Washington, DC is rapidly shedding its reputation as a staid, buttoned-up company town dominated by one big player – the federal government – and nameless, faceless office drones. I look around 1776, the co-working space where we are located, and I see anything but office drones. Instead, I see a thriving startup culture that is completely unique from other startup hubs in this country.
Of course, it helps our team to be in DC since there is a political angle to our first app, BuyPartisan, but we couldn’t imagine starting up anywhere else. Where else would we find the following 5 things that make DC’s startup scene so awesome?
The collaborative culture
Any local startup founder will tell you that the collaborative culture in DC is incredible on many levels. We all want each other to succeed. Heck, the #dctech community even has a private Facebook group that is very active – and helpful.
When you ask for feedback on your idea/startup/product/app, you’ll get an honest assessment and valuable insights to make it better. If you need a developer who specializes in UI/UX, you’ll get tons of recommendations. If you are building a startup while working full-time, you can attend a DC Night Owls meetup and pick the brains of others in attendance.
A huge talent pool
DC is historically a very educated population. Between the think tanks and universities, this is a town of well-connected nerds and geeks. It is also very tech-focused – you can’t throw a rock without hitting an IT or software company (a vast majority of which are enterprise-focused). Brilliant developers, designers, and programmers are everywhere.
Plus, we have the energy and enthusiasm of Millenials to tap into. From 2000 to 2010, the city’s 18-to 34-year old population grew by about 37,000 – they make up 35 percent of the population according to the Urban Institute. If you know anything about Millenials, you know that they want a job that they are passionate about and where they can make a difference. Generally speaking, startups want to make a difference. Millenials plus startups are a match made in heaven.
Numerous co-working spaces
No matter what kind of company you are starting, working in isolation is a lonely, frustrating, and depressing proposition. Luckily, you have more options than the local coffee shop. DC has a bunch of co-working spaces scattered around the city. We are in 1776, but there is also UberOffices, Canvas, the Hive, Cove, WeWork, and Affinity Lab.
I cannot stress the value of setting up shop in a co-working space enough. This is where you see the aforementioned collaborative culture really come to life. Plus, having the positive energy of people all busy at work, doing what they love, around you can really lift you up on the crappy days that we all have.
Access to investors
Not every startup needs funding to grow, but if you do, you are in luck. DC has a strong network of angel investors and venture capitalists who believe in the local startup scene and want to help it grow and succeed. Plus, we have state-sponsored funding engines in Virginia (CIT GAP Funds) and Maryland (the Startup Maryland pitch competition).
Even here at 1776 where we are based, there are numerous pitch competitions taking place on a pretty consistent basis, such as the recent Challenge Cup and the 1776 Startup Showcase that is held a few times a year. There is also a busy calendar of speaking engagements and networking events, all great opportunities for an entrepreneur to link up with a potential investor.
An unbelievable level of energy
DC is booming. The region ranked fifth among metropolitan areas across the country for population growth for a year-long period, according to the Census Bureau.
“There’s a magnetism about [the D.C. region] as a place to move. It has high incomes and is a livable city that is the political center.” – Stephen Fuller, head of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, in the Washington Post
We have a hot restaurant and bar scene, a diverse arts-and-theatre scene, and truly vibrant, walkable neighborhoods that are home to amazing small businesses. If you had said that DC was cool 10 or more years ago, you would have been laughed at. Say it know, and you’ll see heads bobbing in agreement.