Amplifier Venture Partners creates Tandem NSI — a National Security Commercialization Program

Amplifier Ventures and Arlington Economic Development, a Department of the Arlington County Government, announce the launch of Tandem NSI, a public/private partnership funded by a grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia by way of the Virginia Federal Action Trust Fund (FACT). The FACT Fund invests in initiatives that allow the Commonwealth to modernize and grow its economy in light of changes in federal budgets and priorities.

Tandem NSI will foster a vibrant technology ecosystem that combines entrepreneurs, university researchers and students, government program managers and the supporting business community. It will operate programs and initiatives to create awareness of the requirements that government agencies have and provide exposure to security products and approaches created by non-traditional sources and the entrepreneurs who launch and grow those companies. Additionally, Tandem NSI will highlight opportunities for entrepreneurs to obtain national security technologies for company formation and licensing and with community partners such as FounderCorps to provide a mentorship program to help accelerate emerging businesses that wish to do business with national security agencies.

Tandem NSI follows the highly successful Ballston Innovation Initiative that operated in Arlington in the spring of 2013, which was created and managed by Amplifier Ventures in partnership with Arlington Economic Development (AED) and with the support of a broad range of community members, including George Mason University, Virginia Tech, Marymount University and leading service providers and community organizations. This FACT Fund grant to support this public/private partnership validates the value of connections between entrepreneurs in the region who fuel the economy and national security agencies.

Tandem NSI will be led by Jonathan Aberman, a leader of the Washington, DC regional entrepreneurial community, and Jennifer Ives, Director of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships with AED. Mr. Aberman is the founder and Managing Director of Amplifier Ventures, a venture capital organization that focuses on national security technology commercialization and has operated successfully in the Washington, DC region since 2005. He was recognized recently by the Washington Business Journal as one of the most powerful business leaders in Washington, DC and has founded and led many influential community efforts targeted at entrepreneurship and startup development including FounderCorps, Startup DC/MD/VA and the Ballston Innovation Initiative. He has authored a number of influential white papers on the relationship between national security and regional startup development, including a recent study of commercialization opportunities out of Department of Defense Labs and a survey of M&A patterns in the Washington, DC region and Silicon Valley.

Ms. Ives, who will grow Tandem NSI’s partnerships and community engagement, is a well-known market innovator with extensive relationships with members of the region’s entrepreneur and business community, including the numerous Federal and private sector labs and university research organizations located in Arlington. During her tenure with AED, she has helped grow thousands of companies. She also oversaw the growth of AED’s BizLaunch small business and entrepreneur mentorship program, one of the most successful assistance programs in the country, which serves more than 4,000 startups and small businesses annually. She guided the launch and success of StartupVA and participates on numerous regional and national boards and organizations to more effectively grow the economy, increase talent acquisition for fast growth companies, and create greater opportunities for the private sector to do business with the federal government. Ms. Ives is a nationally recognized and sought-after expert for creating strategies to grow vibrant economic-ecosystems and jobs in the new economy.

Tandem NSI launches with significant support from regional business leaders, with extensive contacts and expertise in national security innovation.

“The Greater Washington region is the most dynamic and important technology region in the United States,” noted Mike Daniels, member of the Board of Advisors of Tandem NSI. “We have the resources in this region to lead technology creation and foster new industries that will provide opportunities for technology business formation and wealth creation. Connecting DARPA, DOD and other national security agencies to entrepreneurs is a key to our future.”

“The dynamic relationship between our national security agencies, particularly the Department of Defense, and entrepreneurship is one of our nation’s most important resources, and also one of the least appreciated,” stated Aberman. “For the United States to continue to be the technological leader of the world, and to create the business growth we need to progress as a nation, we must highlight and reinforce this relationship.”

“The importance of this initiative can’t be overstated,” noted Ives. “The confluence in the Greater Washington region, and Arlington specifically, of a strong and diverse entrepreneur community, established businesses, university resources and many of the federal agencies that accelerate technological development will be the home of many innovative new businesses over the next few years.”

The components and programming for Tandem NSI will be rolled out in January 2014. Areas of activity will center on three main concentrations.

  • Creating connections. Bringing the community together for information sharing, education, business development and awareness.
  • Identifying opportunities. Highlighting opportunities to start new technology startups or expand emerging businesses with national security agencies.
  • Accelerate Businesses. Provide mentorship and support from experienced entrepreneurs who have “done it before” and help accelerate national security related businesses.

Jonathan Aberman Identified as One of Washington Business Journal Power 100

The Washington Business Journal published it’s list of the DC region’s most powerful business leaders.  There were two guidelines: first, although D.C.’s political sphere is full of influential people, they only considered those in the local business community. And second, they omitted all elected officials and powerful appointees in local governments.  A link to the article is here.

According to the Washington Business Journal: “Jonathan Aberman, who oversees the $8 million McLean-based Amplifier Ventures fund, may not have the same capital at his disposal as a Revolution or New Enterprise Associates. But he is nevertheless one of the most influential voices in the D.C. VC brain trust. Aberman’s central thesis is that D.C. startups need to align themselves with the region’s strengths and not try to mimic Silicon Valley. That means, in most cases, building technology to solve difficult problems in the enterprise be that the federal government or Fortune 500 arena. This mantra is growing more common, and its adherents have Aberman to thank for driving the issue, whether they know it or not.”

Zenoss Raises $25 Million in Funding

Zenoss Raises $25 Million in Funding

   AUSTIN, TX, Oct 09, 2012 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) — Zenoss, Inc., a leading provider of unified IT operations software for physical, virtual, and cloud-based IT infrastructure, announced the closing of $25 million in Series C funding led by growth equity investor Summit Partners. Existing investors Grotech Ventures, Intersouth Partners and Boulder Ventures also participated in the round, which will be used to further accelerate the company’s product innovation and global expansion to support continued rapid growth. With the $25 million investment, Zenoss has raised a total of $45 million to date.

Founded in 2005, Zenoss offers a next generation IT operations platform that includes unified monitoring, scale event management, real-time service impact/root cause analysis, and automated remediation. Built on an open software architecture around a real-time service model, Zenoss allows IT organizations to consolidate their operational tools and further automate their core processes. The result is improved service quality, significant cost savings and more rapid response to change. Zenoss has also continued to expand its open source community with a total of 2.4 million downloads of its open source product.

“This raise will help fuel continued innovation, community expansion and growth of our commercial business,” said Bill Karpovich, co-founder and CEO of Zenoss. “We are delighted to have Summit Partners join the team as their experience and success with rapidly-growing companies makes them the ideal partner for Zenoss at this stage of the company’s growth.”

Tom Jennings, a Managing Director of Summit Partners who will join the Zenoss Board of Directors, said, “Zenoss is unique because it has been purposely built for managing virtual and cloud-based infrastructures on top of legacy environments. The company’s value proposition to customers, rapid growth and recurring revenue reminds us of many great software companies we have backed over the years.”

Michael Medici, a Principal of Summit Partners who will be a Board Observer, added, “We look forward to working closely with Bill Karpovich and the rest of the Zenoss management team to continue growing this exceptional company.”

About Zenoss, Inc. Zenoss is a leading provider of management software for physical, virtual, and cloud-based IT infrastructures. Over 35,000 organizations worldwide have deployed Zenoss to manage their networks, servers, virtual devices, storage,and cloud infrastructure, gaining complete visibility and predictability into their IT operations. Customers include Rackspace, VMware,, LinkedIn, Motorola and SunGard.

Washington Business Journal – Amplifier eyes $20M federal tech fund

From the Washington Business Journal : eyes-20m-federal-tech-fund.html

[download id=”18″]

Amplifier eyes $20M federal tech fund Premium content from Washington Business Journal by Bill Flook, Staff Reporter

Date: Friday, September 28, 2012, 6:00am EDT

Bill Flook

Staff Reporter- Washington Business Journal Email | Twitter

A Virginia venture capitalist and a serial government contracting entrepreneur are raising a $20 million fund that would fuel startups built off federally funded technology.

Amplifier Venture Partners II LP, in many ways, represents a contrarian bet to much of the region’s venture market. But to managing directors Jonathan Aberman and Ed Bersoff, the fund is a natural fit for D.C., one that capitalizes on the region’s true strength: the proximity to federal agencies and labs generating research ripe for commercialization, as well as proximity to potential customers and acquirers for the startups they fund.

“Until relatively recently, the conditions for the success of a fund like this were not obvious,” said Aberman.

The duo, now in the early stages of raising capital, are banking on a confluence of forces. University tech transfer offices — including those in the Washington region — are feeling stepped-up pressure to license more research to startups. The federal government has the same mandate; last year, President Barack Obama issued a governmentwide memo calling on agencies to streamline the commercialization process and put more federal research in the hands of entrepreneurs. The mass-market applications of federal R&D are becoming more tangible. The Siri personal assistant software that launched in the Apple iPhone 4S originated with the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

That opportunity, however, has been overshadowed by the explosion of consumer Internet startups in recent years, glamorizing the image of a young software entrepreneur standing up a social media business from a weekend’s worth of coding. This fund represents the diametric opposite of that image.

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Amplifier eyes $20M federal tech fund – Washington Business Journal Page 2 of 2

“It’s about real technology being developed and commercialized and sold,” Bersoff said. “There’s no hype here, there’s no smoke and mirrors, it’s real stuff. That means it’s harder.”

For now, Aberman’s and Bersoff’s challenge lies in convincing limited partners of their vision, with the hope that their experience and relationships will instill confidence in a less well- worn strategy. Aberman is founder and managing director of McLean-based Amplifier Venture Partners, which saw its first significant exit in January with Constant Contact Inc.’s acquisition of Boston-based CardStar Inc. Bersoff is the founder and former CEO of BTG Inc. and ATS Corp., two federal information technology contractors. He was also the first chairman of the Northern Virginia Technology Council.

The two plan to invest in a mix of stages and sectors, with a focus on cybersecurity, “big data” and human-computer interaction technologies. In some cases, they plan to match experienced entrepreneurs with a federally funded technology. In others, they would fund existing startups — those that have already won Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding but need an additional infusion of Series A or expansion capital.

Startups that get funded still face a “valley of death” in securing institutional funding post- SBIR, said Christine Villa, chief technology officer of Fairfax-based BRTRC Inc. and a consultant to the Defense Department on the SBIR program.

Those companies tend to be looking for a few million dollars to take a working prototype through the next level of research and initial production. Amplifier’s planned new fund, therefore, could be attractive to those entrepreneurs, Villa said.

Bill Flook covers technology, biotech and venture capital.

Cardstar Purchased by Constant Contact

Constant Contact Acquires CardStar, Inc.; Adds Mobile Loyalty Technology to its Suite of Online Marketing Tools to Help Small Businesses Grow

WALTHAM, Mass. – January 19, 2012 – Constant Contact®, Inc. (NASDAQ: CTCT), the trusted marketing advisor to more than 450,000 small organizations worldwide, has acquired privately owned CardStar Inc., the leading loyalty platform that helps shoppers stay connected to their favorite merchants. With over two million users, Boston-based CardStar is a leading developer of mobile applications that extend the use of loyalty cards and mobile coupons among consumers. The acquisition marks the latest milestone in Constant Contact’s evolution from an email marketing company to the leading provider of online marketing tools that help small businesses create and grow customer relationships. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. 

“This was a great transaction from the perspective of both the founders and Amplifier,” said Jonathan Aberman, Managing Director of Amplifier Ventures.  “We are very happy with the result.  The founders worked hard and built a great company in a short period of time.  It’s always satisfying to see entrepreneurs succeed, particulalry when you were with them from the beginning.”

“The CardStar loyalty platform takes advantage of the anytime, anywhere nature of mobile – making it an excellent complement to our growing suite of engagement marketing tools for small businesses.  CardStar’s unique mobile application is a natural extension of our brand, bringing consumers and merchants together before, during, and after the sale to help drive repeat business,” said Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact.

Constant Contact will continue to operate CardStar’s free mobile loyalty application, which is available on major mobile platforms, including iPhone®, Android®, and Blackberry®. The CardStar application consolidates membership and rewards cards on smartphones, letting consumers use a single application rather than a series of physical cards and enabling merchants to tailor mobile deals and information to their customers. Merchants can track purchase behavior to reward loyalty, simply and easily.

“For small businesses, it’s all about finding and connecting with their next customer, whether that customer is returning or brand new,” said Goodman. “Today’s consumers don’t just want – but expect – to access information and make decisions on the go, and they want to be rewarded for their support and loyalty. The CardStar mobile loyalty application lives at the intersection of these needs, letting consumers engage with businesses on the go and providing businesses with expanded opportunities for the kind of customer engagement that drives business results.”

CardStar’s employees will join the Constant Contact team, including CEO and Founder Andy Miller and CTO and Founder Danny Espinoza.  Miller will serve as director of mobile products, reporting to Joel Hughes, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development.  Espinoza will join Miller’s team to lead future product direction.  Constant Contact’s strategy and corporate development group is based in the company’s Waltham, Mass., headquarters.  “We’re thrilled to have Andy, Danny, and the CardStar team join us here at Constant Contact,” said Goodman. “The CardStar team brings us fantastic experience, and our shared innovation vision will surely support small business success.”

“We share a common goal of supporting businesses’ ability to grow by connecting with their customers,” Miller said.  “We are so pleased with CardStar’s success so far. Joining forces with Constant Contact accelerates our growth path and opens up new opportunities for small businesses to take advantage of our innovations in mobile, loyalty, and consumer technology.”

Amplifier Ventures Seeds Android Data Security Startup

Amplifier Ventures invests in McLean, VA based SpydrSafe Mobile Security, Inc. to bring innovative data security technology to enterprise BYOD

Amplifier Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund, today announced the seed financing of SpydrSafe Mobile Security, Inc. SpydrSafe had been operating in stealth mode since its formation in early November. The company has developed an innovative approach to DLP (“data loss prevention”) and app control on Android devices. The company’s proprietary technology will allow employees to use their own Android devices at work while protecting the sensitive enterprise information that they access. The company’s innovative approach to BYOD (“bring your own device”), enables IT departments to deploy enterprise apps and proprietary data with enterprise-grade app and data oriented policies and security, all while preserving the native user experience.

SpydrSafe was founded by Michael Pratt, most recently the COO of CardStar, Inc., a venture-backed mobile loyalty company, and Kevin Sapp, most recently Chief Architect, Mobile of McAfee, an Intel Company. Previously the founders were part of the senior management of Trust Digital, a venture-backed provider of mobile device management technology that was acquired by McAfee in June, 2010. The founding team has more than 15 combined years of experience in mobile security and are recognized leaders in their field.

“The problem and opportunity for enterprise BYOD is tremendous. Employees want to use their personal devices to play videos, download games and access enterprise applications and data. Enabling this ‘peaceful’ co-existence to occur is a huge problem for MIS directors and employers generally,” said Jonathan Aberman, Managing Director of Amplifier. “SpydrSafe’s approach to this problem is unique, and elegant, and satisfies the needs of both enterprise IT and employees.”

“For us, this is a unique opportunity to take what we have learned and apply it to a cutting edge market and problem,” added Michael Pratt, SypdrSafe’s CEO. “We think that the BYOD opportunity is the continuation of a growing trend of blurring between enterprise and consumer technology. We expect that solutions which allow for little friction between the requirements of enterprises and employees will be adopted rapidly and accelerate this trend.” Added Kevin Sapp, SpydrSafe’s CTO, “this is a really exciting time to be working on mobile security – DLP is the crucial issue in enterprise mobility, and until now, hasn’t been adequately addressed.”

November is FounderCorps’ Month

FounderCorps is involved in a number of activities over the next few weeks that I thought were worth mentioning.  Please come out and see us at these events, and support our partners.  And, if you have other ideas for how we can continue to help our entrepreneur ecosystem comment on this blog or visit the FounderCorps site.

Social Entrepreneurship Conference

On November 10th, the George Mason Center for Social Entrepreneurship is hosting a conference on Social Entrepreneurship in an Age of Austerity.  It’s a full day event that investigates a broad scope of issues around creating avenues for social entrepreneurship.  Senator Warner and Mario Marino are two of the headline speakers at the event.  FounderCorps organized a panel on connecting entrepreneurs and networks.  I’ll be joined on this panel by April Young, one of the founders of Mindshare, Gregory Fairchild, a professor at the Darden School of Business and an expert on promoting entrepreneurship in underserved areas and Michael Chodos, the SBA’s Associate Administrator for the Office of Entrepreneurial Development.  The link for the event is here.

DC Week

DC Week is a HUGE entrepreneur networking, education and community development movable feast that’s been organized by Peter Corbett and Frank Gruber and a supporting cast of the who’s who in the region.  These guys continue to lead from the front and coalesce meaningful activities for our entrepreneurs, particularly in social media.  FounderCorps partners with them in various ways, including DC Week.  DC Week kicks off today and goes on all week.  A link for DC Week is here.

Jamie Harvey and Sponto have released a social application designed especially for DC Week. Check it out here.  Jamie was one of the founding members of FounderCorps, and is a great example of an entrepreneur who finds time to give back to the community (check out Geekeasy) while working 80+ hours a week on his startup Sponto.

FounderCorps members are going to be out in force at the Core Conference day of DC Week  — Thursday November 10th – at the Artisphere Theater.  A few of our members will be talking about mentorship and entrepreneurial resources in our community on a panel.  Around 10 of us will also be staffing a booth in the lobby of the Artisphere from 1 to 5pm.  Look for our black FounderCorps shirts for instant mentoring.

DC Entrepreneurship Week

Before the confetti is cleaned up another great entrepreneur event follows DC Week.  DC Entrepreneurship Week coincides with Global Entrepreneurship Week and provides DC entrepreneurs with access to another group of experts and entrepreneur development opportunities.  Peter Stuart has done a great job of organizing resources and putting together a strong menu of events.   A link to DC Entrepreneurship Week is here.

FounderCorps member Kurt Bauman is joining a panel discussion on Exits on November 16th.  If you don’t know Kurt, he is a terrific guy and very tuned into what it means to be an entrepreneur and how to grow companies here and elsewhere.  He says it like it is.  If you want to hear his thoughts the link for the event is here.

Clara Conti, Adam Viener, Jim Condon and I are doing a panel on Tuesday November 15th on Financing a Startup From Angel to VC.  Clara, Adam and Jim have financed business every possible way you can, so I am expecting lots of useful information and advice on how to finance an emerging business.  If the conversation is anything like it is at one of our FounderCorps monthly dinners it will be entertaining.  The link for the event is here.

It’s great to see FounderCorps continue to progress in its mission, and contribute to our growing entrepreneurial ecosystem.  Look out for us in our black FC shirts at these or other events.  We’ll be happy to see you.

Amplifier Ventures Helps Launch DC Technology Company Incubator GeekEasy

The Washington Business Journal reported on September 9th that a group of entrepreneurs led by Sponto CEO Jamey Harvey have created a 5,000 sq foot start up incubator in Washington, DC.  GeekEasy is located at 1326 Florida Avenue, NW.  Plans for the incubator are still being formulated, but the vision is to provide community space for emerging technology entrepreneurs looking to collaborate and build new companies.

The incubator grew out of work done by the founders on Mayor Vincent Gray’s transition team, including Jamey Harvey, Peter Corbett of iStrategy Labs and Jonathan Aberman of Amplifier Ventures.  Contine reading

Rocking Out with Biznow

Tech Bisnow

Amplifier Ventures managing director Jonathan Aberman jams out with his band “Two Car Garage”
Amplifier Ventures managing director Jonathan Aberman jams out with his band “Two Car Living Room” every few months in Northern Virginia. The rest of his waking hours are spent searching for the earliest of early stage companies looking for VC. Since 2006, he’s been writing $50K to $100K seed checks out of an $8M fund raised from institutional investors and angels. So far his portfolio has 14 companies, including Sponto, Ozmosis, and CardStar. A former investment banker and economist, Jonathan became a VC after working as managing partner of Pillsbury’s Northern Virginia office and then managing partner of Fenwick & West’s east coast office. While working VC transactions, Jonathan realized that dishing out business advice was more appealing than the legal advice.
Small Act CEO Casey Golden (at the white board) and his executive team are part of Amplifier’s portfolio.
Small Act CEO Casey Golden (at the white board) and his executive team are part of Amplifier’s portfolio. Jonathan, who teaches about a dozen business classes a year at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, says he spends a lot of time turning down companies looking for capital. It’s not for lack of interest, but lack of funds. The father of two (one in high school and the other at Cambridge) will invest in 2-3 companies with his current fund and then will raise another in the fall. So how does one get into the Amplifier portfolio? Referrals are a big help and a willingness to take lots of help and direction are a bonus.