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January 9, 2013
 
 
State of DC Tech (Part II): Startups

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An uncertain business climate hasn't ruffled the feathers of government contractors and it certainly isn't making startups bat an eye. We checked in with a few this week and learned about their big plans for product releases, big partnerships, and doubling of staff.  
 
Audax Health founder Grant Verstandig
Audax Health founder Grant Verstandig kicked off the year announcing a partnership with Cigna, providing the 4th largest health insurance provider a customized digital engagement platform for 13 million customers. Cigna also made an undisclosed investment in the DC-based startup and appointed its EVP and CIO Mark Boxer to its board. Audax provides a similar service for ValueOptions’ customers dealing with behavioral health. Grant says it will spend 2013 adding more partnerships like these, going from 80 employees to over 150, (including four new execs who will be announced next week) and releasing a direct to consumer version of its product.
 
uKnow.com's Steve Woda
uKnow.com founder Steve Woda says his Arlington, Va,. company will be powering parental intelligence services for two of the largest ISPs in the world (and their 30 million subscribers). The digital parenting product helps parents understand their child's use of technology, and take action, if needed, to protect the safety, privacy, and reputation of their kids. The company also just finished raising $1.8 million in seed funding and will go after a series A round this year. Head count will also double or triple to about 20 people. Steve says he has high hopes for 2013, but that doesn’t mean the uncertain business climate didn’t touch startups. Many raise their money from angels, who held tight toward the end of the year anticipating a potential fiscal cliff and bigger tax bills.
 
FoundationDB co-founder Nick Lavezzo
FoundationDB co-founder Nick Lavezzo can thank NEA GP Harry Weller for naming the startup one of the ones to watch at an investor conference last month. The Tysons Corner-based company is developing new database software for engineers building data intensive applications that need to scale up to meet increasing load. It’s a complicated problem, Nick tells us, and the company has been at it since late 2009. Early this year, FoundationDB will launch a public beta and is aiming for commercial availability by the end of the year or early next. The company will also double in head count, adding 15 developers.
Venga's Sam Von Pollaro
DC-based Venga is looking at 2013 as a transformative year, as the startup gets ready to double in size and graduate from a scrappy startup. Co-founder Sam von Pollaro says the company already has its restaurant CRM systems at eating establishments all over DC (Think Food Group and La Tasca) and recently signed undisclosed deals with national chains. They use it to gather food preferences and other tidbits about their regular diners to make their experience more personal. Sam says the company will also work on strategic partnerships with larger players this year.
Mashed Pixel team
2013 will produce a new version of Mashed Pixel’s Surc product, an app and iPhone 4/4s case that works as a remote control for most infrared devices. The three-year-old company is developing a version that can be used on all iOS and Android phones, says co-founder Daphna Kalman, with chairman and investor Michail Kalman, company friend Oran Shuster, and VP Brian Fough. Once that happens, the company will invest in a marketing campaign and is considering using an online crowdfunding site to get its name out and raise funds beyond its seed money.

Hola Discounts!
 
YaSabe will start offering Latinos coupons and discounts on its smartphones through a partnership with Valpak Direct Marketing Systems announced yesterday. The three-year-old company, led by founder Zubair Talib, EVP Azim Tejani, and tech director Fernando Fernandez, has been providing localized info to US Hispanics, but now coupons can be searched in Spanish or English at YaSabe’s website, Google, Bing, and Univision.com. The Hispanic market is huge with over 31 million online and 70% regularly accessing the Internet via mobile.
So what are your plans for 2013? Tell Bisnow's Tania Anderson.
 
 
 
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