Speeding along D.C.’s tech edge
Arlington, Va.-based IT services firm The Adrenaline Group likes to stay true to its name, running on the energy of its staff and delivering work in a speedy, yet thoughtful way. Chairman Scott McLoughlin talks about bad deals, supercomputing, and not believing in magic bullets.
How did the company get started?
Adrenaline actually got started on a false premise, that we had a deal with a big software company in the bag. Adrenaline was born of a successful early Internet software startup, FreeLoader. At that company, we had built an award-winning Internet utility, so the nascent Adrenaline had a lot of advanced software capabilities. We quickly attracted the attention of a major European software vendor, and were all set to just let the monthly fees roll on in.
Well, that deal fell through, which was actually a very, very good thing. Now we had to find a solid business premise and get our marketing and operations act together. We had to become a real business. Luckily, FreeLoader’s parent company decided to exit the software business, and we all had a pretty good severance package–so we had some months to figure things out. I truly believe that if we had gotten that first contract, we would not be in business today.
What makes Adrenaline different than other IT services firms?
We decided that Adrenaline would work where the marketplace of ideas meets the commercial marketplace, and quickly focused on helping customers build out new lines of business that were intellectual-capital intensive. Unlike most IT services firms, we actually create more technology than we use. While we are a services firm, we help our clients build businesses around commercial software products and online services. All of our staff members have product development backgrounds, and our culture is much more like that of a product company than a services company. Like a technology product company, we put a big premium on raw talent, intellect, education, and an aggressive problem-solving approach.
How did you come to be included on a supercomputing patent?
One of our clients was building a distributed supercomputing platform based on the Java programming language. We were hired to author the client software that would run on tens of thousands of computers, providing the horsepower of the supercomputer. There were many thorny issues involving security, communications, and computer node failure. While many Adrenaline staff worked on the project, I worked on several of the problems early in the project. Later I found that I was named on one of the patents for the system. We design several new and innovative technologies at Adrenaline on a fairly regular basis, but it’s great to see that acknowledgement in black and white on a patent.
What do you think needs to be done to develop DC’s tech economy?
The DC tech economy needs the continued support of patient and focused institutions. DC is obviously a political town, and we have a tendency to gravitate toward whomever seems to be “winning” at the moment. This is death for a robust technology sector. Technology is a very highly cyclical business, and a local tech industry will require support through both boom and bust. DC needs institutions that will champion small companies in the local technology industry for decade upon decade. There’s no one single magic bullet. But entrepreneurs and top-notch technologists will migrate to places where they receive the most support.
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