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The Download: Firm's software helps companies connect with customers on Facebook

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By Steven Overly
Monday, August 23, 2010

More and more companies are not just flocking to Facebook pages to connect with the social network's 500 million users, but also to preempt disgruntled customers from tarnishing their digital reputation.

Parature, the Vienna-based customer service software provider, aims to make money off those interactions. The company built an app that allows businesses to monitor posts on their Facebook wall and chat live with customers, and creates a tab for customers to submit questions.

Duke Chung, founder and chief strategy officer, said the app is the first of its kind and that his company worked directly with Facebook for six months to build it. They met through mutual Silicon Valley investor Accel Partners.

"Social media is about sharing the experiences that customers have very visibly. They believe Facebook pages over time may be the first place customers go to before even visiting your Web site," Chung said of the social network's officials.

BULKING UP ON GYM FEES

As the top executives at Silver Spring-based Motionsoft, brothers Al and Hossein Noshirvani created software that about 2,000 gyms and clubs across the country use to collect membership fees.

The brothers close this month on a $6.2 million investment from an unnamed partner that allows them to continue to expand the company through both growth and acquisitions. The e-mail newsletter site Bisnow reported on the deal earlier.

Al Noshirvani bought a division of his former employer in 2004 and proceeded to launch Motionsoft with four people. He's now hired 75 employees, including Hossein, and acquired four companies, the largest being Baltimore-based Conexion.

But the road to funding hasn't been simple.

After the brothers set a term sheet with an investor last year, the financial backer pulled out because of the feeble economy. Needing to shore up $1.8 million to secure an acquisition, the brothers pulled together money and mortgaged their homes. It paid off, and Motionsoft had its best six months, Al Noshirvani said.

VIDEO GAME ECONOMICS

The Washington-based Entertainment Software Association released a report on the economic impact of the nation's video game industry in 2009 on individual states, excluding the District. Maryland: $106.3 million, up 8 percent from 2005. Virginia: $38.5 million, a more than eightfold increase from 2005.


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