Category: ICAP

Fend Inc.

Fending off cyberattacks

Received nearly $3 million from multiple SBIR and state grants, a contract with the Department of Defense, and investment from Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology

Cyberattacks: a scary and unexpected threat to everyone from thriving nations to next-door neighbors. The systems that make our modern lives possible are moving online. From electricity providers and water utilities to refrigerated trucks and beyond, the comforts we enjoy are made more efficient and reliable by bringing massive industrial equipment into the Internet of Things (IoT). The downside? These vital networks are increasingly susceptible to hackers. 

Aware of this growing area of vulnerability, Colin Dunn created Fend Inc., a cybersecurity company dedicated to preventing critical infrastructure from being attacked, data stolen, or equipment held for ransom. “We keep attackers out of the critical systems that make America run,” Colin explains. “We are putting data into the hands that need it, as well as ensuring that these systems are not left open to threats or vulnerable to attack.”

Since its founding in 2017, the Arlington-based company has been integral in providing superior security to critical domestic infrastructures. Colin, with a background in mechanical engineering and business administration, recognized the opportunity to expand to the international market, but needed help. While touring the Mason Enterprise Center (originally looking for office space) he also found the State Office of the Virginia SBDC Network. 

“I got to know the SBDC by just walking the halls,” Colin says. “Someone would say, ‘Hey, I know someone who can help you with exports’ and ‘I can help get you in touch with someone to put in contact with others in the industry.’”

First, the Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) advisors at the Virginia SBDC State Office worked with Colin to first help him develop and validate his customers and product premise. “Customer interviews done through this program gave us insights that informed the design of our products and services,” Colin explains. 

Next, the State Office’s International Business Development (IBD) program helped Fend export their services, taking their operation global. The first step was researching the industrial cybersecurity market in Western European countries and member nations of the intelligence alliance known as The Five Eyes. The SBDC also connected Colin with other firms for potential partnerships, and compiled a list of certifications needed to compete internationally. 

“Without the SBDC’s ICAP and IBD programs, our view of opportunity would be a lot smaller,” Colin says. “They helped us realize that protecting critical infrastructure worldwide is something that is possible for Fend, and helped us develop a methodical way of serving this community beyond our borders.

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Enterprise e-Support, Inc.

Global connections add security

Enterprise e-Support added 3 jobs and obtained a loan of $60,000.

Chintan and Shikha Dixit have always had a sharp eye for innovation, and they brought it to the IT sector with their business by keeping pace with the changing world of technology. “In order to stay smart and transformative, customers need better visibility into and control of their IT assets,” Chintan explains. “We help customers improve enterprise-level processes and at the same time support their legacy portfolio — like building a car while driving it.”

Enterprise e-Support connected with the SBDC at the Community Business Partnership (CBP) to help solve a familiar challenge: how to do more with less. “Two years ago, we turned to the SBDC at CBP to utilize their shared services and support. Our experience with the SBDC has been great ever since,” Shikha says. “Their staff is great, and they have helped us organize and prepare for government contracting.”

Chintan and Shikha are particularly impressed with how thoroughly the SBDC advisors helped them with their federal clientele. “The federal government expects companies to have past performance, to understand government contracting, and to be able to apply their solicitations with technical and pricing proposals,” Shikha says. “A small business needs to be knowledgeable in these areas and be able to review forecasts, review agency spending habits, and more.”

The SBDC consultants have guided Enterprise e-Support through the intricacies of working with this type of client. “They provided us with training on every aspect of the process. They also helped us with our IT Schedule 70 and our 8(a) process,” Shikha continues. The IT Schedule 70 is a long-term contract issued by the General Services Administration to a commercial technology vendor. 8(a) is a federally funded business-development program through the Small Business Administration.

In addition to this vital assistance, the Dixits say they have utilized the other resources available at the SBDC to hone and improve their product. “Our team enrolled in a weeklong, SBDC sponsored, Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) for entrepreneurs,” Chintan says. “CBP and SBDC consultants sat through our product demo, provided feedback to us, and reviewed all our marketing material. Recently they reviewed and improved an EeS marketing pitch for a live TV program that gave us much needed visibility.”

Enterprise e-Support is thriving with the assistance of the SBDC consultants. They are thankful to have a trusted partner and resource to come alongside and carry some of the load. “Small businesses do a lot of heavy lifting,” says Chintan. “Just being small and running the business is a big task. You need a lot of helping hands. We are so thankful to the SBDC and CBP for being our partner and helping us grow.”

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Colvin Run Networks

Running strong: Data company thrives

Colvin Run Networks won 4 SBIR grants this year, totaling $418,000.

What happens when you have a great idea that just needs some tweaking? For founders of Leesburg-based Colvin Run Networks, Nikhil Shenoy and Rob Baranowski, the answer lies with the Loudoun SBDC and the Virginia SBDC Network.

“Colvin Run was founded with the vision of revolutionizing permitting processes using blockchain technology,” Nikhil says. “We had a whitepaper and some market research, which scored us several high-level conversations with great people, but it wasn’t easy to pinpoint where to go from there in terms of building a business,” he adds.

The Virginia SBDC Network and the Loudoun SBDC were able to provide Nikhil and Rob with a methodology to put their idea to the test through real world applications and hands-on learning. They enrolled in the Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP), a specialized program offered by the Virginia SBDC Network. “We started with ICAP, where we learned about the Business Model Canvas,” Nikhil explains. “Rob and I ‘got out of the building’ and did over 20 interviews in an intensive two-week session,” he adds.

The out-of-the-four-walls approach introduced by ICAP helped the team discover that permitting was the wrong platform for introducing their blockchain technology concept. The team decided to shift their approach. Nikhil and Rob applied to the Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) program. Colvin Run was successful.

“Colvin Run Networks has won four DoD SBIR Phase I awards in our first full year of business. These awards are for blockchain, big data analytics, predictive maintenance and inventory management, and data integration and fusion,” Nikhil explains. “Our strategy going forward is to build on each of these solution areas as its own line of business,” he adds.

Before the awards, the Colvin Run team relied on ICAP and Loudoun SBDC to help them find their initial footing, and they will continue to work with the SBDC for ongoing insights and strategy as they grow. “ICAP and Loudoun SBDC were critical early on,” Nikhil explains. “They helped us secure Virginia CIT grants to get started with the SBIR program and provided guidance on what it takes to win,” Nikhil adds.

“We use many of the principles learned in ICAP in our company strategy, particularly the Business Model Canvas and everything that goes along with it. It’s also great that ICAP has regular conference calls where we can hear from other entrepreneurs and continue to grow our strategic thinking,” Nikhil says.

Thanks to the strong partnership with the Loudoun SBDC, ICAP, and Colvin Run, the future is unlimited for this young company.

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Jeeva Informatics Solutions

A study in success: Jeeva creates solution for clinical trials

Jeeva Informatics Solutions received an I-Corps grant from the NSF and investment from CIT.

By any measure, Harsha Rajasimha was a successful man. With published journal articles, chapters in professional textbooks, multiple patents, honors, and awards, his work received plenty of accolades. None of these accomplishments equipped Harsha to help his baby daughter, who died from Edwards Syndrome — a rare congenital disease. Determined to honor his daughter’s memory, Harsha founded Jeeva Informatics Solutions, where he devotes a percentage of his time and his post-doctoral training in genomics and precision medicine to develop diagnostic techniques and therapeutic protocols for rare diseases.

Jeeva initially focused on next-generation sequencing and data-analytics interpretation (taking raw data and turning it into useful knowledge). In 2018, the company pivoted to address the problem of participants in clinical trials, a mandatory step in getting products to market. Patient recruitment takes time and, if anyone drops out, it takes additional effort to recruit more participants. These issues cause delays, which in turn cause the loss of billions of dollars and can render the drug-development industry unsustainable.

Jeeva is in the process of solving this critical “bottleneck” by developing a decentralized clinical trials technology platform. The premise is simple: get more people into clinical trials by reducing the burden of travel. “It’s a virtual clinical-trials platform that addresses the travel burden for participants in clinical trials. Our approach replaces 20% to 80% of visits to brick-and-mortar sites with eVisits. In other words, we are a telemedicine solution for clinical trials with long-term follow-ups,” Harsha explains.

Harsha teamed up with the Mason SBDC and Director Bob Smith to take his concept to the next level. Bob encouraged Harsha to participate in the SBDC’s Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP). After successfully interviewing 146 customers in seven weeks, Jeeva rose to the top of the ICAP leaderboard and was accepted into the Spring 2019 cohort of the National Science Foundation I-Corps program, which included a cash grant.

In December 2019, upon completion of the I-Corps program and following guidance from the Mason SBDC, Jeeva sought and received a round of financing from the Center for Innovation Technology (CIT), Virginia’s public venture-capital investment group.

The SBDC was crucial for filling in the gaps for Harsha and team Jeeva. “While I had solid technical, scientific, and business-development experience in the life science industry, I did not have a solid grasp of the startup process,” Harsha says. “My mentor gave tremendous support and guidance on the proven process of making go/no-go decisions faster and on building a startup company from the ground up.”

With a rapidly growing team, 2020 looks bright for Jeeva as they continue to gain traction in their field. Harsha is grateful to be able to build Jeeva’s success on a framework of solid guidance from the SBDC.

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3R Behavioral Solutions

3R creates Life Sherpa, a breakthrough assistive technology

3R Behavioral Solutions received a $30,000 grant from George Mason University. They signed a contract with DXC Technologies to modify and test the Sherpa platform for use in their Dandelion program.

Doug Meeker, an accomplished digital media and technology veteran, found out that his three-year-old son was autistic. Doug figured he had 15 years to teach Scott the skills he would need to become an independent adult. “It became my passion,” said Doug.

Doug and his team of autism experts, behavioral therapists, and parents distilled complex principles of behavior-changing techniques into three simple activities: remind, reinforce, and reward. These 3 Rs must be applied consistently for every task. “Who has that kind of patience, fortitude and time?” asks Doug. “But changing ‘who’ to ‘what’ changes everything. What has the patience, fortitude, and time? Smartphones, smart watches, computer tablets with visual and touch interfaces – the perfect assistive technology for kids with developmental disabilities.” Voila! The Life Sherpa platform is born.

Life Sherpa displays each child’s task list on his or her digital device. As tasks are learned, more are added. All the tasks build progressively, leading kids to become more independent. Proctors monitor the lists to check that tasks are properly completed.

Doug worked with Bob Smith, Director of the Virginia SBDC’s Innovation Commercial Assistance Program (ICAP). They developed the business plan, identified possible clients, worked on the financials, etc. Bob also introduced Doug to Dr. Heidi Graff, Director of Learning Into Future Environments (LIFE) program at George Mason University. Mason LIFE helps kids with learning disabilities transition into university life. They started a pilot program, using the Life Sherpa platform with Mason LIFE students, along with a $30,000 grant.

Success! Students enjoyed the sense of freedom and independence that was possible with the reminders from the Life Sherpa, instead of being “nagged” by a person. By starting their day successfully, they had a better day overall.

“Scott, who is also a recent cancer survivor, is progressing well. He’s a sophomore at John Champe High School where he is on the cross-country and track teams. Last spring he passed his two SOL’s for the first time ever. And he never misses the bus anymore, thanks to his Sherpa,” Doug reports.

Based on their success so far, Doug and his team are now focusing on the more complex issue of job training. Helping employers hire, train, and support neurodiverse individuals in the workplace is a much larger market. 3R just signed a deal with DXC Technologies – a Fortune 500 end-to-end IT company with 6000 clients across 70 countries – to power their innovative Dandelion Program. Dandelion is an initiative that started in Australia five years ago to train and employ individuals on the autism spectrum in those high-demand tech jobs, including cybersecurity and data analytics. The 3R method continues to grow.

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Ryzing Technologies

Ryzing to meet technology needs

ICAP influenced Ryzing Technologies being able to win Phase I Option and Phase II awards from the Army SBIR for the development of an adjustable height platform system for military shelters. These awards combine for a 3-year contract, totaling $1.05 million.

Ryzing Technologies lives up to its name by rising to meet the demand for technologies of the future. “Our mission is to provide engineering services to other companies in anything that uses fabrics and textiles as a structural element,” Ryan Gundling says.

At their jobs in the same California company, Ryan Gundling, a mechanical engineer, and Ryan Long, an expert in prototyping and fabrications, helped develop an inflatable technology adopted by the US Army for military shelters, that included inflatable tents ranging from 10-foot to 90-foot wide and all the accessories the military used with the tents.

Both Ryans relocated to Virginia, but not at the same time. “After being in Virginia from seven to nine years,” Ryan G. says, “We felt like this area was a great place to open a business, so Ryan and I resigned from our jobs to do just that.” Ryan G. adds, “Our goal was to create a fast paced, research and development atmosphere that could advance and develop inflatable and textile technologies for the military and find success for those technologies in the commercial world.”

Ryan G. heard about the Innovative Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) offered through the Shenandoah Valley SBDC. A program of the Virginia SBDC Network and available to all Virginia SBDC clients who met the criteria, ICAP helps inventors and entrepreneurs successfully take new technologies and innovations to market.

“I decided to enroll. Initially ICAP provided a general assessment of our technology and gave feedback,” Ryan G. recalls. “It turned out to be an incredible learning experience and really helped focus our direction. ICAP connected us to experts from across the country, who provided counseling on soft robotic technology.” Ryan G. adds, “At a meeting in Verona, we were also given face-to-face advice on marketing, on how to commercialize this technology, and on how to be successful.”

Ryzing Technologies took the guidance to heart, and the company’s revenue figures reflect its success. Both Ryans credit the SBDC and ICAP for their company’s initial success and continue to work with the SBDC since “graduating” from ICAP. Ryan G. adds, “The SBDC didn’t provide money or a grant — they provided guidance, and that was even more valuable.”

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