For too long DC has seemed like a not-quite-cool-enough, can’t-quite-get-it-together place to be if you’re into all things tech, digital and Web. But that’s palpably changing.
For starters, Barack Obama and his family are moving into the White House in a few weeks.
To say that those of us who live here are excited is an understatement. Obama is the first digital president, of course. The social media strategy underlying the success of his campaign is being widely touted as a model for business (biggest takeaway: you trust who you know). Obama is also searching for the nation’s first CTO. And a long list of government agencies, headquartered here in DC, are experimenting with social media (the US Air Force blog and internal blogging by STRATCOM’s four-star general, to name a few).
DC is also home to hundreds of non-profits and trade associations. Flagship social media stars include the American Red Cross and Easter Seals’ Autism blog. Consult Beth Kanter, the guru for non-profit social media for more.
Then there’s what’s happening locally. The DC government has a well-regarded tech czar, Vivek Kundra, who uses the "Happiness Level" to gauge the success of how technology is being used in the District’s 86 agencies.
Network Solutions, the original dot com company which happens to be based in nearby Herndon, VA, is starting to do some cool things in social media (thanks to Shashi). That would have been unthinkable when I worked there 10 years ago. A number of tech start-ups are based here (a short list: Clearspring, Razoo, and more here from CrunchBase). And we’ve got our own tech incubator, LaunchBox Digital, specializing in Web and mobile apps.
DC Tech Events maintains an ongoing list of events, many skewed towards developers but others appropriate for business and strategy types. East Coast Blogging is another source for all things tech related to DC.
We’ve got our local tech celebs, of course, including AOL’s Frank Gruber and @newmediajim (video interview with Jim here). Not to mention former AOLers Steve Case and Ted Leonsis. And DC boasts a respectable list of Twitter Elites.
What this adds up to is an increasingly yeasty mix of people, events, tech companies, and organizations that are walking the social media talk.
How things change… or maybe they evolve. I remember when the Morino Institute’s Netpreneur Coffee & Doughnets was the only game in town for those immersed in the Internet and the Web. Mario Morino, a pioneer in venture philanthropy, funded the regular breakfast discussions where techpreneurs could meet to trade ideas. Seems like a lifetime ago but it was only a decade ago.
It’s about time DC caught up to Silicon Valley’s coolness factor.
I’m lovin’ it.
P.S. I’ve probably missed examples of what’s making Washington DC the next ‘It’ city of tech. Let me know what I’ve left out.