Enlightenment Capital Takes a Stake in D.C. Firm

Three months after opening its Small Business Administration-backed fund, Enlightenment Capital LLC has tapped it to take a stake in D.C.-based Expression Networks LLC.

Devin Talbott, Enlightenment’s managing partner and founder, said Monday the Chevy Chase firm had taken a strategic investment in the defense contractor, which specializes in IT and software management services, as well as electromagnetic spectrum engineering.

How much Enlightenment has invested was not disclosed, but Talbott said the stake was among the first coming from the firm’s SBA-backed Small Business Investment Company fund.

The fund, which the firm opened in June, offers selected investors venture capital funding in the form of SBA-backed loans that can be directed toward small businesses.

As a designated SBIC, Enlightenment will receive $2 for every $1 the firm invests in qualified small businesses through either debt or equity stakes issued through the new fund, providing new capital to direct toward businesses in the aerospace, defense and government sectors.

Expression Networks definitely checks those boxes. The company counts a number of defense agencies as customers, as well as the Department of Homeland Security and was selected as the top company on Washington Technology’s 2018 Fast 50 list as one of the region’s fastest-growing businesses

Talbott said the company’s innovative work on electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) engineering — which focuses on technology and communications systems operating on the radio frequency spectrum — and its partnerships with Department of Defense components like the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and others made it an attractive investment target.

“We have a bent towards businesses that look more like a Silicon Valley business than the traditional government contractor, so they are in that mold,” Talbott said. “They’ve got a sharp founder [in Abir Ray]. He’s an impressive guy, a real technologist.”

The company also has software development, enterprise architecture offerings, as well as machine learning and data analytics operations. It’s a vendor on a number of federal contract vehicles, including the General Services Administration’s IT Schedule 70, DISA’s ENCORE III and Operations Engineering Support (OES), the Army’s IT Enterprise Solutions – 3 Services (ITES-3S).

The investment marks the fourth for Enlightenment this year. The firm took a stake in System High Corp. in January, acquired Trowbridge & Trowbridge in April and recently joined New Jersey firm DFW Capital in investing in Woodbridge IT and cybersecurity services company Sev1Tech LLC, which acquired Engineering Solutions and Products LLC on Sept. 4.