Touting Washington, D.C., as an up-and-coming hotspot for various technology companies, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) led a city economic planning team to Silicon Valley to pitch the District as a prime location for new businesses.
Bowser’s team met with a wide array of tech companies, including the Kapor Center for Social Impact, Apple, Uber, Lyft, Cisco, Yelp, sap.io and Mapbox on Feb. 9.
Bowser and Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Brian Kenner’s visit to Silicon Valley follows Amazon’s announcement that both Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia had made the short list of 20 finalists for the location of its new headquarters.
Chanda Washington, director of communications in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, said the information included in the District’s Amazon bid was also used in the presentations with tech companies in Silicon Valley.
“We were planning for the West Coast Mission during the summer of 2017,” Washington wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Initially we had hoped to travel in October but postponed the trip when Amazon released its [Request for Proposals]. As we were preparing our Amazon bid in October, we saw an opportunity to use the same information to showcase what makes D.C. a great place to grow a business.”
Washington said that the overall response to the presentation from companies was positive, citing people with connections to the District working in Silicon Valley as a positive influence.
“The response was positive,” Washington wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Tech companies and organizations see the strength of D.C.’s tech scene and welcomed our discussions regarding how to build upon it. Interestingly, with each group, we met someone with a D.C. connection which demonstrates the vitality of our tech community.”
The Office of the Deputy Mayor has been working to make D.C. a more entrepreneurial city through a number of projects that aim to increase racial and economic diversity and foster a more inclusive environment for entrepreneurs.
“[We are] invested in organizations like IN3 and Beacon to ensure there is a diverse and inclusive tech scene in the District [and] in the creation of the Director of Tech Sector Engagement position at the Washington D.C. Economic Partnership,” Washington wrote. “Within the office of the Deputy Mayor, we also have a team devoted to strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the District.”
The Office of the Mayor put in a Request for Information regarding the implementation of a new program called the Inclusive Innovation Fund. on Feb. 6. The goal of the RFI is to obtain feedback from investment professionals and entrepreneurs in D.C. about potential partnerships, investment capital needs and program design.
“The project seeks to increase access to capital for D.C. entrepreneurs, and particularly for underrepresented entrepreneurs, such as people of color and women by creating an investment fund focused on early stage ventures,” according to a Feb. 6 news release from the Office of the Mayor.
According to Washington, though the visit to Silicon Valley was not directly related to the Inclusive Innovation Fund, it provided a platform for potential investors to respond to the RFI.
“We used the trip to share information about our effort to create an Inclusive Innovation Fund. It gave us an opportunity to put the Request for Information in front of potential investors who might have insight about how to create the fund,” Washington said.
Kenner said the Inclusive Innovation Fund is an important step forward for the future of D.C.’s entrepreneurial community.
“Washington continues to rank No. 1 as a place for entrepreneurs who are women or people of color to thrive, but there are barriers that still need to break down, including access to capital,” Kenner said in a statement to radio station WTOP.
The Office of the Mayor could not be reached for comment.