Tysons, VA

The Tysons telecommunications startup Omnispace is working with Lockheed Martin to develop a 5G network that will utilize both satellites and existing land-based cell towers to provide wireless service around the world.

The two companies announced on Tuesday (March 23) that they have entered into a “strategic interest agreement” to cooperate on turning Omnispace’s vision of a hybrid global communications network into a reality.

“The proposed global 5G standards-based non-terrestrial network (NTN) would offer commercial, enterprise and government devices ubiquitous communications worldwide,” Omnispace said in the press release. “This type of network has the potential to redefine mobile communications, benefiting users requiring true mobility, regardless of environment or location.”

Brian Pemberton, Omnispace’s vice president of sales and marketing, says Lockheed Martin was one of several companies that the startup approached while looking for possible satellite suppliers, but as the discussions continued, they saw potential for a more ambitious partnership.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., with an office in Dunn Loring, Lockheed Martin is an aerospace and technology company that primarily works as a government contractor for the U.S. military and various federal agencies. In contrast, Omnispace has a more commercial bent, focusing on individual consumers and businesses.

The new agreement commits the companies to combining their different perspectives and resources to support a shared goal.

“We had a very common vision…around the value and utility that a global 5G network can provide,” Pemberton said. “So, our conversations evolved rather quickly from one of vendor-supplier to much more of a collaborative approach.”

The actual launch of a working 5G network in space remains mostly theoretical right now.

Pemberton says Omnispace is aiming for a 2023 timeframe for when it hopes to initially deploy a 5G platform. That would align with when he expects prototype mobile devices to become available as international standards for how 5G devices and networks will interact with each other are established.

However, the need for a more efficient and expansive wireless communications system has become increasingly apparent over the past year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many activities — from school and office work to grocery shopping and social gatherings — into the digital realm.

According to Pemberton, the global wireless network envisioned by Omnispace could help eliminate dead zones and provide more resiliency, since satellites would not be affected by terrain or natural disasters like service providers on land.

As an example of how the technology could be applied, he cites the challenges presented by worldwide COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Reliable, continuous wireless coverage could enhance government and medical providers’ ability to track shipments and monitor environmental conditions to ensure the vaccines are stored properly, he argues.

“That’s just one microcosm that obviously resonates with a lot of people today, but you can extrapolate that to food transportation and other types of goods and just think about the global supply chain in general for all kinds of industries,” Pemberton said.

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Tysons-based MicroTech, which earlier this summer was working to address PPE shortages, has won a $38 million contract with the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of the Army (DUSA) to review the department’s organizational structure and operations.

MicroTech is a veteran-owned business that provides support for infrastructure, telecommunications, cyber-security to both private and public sector clients.

“MicroTech is elated to have received this DUSA contract from the U.S. Army,” said Tony Jimenez, President and CEO of MicroTech, in a press release. “As a Retired Army Officer who has served on the Army Staff, I am always excited for an opportunity like this to help the U.S. Army implement transformational changes to its organizational structure, governance, and business operations.”

The DUSA directs the Army Science Board and Analytics Group, oversees the Civilian Leadership Service Management Office (CLSMO), and serves as the Deputy Chief Management Officer to the Under Secretary of the Army, MicroTech said.

Photo via MicroTech/Facebook

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Tyson’s based startup HomeValet is gearing up to find a solution to the “last yard” of contactless delivery.

After the COVID-19 pandemic increased demand for contactless delivery, HomeValet’s Co-Founder and COO Jack Simms said the company’s temperature-controlled “smart-box” is the future of delivery.

HomeValet’s Smart box which is slated to go to market “later this fall” Simms said. The product is a box where anything from groceries to gadgets purchased online can be delivered. People can make purchases and manage delivers with their app, having a contactless experience with their delivery

“The future of grocery was already getting interesting when we started HomeValet,” Simms said in a statement. “This crisis, however, has dramatically accelerated the need and demand for immediate ‘last-yard’ solutions. So, while our work has not necessarily changed, we believe it’s become more important.”

While Simms said his company was working on the box before the pandemic, the demand for such an item is there. Because of social distancing concerns, many food delivery services have offered “contactless delivery” where costumers pay in advance and the delivery driver drops the food off at the front door, rather than directly handing it to the customer.

Simms said the pandemic has created a sense of urgency within his company. While his co-founder John Simms, filed the original patent years ago, the pandemic has rapidly changed consumer habits and has sped-up their timeline, pushing them to go to market sooner.

“What has been interesting about the pandemic for us however is that we have seen consumer needs transform overnight at an accelerated pace,” Simms said. “The consumer habits we predicted when ideating HomeValet and expected to grow over time, are now firmly embedded in consumers’ daily lives from contactless delivery to grocery delivery and disinfection.

On Sept. 15 HomeValet announced the acquisition of Envolve Engineering LLC, an engineering firm based in Indiana. In a press release, HomeValet said the engineering company’s knowledge of the supply chain will allow the Tysons-based startup to better scale-up production.

Image via HomeValet

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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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