As many of you know, Juliana and I took a break from DC to spent four years in Baltimore so that Juliana could get her J.D. Being 60+ minutes out from DC under optimal conditions made us choose between trying to keep up appearances while suffering an intense road and rail experience or just focusing on our own projects. I had a new startup and Juliana was had plans for what she was going to do next so we chose to effectively take a break from SocialMatchbox. I used the break to get my SaaS product launched and into the market as well as to spend quite a bit more time in the bay area. I learned a lot, met a lot of really interesting people, and picked up a few customers for the startup along the way as well. As of Spring 2014, we are Beltway insiders again. Most of the first two weeks back were interesting and passed very quickly because I chose to spend them in Austin at SXSWi helping a friend’s startup get some exposure and feedback. Now that that is behind me, I am hitting the DC area event scene and meeting all of the new people who have joined the community. I am also running into a ton of awesome people I knew from before as well as people that have made a lot of progress in their careers and efforts as founders, investors, engineers and community builders.
It is exciting to be back yet it feels like I am an archaeologist. There are so many layers upon layers of community, people and companies that have come to be in a very short period of time. And the pace of things is picking up more every day. For example: I was at TechCrunch’s event here recently and I ran into a handful of SocialMatchbox presenters and founders who were there, but there were tons more people who I had never met. I had random encounters with hugely successful founders that people in the room did not even know. It is somewhat amusing to have a conversation with a founder who says they are looking for money from investors when they are standing two feet from one of the most successful people in their target space and do not even know it. The same is true of the bay area, probably much more so, but it is becoming more that way here. Just today, Opower (or #ipopower as they call it now), a company that was 5 just guys in a shared office over in Courthouse back in 2007/8, had it’s IPO. How many newly minted seed and angel investors will come out of their success leading up to today? But things are still changing ever more rapidly even as yesterday’s startups become today’s success stories. There are so many coworking and creative spaces in DC right now that you could probably start a bar trivia game about them.
What is a product startup in our eyes is changing too. It started off as web apps, then platform apps (think Facebook) and Mobile Apps, but now it is physical devices and products with smart elements and wearable computing and drones. And it is not just the founders who want into the game these days here in the DC area. Local college students and colleges are getting more active and as a result they are sending things like the Startup Shell, Bitcamp, Terrapin Hackers and all of the startups and products that they have to offer into the world. And Facebook just acquired Oculus Rift for $2 Billion making VR hotter than we thought it could be right after Google Glass and Google’s Driverless Cars and Uber made us stop and think about what is possible to disrupt.
This is going to be an interesting year in the history books and for the Baltimore-Washington Tech community.
Let’s chat soon. If I haven’t run into you then send me a note and let me know what you are working on or interested in. If you are looking for a co-founder or a developer, a place to put your office, an investor, or some feedback on your idea then shoot me an email. My time is limited, but I would like to know what everyone is up to.
PS-I am also looking for guest bloggers again. We have had an outstanding group of contributors over the years including founders, investors, developers and rising journalists. You do not have to be an expert or industry leader, just someone who is a creative writer, photographer or videographer.