Bethesda's WealthEngine digs deep into data to find potential donors

Tony Glowacki is chief executive of Bethesda-based WealthEngine.
Tony Glowacki is chief executive of Bethesda-based WealthEngine. (Ricky Carioti/the Washington Post)
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By Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 1, 2010

I am an unapologetic fan of Forbes magazine's annual list of the 400 richest Americans, much to the horror of some friends and not a few colleagues.

So how could I not write about a Bethesda company called WealthEngine, which scours public records in search of rich people who might give money to WealthEngine's extensive client list of nonprofit organizations.

Everybody knows the big names. Think Lerner, Leonsis. Rales and Rubenstein. Kimsey, Bradley, Snyder and Smith.

WealthEngine digs deeper.

"We look for the millionaire next door who started a private business that nobody knows about," said WealthEngine chief executive Tony Glowacki, 49, who made millions in the 1990s boom and owns an interest in a 44-store chain of Panera Bread franchises in Montgomery County.

Glowacki's 51 employees troll auto and boat records; business, real estate and regulatory filings; and other databases for signs of wealth. Once they identify people with money, WealthEngine drills down to learn whether they have donated before and what causes they favored.

The data-mining company has gone from 10 clients and near bankruptcy a decade ago to 2,000 clients and revenue projected at $15 million to $20 million this year. It has offices in Bethesda and London.

Last month, two prominent Washington area venture capital firms, Novak Biddle Venture Partners and QED Investors, which bring experience in technology and data mining, invested $5 million in WealthEngine. Novak Biddle partners Jack Biddle and Janet Yang will take seats on the company's board of directors. QED managing partner and Capital One co-founder Nigel Morris will serve as an adviser.

WealthEngine plans to use the cash to expand its footprint overseas and increase its menu of products and services. In other words, it hopes to use the $5 million to make more money.

Glowacki's entrepreneurial story is interesting. He lost his father at age 2 and is the ninth of 10 in a Davenport, Iowa, family. He majored in general science and studied computer programming at the University of Iowa.

"I saw the opportunity in the mid-'80s to get into an industry that was really just starting out," Glowacki said.

He refined his technology and database skills at area computer firms before making his way in 1992, at 32, to Manugistics, then a highflying Bethesda computer firm that helped companies manage supply chains.

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