Some of the best-known local Internet start-ups are powered by Adrenaline.
The Adrenaline Group isn't exactly a household name, but in its 2 1/2 years it's been the technical expertise behind 40-some Internet companies, including Motley Fool, VarsityBooks.com and Fax2Net.com.
Developing software and creating Web sites for these businesses, Adrenaline has become the tech company's tech company. And the ubiquitous problem of finding high-tech help has translated into very good business for this team-for-hire.
"We're like ghostwriters," says chief executive Scott McLoughlin, 33. "I think talent is scarcer than money these days."
In the past five months, the company has grown from five to 30 employees. All but one, the office manager, is a real techie. "Everyone is hard-core," says McLoughlin, who founded Adrenaline with four people from the last company he helped launch, the now-defunct FreeLoader Inc.
The blue-walled Georgetown office is a geek-guy mecca. Only three of the workers are women. McLoughlin thinks a move about six months ago from Herndon to the District really helped recruit smart young techies who prefer to work in the city.
"Most of our interviewees live in Adams-Morgan, Cleveland Park, Woodley Park," McLoughlin says.
Adrenaline takes equity stakes in some of its clients but has yet to hit the big windfall from a firm it helped from infancy to IPO.
In February, Adrenaline will start branching out geographically, opening its second office, in Austin, where it currently has one client, Agillion Inc. "We think it's the perfect place for an Adrenaline rush," McLoughlin says.
The company hopes to open an Atlanta branch next, then add San Francisco and North Carolina.
McLoughlin is confident that high-tech ghostwriting is a growth business. "All companies will be technology companies," he says.
Armed with $150 million from companies such as Safeguard Scientifics Inc. and Novell Inc. and wealthy local individuals including CyberCash Inc. Chairman William Melton and GTSI chief executive Dendy Young, a new organization is opening offices in what it calls "Net hubs" around the country to invest and advise start-ups.
Redleaf Group will establish its Reston office Jan. 15, around the same time other offices open in cities such as Seattle, Boston and New York.
The venture will make initial investments of $1 million to $3 million in local tech companies but also will provide help with systems integration and other needs. "The Internet entrepreneur is much closer to the dorm room than the board room," says Redleaf chief executive C. Lloyd Mahaffey, who runs Redleaf out of Saratoga, Calif. "Internet companies need a little bit of capital and a lot of help."
Charles Corbin, now the chief executive of EnviroGlobe.com of Reston, will become managing director of the four-person Reston office.
So what constitutes a Net hub? Research institutions, availability of capital, community support and evidence of a technology culture, says Mahaffey.
The high-tech growth in Washington is also encouraging another kind of start-up.
This month alone, two electronic news services were launched to cover local technology happenings. Paul Sherman, 30, a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, aimed to start a Web site that focused on small-cap stocks. When he moved to Washington, though, he says he immediately saw a need for a daily e-mail newsletter on the local technology beat.
"This area has really started to boom," says Sherman, whose Potomac Tech Wire (www.potomactechwire.com) delivers news on Washington tech companies and deals.
Sherman, who has also been a news assistant for the New York Times in Mexico City, started his company, CapWire Inc., in offices in the National Press Building with three employees and about $100,000 from friends and family. He says he'll make money through advertising but will concentrate on building the subscriber base before the ads. He has about 500 subscribers so far, who get the e-mail for free.
Also this month, Alan M. Meckler, chief executive of Darien, Conn.-based Internet.com Corp., launched the two-person bureau of DC.internet.com as the latest in his network of local tech sites. The Washington version will cover local technology companies and venture capital, offering daily e-mail updates. Meckler also runs Boston.internet.com and Atnewyork.com. More cities to come. "We've decided to methodically go around the country and launch sites," says Meckler.
These new tech news offerings come as the parent company of the Washington Business Journal gets closer to unveiling a new publication that will focus on the local tech world. This past year saw the reincarnation of Regardie's and the launch of Washington Business Forward, magazines that focus on local business with an eye toward tech. And Dbusiness.com, owned by Warfield Publishing Co. of Baltimore, also launched a Washington site along with others around the country geared toward local business.
Also, Post-Newsweek Business Information Inc., a division of The Washington Post Co., earlier this month said that it would merge its TechCapital and TechGazette publications into a locally focused technology magazine.
Send tips and tales of the digital capital's local people, deals and events to Shannon Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CAPTION: Adrenaline Group CEO Scott McLoughlin, whose firm is planning to open an office in Austin in February, is rushing to build a powerhouse.