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Capital One Coders Graduation Celebrates Young Local Programmers

The 85 students from four Fairfax and Falls Church public schools expected to graduate yesterday from the Capital One Coders program at the Capital One headquarters in Tysons East. What they weren’t expecting were free laptops given away by the company to each of the graduates.

The Capital One Coders program trains local middle school students after school for ten weeks. Students learn the basics of programming and eventually work up to developing their own mobile applications.

Part of the surprise at the graduation was gifting each student their own laptop and giving a $10,000 grant to the schools for STEM education. The kids went home with the laptops, but the grants will go to the schools at the end of the spring semester.

“The coders program started in 2014,” said Jay Sanne, Vice President of Software Engineering for Capital One. “It is deployed in each of our major people centers. It’s had a great response from schools and associates.”

Sanne said the coders program is part of a commitment to building a 21st century workforce with technology skills.

Typically students develop games, although Sanne said the applications students build are often pretty sophisticated. Sanne noted there was one student early in the program who developed a mobile application to automate her family’s chicken coop so she wouldn’t have to leave the house to open up the coop and let the chickens out.

“It’s amazing to see them going from week one to week ten, where they’re demoing real mobile apps,” said Sanne. “We see the excitement in the kids as we’re teaching the program.”

At the graduation, the students at the Capital One Coders program also demonstrated their apps for parents and loved ones in attendance. Different prizes were awarded, like most creative or most technical.

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Tysons-Based Startup Yombu Takes Manhattan

Yombu, a startup at MakeOffices in Tysons that specializes in fingertip authentication, recently expanded its reach into New York City, California and Colorado.

Originally reported by DC Inno, fitness centers in Manhattan and other locations have started using Yombu to authenticate gym entrance and training sessions. Joe Falit, CEO of Yombu, told Tysons Reporter the push into New York came as part of Yombu’s partnership with Motionsoft, a management and software company that operates in fitness and entertainment centers across the country.

Falit said the gyms use the fingerprint software to authenticate people coming in and out of the facilities, as well as using it to sign for training sessions to avoid fraud.

Yombu is expanding into 35-40 new locations, of which 25 are in Manhattan. Falit said Yombu may expand into as many as new 60 locations in the near future.

In 2019, Falit said his aims are to add new distribution channels for the technology and continue making technical improvements.

“We still do payments, but overall we’re becoming [more of an] authentication company,” said Falit.

For now, though, Falit says he plans on doing more work from home as he helps raise his daughter, who was born last week.

Photo courtesy Yombu

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Morning Notes

Vienna Mulling Economic Development Push — “Vienna is the only Northern Virginia locality without personnel expressly devoted to economic development, but that may change soon. Vienna Town Council members, in a joint work session Dec. 3 with their Planning Commission counterparts, supported town staff’s proposal to hire a consultant (for about $100,000) who would develop an economic-development strategy and conduct a market study.” [InsideNova]

NBC4 Covers Vienna Bike Corral — The Vienna Town Council’s concern about a bike corral potentially taking up a single parking space on Church Street was the subject of an Adam Tuss story on NBC4 yesterday. Via Twitter, the [email protected] store said in response: “Needless to say, we at [email protected] support the move. Will the Town get on board with providing much needed bike infrastructure, or will cars still rule?” [Twitter, Twitter]

Photos: Reindogs in McLean — “The 2018 Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce Reindog celebration, which took place Dec. 1… brought out the creativity of local residents and the understanding of canines who found themselves dressed up in holiday-themed costumes.” [InsideNova]

Fairfax Approves Funds for Tech Firm’s Tysons Move — “Cloud computing company Appian Corporation will receive $4 million from Fairfax County for the company’s expansion and new headquarters in Tysons… The Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors approved the Development Opportunity Fund grant from the Commonwealth at its meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 4).” [Reston Now]

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Three Tysons Companies Make Fastest-Growing Tech Firms List

Three companies based in Tysons are on a new list of the fastest-growing tech companies.

The companies, plus five others from Fairfax County, are included in Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 list, which looks at the fastest-growing technology firms in North America. That’s according to the latest Fairfax County Economic Development Authority email newsletter.

The Tysons-based firms are:

  • GTT Communications, a telecommunications infrastructure company
  • KLDiscovery, which provides data-driven software and services to law firms, corporate legal departments and government agencies
  • Digital Harbor, an enterprise software company focused on the healthcare industry

Other Fairfax County companies on the list are: LookingGlass Cyber Solutions of Reston (“leads local companies on the list with an 883 percent growth,” per FCEDA), GoCanvas of Reston, Research Innovations of Alexandria, Acero Health Technologies of Alexandria and ScienceLogic of Reston.

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New Sameride Routes to Tysons

Sameride, a rideshare app that connects commuters on the same route, has opened up new lines running through Tysons.

With Sameride, app users can either drive or sign up as passengers along a commuter route. Multiple passengers means free access to HOV / HOT express lanes that would otherwise be tolled. App users input their home or office zip codes and can browse commuting route options.

One line runs from Stafford and Fredericksburg to Tysons. There are commuter lot locations throughout Stafford and Fredericksburg for pickup, while any destination inside Tysons can be selected. According to Samride, riders save an estimated $230 each month on the trip compared to train or bus fares and $1,450 per month in potential tolls compared to driving solo.

The other route runs from Woodbridge to Tysons. Like the first route, there are lot locations throughout Woodbridge for pickup and any destination in Tysons can be selected. Average cost per month for train or bus fare would be $280 or $1,110 in tolled express lanes.

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Technological Challenges and Opportunities Ahead for Tysons

What does the Tysons of 2050 look like?

Tysons 2050, an event hosted by the Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce yesterday at the Tysons Hilton (7920 Jones Branch Drive), brought technology experts across the region together to discuss how trends in cyber-security and AI will impact Tysons.

Rodney Lusk, director of National Marketing for Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, says the County expects 200,000 jobs in the Tysons area and 100,000 residents by 2050.

This growth will continue to spur development, which is well underway in various corners of Tysons. The View, a 3 million-square-foot mixed-use building planned for Tysons, is planned to be 600 feet tall, dwarfing the 470-foot Capital One Tower that currently claims the title of tallest in the region.

As Tysons moves forward, Lusk says there are certain elements beyond just office space and retail needed to make the area more than just a commuter hub. For instance, Lusk said, Tysons will need to have at least two performing arts centers in the area and a research university.

Paul McNeal, the co-founder of CryptoMarket360, said the future Tysons will look like something out of science-fiction.

“If you’ve seen Minority Report or Demolition Man,” said McNeal, “that’s where Tysons is headed in 2050.”

McNeal envisions technology driving Tysons towards a “frictionless society” with interactive ads based on user data and self-driving cars.

But as Tysons moves into the future, one of the main discussions centered on how new technology will also present challenges and opportunities for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS).

“The student to teacher ratio is going to be 200 to one,” said George Strawn, former National Science Foundation CIO. “But that’s carbon-based teachers. Everyone will have their own silicon tutor.”

Not everyone who spoke saw the future so starkly different as today.

Tarun Upaday, founder of Gallop.ai, said that the artificial intelligence in classrooms will be used more to complement the teachers rather than replace them. Upaday pointed to the current status of chess championships, where the top teams are not brilliant chess players or supercomputers, but fusions of the two that beat solely computers or solely human teams every time.

Upaday also said the work of Pindar Van Arman, whose machine artists were recently on display at Tysons Corner Center, represented what man and machine can accomplish working in harmony.

Falls Church-based education specialist Tosin Adetoro said artificial intelligence can also be used to support student populations that often fall through the cracks of the education system. In particular, Adetoro said personalized AIs have been found to be very helpful for students on the autism spectrum.

Jay Garant, director of Business and Community Partnerships at FCPS, emphasized that as valuable an asset as AI will be, it can’t replace teachers. As students begin to spend more and more of their lives staring at their phone screens, Garant said schools will be critical in teaching empathy.

“When kids begin to fail, they are more likely to [positively interact] with a human than anything else,” said Garant. “That won’t go away.”

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The Future Starts Tomorrow at Tysons 2050

The Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Tysons 2050 event tomorrow (Wednesday) will take a look at the challenges and opportunities that come with the title “America’s Next Great City.”

The second annual event, held at the at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner (7920 Jones Branch Drive), features discussions of emerging social and technological trends with a focus on how they will affect Tysons over the next 30 years.

The opening keynote speakers are Daniel Hoffman, a former station chief with the CIA, and Rodney Lusk, coordinator of the national marketing team for the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

The event will run from 4-8 p.m. Panels are scheduled to cover issues like cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and education, with speakers from both national and local organizations. In addition to panels, an expo will be taking place throughout the event, allowing attendees to try out the futuristic technology.

Registration for Tysons 2050 is $50 for Chamber members and $75 for non-members. Pre-registration for the event closed last night, but on-site registration is available at an additional $10 fee.

Photo via Facebook

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Honesty and the Internet Take Center Stage at Social Media Week in Tysons

(Updated at 9 p.m.) Some 425 people attended today’s Social Media Week Fairfax event in Tysons, absorbing insights and ideas for anyone working in social media, marketing or startups.

The event, hosted by Fairfax County Economic Development Authority at Capital One headquarters, was a one-day convention of panels and networking that primarily focused on how businesses, large and small, engage on social media.

The keynote speaker and celebrity for the PR world was Judy Smith, a crisis management expert and the inspiration for the show Scandal. The biggest points Smith highlighted were speed and tone of responses to calamity.

“There’s an appreciation of mistakes when you embrace it and you own it,” said Smith.

Smith said organizations often wait more — sometimes much more — than 45 minutes before responding to an incident, by which time public opinion has already started to form.

One cause, according to Smith, is that companies can get tangled up in communications between different departments. Companies can also be slow to admit the whole truth, while Smith says the best answer is usually just to let all of the bad news come out at once like tearing off a Band-aid.

“You also have to pick the best time and vehicle to respond,” said Smith. “There was a CEO who apologized in 15 posts on Twitter. Given the seriousness of the matter, I would not have responded to that on Twitter. If a food company has a massive recall where people are sick or dying, I wouldn’t tweet ‘sorry about the bad food.'”

Smith said part of working in crisis management is working on controlling the narrative. In her own life, when the producers on Scandal approached her about adding in an intimate relationship between her character and the President, Smith said she got on the phone with President George H.W. Bush, for whom she had worked as a press secretary, to let him know.

Smith said when President Bush called her back and left a voicemail, joking that “you called me” and “you left me,” she fired back that he couldn’t make jokes about that.

“If you don’t follow these talking points,” Smith recalled telling Bush, “I will call Barbara.”

These days, Smith said things are moving faster in social media, saying her largest concern is that the population seems to have increasing difficulty discerning fact from fiction.

“One year ago, there was something I was looking at on social media and it was trending too fast,” Smith said. “When my team checked, it was because the other side had hired two bot companies to tweet about it. That’s how it went from zero to five million tweets in two minutes.”

Despite the prevalence of untruth on social media, Amanda Waas and Tammy Abraham from National Geographic emphasized the importance of being genuine.

“People can see right through anything on social media,” said Tammy Abraham. “If you’re not authentic, if it doesn’t feel true, everyone knows it.”

To this end, Abraham said that the National Geographic’s Instagram account is handled almost exclusively by photographers in the field. There are general guidelines, but Abraham said letting photojournalists have unfiltered access to the social media has helped build a following for the brand.

This extends to working with sponsored content as well.

“We’re not just going to post an ad,” said Waas. “Even for branded content, it needs to follow certain guidelines.”

“We have to find a common place to tell an authentic story,” said Abraham. “We can’t tap into an authentic story without something meaningful to tell.”

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Tysons-based Alarm.com in Smart Home Battle with Amazon and Google

Alarm.com, a Tysons-based home protection system, started as one of the pioneers of remote home security management. Today the company is fighting to hold its own in a market becoming increasingly saturated with smart home technology.

The company was started in 2000 as an innovation project within MicroStrategy, a business intelligence company based in Tysons. Matthew Zartman, the company’s director of communications, said Alarm.com has benefited from the technology talent pool in the Washington, D.C. area and that Tysons serves as a good central office location for employees living throughout the region.

Part of the company’s core model has been working with authorized dealers to install the products in client’s homes.

“The smart home can be pretty complicated and daunting to the typical consumer,” said Zartman. “There are a ton of options out there, and consumers want help understanding how they can get value from this new technology, and how they can get it installed and working properly.”

Investor’s Business Daily reported that the company took a stock market hit as a result of worries about competition from Amazon and Google’s smart home technology. Both companies offer smart home technology that customers self-install, while Alarm.com distributes its product through home security dealers.

“They are smart home security experts,” said Zartman. “They can provide advice for getting the right system, and they can provide installation and ongoing support. We believe that the combination of our solutions and our service provider partners’ expertise has been key to driving the mass market adoption of smart home technology.”

While smart home technology often focuses on entertainment and other home amenities, Alarm.com’s technology has remained focused on security. Recent moves into business protection and international coverage could help the company carve out a new niche.

In April this year, Alarm.com announced that it would be adding a new service for protecting small and medium-size businesses. Alarm.com for Business offers intelligent intrusion detection, video surveillance, access control and energy management

The company has also been making moves internationally. Alarm.com announced on Aug. 2 it was partnering with European insurance provider Aviva to offer Alarm.com coverage under the banner of Aviva Smart Home.

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Morning Notes

Police Release Sketch of Vienna Robbery Suspect — Fairfax County Police have released a sketch of the suspect who robbed a man at gunpoint on Oct. 6 along path to the Vienna Metro station. [Facebook]

Rapid Pace of Tysons Development — The pace of development in Tysons is impressing even seasoned local business people. At a recent Greater McLean Chamber of Commerce breakfast, the gathered crowd was wowed by a slide showing buildings now under construction and approved developments in Tysons. [InsideNova]

Local Firms Place High on Fortune List — From the most recent FCEDA E-Bird: “Hilton and Mars Inc. are among the top three places to work — not just in Fairfax County but in the world according to Fortune.com. San Francisco-based Salesforce, Tysons Corner-based Hilton and McLean-based Mars ranked 1-2-3 based on employee surveys conducted by Fortune partner Great Place to Work around the world. Companies racked up points based on respect, fairness, pride, camaraderie, and trust.” [Fortune]

FCPS Digital Citizenship Week — “This week is Digital Citizenship Week in our county schools and it’s important for parents/guardians to help children become safe, ethical, responsible and respectful digital citizens.” [Fairfax County]

Cvent Makes Big Acquisition — Tysons-based event tech company Cvent has acquired D.C.-based event and venue planning startup Social Tables for, reportedly, more than $100 million. [Washington Business Journal]

Reminder: Social Media Week Fairfax Tomorrow — Social Media Week Fairfax, featuring a number of marquee speakers including Judy Smith of Scandal fame, will be taking place tomorrow (Thursday) from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at Capital One HQ in Tysons. A complete agenda is available here.

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