Capital Buzz: Drones, hunks and a tweet heard ’round the world

Thomas Heath is away, so the rest of the team found some tidbits to pass on in his absence.

Here was one event where it is OK to drone on.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International — better known as AUVSI — took over the Walter E. Washington Convention Center last week, drawing more than 7,600 registered attendees and nearly 600 exhibitors, according to an association spokeswoman.

Among the highlights spotted on the exhibit floor were a Textron Shadow M2 —the company’s next-generation unmanned aircraft with a 25-foot wingspan — hanging from the ceiling and a “Wall-E”-like robot crawling around the Northrop Grumman booth.

There was also plenty of swag to go around. Companies distributed pens, tote bags and candy — and late in the day, there were drinks and appetizers on the exhibitor floor.

— Marjorie Censer

Reality can be moving

Forget junk. These “hunks” are in search of some good advertising.

Nick Friedman and Omar Soliman, who founded College Hunks Hauling Junk in Washington, have spent the past eight years beefing up their trash removal business. Last week, they entertained offers for AMC’s “The Pitch,” where two advertising agencies competed to come up with the company’s newest marketing campaign.

Reality television is nothing new for the duo, which has been on HGTV’s “House Hunters,” Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker’”and A&E’s “Fix This House.” In 2009, the co-founders appeared on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” where they rallied potential investors for money.

This time around, they’re in charge.

“There’s certainly less pressure,” Friedman said, of appearing on “The Pitch.” “But the stakes are still just as high because we’re making a critical decision.”

— Abha Bhattarai

Custom crowdfunding

McLean-based personalized apparel company CustomInk is breaking into the crowdfunding business.

The firm said last week it now allows people to design custom T-shirts on its Web site, then sell them to friends, family and others to raise money for a specific cause. The initiative, called Booster, resembles popular crowdfunding sites that allow people to collect small sums of money from a large group of people for a philanthropic cause or business venture, often giving donors a token gift for their support.

Example causes on the company’s Web site include T-shirts demonstrating support for school associations, medical treatments, animal rescues and beauty contestants.

“A Booster is so much more than a fundraiser,” CustomInk boasts. “T-shirts raise awareness, boost spirits and create a lasting connection like nothing else.”

— Steven Overly

Staying busy

Jerry Halpin sold his massive Tysons Corner holdings in 2010, but 2,000 miles west, in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming, he is still at work on dozens of acres of real estate.

In the 1960s, Halpin, who built more of Tysons than anyone with his WestGroup firm, bought ranch land alongside a national park that he has built into Lost Creek Ranch Lodge & Spa.

Rather than retire there, Halpin has been flying back and forth between Northern Virginia and Wyoming, sometimes inviting friends and partners to join him. WestGroup vet Tom Fleury, now head of Cityline Partners, went out with his family this summer for horseback riding and fly fishing. “It’s pretty spectacular just to go look up at the mountains, you realize what a speck of dust you are in the universe,” he said.

Fleury said Halpin, 90, was trying to make the spa work as a private business and wasn’t sure what he would do next. “His health is good. I worry a little bit about what he decides to do when he actually decides to enter retirement. What do you do when you’ve done what he’s done in his life and really retire? But the next thing we know he’ll probably go off and acquire a company somewhere.”

— Jonathan O’Connell

Cellular cash

What’s the going rate on cellular communication towers? $811 million when you sell nearly 4,500 in one bulk transaction, Reston-based NII Holdings revealed last week.

The company, which sells Nextel mobile services in Latin America, announced it would sell 2,790 towers in Brazil and 1,666 towers in Mexico to American Tower Corp. Nextel Brazil and Nextel Mexico will lease back the towers for 12 years.

The money raised from the sale will allow NII Holdings to invest heavily in infrastructure in Brazil and Mexico, its largest markets, where the company intends to unfurl communication services capable of supporting data-intensive smartphones.

The sale of the towers is subject to regulatory approval and expected to close by the end of the year.

— S.O.

A sustainable tweet

How far can one Tweet go in spreading a message?

District-based World Wildlife Fund will find out on Tuesday, when they’ll see the outcome of an experimental social media campaign they’ve conducted around “Earth Overshoot Day,” the point at which the nonprofit says that human kind’s resource consumption for the year will exceed what the Earth can sustain. (For the business-minded, this is the equivalent of running an environmental budget deficit for 2013, and we are poised to fall into the red on Aug. 20.)

On Tuesday, a single message crafted by WWF will go out at the exact same moment from the Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr accounts of every user who signed up to show their support on social media. (All told, those registered so far have a combined 1.5 million followers or friends.)

The intended effect, of course, is to flood the zone with a consistent message, to “achieve a critical mass of conversation around this all at once,” said Brendan Rohr, the organization’s media specialist. “If that happens, hopefully that leads to further dialogue.”

— Sarah Halzack

Akin Gump’s newest partner

$16,000That’s the amount Teddy Roosevelt helped the Washington Nationals’ foundation raise. The Nats’ mascot made an appearance at a recent fundraiser hosted by the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation and District-based law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. The event, which auctioned off Nats memorabilia, was held at Teddy & the Bully Bar in the District and drew 100 people, including the team’s General Manager Mike Rizzo, pitcher Ian Krol, Akin Gump D.C. partner in charge Tony Pierce and Steve Schulman, head of the law firm’s pro bono practice.

— Catherine Ho

 
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