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The Power of Digital Inclusion: Acknowledging Success and Opportunities in the District

Jasmin Lee


District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray has been at the center of the District’s burgeoning startup scene. He has taken a number of steps to grow the District of Columbia into an East Coast tech hub.

Since the founding of Digital DC, the Gray administration has strived to expand benefits and incentives for tech companies in the District. In September, Gray reintroduced the “Promoting Economic Growth and Job Creation Through Technology Act of 2014” with a goal to help startups establish a capital-gains tax rate at 3 percent for long-term investments in Qualified High Technology Companies.

Gray sat down this week to discuss the upcoming initiatives to foster the creation, expansion and retention of the District’s own startups with 1776 members, including ZeroCycle, Vizonomy, Hitch!, TransitScreen, RideScout, and Edbacker. The mayor kicked off the discussion by recognizing that technology will shape the future of the city.

“Technology not only gives the District its own image and identity, but also contributes to our economy,” he said.

The discussion revolved around a few fundamental questions: How can startups position their products well? What is the key to concretizing the potential benefits of the platform? And lastly, how can entrepreneurs effectively pitch their idea to a government agency?

The best way to stand out among other leading startups is to form relationships, Gray says.

“It is getting people informed about the startup community, thinking through who can represent you or your product and educating folks along the way,” he added. “For instance, the tech-sector-incentives bill was introduced to stimulate the economy as a whole. It is important to educate both the folks—investors and government officials—and yourself about what … the government (can) do to help you; how the legislation will benefit the growth of the area, and who the target is.”

“You have to show the (the D.C. City) Council that there is a mass population of entrepreneurs in the District,” said David Zipper, managing director of 1776 Ventures. “Show your support by presenting testimony to the Council.”

What is the future of the tech scene in D.C.? Nothing is certain but there is no doubt that there is a vibrant atmosphere of entrepreneurship and creativity in the city.  By acknowledging the achievements of local businesses, preventing misunderstandings of the District’s commitment to technology startups and recognizing upcoming opportunities, startups are taking big steps in the right direction.

“The District of Columbia is still pretty young; we recently celebrated 40 years of home rule, which means that we are competitive on so many fronts,” noted the mayor. “If we are committed to the diversification of the economy, what better option is there?”

Jasmin Lee