Start Up America
Holds DC Inaugural
Over by the Booker T. Washington Charter School at the corner of Florida and 14th N.W. there was a strange, new community meeting that took place at a space called ‘GeekEasy’ on a balmy Tuesday evening, 1/30/12. Now I’ve been places in DC and know ‘the community’ in all 4 quadrants, but this was a new experience. The community they talked about had no there, there and was all about a tech revolution, silicon valley copying, IT entrepreneur, beer drinking, blue jean wearing, incubating, risk capitalizing movement led mostly by ‘nerds & geeks’. Boy has DC changed! Even our distinguished Deputy Mayor for Economic Development the sober Victor Hoskins was there in a sports coat sans tie and –that’s right- blue jeans!
Start Up America, the brain child of Steve Case of AOL fame, is a clearinghouse, mentoring, finance accessorizing organization that lobbies for entrepreneurship and new business creation, mostly from what I could follow, in the high tech, information technology, new media fields. There was a lot of talk about code, but not the kind the gangs use in the hood!
Very interesting man by the name of Aneesh Chopra spoke at staccato speed and with such energy it made u think he was hyped up on that 5-hour-energy thing. But he was cogent, erudite, attractive and fast paced, very fast. He’s an advisor to the President on matters of technology and entrepreneurship and the inside joke all evening was that he’s leaving federal government to run for Lt. Governor in Va. He got my vote!
What Start Up DC is trying to do in the District is the right thing, but that night it seemed detached from the real community or at least the community who aren’t computer start up guy/gals educated at Gtown, GW or George Mason for that matter. Julie Silard Cantor, a luminary on the local educational scene, spoke a bit about the digital divide and cited a figure (only 9% of public high schoolers in DC go to college?’) that I must have heard wrong. Perhaps it was only 9% who become entrepreneurs. Anyway it was encouraging to hear her speak about the need for inclusion. There were ‘lightening’ speeches about the internationalization of the tech movement and one speaker, Mr. Fuentes, mentioned an interesting project with the best and brightest kids from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology.
Folks talked about things named ‘Sponto’ and put up slides on the wall of little balls in random order, some with little propellers on their heads which I guess meant they had great ideas in their head. One speaker even veered into science fiction prophesying that in the future we’d become walking appendages of a computer and carry a chip in the back of our heads that would make us walking whiz’s who wouldn’t even need cel. phones. So there Verizon!
Call me old fashion, but I deal with the small immigrant business owner’s world, mostly construction, cleaning, security and most of all the retail and food service trades. Not much I could transmute from this meeting to that. But there was excellent Chilean wine, mini-quiches and crab cakes and everyone seemed to be having a really good time.