Dec. 23 E-Bird newsletter: ID.me and Healp win awards, D.C. area lures talent, office leasing continues despite pandemic

Technically touted: Two Fairfax County-based companies are 2021 Technical.ly Award winners: Fairfax-based Healp won the “Invention of the Year” award and Tysons-based ID.me won the “Growth Company of the Year” award. Healp, created by Elizabeth Tikoyan, is a swiping-style social platform that allows users to speak with fellow patients about their medical conditions, discuss experiences and crowd-source treatment information. “I’m so thankful to everything the D.C. startup ecosystem has done for me and my startup,” Tikoyan said. ID.me, helmed by CEO Blake Hall, raised two $100 million dollar rounds of funding this year. With it, the company reached unicorn status and added 1,300 employees to its team. It now serves more than 60 million members on its network, Technical.ly noted. The publication solicited nominees from the community, curated that group and then allowed readers a week of voting to determine winners.

Strong appetite: New office buildings in transit-oriented mixed-use developments in Tysons and Reston have generated leasing and investor interest as office tenants court young workers, Bisnow notes. Despite the pandemic, commercial leasing deals from the technology sector in Reston have sent a shockwave through the market over the last two years, FCEDA Executive Vice President Alex Iams notes in the piece. For example, a 400,000 square foot deal from Microsoft last year and deals from Peraton and Qualtrics this month for 185,000 square feet in Reston sent a strong signal that there is an appetite for dense office development in a suburban market, Iams said. “I think there’s been a vote of confidence in Fairfax and Northern Virginia,” Iams said.

Talent magnet: With an uptick in hiring, the Washington, D.C. area has been snagging professionals from other cities on the East Coast,  a new LinkedIn data report shows. A part of this draw could be the recent attraction of many tech companies to the area as they seek to hire local talent, technical.ly/DC reported. For example, this month, Washington state and Utah-headquartered Qualtrics announced that it would be investing $15.9 million for an expansion in Fairfax County, moving its current office space in Reston to Reston Metro Plaza, adding 85,000 square feet. With the expansion, it’ll also be adding 400 jobs in the area. In November, defense tech giant Raytheon Science and Intelligence announced it would be adding 400 technologists in Northern Virginia,  including in Northern Virginia in Arlington, Chantilly, Falls Church, Herndon and Springfield. In addition, Tysons-based identity firm ID.me continued on its rapid growth of adding over 1,400 employees in 2021.

Some people call me the space cowboy: Tysons-based Space Adventures, a space tourism company, brokered the spacecraft flight that returned to Earth on Dec. 19 carrying a Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin along with two Japanese private astronauts Yusaku “MZ” Maezawa and Yozo Hirano. The three launched to the station on Dec. 8, SpaceNews reported. “The completion of MZ’s spaceflight marks not only a milestone for him and Space Adventures but for the commercial spaceflight industry as a whole and humanity’s future in space,” said Eric Anderson, chief executive of Space Adventures. “MZ’s mission comes at the tail end of a year that saw an incredible boom in space tourism and is set to usher in another wave of exploration.”

Honoring fallen soldiers: More than 2.4 million wreaths were placed by volunteers at more than 3,100 national cemeteries, including about 275,000 graves at Arlington, on Wreaths Across America day on December 18, InsideNova reported. James Schenck, president and CEO of Tysons-based PenFed Credit Union, CEO of the PenFed Foundation, and co-founder of Wreaths Across America, was interviewed on a Fox 4 News broadcast about the annual event that honors fallen soldiers. “All of our employees across the country come together to really remember to be there in the cemetery to place the wreaths. I can’t tell you how impactful it is to me and my employees, even as a veteran, when I stand there at a tombstone, I read the name of that fallen man or woman who gave so much for their nation, to really honor them, so their children, their parents, know it wasn’t in vain,” Schenck said.

Crypto debating: Tysons-based MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor, whose software company owns about $6 billion worth of bitcoin, said the cryptocurrency doesn’t need Warren Buffett’s endorsement to be wildly successful. Buffett dismissed cryptocurrencies last year as basically worthless because they don’t produce anything. Saylor highlighted the criticism from the famed investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO during a presentation at MicroStrategy’s virtual investor day this week. He pointed out that other assets have performed extremely well without Buffett’s backing, and suggested bitcoin could flourish if even five percent of institutional investors embrace it. Markets Insider has more.

Super money sum-up: In the top 10 deals in 2021, Greater D.C.-area companies raised $1.464 billion in venture capital investment. And the pandemic didn’t slow down big funding rounds. After a year of uncertainty, D.C.-area companies kept raising venture capital dollars, finishing out even stronger than 2019, technical.ly/DC reported. Two Fairfax County-based companies ranked in the top 10: at no. 4 on the list, Herndon-based HawkEye 360 raised $145 million in a Series D round in November following the additional $55 million in a Series C round the geospatial analytics firm raised in April, bringing its 2021 total to $195 million. At no. 5 on the list, Herndon-based cybersecurity company Expel raised a $140.3 million Series E round in November, reaching unicorn status with a valuation of over $1 billion.

And speaking of unicorns: Arlington’s Interos, a female led start-up company, secured $6.5 million in new funding from a group of women tech investors, just five months after a $100 million raise that propelled the company into exclusive “unicorn” territory, i.e. achieving a valuation of over $1 billion. The latest financing comes from San Francisco’s Broadway Angels, a national network of more than 60 female venture capitalists and executives that aims to put half of their collective funding into women entrepreneurs leading disruptive tech and consumer companies. Interos is one of three unicorn companies in Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance jurisdictions, in addition to Tysons-based ID.me and Herndon-based Expel. The Washington Business Journal has more.

Capital connection: McLean-based Blue Delta Capital Partners said it will soon begin investing from a third venture capital fund that quickly raised $215 million, Washington Business Journal reported. The venture capital firm closed the new fund, dubbed Blue Delta Capital Fund III, after gaining investments from what executives there described as “market-leading institutional investors” and quickly hitting its market cap. The firm, which makes noncontrolling ownership investments in government contractors in the D.C. area, will utilize Blue Delta Capital Fund III to offer equity funding of $10 million-$50 million for growth-stage support to new companies it is targeting, the company’s executives said. Blue Delta has made 21 investments since it was founded in 2009.

Mobile verifications: Tysons-based Cvent partnered with Tysons-based ID.me to bring seamless health, testing and vaccine status verifications to hybrid and in-person events in the U.S. Cvent Health Check, powered by ID.me, enables event planners to implement a secure method of verifying attendee health status in just a few simple steps. By combining ID.me vaccine, testing, and identity verification capabilities with Cvent’s robust event marketing and management platform, Cvent customers can include additional health and safety protocols at their events with easy-to-use, confidential health checks on event attendees’ own mobile devices. “As health and safety remain top priorities for event planners and attendees alike, reliable and secure solutions like health or vaccine verifications are critical,” said Patrick Smith, CMO of Cvent. MarTech Series has more.

Plans progressing: Big development set to remake the area around the West Falls Church Metro station is coming closer to fruition, as the project’s builders expand their plans for new residential and move closer to construction. The development team of EYA, Hoffman & Associates and Rushmark Properties filed more detailed plans last week for the roughly 1 million-square-foot undertaking, outlining how they plan to tackle the hefty project after Fairfax County officials cleared the way for it to proceed earlier this summer. They now expect to build up to 900 residential units — 810 apartments and 90 townhomes — a 110,000-square-foot office building and 10,000 square feet of ground floor retail on parking lots surrounding the Metro station. The Washington Business Journal has more in an article for subscribers.

Behavioral health expansion gift: Inova Health System received a $3.5 million donation from two longtime donors to help fund the expansion of a behavioral health unit at its Mount Vernon hospital. The Falls Church nonprofit said the gift comes from Jeffrey and Amiya Veatch, consistent supporters of the organization and that facility specifically. They commit these funds to the project as the region sees growing demand for mental health and substance abuse services, and as multiple providers across Greater Washington initiate similar expansions to meet that need, the Washington Business Journal reported in an article for subscribers.

Analytical answer: Falls Church-based nonprofit firm Analytic Services, which does business as Anser, purchased Fairfax contractor InTec. Anser offers analysis services to defense and civilian agencies, while InTec, one of the largest veteran-owned companies in Greater Washington, provides services that range from cloud architecture and design to data science and systems engineering and integration. The acquisition brings Anser roughly 165 employees, 139 based in the D.C. area, and a business that generated $36.29 million in revenue in 2020, according to the Washington Business Journal in an article for subscribers.

Now that’s talent retention: Did you know the same man has sat in for Santa at Tysons Corner Center for 34 years? Northern Virginia Magazine notes that Mike Graham started his Santa career in Tennessee. Three years later he found out about a job opportunity in Tysons though his network. Graham went to Tysons for the interview for the position (mode of transportation there unknown, be it sleigh, car or plane), and has been there ever since. Great talent retention, Tysons Corner Center!

Contract wins by firms in Fairfax County

Peraton received a five-year, $120.7 million contract from the Navy to conduct research and develop prototypes of spacecraft electronics and airborne electronic systems. GovConWire

Cognosante obtained a $110 million contract from the Department of Veterans Affairs for the implementation and maintenance of a cloud-hosted electronic faxing service. ExecutiveBiz

Northrop Grumman won a $41.2 million contract to produce and test an unmanned underwater vehicle demonstrator for the second phase of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-funded project. GovConWire

LMI received a $1.5 million, one-year contract to transfer military weapon systems and equipment records from a company-built repository to a data-analytics and management system being used by the Department of Defense. ExecutiveBiz

Featured business events

January 11 — Entrepreneurship 101: Starting a Business in Fairfax County. Presented by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority in partnership with the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, the Community Business Partnership and the U.S. Small Business Administration, this webinar will provide the business fundamentals needed to successfully start a business. The Entrepreneurial Spotlight this session will feature Pallabi Saboo, CEO of Tysons-based Harmonia Holdings Group (and the newest member of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority Commission, by the way). Click here to register.

January 15 — MLK Economic Empowerment Brunch. Join the Fairfax NAACP for a morning focused on Black economic empowerment with inspiring speakers, delicious food and great music. The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority is a sponsor of this event, featuring keynote speaker Richard Fowler, the nationally syndicated radio host of The Richard Fowler Show, a Fox News Channel contributor, and a millennial messaging expert. Click here to register.

January 27 –Cyber/Cloud Virtual Career Fair. The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority presents another one-stop-shop for technologists to network and interview with leading, hiring tech companies in Northern Virginia. Interested companies  may contact Mike Batt, director of talent initiatives, at mbatt@fceda.org. Registration for job-seekers opens soon. Click here for more information.

How the Fairfax County EDA can help

The FCEDA is here to connect businesses of all kinds to resources and information. For direct assistance, email the FCEDA at info@fceda.org, or call 703-790-0600 to leave a voice message for our staff. And click here for resources available in the other nine jurisdictions that make up the Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance.