From Politics to Life Sciences, D.C.’s a Beacon for Inclusive Innovation
Washington, D.C.’s origins as a political hub began 229 years ago when it became the capital of the United States of America to bridge the gap between the south and the north as a compromise. Today, Washington, D.C. is on its way to becoming a leading innovation tech hub in America. It has strong Cybersecurity and Edtech sub-sectors, and currently four of the top five 2018 research funders in Life Sciences are based in the area.
It has become easier to get hyper connected with the plethora of entrepreneurship networks by attending events such as Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) free of charge. GEW is powered by Innovate Coalition and is the largest entrepreneurship celebration in the Greater Washington, D.C. region, serving as a global platform to enable tripartite collaboration between government, corporations, and small and medium-sized businesses. SUEGO, an entrepreneurship resource network, has also been fueled by a growing coalition of passionate entrepreneurs bridging the gap to entrepreneurship resources.
With increasing collaborative efforts between the Washignton, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia (sometimes referred to as the DMV) region, it is not hard to see why 1863 Ventures (formerly Project 500) decided to launch in the Capital. The rise of the New Majority, which consists of traditionally underrepresented groups, has become an economic imperative to drive economic impact and equal access to wealth. With Melissa L. Bradley leading various business development efforts locally, regionally and nationally, the Greater Washington, D.C. region is becoming a leading example of how accelerating New Majority businesses leads to an increase in economic development outcomes and greater access to opportunity overall.
Innovate Coalition is another stakeholder that also plays a role in building the entrepreneurship ecosystem. This group has been executing strategic programming and initiatives over the last five years to inspire, engage, and accelerate entrepreneurship and innovation. Various initiatives are in place to help aspiring innovators navigate the entrepreneur’s, sometimes lonely, journey. From the Kauffman Foundation’s 1 Million Cups to Hackers/Founders and CMX Connect, Innovate Coalition is leading efforts to build a collaborative and thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Greater Washington, D.C. area.
The recent selection of Amazon HQ2 in the Northern Virginia area will further consolidate regional advantages by both attracting new talent to the area and boosting funding for local companies. Understanding the importance of the talent pipeline, stakeholders like Virginia Tech, in partnership with Alexandria and the Commonwealth, is building a new $1 billion innovation campus in nearby Alexandria, offering “graduate-level courses in artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and quantum computing--industries that already have a strong presence in the region.”
Washington, D.C. is not just about political debates. It has been coupled with other enabling entrepreneurship stakeholders, such as Techstars, Humble Ventures, Get Found Get Funded, Black Female Founders, Black Girl Ventures, HI - HERImpact, SEED SPOT, Halcyon Incubator, Score3 Angels, Beacon DC, and XIS Enterprises to create collaborative programming and initiatives to better serve the New Majority and entrepreneurial community. With the recent addition of resident workforce resources, DMV residents are getting better equipped with knowledge and networks through eligible programs provided by DC Public Library, Department for Small and Local Business Development, DC Health Link, and others.
Not only is the local government supporting the development of the creative industry and veterans, banks such as SunTrust and Capital One are doing their part to grow and accelerate the local entrepreneurship ecosystem. Companies such as the Washington DC Economic Partnership and its growing WeDC Fest celebration, more than 80 coworking spaces, local nonprofits, and resident embassies are also on the wagon with Global Entrepreneurship Week DC-MD-VA to grow and accelerate the New Majority in the region.
With a long history of access to funding, contracts, customers, and experienced talent, the region has the networks, resources, and knowledge required to build a thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem in what Steve Case from Revolution would consider the “Rise of the Rest.” Washington, D.C. is not only a place for political debate, but it's also a hub where inclusive tech innovation best practices are being catalyzed for the rest of the nation to learn from.
This is just a high-level view of what makes the region a thriving entrepreneurship ecosystem. Stay tuned for the next series of stakeholder spotlights and updates as we deep dive into what makes this entrepreneurial rainforest ecosystem really thrive, the challenges it is facing, and ways to accelerate the ecosystem together.
If you want to begin networking, check out the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the DMV Startup Community and this growing list of entrepreneurship events happening across the region. To become a stakeholder, check out some of the rising programming and opportunities.