NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. This week, Kathy Stershic of member company Dialogic Research and Communications shares how public sector CIOS can and should prepare to take advantage of the Internet of Things while creating a secure, trusted foundation for the long term.


Gartner defines IoT as “the network of objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or external environment.” At present, that generally means a machine-to-machine connection, although an expanded ‘Internet of Everything’ may well evolve to include people-to-machine and process-to-machine connections in an ever-growing ecosystem.While select commercial applications are beginning to appear, at this very early stage IoT is one area in which Public Sector IT has a unique opportunity to lead—creating large scale deployments driven by constituent demand, growing security threats, and the economic imperative to “do new with less.” For example, smart street lighting solutions can reduce crime while saving money; combined water management, smart grid and waste management can yield greater ROI on energy investment; connected warfighters can bring dominance to the battlefield, faster.

While the opportunities are many, so are the risks. IoT presents exponentially increased threats in a dynamic landscape. There is no more network perimeter. Embedded, non-standardized sensor hardware creates an increased number of connected threat points, many of which will result from the ‘smartification’ of traditionally dumb devices never intended for software or IP and built by manufacturers not accustomed to thinking about digital security.

There is a pending vast amount of data to be generated by new sources—how must it be secured as it moves and permutates? The public internet is highly vulnerable, but even isolated networks are not impermeable— think back just a short time to Stuxnet.

Human error is a leading security concern, whether due to inadequate data security policies, non-adherence to existing policies, intentional malicious acts, or even the increasing shift to BYOD.

IoT success hinges on trust, making privacy another major issue. What data is captured and stored? How? Who owns it? How may it be used? How should and will it be protected through its use cycle, and by whom?

While these challenges apply generally to IoT deployments, the Public Sector faces some truly unique and consequential situations. Consider the implications of generating data that precisely reveals the location of dismounted soldiers in combat, the specific timing and location of municipal buses en route, safe campus video monitoring, or public health threat information, to name just a few.

Given the enormous changes that IoT will eventually bring, Federal regulation and policy are inevitable but will remain unclear for some time, politics being what they are. State and municipal-level policies vary greatly. Policy needs to be appropriately aligned to possibility for each environment, but some formidable issues must be addressed first:

-          Data Collection. Many public sector mission and business leaders want to collect data from untrusted sources that can facilitate better, faster decision-making, such as improving threat, health or environmental analysis. But many current cybersecurity policies conflict with data collection, limiting what can be captured. The pressure is on IT to open up, yet security can’t be compromised.

-          Cybersecurity. To date, the market has been served with a complexity of disparate point solutions, mostly focused on prevention. Defense will always be the priority goal, but with malwares proliferating at two per second (and accelerating), a 100% prevention strategy is simply not possible. Malicious actors need to be right only 1% of the time or less to permeate the firewall. Therefore, it’s not only prudent but necessary to prepare for the full aBack conCnuum―before, during and aEer. An appropriate solution requires layers of security that span prevention, halting an attack in progress, and accelerating remediation after it occurs.

-          Bandwidth will always be limited, but data volume is only growing, with much of it useless—driving the need for edge-based data analytics to ensure the flow of just the most relevant data to those who will make use of it. Policy must guide what is considered most important and relevant, and who needs to receive what level of information.

-          Cloud. Not surprisingly, as adoption of cloud-based services increases, incidents of cyber-attacks on cloud environments are now nearly on par with attacks of on-premise equipment. IoT connectivity will force a growing intersection of domains in the cloud environment: sensors and networks, IaaS and SaaS, Big Data analytics—yielding an increasingly expanded and vulnerable enterprise environment. Persistent security enforcement and information management policies are needed, where responsibility is shared between the service provider and the customer, to protect the data and the devices and people connected to it.

What then must CIOs consider when preparing for Trusted IoT deployment?

Given these challenging issues, Public Sector CIOs should lay some important groundwork when embarking on their IoT journey:

-          Carefully plan the number and scope of initial IoT deployments that an organization can afford to undertake, including the investment in the needed people and skills, applications, analytics technologies and risk mitigation required to capitalize on the opportunity value: IaaS/SaaS, cybersecurity and Big Data. In an era of ridiculously tight budgets, existing infrastructure must obviously be leveraged as much as possible.

-          Establish and maintain trust throughout the data lifecycle. Consider solutions like Suite B encryption (devised by the NSA), which secures data out to the tactical edge. Reliable firewalls between cloud and fog network nodes are also needed. Beyond the technology, only capture data that is truly needed for the business or mission purpose, then be transparent with citizens and stakeholders. Let them know what is collected, why, how it’s used, and how it’s managed and protected. Provide easy opt-outs when possible.

-          Prepare for the full attack continuum. Design a robust security platform rather than approaching security from a point-topoint perspective. A combined hardware and software platform managing the connection, the applications, the devices and the data will enable CIOs to more readily enforce security policies and provide for security persistency. Correctly applied analytics can identify an attack in progress and help to remediate damage more quickly, but this approach will require intelligent information stewardship along with tight security.

-          Educate the workforce. Push security messages frequently. Set reasonable access and geo-fencing policies that balance the desire for expanded data collection with the need for security, then enforce them as much as possible. Revisit them annually to assess and accommodate changing stakeholder requirements.

-          Explore innovation partnerships with the private sector to create technical and policy solutions to IoT challenges. Feasible solutions can later be adopted cross-domain to maximize the potential benefits.

The Internet of Things has the potential for sweeping disruption, perhaps on par with only a few milestones in recent history such as World War One and the Industrial Revolution. While IoT may forever change the way public sector leaders protect and serve, trust is paramount to IoT success. Constituent participation will be weighed as a trade-off for utility received, such as a better citizen experience or increased public safety. Thoughtful, holistic planning should include not just the technological, but the fiduciary, legal and ethical aspects that will engender trust and drive to the greatest public good.


Kathy Stershic is Principal Consultant of Dialog Research & Communications, a consulting firm serving IT Executives through thought leadership messaging and informed, strategic communications planning. kstershic@dialogrc.com; blogging@dialogrc.com; @kstershic

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NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. This week, John Beveridge of Rapidan Inbound shares insights both on closing deals as well as developing a business that you want to close from the Nov. 20 Small Business and Entrepreneur and Business Development, Marketing & Sales joint committee event.


One of the most difficult things for tech companies, or any company, for that matter, is creating revenue from your technology. Unfortunately, it’s not a matter of build it and they will come.On Thursday, November 20, the Small Business and Entrepreneur and the Business Development, Marketing & Sales Committees hosted a joint event titled, “The Art of the Deal – How Successful High-Growth Companies Close Deals.”

Hosted by Samantha Smith of Etail Eye, the event featured 3 executives from high-growth companies who shared their experiences on how to best generate revenue. Panelists included:

Marty Kaufman, VP of Operations, WeddingWire

Chris Marentis, CEO, Surefire Social

Carolyn Parent, Chief Experience Officer, Gravy

The panelists shared insights both on closing deals as well as doing the things you need to develop business that you want to close. Here are some of the tips the panelists shared.

  • A good way to start developing business is to develop your personal brand as well as your company brand. Creating good content is a great way to develop your personal brand and anyone can do it. Chris Marentis started Surefire Social with an eBook.
  • Economic down times create opportunities for new businesses. Carolyn Parent recommended that new businesses take what they can get and show results quickly. You may want to land that Fortune 500 account, but if a good SMB opportunity arises, take advantage of it. To close business, find some way to show them value quickly, even if it’s just a needs analysis.
  • New businesses can take advantage of sales technology to qualify new business opportunities. Marty Kaufman shared how WeddingWire’s data scientists use predictive analytics to help them target their business development resources to maximize revenue. Don’t overlook the affordable SaaS sales technology resources available to you.
  • Depending on which market you serve, your sales strategies will vary. B2C companies should look to create viral buzz around their products and services while B2B companies should position themselves as valued business partners to their customers. The B2G market moves at a glacial pace and sellers need to be early to the party.

These were just a few of the insights the panelists shared at the event. Want to learn more about business development, sales and marketing? Come to the next committee meeting on December 16.

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How to Build a Continuous Cyber Improvement Culture

November 18th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. This week, Sean ApplegateDirector, Technology Strategy & Advanced Solutions at Riverbed explains how companies can foster collaboration between the Network Operations Center (NOC) and Security Operations Center (SOC). 


Sean Applegate of Riverbed.

Sean Applegate of Riverbed.

One of the largest untapped resources for gaining understanding and insight into an organization’s cyber operations is the network infrastructure and network operations team. They have the broadest span of control across an organization’s IT infrastructure. However, this strategic asset isn’t leveraged efficiently when network teams and security teams fail to share critical resources, collaborate with one another and streamline joint operational processes.

Bridging the chasm between the Network Operations Center (NOC) and Security Operations Center (SOC) isn’t a technology challenge – it’s an organizational challenge. Below are three tips to help foster this collaboration.

Maximize Insight

The first step in overcoming this organizational hurdle is to acknowledge the value of the network team in cyber operations. They have visibility and access to forensic data that simply doesn’t exist in other parts of an organization. Once leadership acknowledges this, it’s about putting the tools and processes in place to integrate the network resources into security processes. It sounds simple, but having a thorough understanding of normal is a critical factor in preventing potentially harmful activity on your agencies network.

Security teams should work to leverage the network team’s investments in packet capture agents, packet analyzers, netflow sources and deep packet inspection performance monitoring. Often these can be tightly integrated into a Security Incident Event Management (SIEM) system for high fidelity visibility, and quick pivots into useful forensic data.

Change the Culture

In terms of fostering collaboration, there should be clear roles and responsibilities across NOC and SOC teams, supported by well-defined “hand-offs.” Documenting them isn’t enough. You have to use them, analyze key weaknesses and continuously improve them. Joint emergency response teams enable broader insight, increased tribal knowledge, faster artifact gathering, well-rounded analysis and ultimately a stronger cyber posture.

Transferring people across teams can also serve as a great way to foster teamwork among these two groups. A crucial aspect to all of this is also obtaining a strong leader who can rally the troops, and mold them into a cohesive team passionate about continuous improvement – not just compliance.

Continuously Improve

With a strong base to build upon, an organization should turn their focus to accelerating their velocity and improving capabilities. To optimize your overall operations, leverage techniques from traditional continuous improvement strategies, such as Theory of Constraints, Lean, or lessons learned from the Devops movement.  For instance:

  • Invest in training and skill development so your people are effective and empowered
  • Break work down into smaller chunks so it flows smoother
  • Automate as much as possible so you gain operational efficiencies
  • Measure not just risk, but performance and quality of operations
  • Never be satisfied with the status quo, continuously experiment and learn

The reality is that threats are getting increasingly harder to discover, and attackers are more brazen than ever. By maximizing your insight and investments, improving your processes and culture, and accelerating your capabilities once you have a strong foundation, you can prioritize your resources and work toward minimizing overall risk.

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The CIT GAP Funds, operated by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), provide seed-stage equity investments in Virginia-based technology, clean tech and life science companies with a high potential for achieving rapid growth and generating significant economic return for entrepreneurs, co-investors and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Through a public-private partnership, CIT validates the science behind next-generation technology, biotechnology and energy startups across the state and leverages a modest public sector investment with private sector investments at a rate of 16 times the public outlay. The GAP Funds’ search areas include software, telecommunications, semiconductors, media and entertainment, e-commerce, networking and equipment, electronics/instrumentation, industrial/energy, computers and peripherals, biomedical and life science applications.

And it is working!

Leveraging private investment in research and innovation through new company formation has proven a successful and cost-effective funding model for achieving a self-sustaining innovation ecosystem.   The Washington Post’s Capital Business recently observed that the Center for Innovative Technology’s GAP Funds “cemented its mantle as one of the region’s most active early-stage investment groups”.

Recently, CIT President Pete Jobse provided an annual update to the General Assembly’s Joint Commission on Technology and Science (JCOTS) on CIT’s efforts to drive innovation and entrepreneurship. Among the key points:

  • 3,000+ entrepreneurs have applied for seed investments over 10 years.
  • Since 2005, CIT GAP Funds have invested in 114 companies.
  • Through the CIT GAP Funds, $15 million in public funds have leveraged $233 million of private funding or 16.2X.
  • The CIT GAP Funds portfolio of companies has grown in value from $1 million to $310 million in 8 years.

NVTC is a strong proponent for enhancing state funding for the CIT GAP Funds as a critical tool to grow and diversify Virginia’s technology economy. While NVTC successfully advocated for more than $4 million in annual funding for the CIT GAP Funds in FY13 and FY14, Virginia’s current budget shortfall has reduced funding for the CIT GAP Funds to $2.8 million annually in FY15 and FY16. NVTC will be advocating to prevent further budget cuts during the 2015 legislative session in Richmond. Read more about NVTC’s advocacy efforts in Richmond.

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A Profitable Exit? Think Sustainable, Long-Term Growth

November 4th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. This week, Alex Castelli of CohnReznick LLP explains how a successful, sustainable tech company draws investors. In addition, check out previous blogs from CohnReznick on equity vs. debt financingincentivizing employees with equity, determining the value of your company and identifying the right sources for early-stage tech companies.


Attracting millions or even billions of investment dollars is the dream of every business owner. But it is not going to occur overnight – and it may never occur if the primary goal is to sell the business, rather than build the business.The surest path to achieving a successful, sustainable technology business is to focus on long-term growth – and the investment interest will follow in due time. Investors do not want companies that are built to flip. They want companies that are built to last and that can sustain revenue growth. Investors are willing to pay top dollar for such companies.There are measures technology companies must take to position themselves for sustainable success, foremost of which is to instill a focus on long-term growth and profitability rather than short-term liquidity.  Such a strategy will inevitably make a company more attractive to investors.Following are four issues that technology companies can focus on to maximize the long-term value of their business.

1. Know Your Market Niche and Competitors

Technology companies should know how their product or service fills a need in the marketplace. They should know the size of their potential market, the size of their current market share, who their customers and competitors are, and how they are changing. By staying informed, companies can remain relevant in the midst of fierce competition.

Market knowledge is also an important avenue to growth. Organic growth is ideal, but at some point acquisition may become necessary to maintain or accelerate growth. Technology companies should be familiar with their competitors large and small, and should consider building causal relationships with them. These relationships can eventually lead to synergistic business opportunities. The best acquisitions do not come from business brokers. The best acquisitions come about because the business owner or management team knows the market and has personally identified targets they are interested in acquiring.

2. Drive Sustainable Revenue

Sustaining customer and revenue growth are vital for technology companies. Horizontal revenue means one thing to investors – it means they will not get the return they want from their investment.

To sustain revenue and minimize customer churn, technology companies must innovate and add services and products. They must continually introduce new and appealing features for their customers. Granted, a subscription model is a good way to sustain revenue, but subscribing customers also expect regular updates. These updates do not have to be new, blockbuster releases, but they should at least be useful and worthwhile.

3. Build a Scalable Business

Scaling requires action on a number of business fronts. In summary, it means adding products, services, and customers. It means keeping in mind that past results are no guarantee of future performance. In other words, the accomplishments that got companies to where they are will not get them to where they need to go. Technology companies must ensure that their business model guarantees long-term growth and they must be up to the challenge.

4. Focus on Profitability

It is usually those companies that are not in dire need to sell that receive the highest valuation—those companies that are well managed, have products in demand, and profits. Arriving at this desirable position means continuing to innovate to stay relevant and maintain competitive advantage. This is especially important in the tech space, where the landscape changes quickly and there are few barriers to entry.

Conclusion

Growth is an alluring word in the technology industry—in almost any industry—but creating profitable growth is the key to turning a small company into a large company. To fuel long-term profitable growth, companies must invest in a competitive advantage that entitles them to it. Technology companies can grow in a competitive market by cutting prices or increasing promotions, but those maneuvers do not increase competitive advantage and, therefore, do not fuel long-term profitable growth. They require a company to trade margin for revenue growth—and driving revenue growth for its own sake rarely creates the success that entrepreneurs want.


Alex Castelli is a CohnReznick LLP Partner and the Leader of the Firm’s Technology Industry Practice. Alex has nearly 25 years of experience managing the audit, accounting, and reporting issues of entrepreneurial companies. Contact Alex at alex.castelli@cohnreznick.com. Follow CohnReznick’s Technology Practice on Twitter @CR_TechInd.

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NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. This week, David K. Shepherd of LMI shares six strategies for reducing loss from data breaches. Check out previous blogs from LMI on a business-driven approach to IT decision-making and three business-friendly strategies to increase the value of enterprise architecture.


David Shepherd

David Shepherd, senior consultant and member of the Systems Development Group at LMI.

It’s no secret that data breaches are on the rise. These security rifts cost U.S. organizations an average of $195 per protected personal data record lost or stolen, with total costs averaging more than $5.8 million per organization breached. What may be surprising is that well-intentioned employees could be putting your data at risk..

How? To meet deadlines and collaboration requirements, employees skirt security rules protecting confidential documents by using personal email addresses and free file sharing services. Focused on completing tasks, they are unaware of the risks.

MeriTalk research shows that nearly 50 percent of federal agency security breaches are caused by security noncompliance. Forrester data reveals that the top reason for breaches (36 percent of companies surveyed) is inadvertent use of data without clear knowledge of polices. The problem is exacerbated by the proliferation of mobile devices that connect to cellular and Wi-Fi networks and upload data to the cloud.

Why do users bypass security? They take these risks to complete tasks within tight deadlines. They recognize this isn’t the “right” way to share documents, but feel they have no other options. Common complaints:

“Due to mail server size limitations, I cannot send a large file to my client.”

“Neither my client nor my company has a file-sharing tool.”

Balancing data protection and productivity

Increasing the number of security rules will not decrease employee data losses. The following six recommendations can help organizations balance the need for data protection, policy clarity, and productivity.

1) Understand employee needs when setting security policies

Engage users so you understand their day-to-day work and why they bypass security. Anonymous surveys and best practice initiatives are helpful tools. Consider granting amnesty to ensure you fully understand the problem. If your employees are using Dropbox, Box, or Google Docs, they are saying they need better storage and collaboration tools.

2) Conduct consistent, regular staff training at all levels

PricewaterhouseCoopers research reveals that most businesses invest only up to $400 per employee per year on cybersecurity training. The big exception is financial institutions, which typically spend $2,500 per employee each year. Employee training must be ongoing and pervasive—not an annual ritual. It must also include executives who are more likely to have data on multiple devices.

3) Provide a secure, flexible, and easy-to-use file-sharing tool

Employees started using cloud storage because providers offered free services with easy-to-use interfaces. These companies also offer enterprise versions, which include customizable interfaces, meet government security standards, and may even be branded with your organizational identity. Nearly all providers offer trials.

4) Deal with mobility

Organizations need to update mobile device policies to address both organization- and employee-owned devices. Solutions need to protect organization data while meeting security and employee usability needs.

5) Invest in effective prevention

Be proactive. Prior to a damaging event, security budgets are slim. After a breach, organizations can’t spend money fast enough. An event’s root cause is often due to problems with an organization’s processes. Hastily spending money on new tools won’t necessarily fix the root cause.

6) Consider suggesting tools, even if you can’t endorse their use

If an organization can’t provide a file-sharing tool, consider suggesting employees use a particular service. Wouldn’t it be better to monitor a single service closely, rather than attempting to monitor them all? If a bad breach occurs, the organization could immediately inform users and take corrective actions.

Our pristine networks are vulnerable to dedicated employees who are trying to do great work and meet impossible deadlines. If we don’t provide secure, capable tools, they will find another way. We can continue to fight against them, or we can investigate their needs, accept the challenges, and work to meet those needs while still ensuring security.


David K. Shepherd is a senior consultant in LMI’s Systems Development Group and has 25 years of experience as an information technology (IT) service management and security professional. He has designed, developed, managed, and maintained enterprise quality websites and applications for federal clients. He also advises clients on IT infrastructure issues, effective use of tools and techniques, and security engineering. He can be reached at dshepherd@lmi.org.

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Heart Smart Leaders Energize Their Workforces

October 28th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. This week, Board member Marta Wilson of Transformation Systems Inc. explains the connection between the heart and successful business leaders. Check out Marta’s previous blog series on Engaging Your Total Enterprise here, here and here.


As a leader, it’s important to know the connection between the heart and the brain. Most people think of communication in terms of signals expressed through language, voice, gestures, expressions, and movements. However, evidence suggests that a subtle electromagnetic or energetic communication system operates just below our conscious awareness. Energetic interactions contribute to the attractions or repulsions that occur between individuals and also affect social exchanges and relationships.

Experiments conducted at the Institute of HeartMath indicate that the heart’s electromagnetic field can transmit information between people. They’ve measured an exchange of heart energy between individuals at a conversational distance and found that one person’s brain waves can synchronize to another person’s heart. Furthermore, when an individual is generating a coherent heart rhythm, synchronization between that person’s brain waves and another person’s heartbeat is more likely to occur. These findings suggest that individuals are aware of the information in the heart fields of those around them. This has implications for leadership.

Effective leadership not only requires intelligence and logic, but also it requires making a heart connection with people. Great leaders are role models for honesty, empathy, communication, appreciation, and collaboration. They create a supportive environment, maintain confidentiality, and focus on the wellbeing of others. They communicate impeccably, manage their agreements, and hold a positive attitude for learning from their colleagues and associates. Perhaps most importantly, they continuously monitor their interactions with people in order to deepen and strengthen their relationships with everybody in their sphere of influence. In other words, great leaders are heart smart.

Heart smart leaders relate to the minds and to the hearts of their people who, in turn, make their best contributions because they’re more than just employed – they’re also inspired and fully engaged. When heart connections become stronger throughout the workplace, issues and conditions related to the human element can be more easily resolved and improved. For this to happen, change must happen in the heart as well as in habits, or old habits will slip back into place when the pressure is high and when a better way of working together is most important.

Stewards of every enterprise can lead from the heart. It’s our choice to tap into ourselves and act in ways that energize and motivate our people. Doing so will be positively empowering as well as potentially transformative for us as leaders and for our organizations. Even when we as leaders face daunting and unpredictable conditions, we are the force to lift ourselves, our people, and our organizations to higher levels of possibility and performance.  As Nelson Mandela so wisely stated, “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

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Last week, the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), released the Commonwealth Research and Commercialization Fund’s annual report for FY2014. The CRCF accelerates entrance of new products and services to the market, incentivizes collaboration between institutions of higher education and companies engaged in research in high-growth, emerging industries and provides new resources to attract and retain eminent researchers at Virginia universities.

The FY2014 annual report indicates that CIT issued 52 CRCF awards to startups, universities and research institutes engaged in research and development projects, leveraging the Commonwealth’s $4.8 million investment with approximately $7.4 million in matching funds. Here are some highlights from the report:

  • 50 New Patents: CRCF investments supported more than 50 filed or pending patents, including both full and provisional patents; 12 or more patents have been issued; more than ten invention disclosures have been issued; five or more products or technologies have been licensed; and other discussions have circulated around trademarks and trade secrets.
  • 2 New Products/Services: In FY2014, at least two new life sciences and modeling and simulation products and/or services were brought to market through CRCF investments; at least one additional product/service is anticipated for near-term release. In addition, more than 12 organizations are actively engaged in discussions with companies and other organizations interested in licensing products.
  • 4 New Companies Formed: At least four new life science and cybersecurity companies, some of which are university spin-outs, were created. Additionally, at least one CRCF recipient expanded its operations across the state, and at least two non-Virginia companies located all or a portion of their operations to the Commonwealth.
  • $30 Million in Additional Investments: CRCF award recipients reported nearly $30 million in additional investments made in research and technology work after the conclusion of the CRCF projects. At least seven companies have noted sales and/or revenue, with reported totals of more than $3 million, combined.
  • New Partnerships: Several notable partnerships have been formed between CRCF recipients and other organizations, including: Reliant Medical Group, EMC, Amgen, Dominion Virginia Power, Bracco and Northrop Grumman, as well as with colleges, universities, large pharmaceutical companies and startups in and outside of Virginia.

Funding for the Commonwealth Research and Commercialization Fund has been one of NVTC’s top policy and budget priorities in recent years. Unfortunately, Virginia’s current budget shortfall has reduced CRCF funding to $2.8 million in annual funding in FY15 and FY16.

NVTC will be advocating for increased funding during the upcoming legislative session in Richmond. Click here to learn more.

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Contribute to the NVTC Blog!

October 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Allison Gilmore in About NVTC | Member Blog Posts | Social Media - (Comments Off)

NVTC welcomes member submissions for guest blog posts. There is no suggested word count and posts do NOT need to be original content (i.e. they can be excerpted or summarized from other authored material coming out of your company). Guest blog posts should offer information and thought leadership, and must NOT be promotional.

The best blog posts incorporate lists, graphics and/or photos, and include links to supplemental information and a concise headline. Check out this example. (Note: This post plugs a product, but only because the product is the source of the information the blog author is providing us.)

With limited editorial space (usually one or two guest posts a week), we urge you to reach out to us with your proposed submission in advance (especially if it’s time sensitive or needs to be coordinated with an event). NVTC’s editorial staff will select an appropriate date for publication of each guest post, and reserves the right to make suggestions for edits to a post before publication.

To share your insights with NVTC’s readers, contact Sarah Jones at sjones@nvtc.org or 703-268-7878 ext. 207.

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NVTC is inviting members and industry experts to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. This week, Norm Snyder of member company Aronson LLC shares how a variety of resources, including incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, etc., can greatly influence entrepreneurial endeavors.


The DC Metro area has seen an explosion of entrepreneurial startup activity over the last several years. A variety of resources, including incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, etc. seek to help startups succeed. Entrepreneurs face a myriad of options when it comes to incubators and accelerators. How are they similar? How are they different? Most provide space, mentorship and training, and some provide capital. Some focus on specific industry verticals, while others are broad in scope. They can be run by nonprofits or by big corporations, and arrangements can last for a fixed short term or many years. What are the pros and cons of doing either or none? What’s an entrepreneur to do with so many options?

Recently, I led a panel discussion for the NVTC Entrepreneur Center to explore this. Panelists included Evan Burfield, co-founder of 1776; Fletcher Jones, managing director of AOL Fishbowl Labs; Dan Wooley, general partner of Mach37; Rachael Stott, director of Refraction and Juan Pablo Segura, founder of 1EQ.

While definitions vary, the distinctions aren’t always clear cut. Incubators typically provide entrepreneurs co-working space, collaboration opportunities with other startups, workshops, casual mentoring, networking, etc. A startup could be involved in an incubator for several years. Co-working is an “incubator light” option that typically doesn’t offer much in the way of mentoring and workshops. Accelerators typically work with startups that are a little farther along and often provide an intensive 3 to 4 month full time immersion designed to accelerate the growth of a startup enterprise with a very structured program of mentoring, curriculum, etc. Accelerators will often provide some seed capital, say $25,000 to $50,000, in exchange for a small amount of equity. While each option generally involves an application and vetting process, selection into an incubator is normally more grueling and competitive.

To get a sense of the variety, consider our panel of local organizations. 1776 is an incubator and global hub for startups tackling major challenges in education, energy, healthcare, government and other critical industries. 1776 offers a wide variety of mentoring, training, networking, etc. and also provides co-working space. AOL Fishbowl Labs provides corporate linked (AOL) co-working space with informal opportunities for mentoring, collaboration and networking. Mach37, a subsidiary of state funded CIT, is a cybersecurity accelerator with a 13 week full time program with a structured curriculum focused on the validation of product ideas and the development of relationships that produce an initial customer base and investment capital. Mach37 does provide some capital in exchange for a small equity interest. Refraction, linked to Reston based startup Canvas, is a co-working experiment focused on making collaboration an art and a science; simple, repeatable, scalable and fun. 1EQ is a health IT startup that participates in a non-traditional accelerator, StartUp Health, and in an incubator, 1776.

Clearly, one size does not fit all in the incubator/accelerator world and every startup does not need to be a part of an incubator or accelerator to succeed. A corollary is that participating in an incubator or accelerator does not guarantee success. So what are some of the questions an entrepreneur should ask to consider which option, if any, might be a good fit for a particular startup?

  • What mentoring is offered? Are the mentors experienced in what you are trying to do and provide networks that will help you succeed?
  • What training and workshops are offered? How structured is the curriculum? Does the curriculum address my needs?
  • If the option involves co-working space, is the location beneficial to your startup?
  • Are any industry verticals emphasized and if so do they align well with what you are trying to do?
  • Does the option provide any capital? Does the option require you to give up some equity?
  • What benefits can you expect to receive?
  • What are your obligations including time, money, etc. for you to receive the benefits you hope to receive? Can you meet the obligations?
  • Are there any unique benefits with this option?
  • How many startups have worked or are working with this option? How does this option measure and describe its success?
  • Can you speak with some alumni companies, both successful and otherwise? Prepare in advance what you want to ask them.

Entrepreneurs have a number of options to consider for their startup. Be careful to do your homework and do what gives you the best chance to succeed.

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