The Silicon District: DC's Startup Scene

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The latest installment of Fast Company's series on the best places to found a startup features a place only ironically associated with innovation: Washington, DC.

It turns out, though, that the District's angel ecosystem is better than you might think thanks to AOL and MCI. And the consistent demand of the government provides a big target for a software company trying to find a base from which to launch.

Fast Company's Laura Rich interviewed ex-AOL exec Tige Savage, who had this to say in favor of the place:

How is D.C. better or different for entrepreneurs than other cities?

In a historical context, D.C. has some advantages. The obvious advantage is that the federal government is here, and that manifests itself in a couple of ways. One is it's a very steady economy. We don't have the ups and downs of a lot of other areas which makes it a place that's attractive to start a business. Second is there's a lot of R&D money that comes out of the federal government - something like $15 billion a year - that is spent locally on R&D. Third, the federal government is a big customer. Fourth, there are things that are here because of the federal government; I'll use AOL and MCI as examples because a generation ago they were small technology companies that grew to be big technology companies.

What is happening in D.C.'s entrepreneurial ecosystem that makes it sustainable?

We have a pretty vibrant angel community of a handful of folks who made money in some of the local companies. People like Ted Leonsis, with whom we invest a good amount and who owns the Capitals and the Wizards, but he made his money at AOL. People like Steve with whom I and another guy co-founded Revolution and we're a supplier of capital to the market, less on an angel basis and more of an institutional basis. People like Nigel Morris who really used applied technology against a traditional business sector and created Capital One. He's more of an angel. There's a list of folks like that.

 Read the whole story on Fast Company.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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