The Washington Post

Capital Buzz: Parature’s former chief executive reprises role

We checked in last week with Ching-Ho Fung , chief executive and co-founder of Parature, a McLean-based technology firm that helps companies with online customer service. Taiwan native Ching-Ho earned his master’s in computer science at the University of Maryland and was the first angel investor in Blackboard. He also helped start other start-ups such as Performix, which was acquired and eventually integrated into IBM.

Ching-Ho returned as chief executive of Parature in May of 2011 after taking a four-year break from the firm to run two companies in Beijing. The company’s clients include WebMD, IBM, The Washington Post, Blackboard and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others.

Ching-Ho took a few minutes to update us on Parature, his favorite local companies and his golf game.

You left Parature for four years, and then returned last year to replace another chief executive who served only 18 months. What happened?

I was available and the board approached me to take the company to the next level. At 55, my experience and skills can be very useful to make Parature the next new star in the local region, like Blackboard. I want to get up in the morning and work again.

Parature is very much supported by a lot of investors, Valhalla Partners, Sierra Ventures, Accel Partners, which took Facebook public. We also have entrepreneur investors Cal Simmons and Frank Bonsal.

What is Parature’s niche, given that and other companies such as Microsoft are competing in the customer service sector?

Parature needs to focus on areas that does not have any advantages, such as education, federal government, state governments, associations, the gaming industry. We work with Microsoft closely on sales force automation and customers service.

We have better focus. For several years, we were trying to do too many things for too many customers. Now we have focus on the areas we are good at — which is the federal government, education, institutions and associations, the gaming industries, health care and media.

Are you happy with the company’s growth?

I’m not happy with the growth in the first 10 years. I’m happy with the last two quarters. In the last two months, we hired 12 more people. Now we are around 100 employees, give or take. We are definitely experiencing high growth right now.

What local companies do you follow?

I like Eloqua (a Tysons Corner-based software company that helps companies and organizations). It’s a new marketing software to help organizations generate more sales. It is going to file an [initial public offering] very soon. There is a new company called 2tor that is an up and coming star. They are online education technology that enable colleges and institutions to expand their offerings to more students. Of course I like Blackboard. I was the first investor when they were in the basement of a law firm at 20th and N [streets in Washington]. I was early, early, early. I worked with [co-founders Michael Chasen and Matthew Pittinsky] closely when they were both 24 because I had operations experience.

I hear you are a good golfer?

I live on the 18th hole of Trump [National Golf Club in Potomac Falls.]. I’ve been a member for 16 years. Before Trump took over two years ago, my friends would make excuses about how they couldn’t come. Now, when I invite them, they say, ‘Oh, it’s Trump. I’m coming.’ ”

The Buzz hears:

Golfsmith has opened two new stores, in Sterling and Fairfax, as it continues to expand in the region. The chain opened its first D.C. area store last year in Tysons Corner.

Rob Klink has been named executive chef for Del Frisco’s Grille at 1201 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W., at the old Les Halles location. He’s best known around these parts as former exec chef at Oceanaire Seafood Room, which he left to help his wife open her own restaurant in suburban Maryland. Del Frisco’s Grille opens July 14.

Erik Gutiérrez has been named executive chef of Indigo Landing in Alexandria. Previously, he worked as sous chef at Blue on Blue at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., and the acclaimed Morrison House in Alexandria.

Uber-deal lawyer/consigliere George Stamas (SRA International, Constellation Energy, Monumental Sports), a partner at Kirkland & Ellis, is back from a week in France, where he was mixing business and pleasure in Burgundy and Provence. “We were there on the day of the French and Greek elections. Gloom and doom set in for most right-thinking folks, and wine producers, and the Euro kept sinking. So we did the only logical thing under the circumstances, we drank more and better vino.”

Magic phone call

So how does a $15 million entrepreneur get a juicy investment from moguls Ted Leonsis and Steve Case?

It helps to know them.

Fred Singer, 49, who worked at AOL for several years during the tech heyday back in the 1990s, was fielding offers from investors a few months ago for Echo360, his Dulles-based education company that records college classroom lectures for students to access anytime on their computers and mobile devices.

Singer needed a reference, so he called his old boss, Leonsis.

”Another fund was looking for us and I called Ted as a reference,” said Singer. “When I called him, I told him about [Echo360] and he said, ‘Hmmm, maybe we should invest.’ ”

And that led to a $25 million investment this month from Revolution Fund, which is the Leonsis/Case $450 million investment vehicle.

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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