Newsletter
A satellite in orbit (via NASA/Unsplash)

A telecommunications company dedicated to filling gaps in NASA’s data-relaying satellite network will create dozens of new jobs in Fairfax County with newly announced plans to expand its headquarters in Tysons.

A subsidiary of the Australian aerospace and defense contractor Electro Optic Systems, SpaceLink currently employs 10 people in Virginia at the headquarters it established at 8260 Greensboro Drive in March. It also has offices in Silicon Valley, California.

With the expansion, the company will create 41 new jobs and gain more capacity to develop and deploy a satellite communications system intended to “provide secure and continuous communications between spacecraft on orbit and the ground,” according to a press release from Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.

Fairfax County’s proximity to D.C. and the region’s abundance of government agencies and contractors made it “a natural choice” for SpaceLink’s headquarters, CEO David Bettinger says.

“As an innovative space company, we also have the opportunity to draw from the rich pool of talented technology and business professionals who are drawn to the region for its opportunities and dynamic environment,” Bettinger said in a statement. “Northern Virginia is an important hub for the aerospace and defense industry, which makes it a great fit for SpaceLink’s corporate headquarters.”

According to Northam’s office, SpaceLink’s relay network will be developed in Fairfax County and is designed to fill in the gaps of the U.S. Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System.

Here are more reactions from the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, which collaborated with the Commonwealth to secure the project:

“We are proud to see SpaceLink growing here and we welcome the opportunity to work with the company further,” said Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. “Fairfax County and Northern Virginia have developed a robust aerospace and satellite cluster and SpaceLink is the perfect company to take advantage of our many assets in that industry sector and the workforce supporting it.”

“Fairfax County leads the Commonwealth in innovation and our businesses reflect that,” said Fairfax County BOS Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay. “The Board of Supervisors has invested significantly over the decades to build Fairfax County into a community that attracts great companies and a great workforce, and that work continues to pay off. We are looking forward to welcoming SpaceLink.”

The FCEDA worked with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership to secure the project for Virginia and will support SpaceLink’s job creation through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP). State-funded VJIP provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs in order to support employee recruitment and training activities. As a business incentive supporting economic development, VJIP reduces the human resource costs of new and expanding companies and demonstrates Virginia’s commitment to enhancing job opportunities for residents.

“SpaceLink’s expansion in Fairfax County will strengthen the Commonwealth’s position as a leader in the aerospace industry,” Gov. Northam said. “Small businesses are critical to fueling economic growth, and we are proud to support this Virginia-founded company as its innovations make a name for itself in space exploration and defense.”

Photo via NASA/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Local Swim Coach Arrested on Child Porn Charges — Fairfax County police have arrested a 21-year-old aquatics instructor for possession of child pornography after finding thousands of explicit images and videos in an online Dropbox account. The suspect has been a Fairfax County Park Authority employee since 2015, but so far, none of the victims appear to be county residents or have connection to his job as a swim instructor. [WTOP]

Code Violation Pushes Farmers Market Out of Vienna — The NOVA Central Farm Market has moved to Marshall High School outside of the Town of Vienna’s limits, because the town code only allows one farmers market. Operated by Central Farm Markets, the market had operated at Marshall High until the closure of schools due to COVID-19 last year prompted a relocation to Holy Comforter Church on Beulah Road. [Patch]

New Tech Company Launches in Tysons — The new technology startup LevelFields announced the public launch of its artificial intelligence platform that helps investors predict stock prices on Monday (Oct. 4). Based in Tysons, the company was developed in response to the volatility introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic and has received funding from the Center for Innovative Technology, among other sources. [LevelFields]

Meet New Fairfax Parks Director — “Jai Cole, who on Sept. 14 became the new executive director of Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA), wants to make the park system more accessible and equitable. Cole spent the past 16 years with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Montgomery Parks. During a recent phone interview, the Silver Spring resident told the Sun Gazette why she returned to her home county.” [Sun Gazette]

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Morning Notes

Weekly Police Blotter Halted Over ICE Concerns — Fairfax County police no longer publish a weekly arrest blotter after officials decided that it violates the county’s Trust Policy barring employees from giving information to federal immigration authorities. Some fear this will reduce public transparency, though the department is looking at releasing the data without identifying details like alleged offenders’ names and last known addresses. [The Washington Post]

Tysons Tech Contractor Leaves for Ashburn — The eighth largest public company in the D.C. area, DXC Technology will move its corporate headquarters from the 1775 Tysons Blvd. space it has occupied since 2016 to the One Loudoun development in Ashburn. The move is expected to be complete in November and comes as part of the company’s plans to downsize with its workforce operating more remotely. [Washington Business Journal]

McLean Company Offers Stocks to Fund Indoor Ski Slope — Alpine-X, the McLean-based company behind Lorton’s planned indoor winter slope facility, has attracted 75 investors in the first week since it started selling stocks to the general public to help fund the project. Expected to open around early 2025, Fairfax Peak will include a luxury hotel, zip lines, a mountain coaster, restaurants, and other amenities. [Patch]

Fairfax County Launches New Mobile App — “New county iPhone and Android apps are now available for you to download and have county information even closer to your fingertips. This latest version of the county app includes push notifications that you can opt in to receive about topics such as tax and voting deadlines, key news headlines, [and] important updates on COVID-19 and other emerging issues.” [Fairfax County Government]

McLean Student Highlighted for Journalism Skills — Churchill Road Elementary School fourth-grader Ethan Zhang is one of 10 children from across the country that Time for Kids has chosen to be a “Kid Reporter” for the 2021-2022 school year. He stood out for his profile of Fairfax County Public Schools Director of Food and Nutrition Services Maria Perrone, a story that looked at the school system’s meal distributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Patch]

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Morning Notes

Lieutenant Governor Candidates Speak at Tysons Luncheon — “Candidates for lieutenant governor of Virginia told their personal stories and articulated their values at a Sept. 1 luncheon in Tysons, but provided few specifics on what they would seek to accomplish if elected.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

MCC to Hold Public Meeting on Budget Tonight — “The McLean Community Center (MCC) Governing Board will hold two, in-person budget meetings this month in order to gather input and suggestions from the residents of Dranesville Small District 1-A on the Center’s fiscal year 2023 budget. The first meeting, the Finance Committee Meeting of the Whole, will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 8.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Tysons Startup Raises Millions in Funding — The Tysons-based startup theCut, a mobile platform that enables users to book and pay for barbershop appointments, announced last week that it has raised $4.5 million in seed money, bringing its total funding to $5.35 million to date. Company leaders say they will use the funds to build out a team that currently consists of 20 employees, including interns. [DC Inno]

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Appian is headquartered at Valo Park in Tysons (via Valo Park)

A Tysons-headquartered software company has acquired German software business Lana Labs for approximately $31 million.

Appian, which provides a cloud computing platform for mobile apps, announced the acquisition last Thursday (Aug. 5). The company says in a quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the transaction was completed on Aug. 4 and paid for with available cash.

Based in Berlin, Germany, Lana Labs has a machine learning algorithm to improve automation of business workflows. It’s known for its process mining, where problems can be detected in a data-driven approach.

The acquisition means Appian will be able to integrate that solution natively.

“There is a natural synergy between process mining, process modeling, and automation,” Appian CEO Matt Calkins said in a statement. “We believe that our acquisition of Lana Labs means that only Appian will be able to take customers from knowing to doing, in a unified suite.”

Calkins, who founded Appian in his basement over two decades ago, recently talked with the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority about the importance of growing and keeping tech businesses in the area, and he noted how founding members of his company have remained with it.

Appian specializes in low-code development, where businesses can even develop apps without writing code.

The company didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry seeking comment.

Lana Labs was founded in 2016 and employs around 30 people.

“Lana’s AI-supported analysis of complex business and production processes aligns with the focus Appian brings to simplifying organizations’ most important workflows,” Appian said in its news release about the acquisition.

Photo via Valo Park

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A person holds a phone with the Instagram app opened (via Solen Feyissa/Unsplash)

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority gave nearly $29,000 to 10 social media influencers over the past year to highlight its jobs portal and virtual career fairs.

The campaign primarily involved Instagram users posting about events with hashtags and links to drive traffic. Economic development officials said the effort was intended to develop its brand as well as the region’s job market and engage target audiences, specifically with millennials in mind.

“We felt like we needed to do some experimentation,” FCEDA President and CEO Victor Hoskins said.

The campaign drew 536 clicks to the authority’s Work in Northern Virginia jobs board and generated 276 views in online registration page traffic for technology and entry-level career fairs.

While Instagram advertising can average around $1.25 per click, the FCEDA said influencer marketing helps reach a highly targeted audience through sources that users trust. The campaign required the influencers to note that their social media posts were sponsored content.

The social media influencer contracts cost a total of $28,800 with individual agreements ranging from $800 to $7,000 and mainly required users to make Instagram posts and stories, according to agreements obtained by Tysons Reporter. One agreement included an Instagram video, and some included blog post requirements.

The authority says third-party consultant New York City-based Development Counsellors International and each influencer negotiated rates.

“[What we’re] really ultimately trying to do is build awareness of northern Virginia as this location that has thousands and thousands of jobs, and it’s a great place to live,” said Alan Fogg, the authority’s vice president of communications.

Economic development officials say the campaign delivered $205,000 in earned media value, reached more than 332,000 Instagram users, and generated nearly 25,000 likes, comments, and shares.

The FCEDA is not unique in using social media personalities to reach potential audiences. Other governmental bodies have turned to social media influencers for tourism marketing as well as running COVID-19 messaging.

Fairfax County funds the economic development authority with around $9 million each year currently, and social media advertising is just one way economic development leaders are trying to market the region to help improve the jobs pipeline.

“The message we deliver to all the recruiters and chief human resources officers from all the companies here in Fairfax County is: You sell your organization, your company, and why [to] come work there, and we’re going to help complement you with selling the region,” Mike Batt, the director of the authority’s talent initiative program, said.

The FCEDA used Development Counsellors International to identify and vet the influencers, set goals for the number of posts, and ensure posting requirements were met, Fogg said in a statement. FCEDA staff selected the influencers presented to them.

Batt said Development Counsellors International received a competitively awarded contract from the EDA. The consultant also developed the jobs hub, which the authority recently lauded.

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority spearheaded the jobs posting site, but it’s connected to nine other economic development groups and localities in Northern Virginia.

“Economic development is not the business it was five years ago,” Hoskins said. “It really takes a lot of innovation.”

Photo via Solen Feyissa/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Political Anxieties Drive Tensions at McLean Bible Church — “The leaders of McLean Bible, one of the D.C. region’s largest and most high-profile evangelical churches, are facing attempts from its own members to spread disinformation to take control of the church, Pastor David Platt warned the congregation in a sermon earlier this month…Platt said he believes the recent controversy has been a collision of several things, including racial tensions and political tensions.” [The Washington Post]

Vienna to Hold Meeting on Nutley Shared-Use Path — “Property owners were notified Monday about an upcoming meeting to discuss design of the Nutley Street shared-use path and Hunters Branch stream restoration projects. The Town of Vienna’s two projects are in design and focus on the area of Nutley Street south of Maple Avenue. A virtual meeting on both concepts will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 4.” [Patch]

Fairhill Elementary Announces New Principal — “Grateful to have been on hand this afternoon when Mr. Cooper was announced as the new principal of @FairhillES. Looking forward to seeing him put his proven track record of success to work at this amazing Blue Ribbon School! #GoTigers” [Karl Frisch/Twitter]

Meet Internet Inventors Vinton Gray Cerf and Robert E. Kahn — “The indisputable inventors of one of the greatest planet-changing instruments of all time live a few minutes apart in McLean and have lived in Northern Virginia for four decades…The impact of the internet on life as we know it is profound and ongoing, but did you know until right now whom to credit — or blame?” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Northrop Grumman Hires Sustainability Chief — Northrop Grumman Corp. has hired Michael Witt as its vice president and chief sustainability officer, effective Aug. 9. Witt was most recently working at Dow, serving in several executive positions. Northrop Grumman didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry seeking comment. [Northrop Grumman]

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Tysons-headquartered Cvent, which provides business tools for customers to plan, market, and organize meetings and events, is headed back to the stock market.

The event-management tech company announced today (Friday) that it will merge with a blank check company for investors in a deal that’s set to close in the fourth quarter of 2021.

“We are thrilled to go public again because it provides significant financial resources to further strengthen our business and accelerate investments across our platform and related services,” CEO and founder Reggie Aggarwal said in a letter posted on Cvent’s website.

Unlike its initial public offering on the New York State Exchange in 2013, Cvent will make use of the less rigorous and in-vogue process of a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC) called Dragoneer Growth Opportunities Corp. II, affiliated with a San Francisco-based investment firm.

The deal values Cvent at $5.3 billion and could give the company over $800 million in cash, which can be used to reduce debt.

Cvent’s plans to go public were first reported on Wednesday (July 21) by the Wall Street Journal, though a spokesperson then described the news as “WSJ speculation” when asked for comment by Tysons Reporter.

After Cvent initially went public, Vista Equity Partner, an investment firm based in Austin, Texas, acquired it for $1.65 billion in 2016.

The decision comes after a difficult year for Cvent and the event management industry as a whole.

Schools, governments, and businesses largely moved to virtual environments when COVID-19 swept the U.S. in March 2020. At the time, Cvent didn’t have a virtual event platform, but it developed one in five months as it assisted customers in managing tens of thousands of virtual events.

“The meetings and events industry has experienced rapid digital transformation over the last 18 months, with the pandemic creating a new paradigm for the events industry,” Aggarwal said in a statement. “Events became digitized through virtual and online experiences, and we invested heavily in expanding our virtual event capabilities.”

Dragoneer founder and managing partner Marc Stad said in a statement that with much of the U.S. reopening, they expect to move into a “hybrid world that combines elements of in-person and virtual events.”

Aggarwal founded Cvent in 1999 after organizing dozens of events each year with a nonprofit he started while working fulltime as a corporate lawyer. He found difficulties with only having Microsoft Outlook for email, Excel, and yellow sticky notes as tools, so he created the company to ease the event process with technology.

The company has its headquarters in Boro Station at 1765 Greensboro Station Place.

According to a presentation, Cvent currently has roughly 23,000 customers and is forecasting over half a billion dollars in revenue for 2021.

“Now, we are engaging in a hybrid world, as in-person events resume, and virtual events remain prominent,” Aggarwal said. “With the increased digitization of our industry, events are ‘always on’ and have fewer boundaries.”

The tech company has around 4,000 employees across U.S. locations and around the globe. It also provides hotels with software and marketing services for making the most of their meetings and events business.

The Cvent and Dragoneer boards of directors have both approved the proposed business combination, but it’s subject to approval by Dragoneer’s shareholders too, among other factors.

Cvent said that upon closing of the deal, the combined company will operate as Cvent Holding Corp. and is expected to trade under its old ticker symbol “CVT.”

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Fairfax County Public Schools is planning to launch an esports program later this year (via Axville/Unsplash)

Some Fairfax County student athletes won’t be headed to courts or fields this winter, but instead, to computer labs, as the 10th largest school district in the country prepares to launch an esports program.

The Fairfax County Public Schools athletic director detailed the new initiative to Tysons Reporter, saying the new program will connect students in high schools through a popular, soccer-like game — in which players drive futuristic cars — called Rocket League.

“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for our students,” said Bill Curran, director of the FCPS Office of Student Activities and Athletics, noting how students will have another way to fit in. “I think we’re going to have 25 highly competitive schools in the esports realm.”

While concerns about students’ screen time have persisted, even as the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to adopt virtual learning, competitive online gaming has become increasingly popular, with both high schools and colleges getting in on the esports action.

The market research firm Newzoo reported in March that esports viewership increased from nearly 398 million people globally in 2019 to nearly 436 million in 2020 and could potentially reach 474 million this year.

The NCAA governing board voted in April 2019 against bringing esports under its purview, even as the association noted the rapid growth of esports on NCAA campuses.

“You’re going to see this ball roll faster and faster,” Curran said.

ESPN launched a new initiative to cover esports in 2016, though it shut the division down last year. In 2018, it became the first TV network to air a professional gaming contest in prime time for the cartoon-style multiplayer online battle game League of Legends.

YouTube and Twitch have also streamed content that’s worth billions of dollars and expected to grow annually, though that’s just a small slice of the video game industry.

The Virginia High School League, which governs sports, activities, and competitions in public schools throughout the Commonwealth, introduced esports as a pilot program in 2019 before approving it as an “emerging activity” for the 2020-2021 school year that could become sanctioned as an official VHSL activity.

Fairfax County Public Schools is currently looking for coaches to participate in its esports program, which has been in the works for more than two years and will operate under its Activities and Athletics office. Some teachers have already shown interest in helping, according to Curran.

Students will have to pay a $64 fee each season through a startup company PlayVS, which provides computer games and requires students to maintain eligibility through grades and attendance. FCPS is looking at ways to prevent the fee from becoming a barrier to participation.

With schools expected to open for in-person learning five days a week this fall, FCPS plans to have students participate in existing computer labs, rather than remotely. Like a traditional sports team, Curran says Fairfax County’s esports teams will likely have jerseys.

“Our kids, you know, they’re already playing the games,” Curran said. “They’re ready to go, and they’re eager for us to start this.”

Photo via Axville/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

(Updated at 8:15 p.m. on 7/23/2021) Fairfax County School Board Members at Nats Park During Shooting — Karl Frisch and Megan McLaughlin, who respectively represent the Providence and Braddock districts on the school board, were at Nationals Park on Saturday (July 17) when gunfire outside the stadium sent fans running for cover and suspended the game. Three people were injured in the shooting, including a woman who was attending the game, according to police. [Karl Frisch/Twitter, Megan McLaughlin/Twitter]

Virginia Announces Universal Broadband Plan — Gov. Ralph Northam announced a plan on Friday (July 16) to invest $700 million to make broadband services universally accessible throughout the state. The funds will come from the state’s $4.3 billion federal COVID-19 relief allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act. [The Washington Post]

Mosaic District Art Gallery Presents New Show — The Torpedo Factory Artists Association will present the results of its regional painting competition at The Gallery @ Mosaic (links corrected) from July 23 through August 22. With more than 30 paintings from nearly 400 submissions, the show will the association’s first regional painting showcase and give the pop-up gallery its first in-person reception since it recently reopened after closing for the COVID-19 pandemic. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

McLean Little League Softball Teams Celebrate Strong Seasons — “It has been the case for many years now, so it was no surprise that McLean Little League all-star girls softball teams again had strong showings in recent state tournaments, with one squad winning the championship and two others finishing second.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

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