The Silicon District: DC's Startup Scene

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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