Capital Buzz: Vintage rides take over Discovery headquarters

October 7, 2012

Dogtopia, the Tysons Corner-based doggie day-care chain, has taken on a partner.

Dogtopia founders Amy Nichols and her husband, Mike, have sold a chunk of the business to an investment firm with a goal of speeding up the chain’s national expansion to 400 locations in seven years.

“It has taken six years-plus to get to 25 locations,” said chief executive Amy Nichols, who quit her $160,000-a-year telecom job 10 years ago to pursue her dream of becoming an entrepreneur. “So if we want to expand, we can continue on a pace to open five or six a year, or we can go to the next level.”

So they have gone to the next level, teaming with Thomas Franchise Solutions, an investment firm, to help them scale up. Thomas was founded by Peter Thomas, best known for starting Century 21 Canada.

The money from the Thomas investment will allow Dogtopia to add staff and build infrastructure to facilitate franchisee training, increase brand awareness and centralize administrative and financial functions.

The company hopes to find regional developers interested in opening multiple franchises, who will share franchise sales fees and royalties with Dogtopia. In return, the developers will screen franchisees, oversee quality, and help with sales and with other business.

Nichols would not discuss the sale price to Thomas, except to say that she is still the majority owner.

A head for business

Washington entrepreneurs Christopher Tavlarides (Capitol Outdoor) and Jimmy Lynn, former AOL sports executive, have more on their mind these days than just promoting their documentary film, “The Good Son: The Life of Ray ‘Boom Boom’ Mancini.”

Tavlarides and Lynn are investors in X2Impact.com, a Seattle-based technology start-up that provides sensors and real-time concussion monitoring for athletes in contact sports.

“It’s going to revolutionize the way sports teams manage their players,” Tavlarides said. “They are going to put health before performance. It’s a good investment because we foresee a day that every league in America requires their players to be wearing our product.”

The National Football League earlier this season awarded X2Impact a contract for concussion assessment software.

X2Impact co-founder Rich Able, a former employee of Abbot Laboratories, knows Lynn from their days together as students in Japan.

Able, who got the idea for the company after his son was knocked unconscious playing high school football, called his friend because of Lynn’s contacts in the sports and investing worlds.

“I flew to D.C. to meet with Jimmy,” Able said. “We had dinner at Hook restaurant in Georgetown, and then we sat on the steps at Georgetown Harbor, where we smoked cigars and had a real discussion on how to move forward on this.”

X2Impact has raised $7 million from friends and family, and employs 22 software engineers at its Seattle headquarters.

Car show

Discovery Communications’ headquarters in Silver Spring morphed into a parking lot last week as 40 fancy cars were driven into the lobby and grounds to mark the first anniversary of Velocity, the television network’s exotic auto channel.

The display included everything from a snazzy 1955 Ferrari Mondial 500 to a classic 1938 Packard to the 1972 gas-guzzling Buick Riviera.

The Buzz hears:

A dozen 53-foot, 18-wheelers are heading from National Harbor to JK Moving Services in Sterling Wednesday in a convoy transporting 50 international moving executives. They are in Washington for the International Association of Movers conference at National Harbor. The executives on board will hail from far and wide — Venezuela, Russia, Bulgaria, Japan, Kazakhstan and Ireland — to name a few. They are scheduled to tour JK’s headquarters followed by a reception hosted by JK chief executive Chuck Kuhn.

Precision Tune Auto Care, based in Leesburg, is launching a smartphone app with XCO Software of McLean. The app lets car owners know when they need maintenance. XCO just built a new app for the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

Factoid of the week

$99.99That’s the price of the Under Armour Spine running shoe in the color “taxi” that Teddy Roosevelt was wearing when he won his first President’s Race (after 525 attempts) last week at the Washington Nationals’ final game of the season.

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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