January 7, 2015

How DC Tech Will Become
Even Cooler In 2015

DC tech is finally at the cool kids' lunch table. So what's in store for 2015? We talked to three experts about startups, funding, federal IT and real estate.

Disruption Corp. and Crystal Tech Fund founder Paul Singh says the DC startup community will continue growing, since it's never been cheaper to build a product and more industries like retail and education have become more tech enabled. He also predicts that companies will continue to raise small early rounds from local angels and seed funds, but the big money will continue to come from outside of the region. He also predicts that co-working and real estate options for startups will continue to grow, with even some room for new real estate options for companies too big for co-working but too small for a long-term lease.

NextGen Angels founder Dan Mindus, who left CIT in September to focus on the angel investing group full-time, has several predictions: Local tech companies like Urban Stems will help disrupt traditional retail; co-working companies like Uber Offices will expand and other new spaces will open; industries like cybersecurity and tech solutions that give knowledge workers better access to information will continue to be hot; dollars invested through equity crowdfunding sites like local startups Fundrise and EquityEats will increase five times over 2014; and more money will go into VC funds. One downer is that truly big tech ideas like SpaceX will continue to be neglected by VCs, and most of their funding will come from the super-wealthy like Bill Gates and Elon Musk.

The federal IT community had a tough 2014, with shrinking federal IT budgets, says BirchGrove Consulting president Ray Bjorklund. And it will be more of the same in 2015. The industry will get more commoditized, and the 3,000 local IT contractors will clamor for a piece of the smaller federal IT pie. Ray also predicts some more failed big government IT projects on the same level as healthcare.gov. Why? Agencies are trying to apply too many private-sector best practices within an outdated procurement system. Ray also predicts more embarrassing and ugly data breaches a la Sony's The Interview.

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Next Tuesday:
Laser Etch Your Beer Glass

Here's Glenda MacMullin, COO for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), and Crystal City BID CEO Angela Fox attending this week's International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). CEA is a global innovation leader headquartered in Crystal City. Glenda, who is also on the Crystal City BID's executive board, and Angela invite you to laser etch your own beer glass at TechShop's happy hour on Tuesday, Jan. 13, from 6-8 p.m. (Tickets: $15) For more info on our sponsor's event, click here.

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Take That Autocorrect!

Is it just us or is autocorrect out to get us? (Still trying to forget that embarrassing text sent to our boss.) It happened to Maci Peterson one time when she sent a text to someone she was meeting for a first date. Instead of asking, “Are you in DC?”, autocorrect made her ask, “Are you in ME?” Maci was so embarrassed, she launched On Second Thought this week. The Android app becomes the phone's default text app and lets users take back a message before it reaches the receiver's eyes. Maci's three-person tech team, based at 1776, are working on an iPhone version. The app is free for a limited number of retrieved texts and then it's $1.99 per month. 

Maci, with co-founders Gary Keeler and Stewart Voit, says it's the only app that can handle SMS and MMS messaging, lets users set how many seconds they have to take back a message, and it's the only one that never lets the text actually reach the phone. She has several strategies up her sleeve for getting hundreds of thousands of users in the next few weeks, including getting some exposure through Gary's Postings app. It's one of the most popular on Google Play with 2.5 million people using it monthly to search and post on Craigslist. She's also working on getting it placed in movies and TV shows, including a cable reality series she couldn't yet name. And she's tapping former colleagues at 20th Century Fox, where she worked in product placement

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If Harper Lee Were a Tech Entrepreneur...

Chris Scotton has been writing The Great American Novel since the mid-'90s, when he ran a high-flying telecom firm in London. The DC area native kept chipping away and finished after a failed search engine company. The Secret Wisdom of the Earth came out Tuesday (first printing of 100,000); it tells the story of a 14-year-old boy who causes the death of his younger brother and moves to Kentucky coal mining country with his mother. He becomes friends with the cool kid in town and ends up witnessing a murder. Chris, who now runs DC-based ClearEdge3D, says the book was inspired by a real-life story and describes it as a combination of Deliverance, To Kill A Mockingbird and Stand by Me.

Chris, whose brother-in-law is VC guru Gene Riechers, has also served as entrepreneur-in-residence at CIT, where he sourced investment deals for the organization. He took over as CEO of ClearEdge3D in 2011 after CIT invested in the CAD tech firm and its founders wanted to focus on the tech and not running a company. Chris says writing a book and leading a company are completely different, but he plans to stick with both. (He has 2-3 more book ideas.) 

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Tell Us

What are the tech companies to watch in 2015? Tell Bisnow's Tania Anderson