On July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia, PA, Thomas Jefferson and some of his buddies, including Ben Franklin, Roger Sherman, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and others, signed a parchment to found a new country, declaring their spin-off as a new entity wholly separate from its parent, Britain. These men came from different walks of life – ranging from lawyers and doctors to businessmen and inventors – and they hustled, strategized, and innovated passionately on a startup that became the United States of America. It’s not common to think of these men as entrepreneurs, but they are quintessential examples.
Washington DC has been and continues to be home to people who have both the desire and capability to change the world. When big problems need to be solved with the big levers of governments and institutions, you find the nexus of power and people here, in the District of Columbia. Not only the seat of the US government, Washington is the home to the World Bank and other international development banks, the IMF, and some of the most significant and influential non-profit and double bottom-line organizations in the world, as well as countless advocacy and non-government organizations seeking to make change.
That change can sometimes be slow, messy and difficult. The institutions of Washington are complete with large bureaucracies that are sometimes allergic to innovation and bogged down in red tape, so those from Washington sometimes get painted with the same brush. But under the hood, there’s much more to Washington than the apparent bureaucracy. Washington DC has a vibrant startup and entrepreneurship ecosystem that is growing by leaps and bounds, driven by highly-educated and motivated technologists.
Imagine what could happen if we merge these mostly separate and independent ecosystems? What if we could bring together a motivated group of people with skills and experience in policy, business, design, development, and entrepreneurship, with a common passion to make a meaningful and lasting impact on the world? The possibilities are endless.
We’ve been observing the lay of the land and see the time is ripe to plant and incubate seeds of ideas and mentorship to harvest new fruit and engage a community hungry for change. We saw a potent concoction waiting to happen, that may make a lasting impact on the world and create something special that no regular Startup Weekend could inspire.
We are doing this because we realize how hard it can be to simply start and get connected to other changemakers. But more importantly- We, the Startup Weekend DC organizers, come from such said separate and independent ecosystems sparking change. Together we are seizing the opportunity to break barriers to help others get started and connected.
Through the Social Impact Edition, changemakers in Washington DC will finally have an opportunity to come together to learn new ways to solve problems, rapidly test, validate, and execute concepts, and launch companies with a social impact component. They’ll also be able to tap into a vast amount of resources, such as mentors who are Presidential Innovation Fellows and impact investors such as Village Capital. This Startup Weekend can be the catalyst for true innovation to make the world a better place and build excitement to do so.
It’s time for the rise of the impact entrepreneur, and there’s no better place than Washington DC and no better time than now.
Directions for Direction: How Startup Weekend DC Helped Us Find Our Way to Landmark
Written and contributed by Stephanie Nguyen, co-founder and VP of Design of Silica Labs, and co-founder of Landmark | Twitter: @nguyenist
Photo source: Landmark Blog
Startup Weekend DC was my first DC tech event. In fact, I loved it so much I participated in 3 of them. Little did I know I would meet one of my now co-founders, Marvin, the lawyer, in line for free pizza. Startup Weekend DC #2 I met Antonio, the physicist. After winning that weekend and gaining some traction a few weeks later, so was born Silica Labs. We had the right team but needed to focus our vision. For a year and a half, we were completely bootstrapped and working with clients all over the world. We tried many different angles and realized the key was to ensure we were solving a real problem.
Fast forward a few months and we participated in Startup Weekend DC #3. The morning of the event because I was lost among a sea of ivory, beige and antique-white colored DC buildings. In hopes that the map showed my actual location, I relied heavily on following a wandering blue dot. It was this that made me realize we found a problem.
Enter Landmark, a navigation app that provides a more intuitive way to walk using the buildings and landmarks around you. “Go toward Dupont Circle Fountain. Take a left when you see the Starbucks. In 4 blocks, take a right at Chipotle on 19th Street.” This simple concept came to us after realizing how many people experienced this moment: You emerge from the metro and your app tells you to go Northwest. You hope you took the right turn out of the metro, only to find that your phone re-calibrated. The blue dot is off-track. You’re lost. You’re frustrated. You turn around, retrace your steps and begin again.
The time is ripe. Landmark wasn’t possible before today. Now, we have smartphones with cameras, geotagging capabilities, and mapping data sources. There are 350 million photos posted on Facebook and 16 billion photos shared on Instagram everyday. We can now use those beautiful photos of our cities to help people navigate.
As we continue to build Landmark, we rely heavily on the support of the community willing to take photos and share them with us. We would love your help in making navigation beautiful and intuitive. Sign up to be a part of our closed beta today at www.landmarkdirections.com and we will send you a link to download the app. For more information on why we built Landmark, check out this blog post and follow us @golandmark.
In retrospect, spending a weekend (or three) helps you really know people, test your boundaries, find co-founders and develop startup ideas. Startup Weekend DC gave us the space to come together as a team and grow.
Startup Weekend DC is joining Up Global’s Startup Women challenge to help create 1,500 female-led startups this year.
In startup fashion, we decided to do more and talk less by producing the first ever women’s edition of Startup Weekend DC with a goal to flip the typical overwhelmingly male heavy ratio at such events. We realize that in startups balanced teams that can execute are important to success, so this event isn’t gender exclusive but rather inclusive. This event will connect people, experience and ideas, and act as a viaduct where leaders, entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs can innovate and build a venture together in 54 hours. This is a grassroots step towards reshaping the male heavy presence prevalent in startup culture. We hope to welcome more female leaders into the DC entrepreneurial community.
You may ask why DC? Besides having some of the most educated, ambitious, and confident women in the nation, DC was been recognized as one of the top 3 cities for women entrepreneurs. Women led businesses are on the rise and so the choice to startup at the nation’s capital was natural.
To help make this unique event become a reality, we’ve partnered with our local platinum sponsor Booz Allen Hamilton (who has partnered with 1776, a DC based startup incubator, to help spur innovation and solve difficult client challenges by working with startups on a global scale). Our venue partners, 1776 and General Assembly, are also very supportive of this cause to make this event a reality. Blackstone Charitable Foundation is our silver corporate sponsor in this cause via UP Global.
Over the next few days we will share some startup stories from women Startup Weekend DC alumni that have founded startups, and details on the event. Also we’ll spotlight how companies at different sizes and technology are helping drive change at scale. Be part of this movement. Stay tuned. Join us to empower the startup community and innovators in DC and beyond.
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More about Booz Allen Hamilton:
Booz Allen Hamilton is committed to creating an environment where talented women in technology can build exceptional careers. With great excitement, Booz Allen joins 1776 and Startup Weekend DC to empower the next women leaders in technology and women entrepreneurs. Booz Allen is a leading provider of global management consulting, technology, and engineering services to major corporations, institutions, not-for-profit organizations and the U.S. government. As part of its partnership with 1776, it is tackling global-scale problems by working with startups and entrepreneurs.
More about The Blackstone Charitable Organization:
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation has awarded grants made through the Blackstone Organizational Grants Program, an annual program targeting organizations that focus on fostering entrepreneurship and innovation, now in its second year. Through this program, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is helping innovative organizations pilot, expand or replicate projects or programs that will catalyze the growth of successful businesses, industries, and communities in their regions.
Springboard Enterprise – An expert network of innovators, investors and influencers dedicated to helping building high-growth technology-oriented companies led by women.
iStrategyLabs – A digital creative agency “that invents solutions online and off” based in DC and NYC.
Overachiever Media – A content marketing firm helping businesses create and communicate better.
Community Partners that helping us spread the word on this unique event (and growing):
DCFemtech – DCFemTech is a collective of 25+ Women in Tech organizations in the DMV. Next big event is a Tour de Code for the month of October: 101 sessions and workshops on a variety of languages and topics in development to help beginners learn how to code and design. Follow @DCFemTech for updates.
Fosterly – A DC community of entrepreneurs, creators, and collaborators. Check out the Collaborate Conference January 23 – 24, 2015 where innovators in entrepreneurship, government and technology converge. Follow @Fosterly for updates.
Femworking – Helping build teams of female entrepreneurs that inspire each other to thrive.
Ladies America – A professional society of women helping women.
DC Tech Meetup – #DCTech