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DC's Pot of Tech $$

National Tech

DC-based tech startups now have a new source of funding: the DC government. It kicked off a pilot of the Digital DC Tech Fund this week offering $1M in grants to tech startups located in a designated three-mile stretch of the city called the Digital DC Tech Opportunity Corridor. (Something tells us Pierre L'Enfant didn't name it that when he designed the city.) The grants will range from $25k to $200k and go to companies that commit to having an office, HQ, or major operation in between the intersections of 7th Street, NW, and New York Avenue, NW, to Kansas and Georgia aves, NW. It overlaps one and a half of two Great Streets corridors of 11 boundaries in the commercial revitalization initiative. 


Outgoing DC business development and strategy director Jenifer Huestis Boss, here with former deputy mayor Victor Hoskins, says the area is attractive to tech startups for its restaurants, night life, housing, affordable and funky office space, and public transportation. Several DC tech companies are already at the base of the corridor, including Blackboard, LivingSocial, and Optoro. Jenifer says the fund, which is coming from the DC budget, was inspired by entrepreneurs who have long complained about the lack of funding for startups that have raised a friends and family round but aren’t ready for bigger B or C rounds. The city also felt that it had invested in programs and resources to help early stage and more mature companies but nothing in between.


Jenifer, who’s leaving the DC government for a job with Alvarez & Marsal, says this is the first time the city has done such a fund. The only thing that’s come close was a $50M CAPCO fund to be spent over 10 years in all sectors. DC’s new tech fund joins Virginia’s CIT GAP funds and Maryland’s Venture Fund and TEDCO. Several well-known entrepreneurs are on the Digital DC Tech Fund board, including SocialRadar and Blackboard founder Michael Chasen, Accenture global managing director Jay Hedley, and Lore Systems CEO Tien Wong. The deadline for grant applications is June 20.