A career built on Britches and Adworks now has an asterisk

Rick Hindin is back in business.

The veteran Washington entrepreneur, who co-founded Britches of Georgetowne in 1967, which became a local retail icon, has started a new company called Asterisks Group with partners Barry Taff and Howard Taske.

Taff is an attorney and longtime friend who helped with the legal work on Britches. Taske is a market data specialist who worked at Hindin’s District-based advertising firm, Adworks.

The purpose of Asterisks, Hindin said, is to help businesses improve their performance. Hindin’s fee is based on a percentage of the increased profits of his clients. So he only gets paid if they get better.

The name comes from the asterisk symbol, first recorded in 1610, which Hindin’s Web site said “has been used for centuries to identify sources of data, supporting references and details to further assure the writer’s intent and the reader’s understanding.”

Hindin said his company will review client data to decide if it can improve the bottom line. If not, Asterisks can prepare clients for a sale and help see them through the process.

Asterisks will focus on mid-level companies.

“I’ve succeeded enough and failed enough to know what the whole process is all about,” said Hindin, who will be running the firm out of an office in his Foxhall Crescent townhouse. “I’m a young 71. Nobody can keep up with me during the day. I will be doing this until I am 81 or 91.”

Hindin said Asterisks has yet to reel in a client. Hindin has been working with Bob Giaimo’s Silver Diner and Capital Restaurant Concept Group, a longtime Hindin client that runs J.Paul’s, Paolo’s, Neyla, Old Glory and Georgia Brown’s, for years on a personal basis.

The entrepreneur, who has lived in the Washington area since he was six, also owns a 50 percent interest in Adworks. Aside from Britches and Adworks, over the past 15 years he has as been a majority owner of the Chicken Out Rotisserie chain and Hinsilblon Laboratories, according to the Asterisks Web site.

Blu, looking for green

Nearly two-dozen tech-savvy businessmen, each with front-line operating experience, have made more than $3.5 million in investments — mostly in Washington area companies — in the past 60 days under the name Blu Venture Investors.

3CLogic of Rockville, Power Fingerprinting of Reston, Baltimore’s CiteLighter and two firms from outside Washington (StreamLink of Cleveland and EMU Solutions of South Bend, Ind.) were on the receiving end of Blu Venture money.

Blu Venture co-founder J.S. Gamble said he and his deep-pocketed colleagues are constantly probing a “Washington ecosystem” for rich technology start-ups.

“We have a lot of technologists in this area, and that is a common theme for our investments. There was a tsunami of good investment opportunities last fall, and it took several weeks to close them. ”

This isn’t your typical angel or venture capital firm. Blu Ventures doesn’t scoop up money from institutions such as universities, pensions and foundations. Blu Venture’s 21 members are putting their personal money on the line.

“It’s a different model,” said Gamble, who held senior positions in telecom and teaches entrepreneurship at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

Blu Venture was founded in August 2010. The group includes David Krauskopf, chairman of Reston-based Latista Technologies, and Washington investor Jim Hunt.

Since its founding, Blu Venture has invested $13.3 million in 14 companies, with two successful exits in the past two years. A majority of the group has to pony up before Blu Ventures invests in a company. Individual members typically invest between $45,000 and $65,000 each.

There has been only one dog in the investment pool since they started. They made a bad bet on a chief executive.

A prescription for a new business

Inova Health System is diving into the pharmacy business. The sprawling, Northern Virginia medical care complex opened two in-house pharmacies at the end of last year — one at Inova Fair Oaks and one at Inova Fairfax. A third is planned for this spring, at Inova Fairfax emergency room.

The pharmacies are called Inova Pharmacy Plus.

Even non-hospital patients can buy their drugs at Inova pharmacies.

Inova chief executive Knox Singleton made the announcement in a video on his blog, saying that the company was getting into the pharmacy business for two big reasons.

One is “ensuring [patients who leave the hospital] have the proper medications, they have instructions and they are really fully capable of exercising and executing them after discharge,” Singleton said.

The second reason is financial: Inova’s compensation in part is based on keeping patients from returning to the hospital after discharge.

“Taking your medicines on time and in the proper amount and sequence is a key part of that,” he said.

There’s another financial motivation that he didn’t say: Why let your patients’ drug purchases go to CVS or Walgreens when you can keep them in house?

Thomas Heath is a local business reporter and columnist, writing about entrepreneurs and various companies big and small in the Washington Metropolitan area. Previously, he wrote about the business of sports for The Post’s sports section for most of a decade.
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