The Washington Post

Capital Buzz: For Jeong Kim, a spot in France’s Legion of Honor

Potomac entrepreneur Jeong Kim, whose nomination a year ago to the South Korean cabinet was derailed by that nation’s internal politics, has launched a Bethesda start-up that marries sports with the Internet.

In the more immediate future — like this Tuesday — Kim, 53, will receive the Legion of Honor from the French government for his service in global technology research, in particular his tenure as president of Bell Labs from 2005 to 2013.

Bell Labs is part of Alcatel-Lucent, a French global telecommunications equipment company,

“I am extremely pleased,” Kim said of the honor, to be delivered by French Ambassador François Delattre during a ceremony at the French embassy. “It’s peer recognition. It’s not easy to impress French colleagues, and this is not something they do often, particularly for foreigners.”

As a younger man, Kim spent seven years as a nuclear submarine officer in the Navy. He founded Landover-based Yurie Systems, which he sold to Lucent in 1998 for $1 billion (Lucent was later acquired by Alcatel). The sale turned heads among Washington’s entrepreneurs, and Kim quickly developed relationships with other Washington area tech moguls, including Raul Fernandez, Ted Leonsis and Steve Case.

Kim became a partner with Leonsis and Fernandez in Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Verizon Center, NBA Wizards and NHL Capitals. He also served as a director at In-Q-Tel, an Arlington venture capital firm set up in 1999 with CIA funding.

Following his withdrawal from the South Korean nomination, Kim, who has dual citizenship, considered joining another big company.

But he decided to start his own venture, Kiswe Mobile .

The founders are Kim, Belgian-born telecom scientist Wim Sweldens (who is a former Alcatel-Lucent executive) and Washington businessman Jimmy Lynn, who is a former AOL sports executive.

Kim was sketchy on details, saying Kiswe is still in stealth mode.

“The company is focused on exploring the space between next-generation Web technology and sports,” Kim said. “I am thinking about interactive video. The tool that’s needed is the secret sauce of our venture. We are going to apply that to sports.”

Why sports?

“It is one of these things that people are passionate about. It fulfills the human need for competition and for social interaction.”

Kim said he will soon start fundraising in hopes of collecting $1 million to get his company off the ground.

The Buzz Hears:

Jamie Ratner, founder of Certifi­Kid, a family-focused daily deals company based in Potomac, is organizing an event for Washington small businesses at the Imagination Stage in Bethesda on Feb. 24. The event is called “Imagine The Places Your Business Will Go,” and will include speakers from the family-focused niche such as:

Husband and wife team Andrea Barthello and Bill Ritchie, founders of Alexandria-based ThinkFun Toy Co.

Pam Felix, founder of California Tortilla and former stand-up comic.

Eric Knaus, a children’s performer who works under the name “The Great Zucchini.”

Author Jill Smokler.

WUSA9 anchor Lesli Foster has agreed to be the emcee. There will be a $50 charge for attendees. Topics will include challenges in starting and operating a family-focused business, trends in the “kid-centric” market, running a business and family, and community-based marketing and advertising.


Chicago-based golf store Club Champion arrived in Rockville last month, hoping to tap the region’s wealth of serious golfers.

The company is known as a golf club fitter, which means it customizes clubs for customers, mixing and matching lengths and weight and angles to fit each individual.

Club Champion charges $350 for a “full bag fitting.”

Co-owner Matt Siegel said the 2,700-foot store is corporate owned and cost around $150,000 to outfit.

Siegel, 37, worked for Motorola before starting Club Champion three years ago.

“The Washington market is underserved,” said Siegel, whose company owns seven stores in Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and, soon, Orlando. “There are 300 golf courses in Virginia and 125 in Maryland. We know there are hundreds of thousands of serious golfers. We aim to serve the serious golfer.”

Those serious golfers will drive more than an hour for equipment that will give them an edge on the fairways and greens.

“Washington, D.C., has been on our very, very-short list for expansion,” Siegel said.

Factoid of the Week:

100That’s the age of McLean-based management consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton, which celebrated its centenary by ringing the opening bell last Thursday at the New York Stock Exchange. The company employs more than 23,000 and had revenue of $5.76 billion for the 12 months ended March 31. Booz is sponsoring an Edgar Degas/Mary Cassatt exhibition running from May through October this year at the National Gallery of Art.

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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