Social media pioneer starts investment firm

January 8, 2012

Pete Snyder isn’t resting. He is catching the next wave.

A month ago, the early social media pioneer was an executive at Meredith Corp., which had bought his New Media Strategies firm in 2007 — making Snyder and many NMS employees wealthy and happy.

Snyder, 39, left Meredith at the end of 2011 and started Disruptor Capital, a seed and angel investment firm owned and run by him.

“We are funding and growing disruptive technologies, ideas and entrepreneurs,” said Snyder in a phone call. Snyder is recovering from a recent surfing injury to his rotator cuff, which he first hurt as a wrestler at William & Mary.

Snyder is now investing an undisclosed sum in Potomac Research Group, a four-year-old firm founded by media entrepreneur David Bradley, which provides analysis of federal legislative activities and regulatory policies to institutional investors.

Although Snyder would not talk numbers, he acknowledged Disruptor will be the largest outside shareholder of PRG, which is now owned and run by former Bradley lieutenant Suzanne Clark.

“Potomac Research Group fits the mold of a disruptive company,” said Snyder, who started NMS at age 26. “It figured out in this day and age, when transparency rules, that information is more important than influence. That is a seismic shift in how people look at Washington and this region. Markets move on that information, and that’s why PRG will flourish.”

Snyder said he is looking to make five or six investments over the next 18 months.

Google votes for localdesign firm

If the Google 2012 elections site looks familiar, it is because District-based Jess3 helped design it and is now helping manage it.

Jess3, which specializes in Web design, branding and social media marketing, is headquartered on L Street NW above the Farragut North Metro station. It got the Google job last June, but the site didn’t go live until the start of this year.

“We have a dedicated team of 15 working on the project,” said Jess3 president Leslie Bradshaw.

The site is built for everyone from political junkies to journalists to voters, candidates and their staffs.

Off and running

Entrepreneur John Delaney, chairman and founder of Chevy Chase-based banking and finance firm CapitalSource, has had the political itch for several years. Last week, Delaney pushed the button and filed papers to seek the Democratic nomination for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

He is taking a leave of absence — effective Jan. 4 — from his paid position as executive chairman, in order to pursue the seat, currently held by longtime incumbent Republican Roscoe Bartlett. (He’ll remain chairman without pay). The 6th was redistricted last year to include parts of Montgomery County.

“The same people who have been running CapitalSource for the past year will continue to run it,” said Delaney, 48. “I have not run day-to-day operations for over a year.”

Those duties have been shared between CapitalSource chief executive James J. Pieczynski and CapitalSource Bank chief executive Tad Lowrey in Los Angeles.

Delaney, of Potomac, has started several companies in addition to CapitalSource. He is running for office because “I’ve got good leadership qualities, and I think we need that in Washington.”

Offshore competition

Georgetown-based D.C. Community Ventures has loaned $400,000 to Baltimore’s Catalyst IT Service, according to Community Ventures’ co-founder and managing partner Karim Zia.

Catalyst brings candidates in and trains them for 20 weeks. The benefit: companies can hire Catalyst IT grads to do computer work for the same price, if not cheaper, of those based offshore in India and elsewhere.

“The whole model of Catalyst is premised on a proprietary technology they developed that can identify people who have an aptitude for [information technology], and who are not necessarily college graduates,” Zia said.

Zia last year started Community Ventures, which directs a $5 million fund, with another former Wall Streeter, R. Candler Young. The firm makes investments of $100,000 to $750,000 in mid- to late-stage growth companies that are profitable as well as bring economic benefit to low- and moderate-income communities.

The Buzz hears:

Local dentist-turned-digital inventor/entrepreneur Minh Tran says he is in “early” discussions with the D.C. Department of Transportation about linking the city’s computers to his Pothole Alert mobile phone application, which enables citizens to report potholes and other gripes. The District currently uses SeeClickFix, but Tran tells us the city is considering allowing additional apps to report to D.C.

Lisa and Ethan Opolion — husband and wife MBAs who own the local rights to a babysitting franchise called SeekingSitters — are promoting a new book by the Tulsa, Okla.-based SeekingSitters parent company called “Babysitting S.T.Y.L.E. – Complete Guide for Babysitting Success.”

The book is the first edition of what will become an annual guide that includes stories and crafts ideas submitted by sitters that work with the company. The book includes two sitters on the Opolion team, one of whom received a $50 scholarship for her story about her babysitting experiences.

heatht@washpost.com

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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