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Betting on Snacks, Software and Social Networking

Snikiddy Snacks, a Bethesda company that makes organic snacks for children, takes its name from
Snikiddy Snacks, a Bethesda company that makes organic snacks for children, takes its name from "persnickety."

Last week, the Small Business Administration named Boyer national small-business person of the year.


Rockville-based Intelliworks makes software that universities and university departments can use to manage the rollout of new courses or track interaction with prospective students.

The company has grown from 20 customers to 75 -- including Harvard Business School, John Hopkins University and Northern Virginia Community College -- since July, when it launched the Web-only software version of its product. Software services are a fast-growing market, and companies such as Hobsons EMT and TargetX also cater to the higher-education market.

Daniel Obregon, senior marketing manager for Intelliworks, said the changeover to a Web-only format means more efficiency for customers, as on-site servers are not needed and updates to the program are installed automatically.

Intelliworks has focused on smaller undergraduate departments, graduate programs and the continuing-education arms of higher-education institutions.

The company received $4 million in venture funding from Columbia Capital, Novak Biddle and RedShift Ventures, which have invested previously.

Akonni Biosystems

Frederick-based Akonni Biosystems is developing technology that it hopes will diagnose diseases such as upper respiratory infections and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in a matter of hours.

The company's core product is the TruDiagnosis system, which uses a chip with an array of tiny gel drops made of proteins, antibodies and nucleic acids. These drops work like mini test tubes, identifying the presence of certain diseases in a patient's blood or other body sample when it passes through a machine.

The company was founded in 2003 by Charles Daitch, a biologist who has done research at the National Institutes of Health, Federal Drug Administration and Sandia National Labs, among others. The company has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an undisclosed large pharmaceutical company.

"Given the rapidly rising cost of health care and the need to rein in costs, we don't see the economic downturn having an impact on our company," Kevin Banks, a spokesman for Akonni, said in an e-mail. "Our primary competition still comes from home-brewed systems and the traditional methods that we're trying to replace."

The company received $6 million from individual investors and plans to use the money to build up its manufacturing capabilities, develop new products and refine current ones.

MBeat Media allows artists and models to upload their own music and photographs. Fans then download those songs and pictures as ringtones and backgrounds for their mobile phones.

The social-networking site is run by Reston-based mBeat Media. The company hopes to be another "disruptive force," like MySpace or iTunes, and is betting that mobile phones will become a principal device through which fans listen to and share music, said co-founder Robert F. Delamar. The site, which launched last month, "is our attempt to take on the music industry and shake things up," he said.

The company uses a subscription model, charging those who want to download images and ringtones onto their phones a $3.99-a-month fee. Fans can download music and images onto their computers and vote for their favorite artists free by signing up.

The site shares its revenue with artists and models. MBeat has received $1.5 million worth of early-stage funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Grosvenor Funds and New Atlantic Ventures.

Ultimately a successful networking site needs hundreds of thousands of customers, said Tor Soevik, chief executive. The company declined to say how many customers it has now.

-- Alejandro Lazo

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