When USA Today rated Washington, D.C. among the top five places to start a tech company, 1776 Campus was precisely the type of leading-edge business incubator they had in mind.
Located in the heart of the nation's capital, just a few blocks from the White House, 1776 Campus, a global business hub that opened in April of 2013, has been gaining momentum as a platform for start-ups hoping to blossom in the Beltway region and beyond. Founded by veteran entrepreneurs Evan Burfield and Donna Harris, 1776's start-ups tackle major challenges in education, energy, health care, government and other industries.
Recently, Comcast Business partnered with 1776 to become their exclusive network services provider, a partnership that grants tenants access to Comcast's pipeline of scalable, high-performance Ethernet, Internet, Business VoiceEdge and TV services, all crucial to a start-up's core business demands.
Comcast recently caught up with co-founder Donna Harris at the six-month mark of 1776's inception.
Q: When one envisions today's start-up, one is likely to picture Silicon Valley, Seattle, New York or even Austin, Texas. Paint a picture of the emerging scene in Washington, D.C.
A: The start-up scene has come on strong in the past two years. The community ranks in the top 10 markets with the most venture capital now. But given that D.C. is now home to the top four wealthiest counties in the country, the funding future for the community looks tremendously bright. With initiatives like 1776 convening and accelerating start-ups, programs like General Assembly coming to town to help drive more technical talent into the ecosystem, and new venture funds launching, D.C. is definitely a start-up community to watch.
Q: How does being centrally located alongside government-serving businesses compare to the high-technology atmosphere of Silicon Valley?
A: We purposely located 1776 in the heart of the 20005 zip code, which is central to the majority of the start-up activity in the city. It also happens to be four blocks from the White House and just off K Street where the advocacy community works. Every major corporation, country, and organization in the world comes through DC and we are using our position in the heart of the nation’s capital to put those connections to work for start-ups tackling our world’s biggest challenges – things like education, healthcare, and energy. Our members come from every corner of the world, and every day at 1776 you will find executives from the world’s most powerful companies, country leaders, lawmakers and other influencers asking how they can help our 160+ startups to grow.
Q: What types of leading-edge innovations are being produced at 1776, particularly ones that capitalize on Comcast's high-speed ethernet?
A: Every start-up at 1776 is leveraging digital, social, mobile and cloud technologies in some way. Most of our members are building socially-driven platforms and tools seeking to disrupt important industries like education, healthcare, energy and transportation. Our start-ups are bringing new ways to fund school programs, creating college degree programs that cost less than $10,000, implementing GPS technology to guide driverless cars, building mobile apps to help consumers replace their cars with ride sharing, creating apps to give consumers visibility into their energy consumption and more.
Q: How has 1776 evolved even over these first few months, and describe the environment.
A: We already we have over 160 start-ups working at 1776. The space is very creative (think rustic patriot) and wide open, so you’ll see members sitting together helping each other. You’ll also find mentors spending time helping the companies tackle challenges, as well as an array of visitors exploring ways they can get involved and help. We also host more than a dozen events every week, so thousands of visitors come through each week. It’s a very busy and vibrant place!
Q: You've received over 400 applications so far. How important is having Comcast Business's high-speed infrastructure to attract start-ups?
A: The space is critical to these companies – the openness, the vibe. But more important is the infrastructure – having high-speed Internet access is lifeblood for these companies because 100 percent of them are doing their work in the cloud – you will not find a server or server room in the space.
Q: Provide a glimpse of what the next six months look like at 1776.
A: We’re in the middle of expanding into a second floor – growing our footprint from 15,000 square feet to over 33,000. So six months from now we’ll have the ability to house around 250 companies, and we’ll also have fully launched our start-up school and our accelerator. Beyond that we have access to three more full floors in the building, so we have the ability to grow into over 80,000 square feet of space – all dedicated to convening and accelerating the most promising start-ups from around the world.