to help improve the quality of life for people he will likely never meet.

As a one-man-show, Holmes said he often hires freelancers and partners from around the area to help him keep up with the workload.

In the summer of 2019, Holmes became the co-chair of marketing for the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce and is now on the chamber’s board. He said he volunteers with the group, working to align upcoming businesses with the chamber, promoting economic success and helping to organize events such as Tysons 2050.

Currently, the group is trying to rebrand their image, according to Holmes, who didn’t feel at liberty to expand.

“We recognize the need to go a little bit deeper and create a compelling case as to why a business should partner with us to keep growing,” he said.

Photo courtesy Reggie Holmes

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Three McLean teenagers decided to leave behind the minimum wage grind and embark on their own entrepreneurial journey.

TeenServ is an online platform that connects students to adults who need short-term jobs done, like pulling weeds, cleaning or other types of housework. It began in 2018 under Ben Jeannot, Jack Lannin and Quin Frew, a group of friends who are still in charge of the service’s development and outreach.

The idea quickly spread after the boys decided to promote the service within their own friend groups, according to Lannin.

Since September, the team said they managed to recruit around 200 teenagers from eight area schools including Falls Church, Herndon, Marshall, McLean and Oakton. 

Teens who sign up for the app can accept jobs they are most interested in and make about $17 per hour, according to the founders.

“Because it’s pretty much a free market system, it allows teens to choose jobs they want and think are fair,” one of the members told Tysons Reporter. 

Another group member added that all of the jobs are screened by the founders before being added to the list of available opportunities. This way, they can ensure the jobs are safe and within limits of the site user agreements.

“We tend to stay away from animals or babysitting,” a group member said, adding that any job that involves the liability of a living thing, besides plants, is also off the table. 

Twice a week, the boys said they will meet to discuss goals and next steps.

Currently, Lannin said the majority of their marketing is done through word of mouth and social media presence — including  Instagram and Facebook. The group’s Instagram account has more than 800 followers as of Monday (Feb. 3).

Two promotions were recently announced on the company’s Instagram. The first promotion offers workers an extra 12 percent on top of the listed rate for a job if they bring along a friend, according to TeenServ’s Instagram.

There is also a job lottery that automatically enters students in a giveaway for every job they complete within a certain month.

Photo courtesy TeenServ

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Updated 1/31/2020 — The event will be held on the second level near the Old Navy.

Earlier: Student innovators and entrepreneurs will gather this Saturday (Feb. 1) to showcase their ideas at Tysons Corner Center.

The Junior Achievement Trade Show is set to take place from 11:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on level one of the mall in BrandBox.

Community members are welcome to stop by, ask questions and purchase items sold by the students, according to Gayle Robinson, a spokesperson for the Junior Achievement of Greater Washington.

Students will get the chance to “display, demonstrate and discuss their innovative products and services in the hopes of building brand awareness, selling to new customers and connecting with the local community,” the event page said.

A total of 140 students will be present at the event, Robinson said, adding that they will be broken up into eight teams that will take turns presenting throughout the day.

Tables will be set up “market-style,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

Students tabling their ideas at this event are part of a program that helped them develop a business plan, pitch ideas and build confidence, the website said.

Robinson told Tysons Reporter that the students, who represent the entire D.C. area, have been preparing for this moment since they began the program in September and will be evaluated by judges wandering around the room during the event.

Students who win this competition will be fast-tracked to future competitions later this spring, according to Robinson.

Photo via Junior Achievement of Greater Washington/Facebook

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A group headquartered in Falls Church aims to get women “from the classroom to the board room” by offering developmental resources and networking opportunities.

With more than 1,000 members, the Women in Technology group (200 Little Falls Street) operates around the D.C. area and works with a large variety of age groups — including young girls and women at the height of their careers, according to its website.

“Our scope is to really network and support the advancement of women and girls in this specific area to enter STEM fields,” recently elected Board Member Cristine Gollayan said. “It’s for girls and women at any stage of their life.”

Gollayan’s own story with the group began around 2013 when she said she attended an event and eventually worked her way up the group’s leadership ladder.

Since then, she also served on the job fair committee board and was eventually elected into the WIT’s Board of Directors in 2018.

Gollayan currently works in Herndon as a senior manager for Sony’s Global Information Security team and said events hosted by WIT take place throughout the area, including Tysons — a central location for many of the organization’s volunteers.

WIT has several representatives, who happen to be women of color, on both its board of directors and the executive committee. But, the group doesn’t offer specific programs targeting women of color or transgender women.

Gollayan also said anyone who identifies as a woman is more than welcome to join.

“Anything we promote, we try to ensure that diversity and inclusion is an important piece,” she said.

Two of Gollayan’s favorite events include the leadership awards ceremony and STEM for Her Gala, which Gollayan also said she helps to plan, because the women at both of the events are “so poised and ready to rock and rule the world,” she said.

Other events run by the group include two seasonal job fairs a year, the Leadership Foundry and Girls in Technology. A full list of offerings can be found online.

For example, the Leadership Foundry is a nine-month-long program that teaches women to run board meetings and take on positions of power within their own companies. So far, 20 alumnae from the program have ended up on boards within a corporation, according to Gollayan.

Meanwhile, Girls in Technology is a subgroup within WIT that targets young girls considering careers in STEM.

The CyberPatriot Girls is a program through Girls in Technology that takes 6th-12th-grade girls and challenges them to participate in a “fast-paced and high-pressure” simulation that resembles a mock cyber-attack, according to Gollayan. It is hosted in partnership with the Air Force and the University of Maryland. In the activity, girls form teams and are expected to “protect national infrastructure” while learning technical skills, she said.

For people interested in the group, the next upcoming event, WIT.Connect, is coming up.

On Feb. 20 from 6 to 8:30 p.m., people will gather at Valo Park (7950 Jones Branch Drive) to network and learn about upcoming technological trends in healthcare. Attendees will have the chance to hear from speakers and WIT members.

Registration is $45 for WIT members or $55 for non-members.

Photo courtesy Cristine Gollayan

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(Updated 12/13/19) Golden Rule, a housesitting service, began in 2018 and expanded to serve clientele in the Northern Virginia area, with a focus around McLean.

Today (Dec. 11), company founder Dan Lender stood in front of fellow entrepreneurs at the 1 Million Cups Fairfax event in Tysons and pitched his company to the room, seeking advice and recommendations on how to better serve his existing clients.

Currently, the company helps around 20 clients to watch their homes, property and occasionally apartments while they are gone for extended periods of time.

Feedback from the event included ways to target his ideal market and focus efforts on specific services.

The clients of Golden Rule consist primarily of people over 50 who spend several months out of the year away from their homes because of vacation or work, Lender said.

Golden Rule staff offer different services for almost every client in order to meet the individual needs, Lender told Tysons Reporter.

The group specializes in services that accompany security measures from larger companies like ADT. Instead of just monitoring the property, Golden Rule will send someone in-person to survey the property, take pictures of things that seem a miss and take care of various tasks.

“A Golden Rule Team Member will visit your home in Northern Virginia regularly to perform a comprehensive, top to bottom, interior and exterior check,” according to the company’s website. “At the conclusion of each check, you will receive a customized, time date and geo-location stamped electronic report with photos and details.”

After each visit from a Golden Rule representative, the company will send an email to the owner with updates.

“You still need eyes and ears on the street,” Lender said, adding that though ADT will call the police, they won’t send someone in person to take care of the property. Unlike other services, Lender said that Golden Rule employees do not stay and live at the house they watch.

The company’s name was inspired by the philosophy of the Golden Rule: “treat others like you’d want to be treated.”

Lender told Tysons Reporter that the company channels this philosophy into their work and treat every client’s home or property like it is their own.

In an attempt to cater to the individual needs of customers, Golden Rule even transported a car for a client and took care of a greenhouse.

When it comes to pricing for the service, it depends completely on what is requested by the client. Though they have basic price points for hourly service and a basic set up fe.

“A lot of our customers recognize the value and they don’t even ask price,” Lender said.

Going forward, Lender told said that although they want to expand, they also don’t want to scale too quickly and jeopardize the quality of the company’s services.

“We don’t cut any corners,” he said.  

Photo courtesy Dan Lender

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Almost every Wednesday morning, dozens of entrepreneurs and tech gurus gather to network and share their ideas at an office in Tysons.

1 Million Cups Fairfax is part of a 160-chapter initiative that invites upcoming entrepreneurs from around the country to pitch their venture and receive feedback from other local stakeholders and innovators.

On Nov. 20, Tysons Reporter attended the weekly event and listened to Malaika Simmons of Momentology Media pitch her brand.

Following Simmon’s pitch, which focused on her plans to help women and kids though life coaching and development of a personal brand, attendees offered to connect her with other people in the field, gave advice and asked questions about her mission.

One person said that her model might be good for couples working through difficult times, while another suggested she should consider partnerships with corporate companies.

“My number one goal is to get corporate sponsors,” Simmons said, adding that she has already worked with the federal government and Fortune 500 companies in the past.

Simmons said that corporate sponsors are the best way to scale her business, but her true passion is working with women and children.

Event organizers told Tysons Reporter that feedback like this is typical and people can feel free to be honest with one another.

1 Million Cups began under the Kauffman Foundation, which aims to help businesses owners from disadvantaged backgrounds reach their potential, according to the website.

1 Million Cups Fairfax, which is Tysons’s local chapter, began about a year and a half ago on Valentine’s Day 2018, John Yu, a spokesperson for Office Evolution, said. Yu said that the program has become increasing in popularity, with presentation spots filling up quickly.

To ensure that the presentations will be productive for everyone, organizers ensure that each entrepreneur has a sense of direction and a business model.

“We very rarely turn anyone away,” Yu said. “We just postpone.”

Anyone is welcome to listen and join in the group discussion.

Several attendees said there is typically a dynamic turnout for these events. Tysons Reporter met a variety of people, including several “serial entrepreneurs,” representatives from the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority and one man who simply wanted to know more about local business.

The weekly event is held at Office Evolution (609 Westwood Center Drive) from 8:30-10 a.m. and the next session will take place after Thanksgiving, on Wednesday, Dec. 4.

“We try to give a voice to startups around the area,” Yu said.

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