Region’s tech names got big play in Austin


The Bayou in Georgetown in September 1998, shortly before its closing. The venue will be the subject of a documentary out this year. (MICHAEL WILLIAMSON/The Washington Post)

Members of Washington’s tech niche descended on Austin last week for the South By Southwest Interactive Festival Conference, a music and tech fest.

Leslie Bradshaw of District-based Jess3, a Web design and development firm, sent 18 people to the conference. Jess3 ran a Samsung “Smart Wall” display that was tracking trends based on social media activity on Twitter, Foursquare and photo sites. Bradshaw said she also did an interview with Fast Co. and was on panels covering data visualization and women in technology.

“Men aren’t networked to women like they are men, so we need bridges in order to bring more diversity and effectiveness to boards, the C-Suite and funded start-ups,” Bradshaw said.

Pete Snyder of Disruptor Capital joined a panel on “People Powered: Technology and Revolution,” which included digital campaign guru David All of the David All Group and Democratic political consultant Joe Trippi.

Other local tech shakers at SXSW included Patrick Ruffini of EngageDC, Jake Ward of the Application Developers Alliance and Kristen Soltis of The Winston Group .

The Buzz hears:

Two local companies are in hiring mode: Midtown Group, a staffing firm run by Helen Stefan Moreau, is hiring 10 people over the next few months. The Washington Group of Northwestern Mutual is recruiting 40 financial representatives, as well as 20 financial representative interns, over the course of 2012.

Let Them Eat Cake, a cake contest at Tysons Galleria sponsored by Les Dames d’Escoffier, is to feature four top cake chefs as well as celebrity judges such as Carla Hall from ABC’s “The Chew” (and “Top Chef”); former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier; and Heather Chittum Roth, former “Top Chef: Just Desserts” contender. The event is March 24 and 25.

Lights! Camera!

Four local journalists are about to make their filmmaking debuts with a full-length documentary on The Bayou, the legendary Georgetown music hall that lived from 1953 to 1998.

Video production company executive Dave Lilling, C-SPAN studio host Bill Scanlan and writers Vinnie Perrone (a former Washington Post staffer) and Dave Nuttycombe have spent 13 years producing “The Bayou: D.C.’s Killer Joint.” The project is scheduled for telecast on public television stations in Maryland and Virginia later this year.

The film chronicles the club’s music and characters from its days as a Dixieland jazz haunt (1953 to 1965) and a rock-and-roll showplace (1965 to 1998). Count Basie and Woody Herman dazzled jazz lovers there, and Wild Bill Whelan hit high notes with and without his cornet. The filmmakers have engaged online fundraiser Kickstarter.com until the end of the month to help offset the estimated $60,000 cost.

Business school

Is there something in the water at St. John’s College High School?

The school in Northwest D.C., known mostly for a long list of alumni in the construction and real estate business, also gave the world such local business success stories as the late financier Joe Robert, former AOL co-founder Jim Kimsey, real estate manager J oe Borger, as well as father-and-son businessmen Ed and Brendan Quinn.

Now there’s Nick DeSarno, class of ’97, who started Rock Spring Contracting in Kensington in May 2010 with Georgetown Prep grad Sean Keegan. Other principals include Brad Richardson (Gonzaga ’97) and Chris Leonette of Cleveland.

The company is grossing $4 million a year.

“It’s been a lot of hard work starting a company in this environment,” said DeSarno, 32, who studied finance at Virginia Tech before cutting his teeth at Reston-based homebuilder NVR. “But we felt we had the right ingredients, and whether it’s this environment or not, we didn’t want to wait. We want to be the one-stop shop for general contractors looking for a demolition, dry wall and painting subcontractor.”

Rock Spring employs 20 people and most of its work is in the District.

Factoid of the Week

Mercer and District-based HelloWallet say that 20 of Mercer’s benefits administration employer-clients now provide access to HelloWallet’s online financial guidance services for more than 54,000 employees. HelloWallet helps employees improve financial wellness.

54K+

Number of people who have access to HelloWallet through Mercer

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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