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Here’s some news that’s bound to be met with lavish praise from city officials seeking to turn D.C. into the East Coast’s biggest tech hub: Next week will mark the official launch of a new startup center with grand ambitions to bring together D.C.’s power players and entrepreneurs.
Co-founders Evan Burfield of Startup D.C. and Donna Harris of Startup America have rented out 15,000 square feet at 1133 15th St. NW for their venture, called 1776. The first stage, Burfield says, will be a campus set to open in the first week of March, with shared workspace, support programs, and event space, “where startups that are coming from Boston or Tel Aviv can have a place that feels like startup land.” Next will come a news and events program to highlight the work of startups in areas like health care and transportation where D.C. is a nexus. The third step will be to add a school to the complex, where students and veterans will receive training to give them the skills they need to start companies.
Finally, in July, Burfield and Harris are planning to launch what Burfield calls “the piece that brings it all together,” an accelerator. The idea of the accelerator is to take already-mature startups and help them thrive in the complex world of policy and contracts that’s so central to D.C.
“There’s some really successful models among the top-tier accelerators,” Burfield says. The idea is to work with businesses that graduated from other accelerators and provide them with useful contacts, resources, and information to help them succeed.
While 1776 is starting with 15,000 square feet on the 12th floor of its downtown building across from the Washington Post headquarters, Burfield and Harris hope to expand substantially as the project matures. They say the building has plenty of room for expansion.
“The goal is to really let demand drive the expansion,” Harris says. “We’ve structured things so we can expand to 30,000 square feet and beyond if there’s demand from the community, which we think there will be.”
As for the building’s downtown location, “We wanted to be close to the heart of the city in terms of the White House and K Street and the congressional community,” says Burfield.
Unnamed sources told the Washington Business Journal last week that the city could chip in as much as $200,000 to assist with the launch of 1776. Burfield wouldn’t discuss any specifics, noting that an announcement about city assistance will come next week.
“The city’s been extremely supportive,” he says. “We’ve been working closely with them, and frankly a whole range of stakeholders.”
Burfield singles out two officials in the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, David Zipper and Jen Boss, for their help in getting 1776 off the ground. Neither Zipper nor Boss could be reached for comment.