Federal Innovators: Part I
How do you inject innovation into an organization that employs over 2.7 million people and will spend nearly $4T in FY15? We found 40 people in the DC area trying to do just that. Today kicks off our series on what they’re doing to make government more innovative. Come help us celebrate these innovators at our Leading Entrepreneurial and Federal Innovators event on June 11 in Crystal City.
Organization: TandemNSI, launched two years ago, connects national security program managers from agencies like DARPA, DHS, Office of Naval Research and DIA with entrepreneurs. Community has grown to over 3,000 entrepreneurs and federal program managers. The organization is funded by Virginia and Arlington County.
Innovative project: Demystifying and facilitating the connection that doesn’t currently exist and needs to exist nationally. Now more than ever, both for economic development and national security, entrepreneurs need to be connected with agencies.
Inspiration for innovation: Enjoy doing fun things that matter.
Why this career: Grew up in family businesses—grandparents owned furniture store and worked as tailors; parents had a fishery and art store. Career includes working as an economist, investment banker, lawyer and venture capitalist. Learned enough and had enough competencies to own a business and be successful.
Why DC: Came to attend GW and become a politician. (A taste of fundraising cured that idea.)
First job: Pharmacy stock boy.
Free time: Play guitar in local band called Two-Car Living Room and co-host Left Jab Radio, a talk radio show on Sirius XM.
Family: Married 14 years; two adult children.
Favorite vacation spot: The Big Island, Hawaii
Bucket list: Be a TV talk show host.
Daily habit: Start each morning checking email and tech pubs and tweeting articles of interest (@jaberman).
Startling fact: Dropped out of high school junior year. Graduated on time by attending night school.
Company: Enterprise software company; founded by Kris 18 years ago; 225 employees; revenue projected to increase 60% this year; software allows agencies to rapidly develop and deploy case management systems. For example, DOJ uses the software to track the background investigations of its personnel.
Innovative project: Developing the Naval Justice Information System—an enterprise system supporting the entire life cycle of criminal and military justice cases in the Navy and Marine Corps. The work is for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
Inspiration for innovation: Natural curiosity about everything. Always ask “why” and then challenge processes that have been around for decades.
Why this career: At age 9, father brought home first computer and haven’t been able to put down technology ever since.
Grew up: Loudoun County—parents were first-generation immigrants from the Philippines.
First paying job: Server at I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt.
Free time: Spending time with kids and consuming newspapers, magazines, and everything about the history of things around the world.
Family: Four children (ages 12, 10, and 4-year-old twins).
Favorite vacation spot: Las Vegas.
Bucket list: Get a degree—made a promise to mom after skipping college to launch MicroPact.
Daily habit: Start and end the day catching up on world news.
Startling fact: Didn’t have any formal training in technology, business or finance.
President, Benchmark Executive Search; Co-founder, MissionLink
Company: Retained executive search firm; team of three; launched in 2007; and focused on senior management and board members for tech companies and government contractors working in national security. Launching a new service to focus on DC area startups for middle management positions and sales and engineering positions.
Innovative project: Co-launched MissionLink, a five-year-old nonprofit that organizes seven annual events for 60 executives to hear from government officials about navigating the federal landscape. Companies are under $100M in revenue and only the founders and CEOs are selected to attend. Advisory board is a who’s who of former government officials, all tied to innovation. Alumni now up to 300.
Inspiration for innovation: Recognized a hole in the events market and that smaller companies with great products and services have a harder time finding their way to potential government customers. MissionLink helps government communicate its mission needs and industry communicate its capabilities.
Why this career: Lifelong extrovert and connector of people.
Why DC: Moved to Northern Virginia in the early '90s to work on Capitol Hill. Interest shifted to business.
First paying job: Mowing lawns.
Free time: Family, sports (lifelong Redskins fan and recent Wizards and Nats fan), reading and deep-sea fishing.
Family: Married 13 years; son and daughter (age 12 and 7).
Bucket list: Attend a Super Bowl where the Redskins are playing.
Daily habit: Thanking God for being so blessed.
Startling fact: Would like to spend a week with the crew of The Deadliest Catch.
Big thanks to our partners on this project: Eastern Foundry, KPMG, NeoSystems, Sheppard Mullin and JLL. Stayed tuned for more profiles of DC's Federal Entrepreneurs and Innovators and sign up for our event to honor all of them.