Catching Up with David Zipper
David Zipper helped jump-start the District's burgeoning tech scene as director of business development and strategy in both the Fenty and Gray administrations. But he's also finding that he can have a big impact on the private side. David has hit the ground running as managing director of 1776 Ventures, the for-profit arm of startup incubator 1776, a role he started this year. We snapped him on location as he told us not just of the innovation happening within 1776, but the knowledge economy of DC as a whole. That's why he's bringing in mayors from across the country to connect with DC entrepreneurs, and educating those entrepreneurs on how to scale their businesses.
DC startups fill a different void than Silicon Valley, he says, from healthcare to transportation to policy reform. "We have to leverage what Washington is—a wonky, wonky city," adding that it's in the city's best interest to do whatever it can to help startups grow, since it's easier (and cheaper) to retain a homegrown firm than to try to lure one from out of town with costly incentives. And it's worked: four firms born out of 1776 (which is less than two years old) have already moved into their own spaces.
David says learning how to work with owners, brokers, and deal negotiation is an education process for even veteran companies. But he's encouraged by the response from landlords in DC—in the form of shorter-term leases and flexibility with design. "Tech companies request less in terms of tenant improvements than other types... and are using space in a much more active way than a law firm or federal tenant," he says. "The neighborhood has to be one where a potential employee will want to be going to work." Oh, and showing how 1776 has resonated, here's the President himself visiting this last July 4.