By Trish Barber

Gen. Stanley McChrystal sits down with Tandem NSI found Jonathan Aberman to discuss networks and leadership.

Gen. McChrystal Discusses Building Teams with Tandem NSI

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On June 22nd Tandem NSI was excited to host retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal as he talked about some of the concepts in his new book Team of Teams. He made himself available for an invitation-only reception at Marymount University with local entrepreneurs, and then for a public event where the first 100 folks through the door got free copies of his book.

McChrystal is comfortable in front of an audience and was quick to get a laugh when he cited the infamous Rolling Stone article as a life-changer that caused him to pause for clarity. He learned a lot about himself and the people who care about him during that time. Aberman commented that the sign of a true leader is their ability to “fail upward” and he admired Stan for being true entrepreneur.

McChrystal talked about how invigorating it is to be part of a high functioning team and was complimentary of the group he has assembled at the McChrystal Group. He believes that convincing participants that they have ownership in where the team is going affects performance. “People will perform to whatever standard is established” he said. His personal experience in the Joint Special Operations Command helped him understand this idea.

McChrystal is a believer that having a greater percentage of the population serve in some form would produce better citizens. That idea has been ingrained in him since childhood having come from military family. Audience questions focused on his military service and strategies. We have a brief snippet of video of Stan answering a question about the way the military nurtures leaders.

Click to see all event photos.

Event Summary: Innovation Insights with Mike Daniels and Company

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innovation-insight-logo-300pxYesterday was the first in our new Innovation Insight event series co-sponsored by FedNewsRadio and featuring Mike Daniels who laid the foundation for the panel to debate the topic: Mars and Venus – Helping the Government Understand the Nontraditional Innovator.  The room was filled with local technology innovators who didn’t let the holiday weekend stop them from getting up early and networking. Our panel included: Mike Daniels, Mark Walsh, Anup Ghosh, Bob Morgan and our co-moderators were Jonathan Aberman of TandemNSI and Tom Temin of FedNews Radio (see bios below).

(L-R) Aberman, Temin, Walsh, Ghosh, Daniels, Morgan

(L-R) Aberman, Temin, Walsh, Gosh, Daniels, Morgan

These guys are some of the most qualified in town to talk about this topic having all created companies that either built products for, or provided services to, the Federal Government. Many have come from inside government agencies and many have worked with west coast VC’s. They were all in total agreement on one thing: The District/Maryland/Virginia (DMV) isn’t Silicon Valley (SV) for several reasons. The culture in DMV dictates a level of discretion that creates a totally different dynamic than the more aggressive, and sensational approaches panelists were familiar with from working in and around SV.

The panel debated whether DMV has a branding issue.  This has proven to be difficult in the past when organizations like the Potomac Knowledge Way tried several years ago. The panel agreed that there are simply practical issues at work. The reality is that working with the government is that there is an 18 – 24 month sales cycle that requires working capital. Once a contract is won, companies are required to scale quickly. Both of these issues put start-up companies at a disadvantage. Successful government contractors in this region have grown one contract at a time and typically with small initial investment. Consequently, they tend to own a large percentage of the equity in their companies.

Follow-up Networking

Follow-up Networking

The panel also spent significant time talking about other key differences between the Silicon Valley’s culture and that of the DMV:

  • Failure: In SV failure is a badge of honor; in DMV failure means disgrace.
  • Financial Engineering: In SV having a minority ownership stake is perceived as a necessary cost of scaling; in DMV minority ownership interest is frowned upon.
  • Minimal Vial Product (MVP): in SV a MVP is the goal, in DMV that’s not possible because of the mission critical nature of the work
  • Mindset: In SV, the mindset revolves around making $ billion, in DMV the mindset is focused on helping the USA.

What’s Needed:

  1. Award dollars more quickly to technology innovators
  2. Pick two technology categories to develop competency around (most likely cyber security and data analytics).
  3. Develop a strong community of 2000 entrepreneurs and innovators in DMV to understand the unique needs of government program managers (TandemNSI’s community!).
  4. More risk capital from VC’s


(Read Tom Temin’s blog entry on the event here).

 

Panelist Bios

Michael-A-Daniels-200x133Mike Daniels is former chairman of Network Solutions (1995-2000), former chairman and CEO of Mobile365 (2005-2006) and former chairman of the Northern Virginia Technology Council. Daniels rose to national industry prominence with SAIC (New York Stock Exchange) where he served as a member of the senior management team. He sold his company to SAIC in 1986 and helped build SAIC to the current $8 billion in annual revenues. While at SAIC, he identified and purchased Network Solutions for $4.7 million. He led Network Solutions through a successful IPO and a second offering in 1999. Daniels later led Network Solutions in a follow-on offering of $2.3 billion, one of the largest technology equity offerings in history.

As the Chairman of the board of Mobile365 he worked closely with the CEO and the executive management team until the company was sold to Sybase. He served on the BOD of Sybase which later sold to SAP for $5.8 billion.

Daniels served on the board of directors of Telcordia Technologies and VeriSign (Nasdaq). He has also served with (DARPA), on numerous international commissions and advisory boards, on the United States Trade Representatives International Investment Policy Advisory Commission, and as a senior White House advisor.

He currently serves on the board of directors of the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC), Blackberry (NASDAQ: BBRY), the Virginia Chamber of Commerce (past chairman), the Boy Scouts of America National Capital Area Council (past president and chairman), CACI, the Logistics Management Institute (chairman), Invincea (chairman) and Mercury Computer Systems.

BobMorgan200x133Robert “Bob” Morgan is an entrepreneur, strategic advisor and investor and is the founder and President of Caneel LLC which provides consulting to start ups and small to mid size growth companies in the areas of Board Advisor, strategic planning and corporate development.

Bob co-founded MorganFranklin Corporation and served as its CEO until 2013. During this time, MorganFranklin Corporation built a National Security Solutions division and a Business Consulting division with approximately 500 employees and $100M in revenue. The National Security Solutions division was acquired by SRA in 2012. Bob now serves on the Board of Directors of MorganFranklin Consulting as it continues to grow and expand.

Bob is a co-founder of GoodSeeker, an enterprise engagement and recognition platform that shares stories of how people positively impact organizations and each other. Bob also advises Slingr which is the world’s first Location-Based Social Gifting™ platform.

 

AnupGhosh200x133Anup Ghosh, Anup Ghosh, Ph.D., is Founder and CEO at Invincea. Prior to founding Invincea, he was a Program Manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) where he created and managed an extensive portfolio of cyber security programs.

He has previously held roles as Chief Scientist in the Center for Secure Information Systems at George Mason University and as Vice President of Research at Cigital, Inc. Anup has published more than 40 peer-reviewed articles in cyber security journals.

He is a frequent on-air contributor to CNN, CNBC, NPR and Bloomberg TV. A number of major media outlets carry his commentaries on cyber security issues including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, Associated Press, FoxNews and USA Today.

He is currently a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board and has served on the Naval Studies Board.

 

MarkWalsh200x133Mark Walsh was formerly the CEO and Co-Founder of GeniusRocket, a pioneer in “crowdsourced” advertising media. Prior, Mark served as Chairman and CEO of VerticalNet and was Senior VP and corporate officer at America Online. He also was the President of GEnie, General Electric’s online service, and director of New Business Development at Home Box Office in New York.

Since 2002, Mark has managed a small angel/venture fund and has served as advisor or board member to many of his investments. They include: NutriSystems, Blackboard, Half.com, LifeShield Security, Day Software, Transactis, MobilePosse, SpectrumK12 Solutions and others. He is currently lead director for TheStreet.com and a board member of Tribeca Flashpoint Academy.

 

Event Summary: PitchNSI Boston – Drones, Robotics and Unmanned Systems

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Government reps from DARPA, Navy, Office of Naval Research and Department of Homeland Security take in the tech innovation

Government reps take in the tech innovation

On May 20th, TandemNSI held its first event outside of the Washington D.C. region. We took the show to Boston and held a PitchNSI event that was co-sponsored by MassChallenge, TechStars, Bolt, and Xconomy.

DARPA used the event to announce their Robotics Fast Track Program. DARPA’s expected outcome of this experimental program is to demonstrate the ability for robotics projects to be performed at an asymmetric advantage in time, cost, and contribution of the efforts in comparison to more traditional applied research areas.

The event attracted companies who focus on drones, robotics and unmanned vehicles. Out of the companies who applied, ten were chosen to pitch national defense agencies with the hope of educating, inspiring and finding a business opportunity.

We were impressed by the quality of the presentations and level of innovation and we are definitely looking forward to doing another event in Boston in the future. We are also working to identify the next to hold a PitchNSI event. Stay tuned!

Below is a summary of the companies that were chosen to pitch during the event.

Accion Systems

Accion Systems in an MIT spinout formed to commercialize novel propulsion systems for satellites. Using a new propellant and cutting edge manufacturing techniques, Accion’s ion engines can add maneuverability and lifetime to small satellites and can be scaled up to support large satellites up to 2000 kg. The team launched its first satellite today and is currently in production of its first batch of systems for commercial sale.

Bounce Imaging

Ravi Khanna of Energy Harvesters

Ravi Khanna of Energy Harvesters

Bounce Imaging makes low-cost, easy-to-use, throwable cameras and sensors that allow users to see what lies in a space without having to expose themselves to harm. The units take omnidirectional images every half second while in-flight, delivering these along with audio and sensor data to the user’s smartphone. Our unique image processing algorithm then instantly stitches these images into seamless panoramas in under 0.3 seconds, allowing users to see the space from a first-person perspective everywhere the unit has traveled in the room. Our goal is to provide first responders of all types the situational awareness they need to keep themselves and civilians safe while achieving their missions.

CoolChip Technologies

Our mission is to transform the electronics cooling industry. How? With fully integrated forced convection solutions powered by our CoolChip Kinetic Cooling Engine. Think about it… Over the last half-century, everything in computing has significantly evolved – everything but the fan-cooler. Thermal management is critical to product performance and longevity, yet fan-coolers remain antiquated and have not kept pace with modern electronics innovation. At CoolChip Technologies™, we’re addressing the challenge of heat removal from electronics with the introduction of Kinetic Cooling, a revolutionary technology that delivers up to 50% improvement in cooling and achieves a 2x smaller form factor at significantly lower noise levels for today’s high-density electronic world.

Ecovent

Ed Bard of Response Technologies and Sarah Haig of Silverside Detectors share a demo table

Ed Bard of Response Technologies and Sarah Haig of Silverside Detectors share a demo table

Ecovent created the world’s first intelligent home zoning system that delivers complete room-by-room climate control through easy-to-install, self-configuring sensors and vents. Ecovent lets homeowners use a mobile phone or computer to control their home’s temperature on a room-by-room basis. This is accomplished through an advanced system of vents and sensors that intelligently diagnoses the factors impacting room temperature. The homeowner simply sets the desired temperature for each room (including empty rooms) and Ecovent automatically does the rest.  Ecovent controls the thermostat and by wirelessly and automatically opening or closing vents in a room, Ecovent delivers the precise amount of conditioned air, bringing the room to the exact desired temperature.  The vents’ faceplates were designed to optimize airflow. By eliminating louvers found in traditional vents and using smooth sweeping surfaces, the vents allow more air to pass through. As a result, vents are virtually silent.

Empire Robotics

Empire Robotics is enabling the collaborative, agile future of robotic automation through innovation leadership. With our first product, the VERSABALL® Gripper, we are leading a new revolution of safe and repurposeable robotic grippers that are easy to use. Our simple versatile solutions help make robotic automation a financially viable option for many smaller and medium sized manufactures in the United States.

Energy Harvesters

Energy Harvesters is commercializing a personal electronics mobile power source. This off-the-grid device will charge Smartphone and portable electronic device batteries as you walk or directly power applications such as footwear heaters and GPS locators. The Walking Charger ™ is a device that will be incorporated within footwear for OEM branded products, serving: military, recreation, work boot and consumer end users. It will be configured to be swappable between footwear to serve additional global consumer market segments. The ability to Charge Mobile Electronic Batteries Anytime, Anywhere ™ becomes a reality with Energy Harvesters Walking Charger.

Metamagnetics

Metamagnetics Inc. is a small business specializing in the development and production of electronic devices based on magnetic materials that offer a competitive advantage for existing and next generation technology solutions in communications, radar, sensing, and protection of RF systems.

Neurala

Neurala makes deep learning software brains for robots that mimic the way the human brain works. Our bio-inspired approach differs from traditional approaches by using deep learning to build robot brains that continuously observe and adapt to their environment, much like humans do. Neurala uses massively parallel GPU processing to achieve what others have not. Neurala was awarded a patent for GPU-based systems designed to run artificial neural network models, a key to modern approaches for artificial intelligence.

Pyrolite Labs

Fire continues to be a major cause of materiel destruction and loss of life. Despite extensive research in this area, there have been no new methods for extinguishing and/or manipulating fire in almost 50 years. A new means for rapid and effective suppression of fires are needed. A radically new approach to both fire manipulation and suppression lies in the realization that flames are cold plasma consisting of fast moving negative electrons and slower positive ions. Since typical flames cannot exist without stable plasma, this provides an effective point of attack: control the flame to control the fire. Control means flame manipulation. The Fire Control and Containment Suppression System controls the flames of the fire directly; localizes and directs the flames’ heat away from people and combustible materials; and controls the shape of the flame so that corridors of escape can be created. We have created an electromagnetic way to control and contain the growth and spreading of flames to other combustible materials.

Response Technologies

Response Technologies is a New England based startup founded by two technical and experienced leaders with direct market experience. We have an outstanding patent pending additive manufacturing technology platform that allows us to eliminate seams in flexible vessels. Some examples of flexible vessels are: flexible fuel tanks, above ground storage tanks, car airbags, oil containment booms, biomedical devices, inflatable rafts and emergency evacuation slides for aircraft. By eliminating seams we create a more reliable, safer, more environmentally friendly, lower cost and 40% lighter product. All in, this market is over $30B and our technology will disrupt it. We have completed proof of concept and initial market validation with several of the market leaders. We are making our first prototypes now and expect them completed in June 2015.

Silverside Detectors

Silverside Detectors is developing large-area, low-cost neutron detectors for wide-area search and security for special nuclear material. Designed for discreet deployment in existing infrastructure (including both static locations such as jersey barriers, and mobile deployments such as municipal vehicles), the detectors can be networked to cover large geographic areas and high-volume traffic throughput, without compromising signal sensitivity. Silverside’s technology takes advantage of manufacturing best practices from the lithium battery and double-paned window industries, to achieve robust, scalable detectors that provide equal performance to the market standard (He-3 radiation portal monitor) at 1/10 the cost.

upLift Robotics

Drones flying above us is not a futuristic dream, but something we will see in our lifetimes. However, today’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs/Drones) can fly for only 20 minutes before requiring a 90 minute recharge. How can we power them to extend flight time and distance? Enter upLift Robotics–a network of connected stations which swap out, rather than charge, the universal batteries on UAVs. Our vision is to standardize and deploy a network of ‘gas stations’ for the growing drone economy.

Event Summary: PitchNSI Cyber Security and Data Analytics

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John Hanna - In-Q-Tel, Frank Pound - DARPA; Dan Doney - DIA

Jonathan Aberman – TandemNSI, John Hanna – In-Q-Tel, Frank Pound – DARPA; Dan Doney – DIA

Last week, on May 14th, TandemNSI hosted another pitch event that brought together experts in national security agencies and young entrepreneurial companies who have technologies that can improve national security. We had a strong list of ten companies who made pitches and hosted a demo table.

See all event pictures here.

3 Round Stones, Inc.
3 Round Stones provides Callimachus Enterprise™, the leading platform for combining complex data. We’ve been on the forefront of scalable data platforms that allow information to be read by humans and processed by machines. What was previously hidden is now discoverable. Our products are used by professionals working in life science research and healthcare delivery to reduce data silos and make information available for new insights, new perspectives and new conclusions.

PitchNSI Demo Tables

PitchNSI Demo Tables

Anatrope, Inc.
Anatrope has developed sensors and a business intelligence platform that identifies unique signals emanating from vehicles for use in location-based marketing, perimeter security, and fleet management.

FlockData
FlockData provides an open-source information management and data integration platform, with a multi-model data store. In short, we help companies manage information in ways like building their own business graph (think Facebook’s social graph, Google’s knowledge graph, Twitter’s interest graph) and leveraging that for organizational intelligence and decision-making.

Pitches in action

Pitches in action

Illuminate
At Analyst Platform™ we have combined our expertise in cyber threat analysis and net defense with our enterprise software development background to provide commercially developed and supported web-based software that addresses fundamental issues within cyber security. Conceived by experienced threat analysts, Illuminate™ is the first platform that solves the issues surrounding the creation and management of effective rules to detect and prevent malicious cyber activity. Our Illuminate software automates tedious, time-consuming day-to-day activities, improves situational awareness and makes cyber analysts more efficient and more effective. We increase your understanding of cyber threats and create effective rules that enable you to strengthen the defensive posture of your networks without having to replace your existing cyber security investments.

Knowledge Based Systems Inc.
KBSI is a dynamic analysis, modeling, and systems/software development company which transitions innovative research and technology into cutting edge solutions and software for government and commercial clients worldwide. Specializing in business process redesign, corporate integration software and services, resource and production optimization planning, data mining and analytics, algorithm development, discrete event simulation, Neural and Bayesian network-based solutions, building information modeling and development, semantic search and ontology development, KBSI has established a reputation for improving customer’s bottom lines and producing state-of-the-art commercial products and solutions. And now KBSI is looking for either end-user support for SBIR transition requirements and/or funding to complete productization of some of these solutions, such as the one we are demonstrating today.

Krypteia LLC
Krypteia LLC obtains online data without being detected. We are experts in applying Virtual Tradecraft℠ to exploit the social media, deep web, and Dark Web domains. Our techniques are the online analogs of traditional street tradecraft and do not rely on technology for security. We are thought leaders in the cyber-intelligence community. Core competencies include: Development and use of Virtual Tradecraft℠ enabling secure and misattributable Internet research; Social media, Deep Web, and Dark Web search techniques; Open source validation of data from other collection disciplines, etc.

Power Fingerprinting
PFP Cybersecurity (aka Power Fingerprinting) solves the detection gap problem – only ~50% of the known malware are detected at any time and the average detection time is 229 days (2014). The PFP next-generation endpoint security detects anomaly by using power analysis on AC, DC and EMI. The solution detects in machine time with high degrees of confidence. It is effective and unique for detecting both hardware and software threats, including malware, BIOS attacks, firmware attacks, hardware Trojans and counterfeits. PFP addresses supply chain and configuration management, cloud infrastructure, internet-of-things, and critical infrastructure.

Relevant Security Corp.
Real Privacy Management™ (RPM) from Relevant Security Corp. was specifically designed as a lightweight cryptographic system that is operationally efficient for the embedded systems marketplace. Examples include however, are not limited to FPGA, ASIC, SoC, IC, and device applications that define today’s market for the Internet of Things (IoT). RPM is small enough, fast enough and efficient enough to allow for the continuous mutual authentication and security of all transactions on any device, on any network.

Skai, Inc.
Skai, Inc. has developed object orientation for Hadoop. Skai was founded with the backing of an MIT faculty member. Applications of Skai include data fusion, data virtualization, and real-time synchronization. We are excited to present the next generation of object-based production on Hadoop. For more information, please contact Charles Henderson, CEO at <charlie@skaihub.com> or (540) 460-6688.

SQRRL
Sqrrl is the Big Data Analytics company that lets organizations pinpoint and react to unusual activity by uncovering hidden connections in their data. Sqrrl’s linked data analysis platform gives analysts a way to visually investigate these connections, allowing them to rapidly understand their surrounding contexts and take action. With Sqrrl’s cybersecurity solution, users can detect and respond to advanced data breaches associated with cyber-espionage activity, insider threats, and other types of hard-to-detect attacks. At the core of Sqrrl’s architecture are a variety of Big Data technologies, including Hadoop, link analysis, machine learning, Data-Centric Security, and advanced visualization.

Event Summary: Coffee and Donuts with Todd Stottlemyer

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Stottlemyer Coffee and Donuts

Todd Stottlemyer

By Cara O’Donnell

Todd Stottlemyer is known as Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors of IT company Acentia, which closed its sale just earlier this month to Maximus. According to TandemNSI’s Jonathan Aberman, however, Stottlemyer’s really the guy who’s “the crossroads of a lot of tech things that happen in our region.” Stottlemyer brought his advice, anecdotes, and his thoughts on the region’s tech scene to this month’s Coffee and Donuts presentation.

In the National Capital region, says Stottlemyer, “we’re poised to be a leader in business to business technology,” saying the opportunities here for B2B collaboration are unparalleled, but that there are a lot of challenges. Companies are less accepting of failure in the technology space, and entrepreneurs really need to persevere. What really sets the area apart from other tech companies, however, is the desire from tech communities here to really be a part of the community.

“People start businesses here to serve the country. They want to do good,” Stottlemyer explains.

That sense of community also holds true for Stottlemyer’s philosophy on being a CEO. Having experience as both a company founder and as the CEO for an existing company, he finds the philosophy of communication is a key to success and discovering the true influencers in a company or marketplace. He added that Millennials are especially tuned into influence in community, saying they want to be successful, but they also look for organizations that are connected in a way beyond the bottom line.

“You have to be an enlightened leader,” he explains, saying that being a good listener and being inquisitive are key in finding out the truth. “I get energy from being around people and from building teams. As a CEO you are the steward for a lot of people. I never forget that.”

Military.com: Fast-Paced Technologies Passing by Military’s Acquisition Culture

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Pentagon leaders worry that the U.S. military’s acquisition process could leave it behind. The article posted by Military.com discusses some of the initiatives taken by the Defense Department to speed up the process and make significant changes to the fix it.

Tandem NSI was mentioned as the type of organization that could help solve the Pentagon’s culture and contracting issues. Read the rest of the piece here.

Event Summary: Internet of Things Panel Discussion

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Panel from back of room

(L-R) Edward Rhyne, Dr. John Main, Jonathan Aberman, Linwood Creekmore, Mark Eichorn
(Click to see all event pictures)

On March 24th, we brought together a panel of executives from government agencies to help our entrepreneurial audience become familiar with the strategic national issues involving technology along with the business opportunities and implications of the Internet of Things (IoT). Panelists included Edward Rhyne of Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA), Dr. John Main a Program Manager in the Defense Sciences Office at DARPA,  Linwood Creekmore of the Department of Defense (AMOD) team, and Mark Eichorn of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Division of Privacy and Identity Protection. (See all event photos here)

A great jumping-off point for this discussion was the FTC report titled The Internet of Things: Privacy and Security in a Connected World published in January of this year which put a definition forward of IoT and began to articulate potential risks to consumers. The report indicates that number of “things” has now surpassed the number of people connected to the internet yet consumer adoption hasn’t really begun to grow rapidly.

Packed house at IoT Panel

Packed house at IoT Panel (click to see all event photos)

Discussion was fascinating as panelists talked through the implications of tremendous amounts of data being generated by new devices  and the data security, ownership and valuation issues that have to be worked through as a result. When asked whether the market would be able to sort through these issues or whether government would have to get involved, panelists said the answer wasn’t clear. Speculative possibilities included a business, union, social trend or government agency or some combination that helps organize this new space. It was clear that this phase of consumer technology adoption will yield great transition and the opportunities are capricious and weighty. Below are some of the areas of opportunity that were discussed.

Opportunities

Post-panel discussions

One of many post-panel discussions (click to see all event photos)

The assumption with all of these opportunities is that any hardware is already secure.

  1. Data security
  2. Data controls and best practices (see the report by FTC titled Data Brokers: A Call For Transparency and Accountability)
  3. Accelerating the number of “things” hooked up to the internet via commercialization of technologies
  4. Knitting technologies together (e.g. real-time traffic report changes the time that your alarm clock goes off and the time your coffee pot goes on)

As with most TandemNSI events, someone in the audience raises the question of transparency in government agencies so that entrepreneurs can channel their resources into solutions important to the government. As the Tandem community knows, our primary mission is to find ways of making opportunities clearer to local entrepreneurs and build bridges between government agencies and relevant technologies. We continue to welcome your thoughts and ideas but your continued involvement in our programs is what will have the greatest impact. Please feel free to leave thoughts and comments here!

In the meantime, here are a few government resources that our panelists mentioned at the event:

 

Event Summary: Coffee and Donuts with Blake Hall and Matt Thompson of ID.me

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Jonathan Aberman thanks Blake Hall, Matt Thompson of IDme

Jonathan Aberman thanks Blake Hall, Matt Thompson of ID.me

I was excited to meet CEO Blake Hall and COO Matt Thompson because their experience leading up to ID.me seemed very unique: Iraq/Afghanistan war veterans, Bronze Star recipients, muscly entrepreneur distinction in Google search results, correspondent with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Harvard MBAs. It felt a little like we’d be meeting celebrities but Blake and Matt kept it real and gave us some great tidbits.

Ideas Fleshed Out During the Hour:

  1. Combat veterans are uniquely qualified to be entrepreneurs – the things that make them good in combat are the same qualities that make them good high risk decision makers. Blake and Matt are determined to be examples for other veterans and investors to follow.
  2. Pivoting – Adaptability is another one of those attributes that make veterans good entrepreneurs. The original concept for their business was to provide daily deals for veterans at a time in the market when Groupon and LivingSocial were all the rage. Successfully solving the authentication problem was their first hurdle to providing deals to the right audience and they quickly realized that this solution had broad applications to consumer product businesses AND government agencies. They pivoted.
  3. Building a Niche – Their idea for solving the authentication problem was to mirror the way people authenticate in the “real” world using an official identifier (think drivers license or U.S. Passport). An oversimplification of their technology uses layers of “high friction” validation that is customized based on the application/transaction. People are used to logging in using a Facebook or Twitter ID for some things, but they wouldn’t consider using that that type of authentication when their SS# or medical record is involved. The ID.me network protects this highly private information in a way that social networks can’t.
  4. Transparency, Coachability – Their general rule is to be completely transparent about the things that keep them up at night so investors can become part of the solution. Blake and Matt welcome blunt, fierce criticism and believe that being self-aware needs to be balanced with strong leadership and vision. This is a combination that is attractive to investors and advisers because it yields few surprises and breeds an environment of trust.
(L-R) Jonathan Aberman, Blake Hall, Matt Thompson

(L-R) Jonathan Aberman, Blake Hall, Matt Thompson

You can read some related articles – some written by Blake Hall, also an accomplished writer.