This interview features Mark Ein, Chairman of Kastle Systems. JB and Mark discuss growing the inclusive innovation economy in the Capital Region, Mark’s work with SPACs and Kastle, and other related topics for the region.
Hosted by JB Holston. Produced by Jenna Klym, Ian Lutz, Nina Sharma, and Justin Matheson-Turner.
Learn from leaders doing the work across the Capital Region and beyond. These conversations will showcase innovation, as well as history and culture across our region, to bridge the gap between how we got here and where we are going.
About our guest:
Mark Ein is a native of the Washington area, Mr. Ein actively supports many community, charitable and cultural organizations. Through both his professional and philanthropic activities, he is committed to bringing his community together as well as helping those in need with a particular focus on the youth of the city. Mr. Ein has been frequently recognized and honored for his contributions to his community including being named Business Leader of the Year by the Washington DC Chamber of Commerce in October, 2011 and the region’s Entrepreneur of the Year by the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) in 2009.
He received his BS in Economics with a concentration in finance from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and his MBA from The Harvard Business School.
Mark Ein 0:00
And you know, it sounds like a small story. But the signs were there that business was going to be my thing. And it was what I grabbed into being an entrepreneur theme problems and creating solutions was going to be the mission of my life.
Nina Sharma 0:19
Welcome to fresh take a candid interview series featuring thought leaders and innovators from across the capital region. These one on one conversations, highlight the incredible work happening in our communities, and showcase both where we are and where we are going as a region.
JB Holston 0:38
Hello, everyone, it's good to see you, Mark, thanks for joining us. Great to see you today.
Mark Ein 0:41
Thanks for having me. It's a real pleasure to be with you.
JB Holston 0:45
Thank you very much. My guest today on fresh take for the greater Washington partnership is Mark Ein, I'll give you a little bit of introduction about Mark. Mark is an investor and entrepreneur and a philanthropist he's created, acquired, invested in and built a series of growth companies across a very diverse set of industries. Over the course of his 30 year career. He's been involved in the founding early stages of six companies that have been worth over $1 billion, and has led over 1.8 billion in private equity, venture capital and public company investments. Mark is chairman and CEO of capital investment Corp. Most recently in December 2020, which seems like 40 years ago, I'm sure at this point, Mark, you launched capital investment Corp five $345 million public investment vehicle with a mission to invest in and help build an industry leading public company that will aim to deliver long term value to shareholders. We'll talk a bit more about that as we get into things. Mark is also the founder and chief executive officer of venture house group and Leland Investment Company, both holding companies that create invest in and build growth businesses in a range of industries. Among the current majority owned companies in the portfolio are Castle systems, which is based here in the region. It's the country's leading provider of building an Office security systems. And Mark is the chair of that group. If I had my fob on you would see exactly what what Castle does. We'll talk more about that as well marks the founder and owner of MD eSports, which owns the city Open Tennis Tournament in Washington, DC, one of the five largest tennis events in the US and one of only five major tournaments in the US featuring players for both ATP and WTA tours competing simultaneously, Mark got a variety of other interests around the world in tennis, we'll talk a bit about that too. Native of the Washington area, he actively supports many community charitable and cultural organizations. And he's currently on the board of the DC Public Education Fund. For those of you that don't know the fund has raised 130 million in philanthropic support for the DC public schools. Mark currently serves as chair on the board of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the DC college access program in the DC Public Policy Center, I have no idea how you find time to fit all this in. But we're very glad you could find time to talk to us today. Mark, thanks very much for joining us.
Mark Ein 2:45
Thanks for Thanks for having me. I'm such an admirer of what you guys are doing it, the greater Washington partnership and all of us are thrilled on a personal level that you're leaving the organization. And then we're going to talk a little bit about my career and my presence in Washington. But I think the coming together on collaboration between the business community and local government officials across the region is transformative for what we already see the fruits of that and things like Amazon and other things. And it's so critical to our future. And so congrats and thanks for all you guys still.
JB Holston 3:22
Yeah, thank you. Well, thanks for you're supportive of that and you're supportive, all the other things that that you do, let's talk for a minute mark about about the journey, because you really have have done a lot of different things. We'll talk a little bit more about specs here in a bit, but maybe just give us a quick, you know, how did how did you become who you are today?
Unknown Speaker 3:40
Well, thank you. Um, yes, so I actually grew up in Chevy Chase, went to Montgomery County Public Schools, my whole life, my family moved here from New York, my mom and dad from from New York time, a lot of people moved down to New York in the late 60s, early 70s. And, and I love being in DC. I loved our community. Obviously, our region was a very different place back then. But it was a wonderful place. And from the very beginning, my dream was always to come back. I actually thought I was going to buy the house I grew up in and live there. That didn't happen. But I just I was really happy being here. And I think a couple things that were when I look back that were signs in my youth of what I would ultimately want to do. One was I would say, like I did, I did well in school, but my strength wasn't being the most diligent student, I didn't love homework. I love playing with my friends and doing other things. And I took an accounting class. My junior year at BCC, I went to Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, and the class was basically like you will have a business and you write the checks and keep the books and I remember getting this and going home and working five straight hours and getting through the first half of the class going to school the next day coming back afterwards, and spending seven hours and finishing the semester in two days. Well, because I was just This is like what I want to do. And I was definitely not like it that when it came to like chemistry and physics and calculus, like, I can do fine there, but it was not. It wasn't that kind of passion. And so, you know, there was that. And then like, I was always even entrepreneurial. I was an officer in my senior class and I actually looked at starting a not for profit, because I was like, why don't we raise money like when I was in I called the IRS myself and I got the documents for us to do it. And we actually looked at starting a not for profit to collect donations. And throughout my youth, there was a combination of interest in business and then entrepreneurship. The other one, I actually put this in my business school application was a bit risky, because they said like, tell us a story of yourself. But when I grew up in tempted onto rolling with elementary school, and the center of our life was our soccer team. And there was a parent who basically organized it and it was for our community, the thing for all of us, and in sixth grade, he just moved to California and we were left and nothing was going to happen. And I, as a sixth grader, organized the team, like I got us into League, I got us a coach, I got this practice field, I got this uniforms, none of the parents did it. And I did it because I was like, there's a need, I'm going to go fill it and you know, it sounds like a small story. But the signs were there that business was going to be my thing. And it was what I gravitate to being an entrepreneur, find seeing problems and creating solutions was going to be sort of the mission of my life. The other thing and it relates to this is I was really passionate about tennis. I was I played on the team, I taught that it's I was like my thing, and I was a ball kid at the tennis tournament in town. And that was the other highlight as I go once we got past soccer once we got into junior high school, being a ball kid, it was the Evening Star and the DC National Bank tournament was the absolute height to be on the court with Jimmy Connors on national TV. And of course, we thought everyone in the stands on TV is watching us pick up the balls. But for me and my friends, it was it was there's nothing that can that match that and and so when I put all that together, I thought you know, from very early on, I was like if I can come back to Washington, do something in business and be involved in it in a grown up way. These things that I love as a kid. That's my dream. And so I ended up going to pan out of college, I worked on Wall Street at Goldman Sachs in the 80s. I went out to LA and worked for event one of the really great venture capital private equity firm then went to business school in Boston. And coming out of there, the firm in LA wanted me to go back and I love living in LA I was living on the beach in Malibu and it was idyllic and the firm was incredible. But I got an offer from Carlyle that at the time was five years old. And this is also indicative of the region JB is this was 1992. And again, I still had my dream I want to get back to DC I want to build a life but I'm passionate about business. I'm passionate about private equity and venture cap. That's what I want to do. And there literally were two places I could have done it 1992 Carlyle, which was an upstart, had made some noise, but was small and unknown. And Ally capital was the other firm and I got interviews in both places. But it was the only two things given my interest that I could have done in DC. Obviously, password day, you can come here out of business school and do a ton of stuff and a ton of firms. But I got the offer of Carlyle and I decided this is it. I literally thought to myself, I loved la there was a lot about the place that I love. But I thought if I pass this up, I'm never my dreams. Now I'm gonna be out there and I'll never come back. And so I did it. And I've never looked back. Carlisle was amazing. Had a wonderful journey. We can talk about the kinds of things we do. But that's what got me here. And got me to honestly say like, I do have my we do a lot, we stay busy, but it's because I don't view like it's not work. It's what I love and what I'm passionate about. And fortunately, that's kind of been some version of the vision since I was a kid.
JB Holston 8:55
Yeah, that's that's great, Mark. Thank you. Thanks for sharing that. And yeah, I know when I was I wasn't watching Jimmy Conner, I was definitely watching you on from my TV, California. People were Yeah, we hear that a lot. Let's, let's talk about one of your more recent investments Kastle. And then we'll talk separately about specs and you know what those are, etc. But um, we talked a little bit about what Kastle does, how and then how you came to be connected to it. And then I'd love to get your thoughts about how it's been responding in this COVID era.
Mark Ein 9:28
Yeah, so and this has been way to fast forward because I spent nine years at Carlyle to nine or seven years through 1999 and I left because really what I wanted to do and this sets the stage for how I got in the castle is what I loved. I loved investing companies but I would I also really love to do is rolling up my sleeves, roll up my sleeves and help the CEO or the founders build their business and I found that if you did it enough, even though it wasn't the same company or same industry, the things you learn in one situation are applicable to the other and if you bring it co entrepreneurs passion for what they do next and your broader knowledge and skill set in business building. It's a powerful combination. So when I left Carlyle because I wanted to set myself up where I could do that in a small learn number of companies than traditional private equity, traditional private equity, you have seven, eight or nine portfolio companies, you can't get deep, you can't spend the time, I want to set myself up to where I'd only have two, three or four things. But I would put a lot of time and a lot of capital into a small number of things. And that was what I set up when I started venture house and 99 started with outside capital, made a lot of investments are really good. And I would say JB part of my story is the DC story. Because because when I started 92, just the opportunities to be here. It wasn't just there weren't firms like Carlyle, there wasn't anything to do. They weren't here. I mean, when I would, Goldman Sachs would come on and talk to me about like working with their brokerage accounts. And people came down from Philly, there was no office here. And it's not that long ago, there's no office. But when I started Carlyle in the 90s, it was the growth of telecom and wireless and actually in the internet, and DC was a hub, because that came out of the federal government, right. And so and the first wave of the internet in the 90s, really was the building of the networks. And that's what we did, so that you you nets, world coms, and then the AOL and, and the next house, that was kind of the thing. And so I unfortunately was in the right place at the right time to leave do that I left to go do what I said, make deeper investments of time and money and a smaller number of things did that. And then I said, I want to go even deeper, I really want to find two or three things that I can own all over, most of I really roll up my sleeves. And I look for a couple years, mainly in this region came really close to a couple things. And then a friend of mine introduced me to Castle. And of course, I knew it because it's an iconic company. You know, it's like FedEx or Kleenex. They're synonymous with what the product is. And he said, you know, you should go meet my friend who works for the founder, and the founder, Jean Sandberg is an amazing guy. And I met a couple people who work for him because he said jeans, like at the point where you may want to do something, and you should meet him. And I came back from my first breakfast. I've never I'd never done it before. And I've never done it since I said to my assistant. And my calendar was like you said it was these days. And I said, cancel everything for the next month. She's like, What are you talking about? I said, I'm literally dropping everything to see if we can do this. Because exactly what I want. This is like a really important company with an amazing brand customer base employee base, that I know that there's a whole nother level that we can take it as a catalyst to doing it. And it's local. And this is like it I'll never find this guy. I've been around enough. And so I dropped everything. Gene is an amazing guy, he and I hit it off the literally the first meeting in the first 45 minutes. And as the story has been told, he laughed and told his co founder, he goes, I'm gonna sell my company to that guy. And, and it's been an amazing ride that was 2007. And what we inherited was really special. But there was a lot more we could do. And as you said, We're the leading provider in the world of managed security services, we secure buildings, we've added video, so we have an integrated video product. And we do it for buildings and tenants, we do it in more places. Now we do it for government, we do it for multifamily, and that the company is headquartered here, about half the company's business is here. And it's a wonderful company. And you know, what we take the greatest pride in is about seven, eight years ago, we really said service is the most important thing we do. And so we hired JD Power to measure our service. And we are now at an 835 average score eight, Ritz Carlton is 800. So for what we do, it's really hard. It's like an airline, we have 2 million people who carry our cards, 4 million visitors every day. But somehow we've been able to somehow the team's built, really an amazing organization that's able to thrive literally the world class service, we just got named best places to work. So that was something we strive for. And that's fantastic. And then we've got all kinds of industry recognition for innovation. So it's an incredibly special company. It's here and the fact that it's here is central to my satisfaction and passion for it. And then, as you said, we view our mission is to secure is to keep people in property safe. And that the old notion is it's always been generally from physical threats, like bad actors and people trying to do bad things, maybe natural disasters, we do water centers and stuff like that. But after we sort of dusted ourselves off like everyone COVID We said, well, here's a new threat that people in office buildings and it's our job to advise our clients, both the buildings and the tenants we serve on how do we get through this together and we really made a whole company commitment to understand the issues use our existing technology develop new ones were needed to create what we call casts Safe spaces so that when people around come back to work, they'll come back to a place where there's things are touchless, you can schedule people. So you don't have big crowds. You can track who's vaccinated who's had it. I mean, it's a whole comprehensive framework, instead of products and services to make the Return to Work safe. And it's really gratifying. The response, we've gotten the interest in it. Obviously, it's been a really hard time. But I will say that I feel really good that when people are ready to get back to work, we with our customers can create an environment that is as safe as it possibly can be.
JB Holston 15:37
Yeah, that's great. Well, thanks for that. And I know the barometer is, which is now getting published everywhere is a really helpful tool for folks to track what businesses are actually doing with respect to reopening and what different cities regions are doing. And we've talked about that it's been great to partner with your firm in that, Mark. Um, let's talk a little bit about special purpose acquisition vehicles. Obviously, they've been in the news, big time, and I think a lot of people don't really understand what they are. So maybe take a moment just talk about what is one of these things? How do they work? So
Unknown Speaker 16:08
yes, facts are all the rage right now. They're the front page of every business section and, and you know, nonstop on business, CNBC and other things. So it's basically at its core, it's a public company that has cash that is sponsored by someone like myself, who has experience, who then go looks for a company to invest in almost 100% time, it's a private company, what they get is they get our capital, and they get our public listing, and they get our help. So that's what they get out of it. And, um, and yeah, we raised the first one in 2007. Again, I gave it background on what I like to do, which is to to make a smaller number of bigger investments of time and capital A small thing. So it's a guy at city that I've worked with a call out, call me in 2007 and said, We're these things. They've been around forever, but they were small and kind of not mainstream. And they said, we're really going to emphasis we think there's something here to do it more bigger scale and more mainstream companies. And you're the perfect guy, your strategy is perfect, because it's you have two years to find one thing. So you have capital and you have a track record. So people will give you the money to do it. Because when you raise the money, it's just you and what you've done. And so we raised the first one in 2007, there was a mini spec boom in 2000 789, or actually 90 of them done. For a variety of reasons, the structure made it a lot harder to work well for a good company. It's not worth getting into all the things that were in version one dot o but a lot of them didn't work, frankly, fortunately, and we started as a gross back to invest in a growth business. And our board did a lot of names Maria or Ted leonsis board and advisors have leonsis, Raul Fernandez, John Kim up, it was the DC tech media telecom mafia. Tom Wheeler he became head of the FCC just goes on and on that kind of those kind of folks who are involved. But then the financial crisis hit in 2008. So growth company wasn't the answer. And we actually saw an opportunity to create a new mortgage rate because there was massive dislocation in the mortgage market, all the capital capital was leaving, none was coming in, returns on underlying Mortgage Investments were really high, just because you had a supply and demand and balance for the investments. And we said, if we can stand up a public vehicle, it's going to have an unbelievable opportunity. It was really hard to get that deal done. Because the other thing I should mention is investors a get to approve the deal you do. And even if it's approved, if any investor doesn't like it, they instead of saying I'm going to in I'm going to roll my stock and then the merger, they can say give me my money back. So you've got to find something that a people in majority approve, and secondly, that investors don't want their money back. So when you find a company, first you sell your tracker to raise and then you go sell whatever you're going to do. And that was a hard one. But we got it done. We started like $120 million. And we had an amazing team that we had Matt, who was fantastic and investing in mortgages, and within two years and had a $4 billion market cap, we raised 3,000,000,003 plus billion dollars on it today. Still today is the third biggest mortgage rate, its scope has massively broadened. And it was the second best of the 90 Spax done in that window. But because most of them didn't work, so that's kind of went away from oh nine to 2013. And so then in 2013, we were the third one back raised a capital investment to we invest in a company called Lindblad Expeditions. We take people on small ships to places like Arctic and Arctic and amazing company in partnership with National Geographic, located in DC there's gonna be a common thread here everything's gonna have a DC Nexus and So in a lot of people, John Fahey had been a chairman of National Geographic when they did the deal. And so we brought him on the board. So that's an a fantastic company done great. Then two years later, we invest in a company called decision, which is the dominant software provider for the PR communications industry. It is the platform everyone uses. Actually, the one of the origins of that company is a company called Focus, which was a company based and I think, Deltaville or ITIL, dc, dc Nexus, but was a big deal. That was a $2.7 billion acquisition. And then the fourth one is an equipment rental company, we provide equipment for building out utility networks, telecom networks, Rael, I'd have to stretch to come up with a DC nexus for that. I'm not sure there is one. But they but where are they here? So that was that. And then we just raised in December capital five, as you said, with $345 million. And so the reason these have become so, you know, the numbers are incredible. Like we as I said, we were the third one in 2013, to raise capital to, I think there's been 60 facts raised in January this year. So it's completely different. And there's a lot of reasons for it to some extent. So why would someone go public this way? Or do this, it's a better way of going public. And it's not for every company, but for a lot of companies that they're going to call it for a couple key reasons. One, there's an idiosyncratic reason. But when you do, you do it with us, or it's back, you actually can show your projections to your new investors. And you can share more information than in a traditional IPO process. So especially these days, where people need to explain like what how my business is impacted by COVID, don't value me on last year, even this year, look at your out a traditional IPO process, you don't really get the information, you need to be able to talk to people about your business, frankly, I've been talking to people forever, like this is how it's your investors should get access to that information, they should be able to ask you about it. And so that's been a big reason for why they've become really popular now. And then you can get public quicker. So people want to get cap get public quicker, you can raise more money, you get our sponsorship, which is usually really helpful or our help, we really are involved in the companies. And so there's some real advantages to doing it this way. And JB, I think the thing that's the most interesting in what's happening right now is virtually every company that's not public is thinking about should I explore this back alternative? And why is that, obviously, the transactions that are happening are performing really well. So they're being well received. But we're at an inflection point in so many industries coming out of COVID, where I think you're going to first of all, there's industries whose growth has either been catalyzed or created by COVID, work from home and zoom, that we're on all that stuff like that. But every industry is impacted. And I think coming out of it, there's going to be real winners and losers. And I've seen this movie before, at the end of the day, the winners will be the ones who have the best company and are best capitalized if you're the best company. But you're not best capitalized, someone who's maybe not quite as good as you but goes and gets public and raises a lot of money and you don't you could be left behind. Similarly, if you go public, and you're not good, that's not good either. But the best ones are both and ideas and boards are seeing that I want to raise capital, I want to be public. So I can be offensive coming out of COVID. And so everyone's interested in this. And because there have been a number of things that have worked well, like ours and a bunch of others. People are like, wow, this is a real path to transform my company that combines the best of being public and private equity does it quickly at scale. And it's something I'm really interested in.
JB Holston 23:48
Yeah, that's great. Thank you. The book just got written on what's that all about? So So that's great. Thank you, Mark. for that. Let's talk a little bit about some of your philanthropic work and how you spend time on some of the initiatives. And back to the DC Centricity point, your chair of the DC Public Education Fund, talk to us a little bit about what that fund is how it works with the school system in DC, because I don't think it's very well known by a whole lot of
Unknown Speaker 24:12
I thank you for raising it, because I'm so proud of our work and our board and our team there. And I do think it's like the best kept philanthropic secret in town. And there's a variety of reasons for that. But the impact has been amazing. So I we found about 1011 years ago, I've been chair on pretty much since its founding by Michelle Rayo came into the school system. And you know, she was obviously an iconic person who had a real vision for transformation. And a lot of the things she wanted to do, she couldn't fund through the budget and because she had a national profile, big national foundations, were telling her I want to give you money and support what you're doing. But I don't want to just to go into the city budget like I want to know it's going to go to this and she didn't have an organization or a vehicle to take their money where people could feel like it was accountable. They would be accountable and measured and everything else. And so she's in there, this model had existed elsewhere. Not a lot, but a few places. And so she created the fund the way I always think about it, it's a joint venture of the philanthropic community and the school system. So we intersect, we operate at the intersection, we find the things, the most, in fact, impactful projects that the school system wants to pursue that they can't fund through the budget that private philanthropy is also interested in. And there's an abundance of those things. So we started with the the iconic, and now famous, teach a different way of compensating teachers, which was Michelle's big thing is like, we're gonna make you accountable. But teachers are some of the most underpaid people in America. And I want to fix that I want you to make a lot of money, but you also got to be accountable. And so we raised $80 million from Brode. And Walton and I can't even Arnold and Tiger, I think we're the four I get that right to go fund that teacher con, we actually, the supplemental pay that was part of that pay system came through private donors through us subsequent it then got built into the model, but we got it going. Another thing that is not as well known is part of that deal is what we have to measure teachers and that there was no measurement tool. And so we created something called Impact, which is now sort of the national tool for measuring teachers because we took it and offered it to everyone, the development of impact was funded also through the DC Public Education Fund. And so on the back and then the last thing, Michelle did because she came to me and said, Here's my vision for this. And I should give a shout out to Katherine Bradley at City bridge, because before I got involved, she was kind of I was calling this angel investor and that she took Michelle's idea and gave her money to kind of incubate it. And she's been a supporter throughout. But the third pillar of it, when Michelle said in the last thing is we need to celebrate our teachers. And I want to host the Academy of award of the teachers at the Kennedy Center, the Kennedy Center Honors of teachers, and it has to be at the Kennedy Center, we're going to make it a big show. And so that we would call that standing ovation, I have to say that was the part I was like, with I've always thought teachers are underpaid, deserve more recognition, I heard her and I thought it'd be good. I think I underestimate how powerful that's been literally a night in the opera house at the Kennedy Center, we've now moved it to the anthem, but a packed crowd where we're literally giving an award to the best teachers in DC and telling their stories. And so that's sort of the kernel of it over the years, as you said, it's actually up to $150 million. We get support on our big stuff. And like Clark and Bloomberg and podcast, we'd get support. We got amazing support this year from Booz Allen and National Geographic and T Mobile, Ever fi. It's, you know, it's gates and Catherine continue. I'm going to leave to many people as people go to the website, but it's just gotten so much support. And we continue to find these amazing programs, like empowering young men of color program, we, we did a thing where we actually helped, we provided stipend so that seniors in high school could travel overseas, because so many people don't get to do that cornerstones, which is like a core part of the curriculum now are all things that we've funded and created. And it's I'm really proud of the work we've done. I think the other thing is, is we have amazing local support. But then we also have gotten support from around the country because people think the capital of our country should have the best education system and and with the support of a series of mayors from Tony Williams, Adrian Fenty to Mayor Gray. Now the Mayor Bowser, this has always been a huge priority, and we've made huge progress. I think we've been a nice piece of that. But there's so much more for us all to do.
JB Holston 28:58
Yeah, that's great. That's a good segue mark to the whole question of the innovation ecosystem for the region. Generally, you alluded a little bit to this earlier, when you were talking about, you know, the early 90s When you were looking to come back, and there was kind of a dearth of ways to do that. And, you know, certainly I recall, in Colorado, you know, back in the 90s, we were a two Horse Town, you know, and and things change, what, what's still missing here, if you think about, you know, having this region be identified globally, as a top innovation ecosystem, what do you think still missing?
Mark Ein 29:30
It's such a good question and thought about this so much. So again, going back to what we said, DC really was after Silicon Valley, I can argue people in Boston, what are you New York, I argue as a second most important technology hub for the building of the networks, the 90s because it all ran through here. And the strength of this region really was engineering and it's why Northern Virginia exploded. So it was not a it was not a set of companies or employees. workforce that like wanted to be in an urban area was like suburban engineers working on networks. And we were the center of it. And then we had a couple iconic companies you now which became part of will come in the biggest was AOL, which is kind of like the sun that spawned all these other things. And every great entrepreneurial ecosystem needs them. Because you get people who have success, they make money, then they become seed investors. And you can look at the, you know, that, obviously, CAD and Steve, but you can go Don Davis, and then but then you can go to Jim bang, hop at box, and it goes on and on and on. And they either start their own companies, they have credibility, so they raise money, or maybe they're seeing themselves, but every, every great entrepreneur ecosystem has the sort of sun that spawn off, you know, other planets and, and we had that AOL, I'll tell you another one that doesn't get nearly enough attention. It's amazing as MicroStrategy Mike sailor's company, because he always recruited great people, they were really smart. But it's totally underappreciated that alarm.com Clara bridge, there's another one like, there's like four or five, like multi billion dollar companies that came from people who have been a migratory, that's another example. But then after the 90s, the next wave of the internet really was about the creative class, it was about the apps and the social networks he put on, that just was not a strength of ours. And there's companies out and Living Social for a moment was the great hope that would be the next one. But we never really created that next sub. And by the way, we have in biotech to, um, you know, there's human genome science and others here who've done a little bit the same, but we never got that next company here. And I remember the discussion with many of the same people that are the founders of the organization, like, how do we solve this? i To be honest, Gabe, he always said, I am really pessimistic that we're going to create this from the bottom up. And I always thought our strength would be we got to go get a company to move here, because we're good in corporate relocations. There's a lot of good reasons to be here. And that's going to be the answer that's gonna give you try to do it the bottoms up wait, you know, it may never happen. If it does, it's going to take too long. But if we can collectively put our effort in, it truly said this over and over again, every chance like that's the way we can do it. And no one could have guessed that Amazon would look to do what they're doing. But a to start the fact that they looked at 218 cities across America did the most comprehensive by far corporate relocation search in American history and picked our region says a lot about what we have. So that was amazing. But now they're going to be here. It's it's an You guys are so central, and your founders and board are so central to making that happen. That's the game changer for us. You know, we're sitting here on COVID, maybe we've lost sight, it's, you know, they show their new building. That's fantastic. And there's there's noise, but right now, we're all focused on this. But when we lift our heads up in a few years, and that's really picked up, you're gonna have this, that, you know, this sort of center of gravity around the ecosystem that's going to do what I just said, is the thing, frankly, that I think has been missing.
JB Holston 33:15
Yeah, that's great. Well, look, I first found out about the partnership when I was trying to compete for Amazon HQ to back in Colorado, and then we didn't win. So I think I think to your point, that that is a that is a great proof point. Let's talk a little bit about inclusion and and in diversity, equity, obviously, these last year, you know, every company has correctly understood how central that has to be the mission, the region generally, is a more equitable and inclusive economy than a lot of economies around the country. And yet, it strikes me that we don't talk about ourselves that way. We don't necessarily focus on kind of inclusion as the new innovation, you know, as the distinguishing aspect of this region. That may be the thing that attracts that next HQ to or other How do you think about that as a as an opportunity or an issue for the region? Mark?
Mark Ein 34:04
Well, I think it's an imperative for every company, any organ, every organization across the world and across the country in the world. We're living in time. And this is a long overdue, inevitable imperative. I mean, it's, you know, and you shouldn't have a choice like, why wouldn't you just want the best people regardless of, you know, gender, or race or religion or whatever, it just doesn't make sense. Why not tap into the opportunities for everyone and in? Don't we all want to live in a place where everyone has the same opportunity? And I think a lot about you didn't go back my family's background. I am a first generation American. My dad's here when he right before World War Two, and my mom's right after after being in a concentration camp and came here penniless. And, you know, look at the opportunity I've had in America and everyone should have that opportunity. Whether you come as an immigrant or whether you grew up in a poor neighborhood, we all should have the same opportunity. And so it's long overdue. It's great. It's now an irreversible, inevitable trend. And we all and people are embracing it. And I would say, JB, that one of the things that I that I didn't know when I was a kid and want to come back here, but I came to appreciate as I don't my life here as an adult is that, that one of the things about this thing I love is that I'm in the business community, it isn't really all about just making money, like people feel like being civically engaged, supporting good charitable organizations doing good things for your community, taking a multi stakeholder approach to all your companies is the culture here. And it's not the case everywhere, but it's embedded in the look, again, look at the time and money your organization has been able to catalyze the amount of CEOs and spend huge amounts of time doing what they do their work with you and you know, obviously, central to my life, but I feel like this is a community where it's, it's not just accepted, it's expected. And, and that makes it for a really special place. And it's been like that from the beginning. And it's, it's, it's really a core value, I think of our community. And it's fantastic. And, you know, you you, you have to have patience and impatience when you think about these issues, because it doesn't really solve these problems is going to take a long time. But you also need a sense of urgency. And so, you know, we really focused on this and all of our companies doing what we can, you know, doing everything we can to make sure that we're providing equal opportunity for every single person. But we're, you know, that's just that's just the way it is here and across the country around the world in this way. Should that.
JB Holston 36:43
Yeah. That's great. Well, thanks for that. Well, Mark, I was thinking back on your comments about Amazon HQ to and the new headquarters building. I was on a call earlier today with a bunch of the CEOs, all of whom now have helix envy. They're they're all They're all looking at that new building and saying, Well, I'm gonna have to put a headquarters with trees upon it. It's an Impressive, impressive facade.
Mark Ein 37:03
Yes. I mean, I, I've always I started my wife in the Real Estate Group, the Goldman and one of the reasons I loved it is because, you know, buildings, buildings are important for a sense of place and a community. And when you do special things like that, it doesn't just impact people go there. Every day impacts everyone. And I think I give a massive credit for doing it. It's going to be awesome. Yeah,
JB Holston 37:23
I would agree with that. I know, we've just got a couple more minutes. And again, thanks for all your time this morning. Mark, I know how busy you are. But let's talk just a little bit about tennis. That how has the tennis world responded this last year? And How do things look for it this this year? And the reason I ask the latter is I think every industry is kind of trying to understand where are we on this, this pandemic journey?
Mark Ein 37:45
Yeah, so um, one of my great passions now is I bought the city open that tennis tournament that I was a Balkan for, which was an amazing moment when that came together. And frankly, it was probably going to leave DC for a whole variety reasons. And I would thought there is no way I'm gonna let this happen. There's just no possible way. And it had been owned by the WTF. And they wanted to do everything in their power. Also make sure it's stable, doing their fiduciary duty, and we found a way for that to come together. And so our first year that we ran, it was 2019. And I think people came and saw Wow, this is a whole nother experience with amazing food and entertainment. It was an amazing and we sold out almost every day. Last year with COVID. We were scheduled to be the first tournament back we did a lot of work. The city was fantastic. The mayor, John Paul chiquito, and helping us do it. And in the end, what actually stopped us was not that we couldn't throw it because of COVID who would have been left and it was actually the international travel. So the hard thing about tennis is we move week to week and it's an international sport. And we just couldn't get the people here in time. They ended up fixing it for the US Open they came right after us but we just we just missed the time and but we were ready to go on a recreational level tennis has thrived in the pandemic because it's the ultimate social distancing sport you're far apart. So tennis courts everywhere I've been tapped over the last years in sports doing well. Major events and found a way to be to be to go. Tennis hurts a little bit more in the economic model because we rely more relatively on tickets and sponsors who want to be there in person and TV revenues. So it's a little bit harder to make it work economically. But like again, for me the city opens and that's I call that a civic investment that is not a it's not designed to make money. It's designed to do something amazing that did for my life and a lot of people's and so we're committed to doing it the summer in August. We would have had the best field we've ever had last year I think we will again. I hope we'll be able to have fans I doubt we'll have I don't think we'll have 100% and stands for but if we can have 25 or 50% of the fans stands for with the people who've been coming to this for decades. I'd be really happy we the people But this tournament like it did for me means so much to so many people and I feel a responsibility to do everything we can to make sure that we do that this August.
JB Holston 40:10
That's great. Well, we'll look forward to it. And hopefully we'll all be vaccinated. One One last quick question for you that came from from the group and is near and dear to my heart, local media, local news media in particular, you look at the the devastation of the local news media over the last 15 years or so across the country. And that kind of that you can argue correlates with the rise of disinformation, etc. I know you've made an investment locally recently. Is that a category of interest for you? And you know, any thoughts generally about the whole news desert? problem, if
Mark Ein 40:41
you will? Yeah. So yeah, so I said the city the city paper is gonna go under, and that's been around 40 years, you know, as the iconic local alternative newspaper. People don't realize that Jake Tapper started there. Eris wishes Swisher who had three MacArthur. Tanase Coats was a journalist, their capabilities, amazing training ground for journalists everywhere. Like it's just been amazing. And it was another one like the city open, I was like we are community needs. This is a really hard business model. I call that in my tenant stuff, my biggest accidental not for profits, because they're definitely not for profit, even though they're not identity. But that's okay. It's another civic investment. And it's a worthy endeavor. And the team there has done really great through COVID. I'm really grateful for all they've done. And actually we've gotten it all we I want there's it to be self sustainable, which I think is important long term. And we were actually very close pre COVID COVID been really hard. I'm hopeful we get back people have been supportive. But the bigger thing is that local news is so important. And there's actually amazing studies that show that the amount of high quality local news impacts things like fiscal budgets locally bond ratings locally, because they just hold people accountable. If you have people there walking the halls at City Hall, people are going to be more likely to do the right thing. And if there is no one. And so it's really critical from a local governance point of view, it also adds to the quality of life in the arts and food coverage that we and others provide. And, and we need to really figure out how to make sure. And I just think journalism, when I did it, I was so troubled by the attacks on journalists who I actually thought were kind of saving our world when I did this in 2017 and 18. I thought if you imagine the world, close your eyes, imagine a lack of free press is really frightening. And again, just going back from where my parents came from, from Europe, where for a whole bunch of reasons bad forces took over. One is you take over the press. And so it's a really important cause and local is. And you know, frankly, nationals now doing well, locals, the next thing that we all need to focus on and make sure continues to thrive and survive, because it makes a big difference.
JB Holston 43:00
Yeah, that's great. Well, I'll follow up on that with you separately, Mike, we created this initiative in Colorado called the Colorado media project and launched a digital initiative has gone really well called the Colorado sun just to try to help solve for that. For for a region. Yeah. And I think we're making some progress because boy, I agree with you. I mean, that is just a that is a critical aspects of ensuring that we have a continued democracy. There's just no question.
Mark Ein 43:22
Yeah. And I'm and again, the team had City Paper. And we really make sure we do enough features, reporters can go and dig in on issues, but then even just through this, just putting some light on the important on the stuff that you want to make sure doesn't go wrong. And also the things that are going on, right. And the people in our community are doing good things. And the great restaurants and arts and all that is really important. And they've done a great job and people have supported us. So yeah, we all need to make this our day.
JB Holston 43:49
Yeah, their empathy enhancers. And so everyone should subscribe.
Mark Ein 43:55
Right? Easy. Just go to the website!
JB Holston 43:57
Exactly. Yeah. It's easy enough everyone can pitch in. Great. Well, Mark, look, we're at the end of the time that we asked from you. I want to thank you very much for participating in this fresh take. This is a super conversation and really valuable. Thanks for all that you're doing in Great, good luck. Good luck with castle and the noose back and all the rest of the work. But thanks for sharing your thoughts today. And thanks for all that you're doing. Mark.
Mark Ein 44:24
Thanks for having me. And truly thank you personally and your team and Greater Washington partnership. For the amazing transformative work you guys have been, have been so central to so many of the most important things and I can't wait to see the impact you're gonna have long into the future.
Nina Sharma 44:41
Thanks for tuning into fresh take. This episode was produced by Jenna climb, Ian Lutz, Nina Sharma and Justin Mathis and Turner. If you like what you heard, share it with your network. For more information and to access all of our podcasts, events and publications, visit Greater Washington partnership.com.