Headed into Fall

So I picked up a new gig this summer, covering tech for Urbanful, a new national publication from Smart Growth America. Here are two recent stories I wrote for Urbanful (which needs a catchy nickname–UF?).

More articles will be coming soon from Urbanful (UBF? URF?), including a profile on Waveborn and other things I can’t let out of the bag yet. To get the latest, you can subscribe to Urbanful and have it delivered to your inbox. Or, if you’re using Feedly or another RSS aggregator, you can subscribe to individual pages, like, um, Tech, for example.

I also wrote a fun piece profiling Arlington, VA, as an urban destination that’s getting it right. I interviewed Jay Fisette, Paul SinghJennifer Ives and Jonathan Aberman. The article was published in the September issue of Northern Virginia magazine. If you live in the area, you can pick up a copy and check it out for yourself in “Buzz.”

Over at Elevation DC, my normal beat, it’s been fun watching companies I’ve covered since their inception be acquired (RideScout), launch new products (Speek and Zoomph) and meet and surpass funding goals (Hugh & Crye). I also wrote a feature about social enterprise that has gotten a little attention and recently found a second life on Twitter (who knew?). At EDC, we publish “Who’s hiring?” (tech job posts) and “What’s happening?” (free or low-cost events of interest to the DC tech community) regularly. So if you ever have one to share, please send it my way.

It’s spring!

And that means it’s time for an update!

For many students, spring means standardized testing. No one likes it, but many see it as a necessary evil in our public education system. Are Common Core tests (currently in pilot stage) any better than previous iterations? I wrote a piece for Greater Greater Education on the topic.

At Elevation, we launched a new series called “60 Seconds With…,” wherein I get to do a quick interview with different founders in our D.C. startup ecosystem. There are five in the series so far:

Elizabeth Shea, founder of Speakerbox Communications

Shahab Kaviani, founder of CoFoundersLab

Carla Valdes, founder of Handpressions

Donna Harris, cofounder of 1776

Paul Singh, founder of Disruption Corp

And just for fun, Elizabeth turned the tables and interview me for her company’s blog, Ask the Influencer. That was amusing.

Another piece of which I’m particularly proud, and which continues to trend on Elevation, is the Top Ten Startups in D.C. Our publication is not going all Buzzfeed on our readers, even though people seem to love those lists and quizzes. As a transplant to the city, I enjoyed researching this article, as I got to know more about some of the veritable institutions that are woven into the fabric of the area. There are parallels among cities; reading about Woodie’s reminded me of shopping in Shillito’s in downtown Cincinnati as a teen, and though Hot Shoppes is long gone, it certainly brought the modern-day Aglamesis experience to mind (or Farrell’s, which, interestingly, was bought by Marriott).

My roots are showing! It’s time to sign off.


The Shared Economy

So excited to share my first national piece for IMG, a multi-market feature about the rise of the sharing economy. I profiled Parking Panda in Baltimore, Philadelphia Sculpture Gym in Philadelphia and SNOBSWAP and GoodShuffle in DC. Two other companies that didn’t make it into the article were the Toronto Tool Library in Toronto, Ontario, and the Open Book Exchange in Tampa Bay, FL. Had I had time and space, and more of a local focus, I would have also included ideaspace, a new maker space that is opening in Navy Yard in Southeast DC in late February/early March. Very cool space and concept.

One of the biggest stories to break in DC tech news last week was that Jonathon Perrelli and Simon Rakoff are closing The Fort, the startup accelerator part of Fortify Ventures. I interviewed JP about the closing, and to clarify a few questions that seemed to have been circling about the issue.

Oh, and while searching for a holiday present for my sister, I discovered Crunkcakes out of Union Kitchen. Who knew?!

Hobnobbing with angels

This is allegedly a half week, or light week, over at Elevation, but I’m chasing down two finicky stories that are proving somewhat difficult to get. Like nailing jello to the wall, to use a tired cliche. As a result, I’m spending a lot of time in the old desk chair, waiting for my phone to ring or for an email to pop up in one of my many inboxes. So I have a few minutes to blog and update on the latest and greatest to rock the INJ (innovation and job news) world this week.

First, I learned something new on background from a story I wrote about Georgetown Angels. Three separate sources told me that “angels like to invest in their own backyards.” This is to keep an eye on their investments and lend a hand if the companies they have invested in need help. Venture capitalists, on the other hand, invest all over the map. I realize that I should, in the words of my 10th grade English teacher, “never make absolute statements,” so I am sure there are exceptions–angels who invest broadly and VCs who like to keep their capital close to home. Joshua Siegel, one of the principals with Georgetown Angels, is looking for people to join the angel group he started with Andrew Romans. The pair are holding a pitch event at 1776 in September; I’ve got a link for discounted tickets to the event.

On a completely different note, Shavanna Miller is getting ready to launch Bloompop, a very cool sounding online floral marketplace. If you’ve ever struggled with wanting to buy flowers locally but needing the ease of ordering online, Shavanna’s your girl. She’s initially launching only in the District, but has her eye on other cities. The site allows you to create a profile and save “favorite” arrangements, and it will integrate with social media. So when Facebook tells you it’s my birthday, feel free to send me some white roses. :)

Finally, Rebecca Horton and Catherine Woodiwiss’s company, Trestles, is getting ready for an official launch. Trestles is a creative agency that helps individuals and businesses problem solve by using design strategies and cross-sector teams. They’re kicking off with a workshop at Canvas Co/work tomorrow night at 6 p.m. It’s free, but space is limited.

Finally, mark your calendars for the next …in the City event sponsored by Elevation DC. This quarter we’re talking Transportation in the City on September 25 at 1776. Donna Harris is a confirmed panelist. If you are a transportation startup and want to exhibit at the event, hit Rachel Kaufman up and let her know.

On the Writer’s Block This Month

Despite the fact that summer is often a quiet time for news, there has been a lot to talk about on the DC tech and job scene. The pace has been admittedly slower, or maybe it’s because I’m not rushing in to 1776 every other day to rub elbows with the scene-sters while I jockey for a drink. 

In physical space news, I wrote a piece on Canvas Co/work, a co-working space in the District. Co-working spaces mystify me because I have to write in almost complete silence in order to get anything done. You can ask anyone who knows me about my complete and utter disdain for loud crunchers in any sphere but especially when I am trying to write. But co-working is quite popular, what with the rents being so high in DC. 

Also in the space world, I wrote a piece nclud, a digital agency whose 3D flip book design blew my mind for more than a few minutes. 

Transportation continues to be a huge source of discussion in DC, and companies keep arriving to “disrupt” the status quo. Lyft, a peer-to-peer operations, is in some sort of public/private beta, and Taxi Magic just received the okay to operate as a digital dispatch service in the District–I was completely schooled in dispatching and the ins and outs of being part of a fleet, and how that is different in DC to other places in the country by Sanders Partee, who should really write a book on this stuff. 

Entrepreneurs are working hard to launch their brands, roll out useful products and services, and scale. Lauryn Sargent, in addition to being a new mom, helms Stories Inherited, which rolled out Origin Stories this summer. I met Mercedeh Kordestani and Stephanie L. Brown, who run IT IS SIMPLE, a service for teaching seniors how to use technology (e.g. not “reply all” to every email they receive). PlateDate, a Baltimore-based personal chef service, has expanded to the District. Micha Weinblatt, one of the founders over at Betterific, regaled me with all the goings-on with his digital suggestion box. Jason Weisenthal and I talked images: WallMonkeys scored access to National Geographic’s trove of images. Oh, and if anyone out there in Cyberland knows any Spanish-language app developers, Rick Gilchrist wants to meet you.

As usual, there are funding announcements to get excited about: ReelGenie closed an $850K seed round and Social Tables closed a round worth $1.6M. I also read this morning (or yesterday) that Speek, my favorite conference call alternative, raised $1.1M in bridge funding. Always good to know that the monkey with the crazy banana phone is working to make my life easier. For those startups that haven’t closed funding rounds yet, Georgetown Angels is hosting a pitch event in September at 1776. 

Finally, the District itself has thrown a little assistance to some worthy entrepreneurs. The Latino Economic Development Center and the D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer awarded hardware and software to 21 small business owners in the District. On the side of lending expertise, ConnecTech, an outgrowth of the District’s Department of Small and Local Business Development, is available to help small businesses navigate the Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

In other news…I also had a cold reading of new script I’m working on. That was very exciting and I must give thanks to the wonderful readers who made my words come to life and gave me excellent feedback. 


Fishbowl Labs, Paleo Food and the Beekeeper Group

The big news I broke this week was that Fishbowl Labs, a cool business incubator space out in Ashburn, Va., is making changes all over the place. Though Lauren and Paul were mum on who is “moving on,” the new guidelines should provide a solid foundation for making sure whichever startups do land in the Fishbowl provide some sort of benefit to AOL (see: “cultural ROI”). I can say that Lauren called mHelpDesk “bootstrapped and badass,” which leads me to believe they might be staying put if they want to. AOL doesn’t take equity in return for letting you incubate your company there, and how much fun would it be to play in that QA lab for an hour?

I’ve been doing the paleo thing for a while now, so when I met Patrick Smith at Mindshare a few months ago, and he told me about Power Supply, I was interested in learning more about it. Would that I had extra dough to drop on chef-made paleo lunches! Power Supply just rolled out a new ordering system and has teamed up with Mindful Chef. Jeff Kelley cofounded Mindful Chef after running Eat Wonky, a aptly named food truck for the D.C. area. Did anyone ever try it?

Finally, the Beekeeper Group let me in on their buzz: growth and new hires. Shana Glickfield also heads up the Awesome Foundation, which I’d like to learn more about. And I didn’t have room in the article to talk about this cool pro bono project that Beekeeper is doing with the D.C. Public Library–they’re crowdsourcing references to the District in fiction. Want to help? Read about it here.

Another taxi on demand service for DC

So Hailo launched yesterday, bringing some competition for Uber and myTaxi and traditional cab services for people in the District who eschew the metro or their own personal transportation. I’d be curious to hear from anyone who has used Hailo, either in DC or in other cities. What did you think of it? Is it worth $1.50 extra per trip for the convenience of not having to flag a cab down and being able to know that you can definitely use your credit card for the ride?