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January 29, 2009
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We spoke yesterday morning to former Google whiz Chris Sacca after a Convention Center speech at the Association Technology Conference. Chris is the former head of special initiatives at Google and an investor in Twitter.


Chris’ projects used to include Google Talk, Google's 700MHz spectrum, and its free citywide WiFi network in Mountain View.  Yesterday, he extolled the benefits of Google Trends (using search to deduce the national mood), which has been able to predict movie opening weekends as far as six weeks out. He also made us jealous about Google office culture (free breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner). His prediction for ’09 and beyond: A move toward real-time search, a larger version of what’s already possible with Twitter.

A-lion in Winter

Tysons-based Alion Science and Technology won a contract to support the Navy in the design of its next Cruiser, CG(X). We sat down with CEO Bahman Atefi and COO Stacey Mendler, who tell us half the company’s business comes from naval architecture and marine engineering. It also makes a mobile parts hospital that lets the military fabricate replacement parts, such as metal brackets, shafts, and gears.


They met when both worked at SAIC. In 1997, Bahman was recruited to head the IIT’s Research Institute, a $100 million non-profit R&D outfit. Seeing its potential, Bahman and Stacy organized an employee buyout (using retirement funds) in ’02 and now sit on a $740 million company with 3,400 employees. “You can say we’ve replenished our retirement funds,” Bahman says. He’s originally from Tehran and came to the U.S. to study nuclear engineering at Cornell and later MIT. We met him before he left to ski in Vail; he’s also a tennis buff. Stacy’s a Herndon native and JMU grad who stays busy with two boys who play baseball. “We have a very loud house, but I love it,” she says.

Going Public?

In almost five years, COO Paul Strasser has seen Pragmatics quadruple in size. He tells us the $110 million firm wants to go public in three to five years. “We’re transitioning from a small company to competing with bigger companies,” says Paul, noting that Pragmatics won a contract to provide desktop support for the State Department and is developing software for next gen air traffic management.


Paul spent 19 years at Titan and legacy companies after working as a mission controller for the first generation of GPS satellites at Lockheed. The Long Island native and SUNY-Oswego grad came to D.C. in ’01 with Titan (from Silicon Valley) and was recruited to work for Pragmatics. “We’re having a dot-com-type growth here that is really exciting,” says Paul, who spends his off hours playing with his kids and traveling.

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