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Tech Bisnow (DC)

The Next Mark Zuckerberg?

It doesn't take much to get kids to play with technology. (The Wiggles app has allowed more moms to nap, making it the best invention in childcare since the quiet game.) And even when you ask kids to solve local social issues using technology, you'll get over 1,000 ideas. 

Those ideas are coming from middle and high school students competing in the second Innovative App Challenge run by Verizon and the Technology Student Association. And yes, over 1,300 entries were submitted. They were narrowed down to 81 for the first “Best In State” round. After the “Best in Region” round, the final eight will be announced Feb. 19. This all-girl team from Howard University Middle School is one of five DC area teams going to the second round. The girls developed a Build Central app that helps users construct items using a mobile device. (Can someone please use it to construct some coats for them? Brrrr, ladies.)

One of last year's winners was this group from South River High School in Edgewater, Md., which developed the Study Buddy app, now selling in the Google Play Store. It helps students stop procrastinating by organizing notes and preparing for assignments, test, and exams. (Can adults use this in the real world?) The teams that move to the second round will get a $5,000 grant for their schools, and the faculty advisors of those winning teams, along with two colleagues, get to take an online MIT course on teaching app creation. The Best in Nation winners will get an extra $15k for a STEM program at their school, a Samsung tablet, and onsite access to MIT's Media Lab Center for Mobile Learning. Verizon will also help the winners get their apps ready for distribution.

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Does DC Tech Have A Problem?

Some of the DC startup tech community has been in debate mode for the past week after a City Paper article questioned whether tech could be the dominant industry in DC over the federal government. The article notes several DC startups like Hinge and HotPads.com that have left or plan to leave for bigger hubs like New York and San Francisco. The writer says DC faces a conundrum of becoming a second Silicon Valley or becoming a tech scene built up around federal government business. Cont3nt founder Anton Gelman argues that what other tech hubs lack, DC has in abundance. For every company moving, he adds, there are 10 being created. Even so, some of those companies that move still keep a small DC presence. Tech entrepreneur Martin Ringlein also notes that the article focuses too much on what's going on at startup campus 1776 and doesn't highlight the other DC-based tech startups with big potential like SmartThings, SocialRadar, and Macaw. So does DC have a chance of being known as a thriving tech hub and not just a government town? Send thoughts to Tania Anderson


Free Tech For Nonprofits!

Continuing with our giving-back-to-the-community theme, Baltimore-based ZeroFOX says it created a new program to provide its military-grade cybersecurity technology to nonprofits for free to protect against hackers and viruses on any device, system, or social network. Any can apply as long as they can prove their nonprofit status and provide a letter of good standing from their appropriate jurisdiction. CEO James Foster says he's spent the last year trying to create a giving back company culture. The startup, which raised $2.2M from Genacast Ventures and Core Capital last year, has more community programs in the pipeline. 

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Does your company give away any products or services to nonprofits for free? We want to hear about it. Tell Bisnow's Tania Anderson

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